Category Archives: stepfamily

What makes someone a “stepparent”?

This week I received the following question, and I thought you might like to know the answer, too…

The question was, “What makes someone a “stepparent”? Is it only through marriage, or can it be someone who “volunteered” for that position?”

My answer was:

A stepparent is someone in a committed relationship – legally married or not – with a parent. Stepparents – legally married or not – have no legal standing for their partner’s children. In other words, if you are a stepparent (as I have been for 24 years) you cannot, without your partner’s written permission, pick up your stepchild from school, sign for medical care for them, get their grades, or most other legal actions.

As a stepparent, you are legally just a stranger helping with someone else’s child. That’s the legal stance. It’s also a good starting point for the personal relationship with your Sweetheart’s children. I teach couples to focus on their “marriage” relationship. Let the biological parent take responsibility for their kids. That’s how the law looks at it and if the stepparent looks at it that way, too, all will be easier.

Yes, a stepparent should help out their partner whenever they can – with errands, shopping, housekeeping, etc. But only when asked, in relation to the children. If a stepparent goes into a relationship thinking they can “fix” the parent-child situation, they will find themselves receiving resentment from both the parent and the child, AND the child’s other parent, AND the child’s grandparents, on BOTH sides. Stepparents have the opportunity to be a blessing to their partner and his/her kids, but you have no rights to make decisions for these children of another couple.

My favorite motto is

“Not my circus, not my monkeys.”

When/if the kids start driving you crazy, react as you would with kids in the mall – either let their parent know they’re causing trouble, or step away from the children! And if you let their parent know how they’re acting out, do it gently with love.

Remember, your most important job in the relationship is to support and comfort your Darling. Most likely, you married for love, not to Fix their family. You are not their teacher or their trainer. If they ask your advice, give it softly and with care. These are not your children. Someday, if you play your cards right, you may hear your stepchildren refer to you as “Dad” or “Mom.”
And that, my friend, is a joy you can’t imagine!


StepDad Asks: How do I make my Stepkids like me?

Short answer – you can’t. That is, you cannot make them feel comfortable with your being in their mom’s life. That is up to them (and somewhat to how their mom leads them). The best thing you can do is be polite with them while being appropriately close to their mom. (“Appropriately” means close and passionate when alone; courtly and pleasant when the kids are around.)

You are not – and this is often the hard part for guys, it was for me – taking on any part of raising her children. That is her and their dad’s job. Not yours. Not at all.

You should treat them as you would the children of one of your church (or club) friends: friendly, casually, but politley. Do anything the mom asks you to for them – pick them up, drop them off, offer input If She Asks.

Consider their behavior as that of a neighbor’s kids’. Would you try to correct or instruct the kids who live three doors down from you? Probably not. If you see them acting up, you’d tell their parent – and then, probably only if it involved your stuff. It they were being unruly and you felt you HAD to say somthing, tell their parent (your girlfriend), but don’t try to correct them yourself.

NOTE: your relationship with them as a part of their lives will not begin in any tangible way until you and Mom are married. This makes a huge difference to children who have watched Mom and Dad divorce. Boyfriends are just “Mom’s passing fancy.” Stepdads (= the guy married to mom and therefore a permanent part of the family) are different in childrens’ minds. They are at once the opposition, the outsider, the invader, the unknown equation, the interesting oddity, and someone in between Mom and them. Winning them means EARNING their trust. THEY hold the keys to that lock. Eventually, a stepdad (or stepmom) will become less irksome, more acceptible, and even entertaining.

Nationally, it takes from 4 to 7 years for a stepfamily to gel and start functioning as a family – sometimes longer, rarely less time. Prepare to be the third wheel with the kids for that long and your expectations won’t make you crazy. Focus your time, energy, and mind on creating a strong relationship with your wife. When the kids have grown, moved away, and have families of their own, it will just be you two. Build your marriage relationship solidly.

(NOTE 2: If you are a Christian, pray and trust completely. If you are not a Christian … well, your best hope is to get in the Family ASAP. Stepfamilies have between a 66% and 75% divorce rate. That’s three out of four chance you’ll divorce again. With God’s guidance and help, those odds improve greatly.)


Stepcoach Bob Collins

What’s Ahead for Your Family in 2018

You made it through another year! Yeah!

Well, you’ve made it through another year. Congratulations. No, really. Lots of other stepfamilies didn’t make it. (Remember, ±70% divorce rate for us?) So celebrate your success. And when you get through hoopin’ it up, here are some ideas for the next year that may make your next pre-New Year times even more celebratory.

