Differences in parenting styles are common in any intact marriage. Therefore, no one should be surprised when differences in parenting styles crop up in remarriages, as it is completely different from what online dating sites depict. When someone decides to enter into the role of the stepparent, they do so in a secondary role right at the start. Throw into the mix a high-conflict ex-partner who may feel their “territory” is threatened, and disagreements over when and how to discipline, reward, offer guidance, and help, etc. are almost a foregone conclusion.
It is strongly recommended that discussions about parenting styles and expectations be communicated long before the relationship advances to the point where parenting expectations are essential. The most important understanding should be about the need for disagreements between the two of you to manifest themselves in front of the children. The kids should never be caught up in the disagreements between parent and stepparent. This should serve as the foundation for establishing a parenting strategy for both of you.
Disagreements are inevitable and the two adults should make a commitment to one another to address any disputes with maturity, kindness, consideration, and a heap of patience. Problems should be addressed with a focus on the root cause of the disagreement. Only when you address the true root cause of any matter can you effectively implement a plan to correct it and prevent it from being a point of contention down the road. Perspective is a key ingredient. It’s important to be able to hear what’s facing one party or the other and work very hard to see the situation through their eyes. When you are able to do this, you are better able to work towards a meaningful resolution that benefits everyone, including the children. Don’t let high emotion cloud your ability to view the situation and work to resolve it. It’s easy to allow yourself to be swayed by emotion and anger. It takes practice and patience to set that aside to get to the root of the problem.
Accept that your view isn’t the only way to address a particular issue. Yes, there may exist an equally effective or better way to handle a family matter, and that source may be your partner. Swallow your pride, shelve your ego, and focus on problem-solving. Engage your partner to communicate. Be open-minded enough to consider a viewpoint other than your own.
Both of you should take the time to step back and “rate” the nature of the problem. People are often quite surprised to find that many of these situations are rather trivial in nature. When you do rate the issue as small in scale, it makes it easier for one party to defer to the other party, trying a different approach even if it is not one you necessarily agree with. These are the moments you can practice some level of objectivity with little risk and an opportunity to see what else may work. Resist the urge to place a great deal of importance on matters that are truly not so important in the grand scheme of things. You will encounter far more opportunities to reach compromise or try something different because most disagreements won’t rise to the level of a family crisis. Be flexible more often than you’re not. If the fix you choose doesn’t work out as anticipated, you can always reverse it or try another option.
Once you embrace the concepts that communication and consistency are key for both the parents and the children/stepchildren, the easier it becomes to work together to resolve those issues that invariably crop up during day-to-day life in a blended family household. How you handle disagreements sends a life-affecting message to the children. Remember that it’s okay for children to see that their caretakers have differences of opinion and it doesn’t matter if it’s biological parents or parent/stepparent. Demonstrate a united front. Show care and concern for the feelings of others. Indicate that you’re open-minded enough to consider the suggestions and opinions of your loved ones. When children see the mutual respect between the adults in the family, they learn to give it and receive it as they grew and establish their own relationships.
These approaches lead to a more harmonious household. They also provide the children with excellent lessons in problem-solving, mutual respect, love, care, and consideration of others. Set the example you want them to follow in all of their future interpersonal relationships.