Why stepparents should learn and set boundaries immediately

One of the most rewarding jobs an adult can have is being a parent. Although not many people would say parenting is easy, it is a special part of life. Some people have the wonderful opportunity to become a stepparent. 

It is not the easiest job to combine households and become a new family. Children sometimes resent the new stepparent. Some children will even act out to see how far they can push the new stepparent. This, and other reasons are why stepparents must learn and set boundaries as soon as possible. 

Discipline

Often discipline is the elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge or talk about. It can be rather unpleasant having to think about disciplining someone else’s kid(s). The parent can also have reservations about allowing anyone to discipline his/her kids. Uncomfortable or not, it has to be brought out in the open. 

The best way to go about it is to discuss it immediately. The parent has rules already established and the stepparent needs to know what those rules are. The stepparent also needs to voice any rules he/she thinks are necessary. If the couple skirts around the topic of discipline and both assume they know what to do, things can get ugly quick. 

The fact is situations will arise when the stepparent may need to take disciplinary action. For example the child is running through the home, knocking things over and a lamp breaks. If the stepparent ignores the situation and says nothing, this can set the tone for things to come. The child will figure out that he/she can act out and have no consequences around the stepparent. 

As a general rule, it is a good idea to leave the discipline to the parent. When certain situations like the lamp example come up, then it is good to know what action to take. The main reason boundaries have to be set for discipline is to protect the kid(s) and the stepparent. 

Communication

For some people communicating is as easy as breathing. For others, it is a bit more difficult. Some children have a hard time adjusting to gaining a stepparent. They may act out for a while or even withdraw for a bit. It is crucial for the stepparent to gently make it clear that they are always willing to listen and talk with the kid(s). 

Keep the lines of communication open and check in with the child to see how he/she is handling the new family life. Be the sounding board once in a while if necessary. The kid(s) may resent or even be afraid of the stepparent and by offering to listen, these feelings might be worked out. 

One thing to keep in mind is to not force the child to talk. Stepparents should not be pushy about communication. The end all is the child will talk more as he/she becomes comfortable with the stepparent. 

Respect

As the saying goes, “To get respect, you must give respect”. Respect is a two way street and stepparents are in a unique position. Not only do they have to gain the trust and respect of their spouses and children but also of the missing parent (if applicable). The stepparents and missing parents certainly do not have to be best friends, but they do need to learn how to get along to benefit the children. 

To gain some respect from stepchildren one should respect the child’s parents (both of them). If the stepparent does not like the missing parent, too bad. That should be kept quiet. Stepparents gain nothing but resentment by putting the missing parent down, especially in front of the children. The same goes for the in home parent. Showing respect, care and compassion can eventually yield a very rewarding family dynamic. 

The biggest challenge a stepparent can face is the fact that he/she is an outsider. This fact can make settling into a normal life even more difficult. This is why setting boundaries early on is a wise decision. Some of the biggest boundaries a stepparent wants to establish are discipline, communication and respect. 

Once these boundaries are in place, things might start calming down a little for everyone. Boundaries are important because everyone knows where they stand from the beginning. Boundaries can be thought of as a safety net for the whole family.