Maybe 2017 was the first in your new family or maybe it was one of a series, but I’ll just bet there were some memorable moments in the last 12 months. High times, low times, disasters (of various sizes) and perhaps even some victories.

1) Don’t overlook the victories

Celebrate your victories

Sometimes they will tend to get lost in dealing with the disasters, but those victories are the building blocks for the rest of you lives together. You need the victories for when the disasters are smothering you. You need to be able to look back at some happy times, some surprising laughs, some peaceful Family times together.

So make a scrap book. A real one or one online. Actually “print” some of those photos from your phone and make a collage. (Gasp! What a thought!) memorialize your Happy Times. I promise, you’ll be glad you did.

2) Give out awards

Which of your new tribe laughed the most? Who improved more over last year? Who overcame some major challenge? Who won an award at school (or work)? Which of you created some family-centered artwork?

These can be huge victories, or quiet accomplishments. Just be sure not to be sarcastic with your awards (unless that’s your whole new family’s thing!). And try to include either everyone or just one or two really notable victories. And make real awards. You can print out certificates of accomplishment, or make heavy duty cardboard medals and paint them gold. The point is, let your family members know you notice their efforts. Encourage them to try.

3) Make big plans together

Your family, too, can experience wild times at the beach

…you know, like a family. Take some time now to gather ideas about where everyone would like to go for a family vacation. It can be just a weekend outing nearby, or you can visit all the greatest cathedrals of Europe … maybe not. But you can discuss what you want to do, edited by what you can realistically do. Make a list, let proponents sell the idea, and discuss feasibility (i.e. teach the kids how to budget money and time). Then make another list of your top three favorites and choose.

4) Make little plans together

Let everyone (within reason, and with the bio-parent’s approval) put in their two-cents worth on Summer vacation weeks, birthday parties, maybe even special times for visitation. Be sure to include school events and sporting events.

The point of all this is to create and develop a sense of FAMILY so your kids and stepkids, and parents and stepparents can all take part in the growth of this new home. Give everyone a say in how this adventure goes.

All too often,

One big happy family

Children feel left out of the planning stages. They were blindsided by the divorce, and now a new adult has moved in, with their own traditions, ways, family members, and issues; and the kids can feel like they are just furniture or the family pets. They get told what will happen, when and where it will happen, and what they are expected to feel about all the changes.

By including them in the plans for next year – the big ones and little ones both – they can feel like they have some value in the new enterprise.

And you can have an even better victory celebration next year.

The Bible, Divorce, & Re-marriage

Right or wrong, between 45 and 75 percent of all marriages end in divorce, and most of those divorcees will re-marry!

There’s no use dancing around the obvious point that most stepfamilies are formed from a controversial act: divorce. And there’s no way to avoid the fact that many religions—and therefore many religious people—have a problem dealing with stepfamilies.

Divorce and remarriage are tough fits in our world: the Bible says God hates them (Malachi 2:14-16), but our society encourages them and makes them convenient, so it’s just a fact of life we must deal with. It’s a fact, too, that there are many ministers and well–meaning folk out there who try to ignore — or worse yet, condemn — those of us who are in a stepfamily.

But the fact of the matter is that, while Jesus discouraged the practice (except in particular cases; Matthew 5:36), He never refused His care and healing power to any who sincerely asked for it. So, as Christ-followers (you know…“WWJD”), neither can we. (And by we, I mean both we in STEP- Carefully! Inc., and we as in you, if you’re a Christian!)

Jesus even demonstrated how to deal with this sticky subject. In John 4:6–30, Jesus reminds the Samaritan woman at the well that she’s been remarried several times…then He drops the subject and goes on to minister to her needs. And as a result, you’ll recall, an entire town came out to meet Him.

That’s the model we follow. While acknowledging that divorce should never happen, we accept the fact that it does, help as much as we can, and move on. We don’t have a choice, really, since everyone involved with our programs have been divorced, remarried, or have family members who have lived through it. That’s why it’s important to look for a church, a minister, a counselor, or a therapist who has had personal experience with the challenges of divorce, or who has an open heart and mind about it.

If you ever need to talk, please feel free to contact us. Been there; done that; got the scars to understand!

STEPcoach Bob Collins

Christmas (Talk) In August!

