Read how to establish authority:  Discipline: A Delicate Balance for Stepparents

At best, new stepparent authority is fragile and easily shattered. That’s why these do’s and don’ts  must be a priority.

  • Do focus on relationship building. This is your long-term strength.
  • Do make sure the biological parent has your back. Biological parents must communicate to their children an expectation of obedience to the stepparent and be willing to back up the stepparent’s actions. When disagreements occur, settle them in private.
  • Do strive for unity in parenting. Discuss behavioural expectations, boundaries, consequences, and values (read the parental unity rules). Bring your parenting philosophies in line.
  • Don’t be harsh or punish in a way that is inconsistent with the biological parent.
  • Don’t unilaterally change rules or try to make up for past parental mistakes or failings.
  • Do listen to the child. If they draw into you sooner than expected, don’t look back. Use the relational authority offered you.
  • Don’t get impatient. It often takes years to bond and develop a trusting love-relationship with children. Be persistent in bonding with them.
  • Do communicate with the biological parent a lot! If uncertain, find parental unity before engaging the children.

Taking Action

Relationship building tips for stepparents:

  • Play! Having fun is a great way to connect. Do something fun.
  • Track with them. Know what activities a child is engaged in and enter that world. Take them to practice, ask about an activity, be aware of their world.
  • Take interest in the child’s interests.
  • Share your talents, skills, and hobbies.
  • Communicate your commitment. Let the child know you value and want a relationship with them. This helps them to know your heart.
  • Share your spiritual walk. Shared spirituality can facilitate connection and a sense of family identity. But don’t be preachy. Instead, share with humility your faith journey so they will see you as a safe person.
    • © 2012 by Ron L. Deal. All rights reserved.


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Written by Ron Deal

Ron Deal

Ron L. Deal is president of Smart Stepfamilies™, director of FamilyLife Blended™ (a ministry of FamilyLife®), a popular conference speaker, and author/coauthor of a series of DVD’s, books, and curriculum for stepfamilies including The Smart Stepfamily, The Smart Stepmom, The Smart Stepdad, Dating and the Single Parent, and the book The Smart Stepfamily Marriage. His one-minute radio feature FamilyLife Blended can be heard daily on radio stations throughout North America and online. © [2016] by Ron L. Deal. All rights reserved.
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