Stepfamily discipline issues

Question: I need your help! I have a 6-year-old daughter from a previous relationship and I just recently got married to my husband on October of 2001. I fear for our relationship, I fear we might end up separating if we don’t come to an agreement on the discipline of my daughter, he wants to take over completely on how to discipline her, because he says I’m too easy on her and I want to make sure that whatever kind of discipline method he uses is the only correct and fair one. I just feel he runs out of patience and could be very unfair at times or I don’t know if It’s me who needs to work on parenting hood or it could possibly be that my daughter sometimes does not listen because she needs time to get used to having a father or male figure in the house. Where can I go to seek for help? any books? advice for my husband or myself? We argue almost every day and I can’t help going to bed crying, upset, angry, confused, depressed on this situation anymore!
– Alba

Answer: You are definitely not alone experiencing the complications of raising a child with a step-parent. Emotions are running high – wanting to protect your daughter from unfairness, wanting to be kind and loving toward your daughter, possibly experiencing some guilt about your new marriage, and juggling the needs of two people who want your love and attention. Then add to the mix, the conflicting emotions of your daughter and your husband. It can be a difficult situation for everyone.

I recommend that you start with the Two C’s – Communication and Compromise. There is no one right way to be a family. No one right way to discipline. No one right way to divvy up parent roles and responsibilities. You must talk to your husband about his goals and expectations in the new family as well as about your goals and expectations. You both must listen closely to each other. Try to avoid defending whatever was the case before becoming this new family. Find that common ground that is your reason to be married – YOU ARE A BETTER FAMILY TOGETHER THAN EITHER OF YOU SEPARATE!

Decide together:


  • What are the rules of the house that are important to both of you
  • How you will enforce those rules in a way that is compatible with your individual parenting styles
  • A regular time and place to talk about disagreements as they come up (they will and its okay!) and to discuss the future of your family. Stick to it!
  • The things you can do as a family
  • The things you can do as a couple
  • The things that are essential to everyone’s emotional comfort. Make it a priority to take care of yourselves and take care of each other.There are no easy answers – change takes time. But as you’ve already said, your family is worth fighting for!

    Libraries and bookstores have a great selection of helpful books. It’s a good idea to find one that speaks to both you and your husband that you can refer to when you get off track. You might try: Steparenting by Jeannette Lofas with Dawn B. Sova,Keys to Successful Step-Fathering by Carl E. Pickhardt, and 7 Steps to Bonding with Your Stepchild by Suzen J. Ziegahn. Even if your husband isn’t interested in reading books now, you will gain a better perspective of his situation.

    This is not an easy thing for a family to do alone. Step-family conflicts may be the biggest new problem facing families today. You might also consider professional support to guide your family through the issues as they arise each week. Remember to take care of yourself as you take care of your family!

    Good Luck,
    Karen Deerwester, Ed.S.


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