Stepdads mean well. They marry you, knowing full well they’re taking on the family package—and they do it willingly. So let’s give these intrepid souls their due.
Let’s also not become disillusioned with the differences in child-rearing opinion and methodology we may discover after the “I do.”
Learning about each other’s parenting philosophy is a conversation that you hopefully have had prior to making your vows. Even first-marrieds can have differing opinions on how to raise children: one may be a strict disciplinarian, while the other takes more of a laissez-faire approach.
You can see the potential for a clash!
If you haven’t had that conversation, it’s never too late. You may not agree with your husband’s approach to pitching in with your kids. I recommend you offer a guiding hand so he knows what your expectations are.
To begin with, understand that stepdads don’t get a lot of press, unless it’s a negative story or character in a movie. So, stepdads don’t get as much information as what’s out there for stepmothers, or they may think, “No big deal—nothing I can’t handle,” and then they enter the reality of the stepfamily dynamic and think, “I’m in over my head!”
No doubt they enter the remarriage union with the best of intentions. But if your husband runs afoul of the way you have been doing things for years… they suddenly find themselves on shaky ground when you get upset.
Chuck Semich, a licensed family therapist and RemarriageWorks advice columnist, offers the following three tips so a stepmom can guide her husband through the transition into the stepfamily:
1- Practice Patience
If you keep in mind that your husband means well, it will help you to remember to be patient as he gets situated in his new role. Don’t become disillusioned with your dream man when you discover his beliefs about raising children are diametrically opposed to yours! He may simply not understand your preference for how you want your kids raised, and needs time to assimilate your way of doing things.
2- Have a Calm Discussion
It needs to be a calm discussion, because yelling doesn’t get anyone anywhere. I would encourage stepmoms who find themselves in the position of having a different parenting style from their husband to calmly but firmly explain that they seem to have two different sets of expectations. Let him know you welcome suggestions, but that you want him to leave the parenting decisions and the parenting style up to you. Often what happens is that a stepdad thinks he’s helping his wife when he steps in with the children when they seem to be getting out of hand. In my opinion, when that happens, he is really undermining her authority with the children. She needs to tell him that, because he probably doesn’t realize it. Actually, your husband may be relieved to find out he’s not expected to rescue you from your children!
3- Compliment, Relate, Repeat,
Some women say, “I’ve told him over and over, but it keeps happening.” If your husband didn’t hear you, it’s possible either he wasn’t listening or you didn’t express it very clearly. I think that sometimes the husbands feel they’re not doing a good job, and when it’s presented to them in a way that they hear that, they’re going to resist it. I think it’s good when you want to start that conversation, point out some of the things he’s doing well, and let him know you really appreciate what he’s done. Then say, “Here’s an area where we need to come to some agreement.” Sometimes it’s just a problem of marital communication where a good family therapist may be of help to get you started on the right path.