We all make mistakes, even though we may not like to admit it. Being a dad is one of the hardest jobs in the world, and once you throw step kids into the mix, the role gets even harder. There’s no one right way to stepparent, as you’ll have to tailor your approach based on the ages and genders of your stepchildren. But there are some mistakes that you can avoid right off the bat. In fact, these mistakes are some of the worst you can make and to some children, unforgiveable.
First, don’t badmouth your stepchildren’s biological father. Your stepchildren are 50 percent their mother and 50 percent their father, so when you badmouth a parent, you’re essentially badmouthing them. This can be especially damaging in the beginning of the relationship when your stepchildren may see you as a threat or as trying to replace their father.
Remember that your stepchildren can overhear you as well, so don’t think that because they’re out of the room it’s okay to say negative things. Also tell your partner to refrain from badmouthing her ex around her children. If something must be discussed, do it when the children are out of the home. Really, it’s best to avoid this all together, so get in the habit of being nice – you may even like it.
Another common mistake that stepparents make is that they fail to recognize the effort that goes into becoming a stepfamily. With over half of American families being divorced and over 65 percent of those families including children, blended families are commonplace. But just because stepfamilies are widespread doesn’t mean that the relationships within them are easy. Don’t expect you, your partner and stepchildren to blend into a new family. Your stepfamily will be a combination of two families, so you want to respect the traditions, hobbies and interests that your stepchildren once shared with their family.
Stepparents tend to rush things, primarily because they’re excited to be starting a new journey in their life. Guys are especially notorious for this, as we’re not the best at handling the emotional side of relationships. So be warned, you don’t want to make another mistake by not allowing your stepchildren to have plenty of quality time with their parent. You may want to spend all your time with your new spouse, but your stepchildren need to spend quality time with their mom, especially as the transitions take place.
Kids are known for acting out, and depending on the age of your stepchildren, they may start acting babyish, lying or getting into trouble at school. When you allow one-on-one time, your stepchildren will see that you value the relationship they have with their mom and have no intention of coming in between them. Plus, it gives them a chance to talk about things they may not feel comfortable expressing in front of you quite yet.
Finally, avoid the mistake of being the reinforcer who handles the discipline but doesn’t give praise. As men, we like to take control of our families, establish rules, set boundaries and determine consequences. While you’ll want to discuss ground rules with your partner, you don’t want to be the reinforcer quite yet.
Even worse is when you hand out the consequences but forget to acknowledge your stepchildren for the good they do. Be sure to take an active interest in their lives, ask questions and offer praise and encouragement. You don’t need to overdo it, but simply show that you care about your stepchildren’s potential and recognize the progress made in all areas of life.