Step Dads – Who disciplines whose children?

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I’ve been send this question from Dads Info a super website for Dads and Step Dads.

Different parenting styles are causing our family friction, what can I do?

One of the main problems within step families is who disciplines whose children… 

The simple thing is to sit down with a cup of coffee and a pen and paper and fold your paper in half. On one side write ‘What is acceptable behaviour’ and on the other side write ‘What isn’t acceptable behaviour’ Then have a chat with your partner about what you both feel is your style of discipline, rules, boundaries and who does what. Do you feel comfortable if your partner chastises or corrects your son, is it ok to chastise your partner’s daughter? What are the consequences if your kids break the rules? Who implements the consequences? Who is the ‘good cop/bad cop’ or are you both in it together? Clarity, communication and respect are the key energies of any happy family

There are four important aspects of parenting:

•Disciplinary strategies

•Warmth and nurturance

•Communication styles

•Expectations of maturity and control

Our parenting style can be one that we naturally are inclined to, or it can be influenced by the way we were brought up as children, or in many cases, with the parents I work with, it can be a reaction against the way you were brought up. But I think it’s helpful to at least be aware of your parenting style particularly as it needs to change during the teenage years or when you are nurturing and creating a step family, when you need to become more flexible.

One thing I believe kids of all ages need is firm, fair, consistent discipline.


The Four Parenting Styles


Authoritarian Parenting

In this style of parenting, children are expected to follow the strict rules established by you and failure to follow your rules usually results in a punishment or consequence of some sort. Often, I find that Authoritarian parents fail to explain the reasoning behind these rules and if they are asked to explain, they often simply reply, “Because I said so.” These parents have high demands, but are not responsive to their children and are not very flexible in their parenting approach and they expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation which can cause friction and frustration in their step children so arguments often erupt, particularly in the toddler and teenage years when children are striving for independence.

Authoritative Parenting

Like authoritarian parents, authoritative parents have rules and guidelines that their children are expected to follow but they are far more flexible and democratic. Authoritative parents are in charge but they are more responsive to their step children and willing to listen to their questions and explain why they have the rules that they have. “If you eat sweets before your tea you won’t feel hungry and you need to eat a healthy meal first. Sweets are a treat.” When children fail to meet the expectations, these parents are more nurturing and forgiving rather than punishing. They are assertive, but aren’t too harsh, judgmental, critical or too restrictive. Their disciplinary methods are supportive, rather than punitive. Parents with this style want their children to learn to be assertive as well as socially responsible, and they enjoy “talking and teaching” their children so they grow up learning to self-regulate as well as be cooperative.

Permissive Parenting

Permissive parents are sometimes referred to as indulgent parents, who make very few demands on their children. These parents rarely discipline their kids because they have relatively low expectations of maturity and self-control and don’t expect their children to be able to do as they are told. They are non-traditional and lenient, and they don’t expect their kids to show mature behaviour, or be able to self-regulate, and these parents avoid confrontation. Permissive parents are generally nurturing and communicative with their children, but they try to be their child’s friend rather than their parent and when I work with them they are often exhausted! Be aware of this potential inclination when you become a step parent to please your partner’s children!

Uninvolved Parenting

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