A United Front

My husband and I have very different parenting styles.  I’m pretty strict, and by comparison, he’s fairly laid back.  The best illustration of this is when we ask my stepson to clean his room.  10 years later, almost an adult, he still responds, “Brandi clean or Dad clean?”

Funny anecdote aside, I believe parenting is a very real factor in stepfamily success (or failure).  Healthy coparenting between biological moms and dads can have a lasting effect on kids.  It’s important for the parents within each home (biological and step) to lay the foundation by showing the kids a united front.

Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. – Ephesians 4:3

So how do we start (or start over)?

  • Get on the same page.  Have frank conversations with your husband about household rules.  If it’s a touchy subject, look at the verse in Ephesians: approach with peace.  You could introduce the conversation with something like, “I really want to get on the same page as you on this – can we set aside past arguments so I can hear your point of view, and you can hear mine?”
  • Spell out the details.  If your parenting styles are as different as mine and my husband’s, don’t leave anything to ambiguity!  Talk through everything from doing homework, hanging out with friends, electronics/TV time, cleaning their rooms, etc.  After you’ve got the expectations clearly laid out, tackle the consequences for breaking the rules…and plan on sticking to them.
  • Stay on the same page.  Kids get older, and rules change.  You may be presented with a situation you never thought you’d have to face…so face it together!  One of the beautiful things about marriage is growing together.  There are times I know exactly what my husband would say, and because he and I are on the same page, both he and the stepkids trust my decisions.
  • Honor each other.  You’re both human, which means you’re going to make mistakes.  When you do, treat each other with honor…especially in front of the kids.  Nothing undermines a united front more than parents disagreeing, or worse, overruling the other parent in front of the kids.  Duke it out behind closed doors.

Let me close with a friendly warning:  parenting experts frequently advise stepmoms to have little to no involvement in parenting or disciplining their stepkids.  Although I respectfully disagree and this wasn’t right for my stepfamily, I do know that every situation is different.  No matter whether you are a custodial stepmom making day-to-day decisions, or a weekend warrior taking a step back for your own sanity, be a team with your husband and set your stepfamily up for success!

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