Who’s Responsibility Is It To Discipline Kids In A Blended Family?
Recently, Twitter user said that anyone who is above 24 years should make peace with the fact that they will be a stepparent to someone else and while that may be debatable, blended families are not as strange in and with this generation.
This involves one partner coming with his or her child and getting involved with another person who may also have other children and together form a family.
One of the challenges that this kind of union faces is mostly attributed to disciplining children. There are couples who have had serious issues that led to separation or breaking up and merely because one parent punished the other person’s child too much or without consultation.
Jackie Keya, founder of Blended Family Network, advices how to tackle the issue of discipline where blended a family is concerned.
So, when is the best time to talk about discipline in a blended family set up?
JK: The best time to talk about this is during courting. This is because discipline is one of the major challenges that couples in a step family face. When we are talking about discipline, we should keep in mind it’s not about punishments. Discipline is about guidance. Therefore the conversation is around how both of you would want to raise the children in your family – both step or biological.
Who is to punish whose child?
JK: The biological parent. This is because they have a deeper relationship and bond compared to the one stepparent or stepchild have. Due to this bond, the child doesn’t read much to it compared to punishment from a stepparent. Having said this, I would love to add that any stepparent, who has a deeper trusting connection with their stepchild, can also discipline or guide their stepchild. Discipline without connection is deemed as punishment.
Should one be consulted before his or her kid is punished?
JK: This depends with the stage of the stepfamily and the connections made by the stepparent and stepchild. For those who do not have a deep connection with their stepchild or agreed that they will not handle the discipline matters then there needs to be a discussion around it prior. However for the stepfamily couple who have build strong connections and have the basic rules of the house, the agreed punishment can be given and the biological parent to be updated on what took place in their absence.
How do you reconcile the two different styles of parenting that the kids may not have been used to?
JK: Truth is there are no instant parents, therefore stepparents should not come in and immediately start practicing their parental styles ontheir stepchildren. They need to be patient. The different parenting styles can resolved by the couple having an open communication about it, to determine what kind of values would they want to impart on their kids (step or biological). Thereafter, they can draw up a road plan how to achieve this. The couple could also get to parenting classes for support, stepfamily living coaching to learn the parenting styles that will be beneficial to the children and ditch those that are detrimental.
Should a parent ‘over-discipline’ a child, what is the best way to approach this without letting it lead to division in the family or exceptions on what one can do in that family (for instance some people tell their partners to never touch their kids ever again and let them be the only ones to punish the kid(s) if they do something wrong.)
JK: I think in any family situation or environment that we are raising a child, ‘over discipline’ will be detrimental to any child. So for any guardian or parent or stepparent over discipline is not recommended. Having said that, it’s ok for a stepfamily couple to come to an agreement that the role of discipline will only be handled by the biological parent. When a couple comes to this agreement, it’s actually in order. However, when it’s out of conflict – a biological parent doesn’t trust the way a step parent disciplines their child. Then the couple needs to have a mature open conversation where the biological parent can express their concerns and reach the agreement. If having the discussion as a couple becomes difficult, then get support to help you get to a working agreement.
Is it possible to find a way that cuts across all kids where discipline is concerned in a blended family?
JK: Yes there is. As mentioned stepfamily couple can discuss and agree on the values or ways or character they want to impart on the kids, the basic rules that will govern their home and the consequences if the rules are broken. After which, it’s wise to have a family meeting and talk to all the children about it. It will more impactful to allow them to contribute to the ‘family constitution’. With this done, then all the children under the roof are aware of the family vision, the rules governing them and punishments are not step parent’s way to get at them.
How do you discipline kids who are above 18 still living under your roof?
JK: Disciplining kids above 18 should be a continuation on the foundation that was created while they were young, especially for the biological parent. If the biological parent did his or her job, then they have a basic ground on how to continue disciplining their child. For stepparents however, a stepchild who is over 18 in most cases is not in need of parenting or nurturing unless you came into their lives when they were younger. If you did, then you know where your relationship is. Is it deep enough for you to impact them or is shaky. Your role in their lives as they grow older is to guide or coach them let the biological parent take the lead on discipline issues.
At the end both partners should figure out together what works for who as the children are also adjusting to have a new person in authority over them.
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