Taking on a wife with children is an honorable action and no matter how much you love and adore your new family unit, sometimes being a stepdad can seem like an impossible and thankless job. Not only are you likely confused about your new role within this already existing family, but the children are probably feeling much the same way. To continue on with the flip side of ‘6 Do’s of Being a Step Dad,’ we offer you 6 tips on what not to do as a step dad.
1. Don’t Plan to Take On the Role of Disciplinarian
Even if you suspect that your new wife wants you take charge of doling out the discipline, it’s not a wise idea to do so right away. You might find your stepchildren resenting you for trying to fill the role you’ve been placed in. Give the relationship time to settle down and allow a level of trust to form between yourself and the youngsters, an approach recommended by researchers and psychologists for stepparents specifically.
It may take some time for really younger children to make the adjustment and learn to trust you; however, if you are the step dad to teenagers, they may never respond positively to accepting discipline from you. You have to keep in mind everyone’s viewpoint, and it’s best to decide disciplinary approaches beforehand with your spouse.
2. Don’t Take Your Step Children Acting Out Personally
Have you ever noticed that when we start taking things personally, we have a tendency to begin acting like children ourselves? If you have stepchildren, you can expect them to gang up and rally against you occasionally. It might be upon first sight, it could be months before the wedding, it could be as soon as you move in, or the first time their father shows up – but it’s pretty inevitable that there will be a meltdown.
Try not to take things personally, and see it from their perspective. Not only are they upset about the ‘loss’ of one parent but are upset about you ‘replacing’ him. Self-control and patience – two key lessons we teach our kids – are all yours to learn during this phase.
3. Don’t be the Bad Guy, Even if Asked by Your Wife
Perhaps your kids aren’t particularly pleased with mom either because of the divorce or her marriage to you, but either way as stated in #1, now isn’t the time for you to be the bad guy doling out punishment. Your wife may want you to so she can get back into good graces; however, have a serious discussion about your reluctance to do so. Make sure to let her know how you feel and why, and resolve the issue with your wife quickly and maturely.
4. Don’t Expect Appreciation or Approval
Don’t go into things expecting the most polite step kids in the world. Kids can be rude to begin with, so expect them to treat you as a step dad any differently. Keep in mind that they probably don’t give a lot to thought to what they say, and courtesies like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ may not be offered much, either. Sometimes step children are simply discourteous because they resent the divorce, and it’s not so much that they resent you. Just about anyone who’s been a stepparent has had more than one day of frustrated pleas of, “I can’t take it anymore!” Again, see #2 – Don’t Take it Personally.
5. Don’t Plan to Take Over the ‘Dad’ Role
Step dads often feel like they need to compete with the kid’s paternal dad in order to get into their good graces. However, there isn’t a quicker way to get on their bad side than to try and ‘replace’ their dad. Kids already feel torn up enough about their family splitting up, and they don’t want another dad. It may hurt your feelings, but right now you should try to build a trusting friendship with your stepchildren. Do things with them that they don’t do with their dad, and start things anew – as you being their step dad.
6. Don’t Make Your Step Kids Feel Rejected
Even when you are upset, don’t make your step children feel like you don’t care about them. Let them know you don’t care for their behavior, but still love them very much. Forming a bond with kids takes time, and they are likely to be extremely sensitive to your disappointment and may harbor feelings of rejections. Nip those in the bud immediately, and make your loyalty to them clear.
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