Lately I have been receiving more complaints, requests for advice or just other concerns about the discipline or treatment of the children of blended families. Primarily the concern is the treatment of a noncustodial parent's prior children [NCP] as compared to that of the subsequent children of a new family.
That is to say this is how a NCP treats his or her visiting children different from that of the subsequent residential children of the household and if so is this justified. I have found that opinions on this differ widely as do the reasons.
It is not my intention here to provide a blanket procedure or rule for parents to follow when providing discipline or rules for children of blended families. Rather, I want to express some varying ways in which these families handle the situation and allow you to consider these for your own family.
Here are some opinions by others also. Michael G Connor: Parenting in Blended Families.
Cathy Meyer: Child Discipline in the Blended Family.
Shirley Cress Dudley: Discipline in the Blended Family.
It is important that children have consistency in discipline and expectations. For this reason both natural parents need to communicate with each other about what those are. It may be very likely that you won't agree on this which could be one of the reasons you are divorced to begin with. However, it is still necessary to know what the other parent expects so that your rules or discipline may include consideration of that.
The other children in the household must also be made aware of the rules and expectations and the residential household of their visiting sibling. If you choose to adopt the rules of the residential household of your visiting then there will be a difference in the way the children in your household are treated. Age or maturity will be a consideration in how this is explained to the children.
One difference that I personally employ and have found common among others is that the visiting children are not responsible for such tasks as household chores or cleaning up their messes. I am not saying that if the child purposely makes a mess that he or she shouldn't have to clean that surface. What this means is that the child should not have to clean up after regular usage of games, toys, etc. The child should understand that it is proper to clean up after one's self but that you want to spend time with the child not having the child spend time cleaning up.
Other parents choose to treat all children the same while accounting for age. This may reduce sibling conflict and be best for all involved. This is going to have to be a case-by-case decision that best accommodates the circumstances of the family.
There is another possible dynamic to this situation besides the parties that are already mentioned. You may have a new spouse or partner also in the household. The other children may be previous children of your new spouse or partner. Those children are going to be accustomed to a particular existing style. You have had a way that you parent your child. There may be a conflict in parenting styles that must be resolved between the both of you before being applied to the children.
Having a non residential child visiting who brings a different standard into the situation is going to make it more difficult. There is no right or wrong to resolving this. The best I can offer though is that there must be consistency. Whatever you choose it must be applied on a consistent basis. If you have a new partner then you both must support the rules and discipline as applied by each other.
In a family created through two adults with children from previous relationships each adult must have authority to enforce the rules and instill discipline on an equal basis regardless of biological connection. This also applies to visiting children. Failure to have equal authority over all of your children will result in a power conflict. You can expect the children to detect and manipulate that situation which will only create problems in the relationship between you and your spouse.
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