In our local support group this week we happened on a ripe topic. (And when I say we “happened” on it, I mean that literally. Sometimes I have no idea where God will lead us until we get there!) We fell into talking about Christmases past and to come. In particular, what we had all spent on our kids and families last Christmas. Many were not proud!
One couple said they fought so badly she asked to be let out of the car on the way to a family gathering. She just sat at a gas station until he and the kids were through and came back to get her! They both seemed unhappy about that event.
Another guy told of how his family tradition was to just buy for the kids and maybe a gift or two for another family member; however, his new wife’s family tradition involved expensive gifts for each member of a large family. They also held Christmas gatherings and dinners at several houses … where more gifts were exchanged! He still sounded stunned by it all.
How many gifts did they give out? “Way too many,” seemed to be the consensus. One couple looked at each other, counting to themselves and came up with “50 or 55” gifts per child! Good grief!
Why do we do this? Most said they just got carried away with sales and last minute ideas. But one dad admitted that part of his over-gifting was to make up to his kids for their not having such a great life since their parents’ divorce and Dad’s remarriage. Most of the others either nodded agreement or just stared at their hands.
So I asked them, What do you think is a proper number of gifts for a child to receive for Christmas. Not your child, but an average child from an average family in our socio-economic neighborhood. … No one volunteered for what sounded like a trap, so I went around the table and ask each person. The general average seemed to be four or five gifts per child was fair.
Why numbers of gifts per child instead of amount spent, one mom asked. Because most pre-teen kids seem to be more interested in how many packages they have to open and the gifts they walk away with, than how many dollars each item cost.
One dad said they’d settled the issue last year by reading the Christmas story, then pointing out that since Baby Jesus (whose birthday this is supposed to be about) only received three gifts, wasn’t it fair to limit the kids to only three gifts? Nice idea!
We wound up all agreeing that it might be a good idea to set goals or budgets for this year’s holidays. Our homework for the next week will be for each couple to come back with their set plan. It can include only the kids, or be for the kids and all the adults. It can be about numbers of gifts, or about budgeted dollars, or both.
I’d like to propose this same project for your family. Sit down together, you and your sweetie, and decide now – while it’s still hot and very non-Christmas-y – what your goal (or your limit if you’re more comfortable with that measure) will be for your family this year. Write it down and keep it where you can find it again around the middle of November. And then see what you think of it come January.
Please write me and let me share with our other families your ideas. I know they will appreciate hearing from you – we all need to share ideas, don’t we? 
Oh, and … Merry Christmas!
STEP coach Bob

Jumping Off the Cliff

What lead you to get married again? After being burned so badly by your previous divorce(s), why did you – many of us very quickly – run back into another marriage?

Most of you will answer that you fell in love and hoped this time would be different and better. That this adventure into matrimony would not only work, but repair the harm from the last one. But, how could you bring yourself to walk back over that cliff?

I know that in my own case, I didn’t walk, I sprinted toward my second marriage. I remember thinking a good three months before our wedding was scheduled to take place, “Why should we wait? Why not just get married TODAY?! We’re in love, we are ready to start over, let’s go!” I was held back only by the plans that were in place and the deposits that had been paid for the scheduled date. I was so much in love, I couldn’t wait to start being happily married. Again.

As some of you probably know from our working together, the first two years of my new marriage was less blissful than expected. In fact, it was horrible. We jumped into it far too quickly and far too soon after our previous divorces. In retrospect, we should have spent a good two years (bare minimum!) learning about each other and figuring out how to blend our lives together – especially regarding her teenaged daughter’s impact on our marriage!

If I’d paid closer attention in my university classes on psychology, I’d have seen that others had already studied this phenomenon of blindly walking off cliff walls. Back in 1960, two researchers named Gibson and Walk constructed a table to test depth perception in animals and babies. The table, as illustrated below:

was made of clear plexiglass under which was one half a table surface, and one half a drop off to the floor. In the experiment, very young babies – first animal then human – were placed on the “safe” side and encouraged to cross the glass table to the “unsafe” side. Animals almost never crossed, and many babies would not cross. But some babies were so focused on their parent’s facial expressions that they happily crawled all the way to her. They were more interested in Mom’s or Dad’s smiling, encouraging faces that communicated it was OK to cross the divide than what their eyes told them.

Now “the Visual Cliff”, as this experiment has become known, has real application in helping us understand why so many people … people who are generally pretty clear headed … will stumble out of the smoking wreckage of a horrible divorce, right into another relationship as quickly as they can find one.

We, like those trusting babies on the glass table, are so focused on the smiling, happy, beguiling faces of our new love interests (or other body parts besides their faces!), that, although we can see the drop off, we don’t heed our body’s natural warning responses.

