Discipline is always a tricky subject for step parents. Should you even discipline your step kids? If so, are there certain boundaries you shouldn’t cross? Are you afraid to take part in any disciplinary action because of the dreaded potential response: “You’re not my mom!”.
I have always struggled with being a disciplinarian with my step kids for two reasons. One, I am a pushover and hate confrontation in general. And two, I always feel funny reprimanding them. My lame strategy has been to be a tattle tale and report the punishable actions to their father and let him take care of it. I am ashamed I don’t have the balls to stand up to them, but I just feel too chicken and awkward doing it.
I am not proud of my cowardly approach because I do think step parents have a right and duty to discipline their step kids. Step parents should be seen as a legitimate parent and disciplining is part of that job title. I am also a firm believer that with discipline comes respect and that children actually crave structure and discipline in the household. So why not give it to them? Easier said than done unfortunately!
As a biological mom, I feel l like you can just get away with laying down the law with no explanation because deep down your child knows you love them and always have their best interest at heart. For stepmoms, the dynamic is a bit different. Step children may be skeptical of your true intentions and may assume that your discipline is self serving and not necessarily for their benefit.
Of course the age of the children and the amount of time you have been with them are huge factors. If the children are young (i.e. in grade school or younger) then there is no question that you are looked at as a true “mommy” figure (whether they treat you like one or not) and have the authority to discipline as you would your biological children. However, if you become a stepmom to a 16 year old, the disciplining is probably much more challenging (as it would be for any parent of a kid that age I suppose!).
I became a stepmom to children that were 11 and 13. We’ve been together for a little over three years now and I feel like I am just now starting to feel comfortable saying no or yelling at my stepson when he says something nasty to his sister. But this literally took three years! So be patient. I think you have to examine each individual situation and really think about the appropriateness, your comfortableness, and the consequences of you executing the discipline, which could be good or bad. The point is, don’t let your emotions get the best of you and instead step back and rationally think about how you want to deal with difficult situations. And of course, have conversations about this with your husband. Maybe he has a strong stance about this subject of you disciplining his kids? Communication never hurts!