Home > Mom's Life > Family Relationships > Nontraditional Families > Stepfamilies > Twelve Mistakes to Avoid in Stepparenting
|

Twelve Mistakes to Avoid in Stepparenting

  • Speaking without listening

  • Babies have it right. They do a lot of listening before they start to babble. And they really don't start talking until they've listened a great deal more. Somehow we adults have lost this ability, and this lacking causes a lot of problems.

    When you really listen to your stepkids without thinking about what you're going to do next or how you will respond, you often hear what they're not saying. Their hesitancy to bond with you may be that they're afraid you'll leave them (or die), Just like their biological parent did. They may still be angry with their parents for getting a divorce and their anger spills over to you just because you're there. They also may be saying that you're moving too fast; telling you to just put on a "friend face," as they're not ready to accept another adult in a parenting mask just yet.

    If you're the biological parent, you may be jumping in to tell your new spouse to stop criticizing your kids, without listening to discover that maybe they really do need a little tighter rein. You may not hear your spouse's unspoken plead, "Let me be part of the family, rather than a mute who stands by while your kids treat you with disrespect."

    Listen before you speak. That's a part of communication too.

  • Having to always be right

  • You probably wouldn't go to a foreign country and begin to tell the natives what they're doing wrong. Yet many stepparents report that they feel a little like the Marines—needed to come in to clean up the mess.

    "My stepson was ten when I married his mother," a New England sports personality said. "He had been the man of the house since he was three. I had never had a child so I guess I came on a little too authoritative. My wife still tells me I can't give orders. My advice to others would be not to come on too strong. You have to understand that kids operate by a different set of rules. You have to change the way you listen and speak."

    There is more than one way to do most things. Check out the landscape and see what your spouse has been accomplishing as a single parent. If you think yours is a better, faster, more economical, or simpler way, discuss it in private before you suggest it to the children.

    "It's different if you've never been a parent before," a thirty-three-year-old architect said. "You need to know something about parenting, developmental stages, and basically, how kids work. Coming in when your stepson is four is a little like opening a book in the middle of Chapter Four, not at the chapter on infancy. Healthy communication with your spouse helps a lot. My wife listens to my advice (even if she doesn't always take it). She thinks it's good to have a partner willing to find solutions. We really work well together."

    |

    From Blending Families by Elaine Fantle Shimberg. Copyright 1999. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

    If you'd like to buy this book, click here or on the book cover. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.


    stay connected

    Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

    Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

    Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

    editor’s picks

    thanksgiving crafts & recipes

    Make this Turkey
    Day fun for the
    whole family with
    these essentials.

    GO

    highlights

    3 Fun Thanksgiving Games for Kids
    Looking for some great Thanksgiving games to play with your kids? Print our free Pin the Feathers on the Turkey game, Pin the Hat on the Pilgrim game, and Thanksgiving Parade Bingo game for loads of laughs this Turkey Day!

    Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
    Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

    Top Family Movies in Theaters for the Holidays
    Taking the kids to the movies is a special family treat for the holidays! Don't miss 2014's best family films in theaters from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

    Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
    Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!