Marriage experts will tell you, whether your family is blended or not, that when it comes to disciplining the kids, above all else it is important to maintain a united front. If you fail to do this, your children will leap on the weakness like a pride of lions attacking a water buffalo.
In a blended family, this goal is even harder to attain because the children in the family often have different parents and different rules. Add to that the emotional component– parents who feel guilt, children who are feeling insecure, and everyone feeling anxiety about their new living situation. But there are some simple guidelines you can follow that will make it easier for you, your spouse and your children to succeed under the same roof.
- Communication, communication, communication. Your children may come from different houses with different rules, but when they enter your shared home there should be clear, agreed upon rules that are laid out long before any conflicts arise. If you and your spouse are on the same page from the beginning, you will be ahead of the game.
- Consistency, consistency, consistency. The rules and consequences should apply equally (so long as they are age-appropriate) to each child, regardless of which parent is disciplining. An example would be the use of time-outs, and using 1 minute per year of age as a punishment, so that punishments do not vary among the children.
- Unite, unite, unite. It is important that each parent support the other when in front of the children, especially in situations that involve discipline. If you have differences about the way something is handled, save that conversation for a later time when you can have privacy. The children need to know that when push comes to shove, their parent and step-parent are there for each other, as well as for them. In the long run, that will make them feel more secure in their new family.
If you follow these three rules, you will save yourself a lot of grief. Just remember, everyone is trying to survive all the changes. If you all start out on the same page, it is much easier than trying to rewrite the book later.