25 answers

Step Dad and Discipline

A little background about myself. I have 2 children (7 and 5). My ex left when I was pregnant with the second and my oldest was one and neither of the kids remember him. I have not dated since. I recently met a really nice guy in a book store. I was seeing him for about 2 months before I introduced him to the kids. It's been about 2 months since then and he is spending weekends with us on family outings and eating dinner with us 1-2 nights a week. Recently he has started to "discipline" the children. I don't have a problem with it so much because we both believe in "love and logic" for a parenting style. There are two problems though 1. My son doesn't want to listen to him because he's not his dad. I keep telling him that he does, because he's an adult and his behavior IS inappropriate. What else can I do?
2. Sometimes my S.O. feels I'm to harsh in the time out sector and contradicts me while I'm still standing there. This creates a problem because the kids don't know who to listen too. I have no experience with with two parent parenting and I have no clue what to do about this.

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

discipline should be from you at this stage -
this is something I have discussed with a counselor and this is where I got my info! I am now married to "that guy" :) and still most discipline comes from me. parents should in an ideal world never disagree about discipline in front of the child and have as others mentioned a united front.

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My dh and and I are having the same problem. He is much too laxed in the discipline area but then complains about their behavior. I, on the other hand, am very strict but rarely ever yell or lose my patience. We are having problems staying on the same page as far as the kids go. I finally had a talk with him and expressed my concern. We agreed that we both need to be consistant and never disagree in front of the children. In other words, we are a united front in their presence. Let him know that if he disagrees with you to tell you in private. Also, let your son know that he must obey all adults whether they are family or not. Good luck because it is very hard!! :)

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In my opinion, I don't think your boyfriend should be disciplining your children.

Your children should respect him and all adults. But that doesn’t mean he gets to discipline them if they don't. That's your job.

Your son could be feeling a lot of mixed feelings right now. Since he's never had to share you with anyone else (other than his sibling) he could be very jealous. This could make him act out more.

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you really need to let him know that if he has an issue with how you dicsipline your kids to not do it in front of them because they are watching and listening and soon they will start to play on that. Then you will really have a problem on your hands. But let me say this i was in this situation first hand with my parents ( my mom remarried when I was about 6) They had different styles of discipline so it became a problem because she felt he was to harch and it just came to the point where she said let me handle the discipline. But when he told me to do something and it was in the right my mother let me know that whether he was my father or not he was an adult and an adult that was helping to her take care of me and that was that. And if I got smart and mouthed off I got a whooping, plain and simple. If you let your son keeping saying that and especially so that that man can hear it or to his face your going to have some problem, your son is sill a shild and needs to stay in a child's place. If your son is wrong and your BF says something then he needs to listen and also teach him that life is about listening to ther people whether they want to or not. What's he going to do when he gets his first job and his boss tells him to do something that he does not want to do? So I hope tha you all can come to a good compromise and good luc with your new relationship.

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People have different styles and kids adjust to the adults. However, contradicting each other in front of children are always a no-no, except under extreme circumstances.

When you are present, you are the one in charge and your S.O. should defer to your judgment. Any discussions should be done in private about any differences of style or opinion. When you are together, the children should listen and respect him the way they would a teacher or any other adult.

Good luck navigating the path.

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I'm probibly gonna get lambasted for saying this BUT...
It generally does not matter how long you have been dating or if he was a stranger on the street... You are right in stressing the fact that he's an adult and adults need to be treated with respect. Your kids are still adjusting and it will take time for him to gain their respect and be treated as a member of the family. BUT they are also old enough to know that as a "friend" of the family he has their intrests at heart. He is just enforcing and backing YOU up.
On the other side of the coin, SO needs to step back a bit. In a case that they are doing wrong and you are not there, then sure, speak up and take appropriate action. But if you are there, let you handle it because he isn't the father. You say you guys are on the same page with parenting tactics, but if at any time you feel he's being too harsh pull him aside and tell him. Remember, you are the parent.

You need to sit down with your SO and tell him that when he says/ does things that contradict what you have said or done that it feels like you are being undermined. Kids pick up on that and will play it to their advantage. Give examples... But do not use words like YOU ALWAYS, or YOU NEVER. Those are accusatory. Things like I FEEL are a better way of wording things.
Good luck...
Communication is key to all relationships...

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First of all you cannot contradict each other in front of your children. You might as well not discipline at all! Make a commitment to each other (in private) that you will discuss all discipline behind closed doors. You have to appear united. Second, your children will never see a step parent in a disciplinarian role. There have been multiple studies done, and it's just the way their brains work. All you can do is back up your SO, but it's likely that you will have to enforce discipline.

