From Pam Rohr, author of Blended but not Broken – Hope and Encouragement for Blended Families:
In one of our blended family classes, we had a couple join us half way through the 10-class sessions. So they had not begun the classes with the rest of the members. We asked them to tell a little about themselves so that we along with the rest of the class could get to know them a bit. They were a blended family – they had one son from his previous marriage who lived with them full time. The boy’s birth mom was not in the picture. They had been married close to two years. The wife did most of the talking and soon was telling a story about how she makes their son mind her. Just last night she told their son a lie to get him to obey. She had no qualms at all telling the whole class that she lies to her stepson to get him to obey her. She told the child the night before “if you don’t clean your room, Mommy will call the cops and they will come and take you away. They’ll take you to where all the bad boys go”. This was an eight year old child. We were hoping she was kidding but she wasn’t, this was what she said she did to make him mind her and her husband just sat there quietly. I think he was glad to have a wife to deal with the child so he wouldn’t have to.
When we confronted her about her method asking her if she saw anything wrong with lying to him, she admitted she probably shouldn’t. Along with teaching him to lie, she is producing fear in the boy. Because she told it to the whole class and because everyone thought this was wrong, we felt we needed to address it right then. We did not know the woman very well so we had little relational capital. Relational capital is built on mutual trust from the experiences shared together through relationship.
We tried to help her see there are much better ways to make your child obey rather than lying to them and developing fear. But she didn’t know us well and relational capital hadn’t been built so she didn’t want to hear it from us or anyone else in the class as it turned into quite a discussion. Even though she agreed it was wrong, she didn’t want to change and I’m sure she still manipulates her son. She never came back to the class even though I called her several times to invite her back.
Relational capital is built; it is mutual trust and respect from experiences shared together over time. This is particularly important to understand in blended families. While trying to blend two families, being aware of this principle is important so that relationships can build more quickly and have a better foundation. The relational capital you have with your own kids will probably be quite strong while building capital with your step kids will probably take some time and much of it depends on the step child’s age and whether they even want a relationship with you.
How do you think the relational capital was between this woman and her stepson? She may have succeeded in making him mind her that way while he was young, but as he grows and realizes what she was doing, there will be little trust there. There could even be a lot of anger not just towards his step mom but towards his dad for allowing it.
Just another reason why it’s important to let the birth parent discipline and handle the really hard stuff while you support your spouse and build a relationship with their child. A birth parent should never lie to their child this way to make them mind let alone a step parent.
Andy and I have always been close. Since he was a young boy we always just liked each other. We enjoyed being together and built a strong relationship. He is grown now but we still have strong relational capital. We can speak honestly to each other and know the relationship will remain intact. He unfortunately got involved with drugs for a time. Due to our relationship, I was able to speak truth to him and help him remember who he truly is: a child of God. Not that God would love him any less for getting in bondage to drugs, but that life isn’t best for him. So we were able to freely discuss how he got to that point and where he wanted to go. We made a plan together. He chose freedom rather than bondage to something that will suck the very life out of him. It took some time but through our relationship, through being honest and looking at past wounds and with the help of my coaching tools, he renewed his commitment to Christ and he was set free. God’s freedom is always best and He will use people to help us out of the messes we make or others make for ourselves. That’s relationship.
Coaches and clients can build relational capital quite quickly due to the nature of the relationship. Good coaches will create an atmosphere of respect and confidentiality so that clients can feel from the start that they have a very safe place to share their deepest needs, fears, ambitions or trauma from the past. Transparency is key and good coaches model it.
Build the foundation of good relationships in your blended family and when the hard stuff comes up, and it will, you will have the relational capital to deal with it.
If you need a coach to come alongside of you for a time, I would love to hear from you at nouveaulifecoaching.com
Also, my book Blended But Not Broken is available at Amazon in either book form or Kindle.
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