In one of our blended family classes, we had a couple join us half way through. So they had not begun the classes with the rest of the members. We asked them to tell a little about themselves so that we along with the rest of the class could get to know them. They said they were a blended family, they had one son from his previous marriage who lived with them full time. The boy’s birth mom was not in the picture. They had been married close to two years. The wife did most of the talking and soon was telling a story about how she makes their son mind. She had no qualms in telling the whole class that she lies to her stepson to get him to obey her. She told the child just the night before “if you don’t clean your room, Mommy will call the cops and they will come and take you away. They’ll take you to where they take all the bad boys”. This was an eight year old child!!! Her husband sat there quietly, he didn’t have much to say. Frankly, it seemed he was glad to have a wife to deal with the child so he wouldn’t have to.
We confronted her about her method and asked if she saw anything wrong with lying to the child in this way and she admitted she probably shouldn’t. We did not know the woman very well so we had little relational capital with her. Relational capital is built on mutual trust from the experiences shared together through relationship.
We tried to help her see there are much better ways to make your child obey other than lying to them and developing fear. But she didn’t know us well and relational capital hadn’t been built so she didn’t want to hear it.. Even though she agreed it was wrong, she didn’t want to change. She never came back to the class even though I called her several times to invite her back. But sometimes whether you have the relational capital or not, things need to be said. This was one of those times.
Relational capital is built, it is mutual trust and respect from experiences shared together over time. This is particularly important to understand in blended families. While trying to blend two families, being aware of this principle is important so that relationships can build more quickly and develop a firm foundation. The relational capital you have with your own kids will probably be quite strong while building capital with your step kids will probably take some time and much of it depends on the step child’s age and whether they even want a relationship with you.
Usually the younger the child, the easier it is to develop a trusting relationship. How do you think the relational capital was between this woman and her stepson? She may have succeeded in making him mind her by lying and scaring him while he was young, but as he grows and realizes what she was doing, there will be little trust there. The boy is about 14 years old now. He could have a lot of anger not just towards his step mom but he may be really mad at his dad for allowing it. His dad had the relational capital with his wife to deal with the lying but it seems he didn’t have the backbone to confront her.
I have thought of this child often. I wonder if the step mom is still around and what kind of relationship she has with him? And what about his dad? Does the boy trust his dad to look out for him?
Just another reason why it’s important to let the birth parent discipline and handle the really hard stuff while you support your spouse and build a relationship with their child. Parents should not lie to their child to make them mind never mind a stepparent doing it.
Andy and I have always been close. Since he was a young boy we always just liked each other. We enjoyed being together and built a strong relationship. He is grown now but we still have strong relational capital. We can speak honestly to each other and know the relationship will remain intact. He unfortunately got involved with drugs for a time. Due to our relationship, I was able to speak truth to him and help him remember who he truly is: a child of God. Not that God would love him any less for getting in bondage to drugs, but that life certainly isn’t best for him. So we were able to freely discuss how he got to that point and what he wanted to do about it. He hated it because he felt it was sucking the very life out of him. It took some time, there were some ups and downs, but through our relationship; through being honest and looking at past wounds and with the help of my coaching tools, he renewed his commitment to Christ and he was set free. God’s freedom is always best and He will use people to help us out of the messes we make or others make for us. That’s relationship. As Romans 8 says “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Jesus who loves us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What a promise! Do you have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ? I’m not asking if you have religion, I’m asking do you know Him? Do you know He loves you personally? So much so that He died for you so that you two can have a relationship. If you don’t know this truth, I would love to unpack it with you.
Coaches and clients can build relational capital quite quickly due to the nature of the relationship. Good coaches will create an atmosphere of respect and confidentiality so that clients can feel from the start that they have a very safe place to share their deepest needs, fears, ambitions, explore the hard questions or get free from the trauma of the past. Transparency is key and good coaches model it.
Build the foundation of good relationships in your blended family and when the hard stuff comes up, and it will, you will have the relational capital to deal with it.