~L.

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Always show a unified front with the kids. You and your S.O. can discuss differences of opinion in private. Make sure the kids respect and listen to your s.o., there may be times when he is alone with the kids and will need to be in charge.
A little about me: I am 46, married a man ten yoears ago who had two sons, then 6 and 10. They are with us full time, and the kids love and respect me. There has never been a time when they didn't. Good luck! Being a step parent is great!

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After two months, he needs to realize he is a guest, not the step Dad. Unless you are definitely planning on marriage already. I would make sure you are on the same page and I'm als the old fashioned disciplinarian. I would rather have the structure and specific rules than to let things go. If you give appropriate consequences, the bad behavior ceases much faster than a "slap on the hand". You are the Mom and remember with or without him they will be teenagers soon and they need guidance and to know there are consequences for bad choices. Keep up the good work.

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I am a new mom of two, married 8/2/08. I was a single mom and my husband was a single dad. We ended up learning how to discipline each others kids the old fashioned way, trial and error. The first thing that was helpful to us was to get on the same page with punishments. We both used time outs and taking items away but we did it in very different fashions. We came to an agreement about where, when and how long so it was always the same no matter who was there. So my advice is to appear as a united front and discuss differences behind closed doors. A wise person once told me as a parent you don't always have to be right, you just have to be consistant.
As for your son not respecting your boyfriend as an authority figure that is just your son testing the limits. Would it be acceptable to talk to an uncle or grandfather that way? Would it be appropriate to respond to a teacher that way? It shouldn't matter that he's not "dad". He;s a trusted authority figure in his life and the kids will come around to it if you make it clear he is to be respected. Mine both went through the "your not my mom/ your not my dad" thing. Be patient and show that they are cared for and the kids will come around. Be united and the kids will fall into place.

2 moms found this helpful

Whatever you say should go in re: to your children. Respond quickly to behavior that would be inappropriate so your boyfriend doesn't feel the responsibility to do so. Anything that bothers you, you need to tell him frankly and he should take a different approach. He should not criticize, butt in or voice any opinion while you are disciplining. That's taboo even for married parents! Discussion should be away from the kids, of course. You could tell the kids they should treat him as a guest, and he should act like one. The kids must respect him as a person, adult, and also as someone special to you, but they are in a tough spot here, and too young to know what they're feeling. I couldn't tell if he was spending entire weekends with you, but that could be edging in on their time with you too much? I don't know the details at all but I'd be very cautious with him and the kids together at this point. Maybe go back to just the 2 of you dating? My brother in law dated his now wife an entire year before spending more than an afternoon with her kids. He still had trouble with her son after they married, another year later, although he was a teenager unlike your kids. Take it slow. I wonder about you referring to him as a Step Dad in your request heading?

2 moms found this helpful

discipline should be from you at this stage -
this is something I have discussed with a counselor and this is where I got my info! I am now married to "that guy" :) and still most discipline comes from me. parents should in an ideal world never disagree about discipline in front of the child and have as others mentioned a united front.

2 moms found this helpful

I have 3 kids with my husband and one from a previous relationship...I've been down this road :-)
I agree with Beth. He is an adult and the kids need to respect that. As long as there is no yelling, hitting, threats or bad language involved they should listen to him. You need to make sure they do.
As far has contradicting you that is NOT ok and you need to tell him as much. If he feels there is a better way to handle the situation he should talk to you either in the another room away from the kids or when the kids are in bed. Communication is a wonderful thing when done properly! I wonder if there are any step-parenting classes you can take together? That might help him understand where you're coming from. If you think he might be "the one" it might be a good idea. Things could get ugly when the kids are older if the are all ready having the "he's not may dad, I'm not listening to him" attitude. Good luck!

Rachelle

2 moms found this helpful

Hi M.
I know what it is like to be a single mother and have someone else step in and try to take on the parenting role. It's strange because you are so used to doing it and EVERYTHING all by yourself. If this man loves you and your children and is diciplining them in a way that you approve then I don't see the harm in it later on in your relationship, but keep this in mind.. He may want to first get to know the children more and allow you to dicipline until they know and trust him. If your son is rebeling there is a reason. You introduced him to them because you see a future with this man. I would have them spend some time together (just them) and ask him to lay off until they are closer and seeing him on a everyday basis. Good luck and I hope it works out! I do believe that him trying to dicipline them is a good sign.. He is trying to be involved and trying to have an impact in all of your lives.. It's just maybe a little to soon.

