From Pam Rohr, author of Blended but not Broken – Hope and Encouragement for Blended Families:
As stepparents, sometimes we can perceive more clearly some areas in our stepkids lives that need to change. Perhaps you are noticing a pattern of lying, or sneakiness or the kids not following through on what they have promised. Maybe they are manipulative and your spouse just doesn’t see it. What do you do?
First, I would recommend talking to your spouse about it and if you are fortunate and they see what you are talking about, let them handle it. Unless you have a great deal of relational capital with your step child which means you have a stand alone relationship with them, it is strong and there is mutual love and commitment, just let the birth parent deal with problem areas. I’ll tell you why I believe this. Even when we are right and the child knows we are right, but they do not want to hear it or change, it will be easier for them to hold a grudge against the stepparent than to remain mad at their parent when their parent exposes an area. Even in older adult children, they will receive the confrontation better from their own parent. So if at all possible, let the birth parent handle the big stuff. But of course let the child see your marriage as a unified team coming to the child together to confront them on the issue. Let the birth parent do most of the talking but stand together even if you are not physically there while the birth parent deals with the issue.
Let’s talk a bit more about relational capital and what it is and is not. I’ll use an example from my own life. During one of our blended family classes we had a couple join us for the first time. We were talking about discipline. This stepmom began telling us that she lies to her stepchild to get him to obey her. She would tell her stepson that if he didn’t do what she said, the police would come and take him away. The whole class was watching to see if we would confront her about lying to the child and what kind of example she was setting for him. Her husband didn’t say a word, it was like he was fine with his child being lied to. When we asked her if she thought it was a good idea to lie to her stepchild, she sheepishly said no, she kind of agreed that perhaps that wasn’t the best way to get him to mind her. Since this was her first time to class, we did not know her well nor did she know us well. We hadn’t had the time to build a strong relationship yet. She never returned to class, and even though we were right in asking her whether lying to her stepson was the best way to deal with him, we didn’t have the strong foundation to directly speak into her life yet. She could come and learn generally from the class but us speaking directly to her situation, she was not ready for. So relational capital comes through relationship and time spent with each other.
There is trust involved. This woman didn’t know us well enough to trust that we were genuinely interested in her family and it blending well so she didn’t receive what we had to offer. Had she been part of the class for a while, she may have received what we said.
But we did have relational capital with the other members of the class. They knew lying to a child is never appropriate when trying to train them. So because of the other class members, we chose to speak up.
But that’s the point. Parents have that relational capital with their kids. Stepparents have to work for it and at it. And even when we do have it, it can be easily toppled. So pick your battles carefully and when it’s at all possible, let the birth parent handle the big stuff.
Now if your partner just will not acknowledge that there is a problem area in the child that needs to be addressed, Let them handle the child. They will eventually hopefully see it if you are right. But if they don’t you can remain in peace and pray for the child. Sometimes though as stepparents, we really do have to confront the child and hold them accountable. Do it and know you have done what is right even if your stepchild does hold a grudge against you. You can’t allow the child to be more powerful than you are in your own home. There is risk involved when confrontation is necessary. Hopefully, they will grow up and realize you were right one day. All you can do is continue to love them even if they are upset with you.
Proverbs 22:6 says “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
Until next time, visit me at my website and my God bless you as you blend your stepfamily.
To learn more about Pam’s ministry, visit nouveaulifecoaching.com
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