“Dude! Stop! Can’t you see you’re leading us off a huge cliff, just like what we just fell from a few months ago? STOP!” To which we reply dreamily, “I can’t stop. Sorry. Her (“eyes”) are just so big and pretty and she keeps smiling at me and making me feel all warm inside,” or “Don’t be silly, Self! Can’t you see how strong he is and how much he loves me? I just know it will be safe” … to blindly crawl out into blank space where common sense tells me I’ll crash to the bloodied rocks below, just like last time!

And off to the races we go!

Relationships, then, are clearly more important to us than safety, sight, experience, or common sense. Statistics tell us that our hearts will lead us where our eyes should force us to not go. Second marriages experience two divorces out of every three attempts, while more than three out of four third marriages fail. Got that? Two out of every three second marriages end in divorce!

The cliff is real! But we just keep on crawling. Why?

Because we NEED love. We need to have someone we can share the joy of life, as well as the fears of facing the world alone. And we are happy to ignore our brains to listen to the hopes of our hearts.

The bad news is that the odds are against you if you’re in a stepfamily.
The good news is there is hope.

Yes, we need love; we need a partner to walk beside us. And that love is possible. Your marriage doesn’t have to turn into a warning sign to others. It is possible to turn back from what may be looking like a disaster in the making. You just need help.

In sixteen years of working with stepfamilies, we’ve had OVER 90 PERCENT success helping you guys beat the odds. I’m still amazed at that number. We’re not magic. What I teach isn’t some arcane secret. I just help couples see the land mines clearly, then understand the best ways through the toughest times.

“The heart wants what it wants,” as Dickinson said. Almost 100 percent of people who divorce get married again. We love that cliff.

If you’re over the cliff, fearing that you’ve made a big mistake, and especially if you have children involved – don’t give up. Don’t freeze up and just wait for the drop to another crash. Get help. From me, from someone else, within yourself, wherever, just don’t give up. Especially if there are children involved. Don’t drag them into that abyss again.

Hold on and get across this time.

STEPcoach Bob Collins

A STEPparent’s Job

Dear [stepparent],

Regarding your question about your particular responsibility about your husband’s kids, here’s how that lays out:

1) the stepparent is not legally or morally or physically responsible for their stepchildren. If a child gets into some sort of liable trouble (causing expensive damages to someone else’s property, for example), the biological parent is legally responsible for reparations for that damage. Not the stepparent. Morally, God places responsibility for raising a child and teaching that child how to be an adult on the biological parent. Not the stepparent.

2) The stepparent has the opportunity to bless the stepchildren; to teach them by example how to be a kind, loving, forgiving person. The stepparent also has the opportunity to demonstrate to the stepchild how to react, in a Christian manner, if they are insulted, ignored, or even harmed by the stepchild. The stepparent does have the responsibility to show the stepchild Christ in a very real way through daily living and lovingkindness (just as any child or person). Yes, this can be hard. I remember when my own stepdaughter slapped me in the face in public, (once physically and many times with her mouth and hateful attitude) in front of others, to embarrass me and to challenge me. As a Christian who just happened to be married to her mother, my responsibility was to demonstrate to her how a Christian would deal with a personal attack like that. (Remember what Jesus said about if someone slaps you on one cheek? Forgive and get over it and love them, He said)

So the stepparent, you and I, has no legal responsibility over the stepchild – but the Christian has a responsibility to witness Christ’s love and forgiveness to everyone, ESPECIALLY those in our household.

One more point; Just because a stepparent does not have the responsibility for their stepchild, they are family. And, as family, they have a relationship with those stepchildren. You and I, as family members to our stepchildren must be careful not to shun those children, but to reach out to them as family members. When Dad and the kids are doing something, a family member should show an interest and care about that they’re doing. If the stepkids reject your attempt, that shouldn’t make any difference in your actions. We are still family members with those children of our spouse, and as such we need to show the same care and consideration as we do toward our spouse’s parents, brothers and sisters, or their grandparents. Reach out with patience and love and respect because of who they are related to … your sweetheart.

It is a balancing act: love without having to, care without being forced to. But so is every other relationship we have – with our spouse, our parents, our siblings, etc, etc. It may not be the easiest, but it’s the right thing to do.

STEPcoach Bob Collins

Helping stepfamilies succeed since 1996 – STEP-Carefully! is just for you!

Blessings of Being A Stepparent

1) I married my high school sweetheart after we’d both been divorced upon by our spouses, so new life, new hope;
2) she brought a daughter, sort of a curse AND a blessing;
3) she then had a son, my step-grandson – a definite blessing!