2 moms found this helpful

M., There is no way he should be disciplining your kids.. If there is a problem you should be disciplining. I am newly remarried and my new husband does not even discipline my kids. If there is a problem he tells me and I discipline them. You are their mother. Don't confuse them by having some strange man telling them what's right and wrong.

1 mom found this helpful

To be honest I kind of think that the relationship is too new for him to be giving any discipline.

1 mom found this helpful

i do feel that step parents who live at least 50% of the time with the children should do the same discipline as the actual parent....however, this man is not a step parent and after only 4 months in their lives is no different than another adult, who your kids do need to respect as such. i also do feel that it is acceptable and appropriate for adults to speak to children who are not their own, if they are breaking rules, being disrespectful, when you are not around etc. however, this man should NOT be contradicting you in your parenting. it is not his place. to be very honest, it sounds like you might need to reconsider the boundaries. it concerns me that you called him a step dad in your heading, especially since he has only been around for 4 months, and doesn't live with you... be careful about pushing/encouraging your kids to get to attached to him, in case things don't work out between the two of you!

1 mom found this helpful

I wouldn't let him be involved at this point in discipling unless it's an emergency situation or you're not there. It's way too soon! I'd talk to the kids and explain that you'll be the only one doing that, but that the 2 of you are in agreement. I definitely wouldn't let him correct you in front of the kids!!! In fact, that makes me wonder if he's going to be a control freak about all this. Please tread lightly and take lots of time. Your kids should only be parented by their parent, not by mom's boyfriend! If you get married, you can ease into it gradually and, even then, you need to be the main one doing the parenting. Believe me, you're asking for years of trouble otherwise. My 2nd husband and I learned big lessons about this the hard way! They need to trust you to be their parent. It's not his place and they see that. By the way, love and logic is a great system!

1 mom found this helpful

I don't think that he should be disciplining your kids unless he is a step dad who is married to you legally and has given your kids his last name and providing for them finacially and emotionally. Until then he is over steping in my opinion.
Of course if you are not in the room he should keep them safe if they are doing something in which they could hurt themselves or are doing something wrong (ex. touching a hot stove).
Maybe he thinks he is just being helpful? I had the same problem with my mother's boyfriend. I had to tell him "thank you" but I would take care of the problem.
Does he have any children of his own? I ask because sometimes only a parent can understand how touchy and sensitive a situation can get when they feel someone is interfering with how their child is being disciplned.

In my opinion, only you should be doing the discipline unless this person is your husband and has at least been around the kids with consistency for at least a year or more. It seems that it will only lead to self esteem issues for the kids later down the line especially if this person does not stick around and then the next person that comes along is allowed to discipline them too. I think I would not allow it and then you would not have to worry about different styles of discipline

This new guy has no business disciplining your kids. This will only cause problems later on. I speak from experience on this.

I agree he has no right to discipline your children.The guy has only been around for 4 months.Now I see if he says "thats not approproate behavior please stop" but time outs and other punishment is left to you.My b/f never disrespected me and my daughter that way.But after 5yrs if she's does wrong he has a say so also.Her father is not around and hasnt been for a Long time.But it can only go so far.He may be a good guy to you but don't let him push your children around he barely knows them and thats not a good way to bond with them.

You need to talk with this guy about a united front. Maybe he's never been there either? If you continue to disagree, maybe he's not the one...

I'm in a situation where my son and husband fight all the time and I am stuck in the middle. I put myself there and sure with I hadn't!

Good luck.

S.

First I am a little confused....have you married this gentleman? Is he you childrens Stepfather now?

If not i do not believe he should be disciplining your children or commenting in front of the children about your methods? Unless you are married to this person and plan on for sure spending the last of your days with him i feel it is dangerous precedence to set allowing a person your son only knows 2 months to take such a lead role when honestly he might not be around in 3 years. It also undermines you as the head of household for your son as once again your SO is contradicitng you and he might not be around in a few years. unless this man is your husband and stepfather to your son I kind of have to say in my opinion he should not be .
i do think your son should respect an adult, speaking respectfully, minding his manners but I would not allow anyone but my DH and myself and a school teacher to hand out any kind of punishment. And especially contradicing what I say!

This is my opinion but he is not their father and you have also only been dating him for 4 months. It is not his place to discipline your children, it is yours. If you two get married that is a different situation but right now you are only dating and he does not have the right to be disciplining your children. I had the same situation with my older daughter and I started seeing my current husband when she was only 6 months old.

M.
mom to Christina 17 -bettering herself at the Michigan Youth Challenge Academy
Isabella, Logan and Brody 6

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