Blended Families with Teenagers

Updated on February 02, 2012
J.E. asks from Minneapolis, MN
8 answers

For those of you who were a child in a blended family or if you are now the parent, what works with kids and discipline? My ex moved away last fall so my kids (16 and 14) will see him for holidays and summer break which means that they will be with me and my boyfriend full time. He has two kids (almost 14 and 9) that he has every other weekend. Some people have said that you should never discipline each other's children and others have said that you should. What are your experiences? He definetely supports me and would never contradict me in front of the kids - he may pull me aside and say I need to relax a bit lol.

I guess I'm just wondering how this will all work in the future? We have a great relationship and my kids really like him a lot, but I miss the tag team of parenting. Can you do that with someone who's not their dad or am I on my own?

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So What Happened?

Thank you for the replies, thoughts and support! We are on the same page with parenting and support each other's decisions, etc. This really has given me a different perspective with house rules and enforcing them, but actual punishment coming from the bio parents. Teenagers are far more challenging than I was prepared for and I learn something new from them daily. I really do appreciate having someone on my side now. Thanks mamas!

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answers from Dallas on

It's hard to step in with teenagers. It's differant with little ones. I agree, one set of rules and everyone is required to pitch in and do the work. But, when I had issues with my step-son, I took them to dad and discussed it with him. Then he would go to his son and talk it out. United front. But dad knows him better and knows when to step in and what will get through to his son. I would've just been banging my head against a brick wall and it would've become a power struggle.

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answers from Washington DC on

I vote for basic house rules. Everybody eats at the table. No phone calls after 10PM. No friends over when you are not home. Etc. Whatever you decide to be the foundation of this household.

I think that the big discipline comes from you for your kids and he for his. I have never grounded my stepkids. DH does that. But I do enforce house rules. If the rule is that Johnny needs to clear the table, I'll say, "Johnny, please clear the table. You can watch your show after it's done."

And just like with any home, sometimes how Mom or Dad or Stepmom or Stepdad does it isn't all the same, but it gets the job done. DH might tell Johnny to clear the table at the commercial. As long as it IS done (and the cat hasn't helped herself), I don't comment.

Remember that all of these relationships evolve over time. Start off slow. Back each other up. Don't expect everyone to love everyone, but if you can all show respect then that's a very good start.

With the ages of the kids, why not sit down and have a meeting? Let them give input. What works? What doesn't? What is vetoed by the adults and why? (Before this, meet with BF and go over some non-negotiables so you are on the same page).

I think one of the biggest mistakes my mom made was to not lay out the rules, change rules on a whim or allow our then-stepfather to change rules that made no sense. He had no idea and was just trying to show off. We were 14 and 18 and he put a lock on the cable channels - to show he could. It made for a really horrible adolescence for my sister. Our mom gave him too much control and didn't stand up to him when he was wrong. Don't go so far the other way that you lose your say on your own kids.

There may also be places where you really don't agree. Your 14 yr old doesn't have a phone but his does - it's a place where you may need to explain that it's out of your hands to your child. In my case, their mom bought the phones so SD had one at 10 (and broke it, but that's another story). MY DD will not have a phone at 10. But maybe you and BF agree that his kid keeps the phone, but has to hand it over at bedtime. That sort of thing.

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answers from Washington DC on

We are not blended, but here are my two cents anyway. I think there is a difference between setting rules and disciplining. I think that when you have step-parents involved, the step-parent needs to have aurthority and be respected as such. However, I think the step-parent should not be in the position of creating the rules. All the parents should work together to determine the household rules, and the biological parent needs to set the tone. But for every rule the bio parent makes the step parent should have authority to implement it. you can't live in chaos, but you also shouldn't be made the bad guy overnight. The kids have to perceive the rules come from the bio parent, at least initially.

The truth is that kids need and like structure. It gives them security. Knowing the rules are consistent and they can trust the step parent is a good thing for them. However, the step parent probably needs to back off for a while. Your kids need to get the idea that the step parent is acting on your behalf. Until it becomes common place, and then there can probably be some flexibility. Only you know your kids, and some may do great right off. Others may have initial resentments, so just tread carefully on introducing this new person as a part of their household. Best wishes.