Here is a journal entry I wrote about a day with my grandson, back in 2002:
February 2002

What a perfect day with Michael!
I never could have believed (and now I speak with faulty memory, because his presence has altered my mind so much) that I could be so completely taken by a baby boy! I think of him far more often than anyone else, and wonder about him whenever he is not with me. When he runs to me and wraps his arms around my leg, either to hug me or in an attack, I just feel all poured out for him. What I mean is that he seems to take over my full emotions. To make him giggle or even to scream with delight makes me feel like the most successful man in the world.

Today was a Monday, which means that I have promised to set all else aside to care for Michael. It’s definitely a foolish thing by the world’s standards, but I’m afraid I’m completely foolish when it comes to this little boy. After dropping Jo (Nana) off at her job, I came back home to find Jennifer almost ready to leave for her job and Michael still asleep. I puttered with home chores – dishes, trash, etc. – until I heard him call o ut. I called to him, “Hey Buddy, Grandpapa’s here.” In a few minutes, he toddled into the living room, tilted his head ‘way to the side and grinned at me.

We spent the morning playing and watching some cartoons, then while watching Bear in the Big Blue House, he started getting drowsy, so he got up and stumbled over to the couch, climbed up, and scooted over onto my lap! He laid his head back on my chest and stuck his bottle in his mouth. He could only sit still for so long, lest he fall asleep. So he hopped down and sprawled on the carpet, propping his chin on his fist, while his feet were propped up in the air. I couldn’t resist … I laid down beside him, adopting the same pose. He snuck a look at me out of the corner of his eye, then got up on his knees and flopped on my back to watch TV from there. I rolled over so that he fell off giggling, and got on my hands and knees looking at him. He charged toward me, butting me in the head with his head. I dropped my head and burrowed into his belly. He squealed and grabbed my shirt, wrestling with me. I fell back on my back and he pounced on me.

We wrestled like that until we were tired (really I tired much more quickly than he did!) and we sat back on the couch. His mommy came home then for lunch. He had a sandwich with her, and when she left I laid him down in his play pen with a bottle of milk for a nap. He never made a sound, just looked up at me with sleepy, bright eyes. After his nap time, I had gotten us ready for a trip to town, so I went in to wake him. I leaned over his bed and whispered, “I love you. I love you, Michael.” He slowly opened his eyes and then jumped up when he saw me, and held out his arms to be picked up. I got him dressed and we left the house.

We then went to Wal-mart. I took Michael in to get Jo’s medicine refilled. After getting the pills, we played some. I’d push the cart out in front of me, crouch down and growl, “I’m gonna get your belly!” while running up on the cart and tickling his tummy as he squealed. We did figure eights, and drove through the too-tightly-packed clothing aisles, the shirt sleeves ticking his face. If anyone was paying attention, surely they thought I was nuts! Or maybe they envied me getting to play with such a wonderful baby. We bought some supplies for my new office and check ed out.

Then we went to get Jo. I took Michael upstairs to let her show him off. As we started in the front door of the clinic, I said, “Let’s find Nana, OK? Nana?” He perked up and said, “Nana? Nana! Nana!” looking around for her. In the elevator, I sat him down and he walked out, holding my hand. Jo was delighted to see him (of course!)

After we dropped Jo off at college, Michael and I went by the office to get a phone number about tomorrow’s appointment. Michael again captured everyone’s attention. He sat on my lap at my desk … and knocked pictures off the desktop. Leaving there, we went back to my dad’s apartment.

Michael picked up a package of gum Dad had laying on a table. Dad said, “Oh no, Michael, let me have that before you lose it.” Michael grinned and took off with the gum! I said, “Oh you little fart! Gimme that gum!” He fell on the gum and hung on for dear life. I pried his little fingers off the now crushed gum sticks and started chewing on his belly. He just flopped back and grinned at me as if to say, “Go ahead, Papa, get me. That’s why I started the trouble anyway.” So I picked him up and (carefully) tossed him on Dad’s bed, then dove on top of him, pinning him under my chest. He screamed and started kicking. I got up and he charged right at me, hitting me in the chest with his head. I tickled his back and knees as he tried to squirm away.

We left Dad to get Jo from Westark and head home. I laid down for a much needed nap. When I woke up, it was to a happy little boy laying across my chest, hugging me awake. Before he went to sleep that night, in bed with his mama, he leaned up from the covers and patted me on my arm, his way of saying, “Thanks for a good day, Papa. I love you.”

