Step Parenting: Shoud I Discipline the Kids or Not?

By Dr Charles Fay

To get a handle on what successful step-parents do, it’s helpful to first get a glimpse at what less successful ones try. I call the first well-intentioned yet doomed approach the “Wrecking Ball” step-parenting style. These folks take on the role of demolition expert in the family. They storm in with a crash, trying to rebuild every aspect of the kids’ behavior. Like drill sergeants, their favorite tools include lectures, threats, lots of new rules and plenty of micro-managing.

I call the second well-intentioned yet ineffective approach the “Refugee” step-parent style. Because they don’t want to step on any toes, these folks never really live in the home. Instead, they set up camp in the backyard. Peeking out of their tent screen, they watch the kids throw their daily refuse onto the lawn in front of them. Because they don’t want to insult the kids by trying to replace their “real” parent, these step-parents use no tools. They simply walk on eggshells, adopting an outsider, doormat role.

Successful step-parents obsessively follow the first rule of Love and Logic:
Take great care of yourself by setting limits without anger, lectures, threats, or repeated warnings.
Instead of trying to reconstruct through strict discipline…or walk on eggshells by remaining an outsider, they use Enforceable Statements to assertively describe how they will operate. Examples include:
  • I’ll listen when your voice is calm.
  • I’ll be happy to do the extra things I do for you when I feel respected.
  • I’ll get that for you when I see that you’ve finished your chores.
  • I argue at six o’clock on Saturday mornings.
  • I’ll let you know about that after I talk with your dad (or mom).
  • I’m fine with you having that as long as you have the money to pay for it.
For more ideas on setting limits with Enforceable Statements, study our CD, Love Me Enough to Set Some Limits.