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answers from Los Angeles on

We have a blended family. SD was 3 or 4 when I met husb.
He let me discipline/entertain SD.
It was fine until we had a child of our own. SD was immensely jealous.
Understanably so but dad never stepped in to explain so things progressed from there in a not so positive way.
My entertaining had to go by the wayside w/new baby to take care of.
Also, since he was a preemie we had to be at hosp & be careful of issues
like washing hands, faces after school etc before any contact to ensure
he didn't have any chance of contracting RSV. This created problems.
Long story short, I should never have been asked to discipline or "take
care of" the child while dad took a total backseat. It was his job to parent
his child.
It all blew up in face as SD made issues afterwards so I would recommend as the step-parent you let the biological parent raise & discipline the child. I tried to create a positive role model only to have it backfire on me.
I realize now I should have & now do let bio dad take care of everything while I only now provide support, a warm loving home & create some sort of balance w/2 kids & an ex-wife in the mix. While it's difficult, it is the best kind of life I could ask for. I have a wonderful family & love every minute of it even w/it's trials & tribulations along the way.
Best of luck to you & yours! :)

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answers from Eau Claire on

I had to be the step parent without children of my own and the kids were more well behaved around me than their Mother or Father so I can say it is all in how you approach it. First of all remember that communication is key. The kids are all old enough to understand rules however most parents assume the kids have learned them through the course of growing up and don't sit them down and discuss them directly and clearly with the kids. Sometimes it is even a good idea to write them down with consequinces and the disclaimer that consequinces will increase if behaviors are repeated without improvement. I prefer using consequinces to punishment because kids associate punishment with parents being mean but associate consequinces with the idea that they made the choice to do whatever and every action has a consequince - some good, some bad. After you have set the rules you may not have any problems and if you do x behavior gets y consequince - but make sure you follow through. There won't be a need for drama and the kids will relax too. Then I suggest family meetings. Its a time when kids can speak their minds (parents too) and new rules or adjustments are discussed. If a child has a problem with a bed time they can discuss it and tell you their reasons why they should stay up later and you can tell them why you have it set where it is. Maybe you decide to meet in the middle or have a trial week to see if they can handle the later time and still get up without being ornery. Other things to discuss at a family meeting is schedule so everyone knows what's going on because it can get busy with so many kids in their teens so you will need a gameplan. You should also discuss feelings - we called it "new pet peive time". The kids would voice things that were bugged them that others did and we would try to work a comprimise to keep the peace such as adj shower times so someone doesn't always have a cold one or have them timed. All this will help the kids feel more secure and trusting of all parents in the house and relaxed with each other. The tag team relationship will take time but it can happen. One last thought, think about how you would expect your best friend or mother to discipline your children with or without you around - someone not a parent but close. Decide if there are any things you would want that person to defer to you and have your boyfriend do the same and discuss them that way you can know the sensitive areas before you get to them. Good Luck!



answers from Denver on

One house = One set of rules.

All rules/guidlines should be applied to all members under the roof.



answers from Boston on

Especially with kids as old as yours and his, they are and will remain "yours" and "his" and have to be disciplined as such. We have been a blended family for 8 years, our older kids were 5 when we got married and 3 when we met and even with 10 years of history, we still have to divvy up the discipline. Especially where the kids aren't at the ages where you often need to discipline on the spot (they're not likely to be hitting each other or name calling and sticking out their tongues like younger kids), consequences can wait for the bio parent to come home, have a talk with the other parent, and tell the child what will happen.

If possible, I would seek out a family counselor in your area who specializes in adolescents and blended families. You may not need to involve everyone, but it's a huge help to have an expert who can give you advice on the fly. We are working with a family therapist now and I wish we had done this from the beginning. Not that we're dealing with anything serious - our kids aren't delinquents or anything like that - but combining families is really hard work and it's great to realize that you can use some real, live help to navigate the unknown waters ahead.

It's a delicate balance - you absolutely need to create a united front in front of all the kids, lay ground rules that all must agree to and follow, and be consistent with consequences and privileges yet respect the bio-parent/bio-child relationship and chain of command.



answers from San Francisco on

I don't think you should NEVER discipline stepkids, but it should primarily be left to birth parents, especially if the stepparent comes into their lives at an older age.

But, you say, "He definetely supports me and would never contradict me in front of the kids - he may pull me aside and say I need to relax a bit lol." That sounds perfect!! If he keeps that up, and adds loving your kids to the mix, things should continue to be great!

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