What a great day!

Why so many divorces?

A question on Quora recently got my juices flowing. The question was, “Why can’t most people be satisfied in married life? Why are divorce rates so high around the world?”

I’ve developed my answer to this particular question over 16 years of intensive work with divorcing couples, dissatisfied married couples, and re-married couples (“blended families”), as well as my own divorce and second marriage. I honestly believe that some couples should not have married in the first place. I agree, generally, with Jan Mixon that marriages are entered into too lightly, with too little clear, logical thought. Marriages like these are NOT true marriages, they are couples playing house on a temporary basis. 

Marriage is a lifelong commitment. A sincere, legal, moral, and often religious vow is taken to never leave or forsake each other through any difficulties that may arise. If this vow is not a flippant lie, divorce is impossible. I’ve never heard vows (though I’m sure someone has made up some) that allow for escape possibilities – “till boredom do us part,” “as long as you remain interesting to me,” etc.

Divorce is always damaging. Period. Even when the couple “is cool with it.” To have failed at a solemn vow degrades the personality and the soul. It makes the vow breaker think less of him/herself and makes all future commitments much weaker. When there are children involved, divorce is akin to abuse. Ask any child whose parents have divorced and they will tell you they wish their parents had resolved their differences and remained married. The statistics of what damages are done to children of divorce are many, and all tell of children whose quality of life and happiness has been severely reduced.

But, the question is why people can’t be satisfied in marriage (someone said correctly that divorce rates have dropped in the US dramatically in the last decade). My understanding, again based on 16 years of working intimately with divorced, divorcing, and remarried families, is that their understanding of commitment is flawed, often by parents who taught them and society which reinforced that they could have whatever they want, they have an innate right to be absolutely happy all the time, and because they have selfish desires for new adventures despite what effect satisfying those desires will have on others.

Unpopular ideas, I know … but I’ve had far too many divorced/remarried people tell me those ideas are correct to doubt them. We want everything perfect and when our marriage relationships or home situations are not, we whine and run away. Society supports this dangerous behavior because the majority of society wants to keep that same option open for themselves. 

Should some marriages be ended? Yes, but very few. I have successfully helped many, many couples rehabilitate their relationships who had experienced what society calls “deal breakers” – adultery, drug addiction, abuse, and betrayal of many sorts. These are only deal breakers if one or both sides are determined to give up and run away and abandon their vows.

Christians, in particular, have very few true reasons for divorce, and those are still excuses to lie. Yes, yes, yes, a woman (or a man) who is consistently abused by their spouse should get away from him and protect herself. But there are often alternatives to divorce. When children are involved, they must certainly be protected, but divorce of their two parents is not always the best, and certainly not the only solution. I’ve witnessed far too many families brought back to peace who were convinced divorce is the only solution.

Your Opinion, Please

I’d honestly like to hear your opinion on this question which recently came up in a discussion group for stepparents of difficult children … 

Which is worse (or, conversely, which is better) – 

1) no physical discipline, but plenty of verbal; or 

2) calm, physical discipline?

This question came up after a rather passionate discussion of how parents and stepparents handled hard-to-control children. Some were vehemently opposed to any sort of “physical violence” such as spanking, slapping, or bodily lifting and placing a child in a chair. Their reasoning was that violence begets violence. If you teach a child that hitting is acceptable, that child will fall back on hitting when he or she is excited.

The negative side of this group was that they admitted to far-too-often succumbing to the temptation to scream at their children to get their attention. Instead of grabbing Junior up from the TV and making him get moving, the tended to steadily increase from telling, to yelling, to screaming at him to move. They confessed they “lost it” at least once a week.

The “spare the rod, spoil the child” group first categorically insisted they had specific guidelines regarding corporeal punishment: when, how, and why to spank or slap, and usually had a follow-up strategy. Their method is generally to avoid emotional outbursts and to administer fair amounts of physical discipline, from bottom swats, to hand slaps, to lifting and removing the child.

Both sides were solid in their belief that theirs was the best way, and both had many examples of how well their own program worked for their children. 

But this was a fairly small group – only 6 couples. So I decided to expand this question. I’d like to know how most families deal with discipline/guidance for their unruly children. Please answer using the anonymous option on the comment page so there is no question of anyone getting in trouble. 

Other stepparents and biological parents are facing the same issues you are. I know they’d like to hear your opinions and your reasoning for your side.


STEPcoach, Bob Collins