Last time we talked about 5 different parenting styles. This time I would like to address when the couple not only have different parenting styles but when a spouse chooses to treat their kids different from yours. I’m talking about different rules and unfair treatment of children or double standards. What happens when the stepparent is very tolerant toward their kid’s but has zero tolerance for your child? Your child sees the blatant discrimination and it causes their feelings to be hurt, they feel unloved and unjustly treated. It’s enough to break a parent’s heart.
We know that children are better off when the same rules apply to every child in the home but sometimes this is not the case. One parent describes her situation this way: “It all comes down to the fact that my husband has a huge tolerance level for his children and zero tolerance for mine; and it is not just about the words that are said but the body language used by him.”
Hurtful to say the least and could cause distrust in the couple relationship. So what can you do if your spouse just doesn’t see the unfairness or is unwilling to change? Do you compromise your position? Do you treat his kids unjustly? Do you lower your standards for your own kids to make up for the lack of tolerance in your spouse? I would say no to all three questions. This brings us back to the principle that if you and your spouse just cannot get together on discipline then you should discipline your children and allow him to discipline his. This is how one parent explained it “This is the area we fight about most. If he would only treat my child like he does his own, we would do great. I feel like he doesn’t love me because I feel he doesn’t love my child. Why can’t he be unbiased and accept my child. My child is not perfect but neither is his. When he treats my child differently, it makes me want to treat his children like he treats mine. This is not good for any of us but especially my child.
Children who grow up in an atmosphere of knowing the rules and expectations set for them and have firm, fair and consistent boundaries usually cope better than kids who do not. Disciplining your child consistently will teach them the skills they will need for life. So if one parent is overly permissive with their child but overly impatient with yours, you will need to come to that agreement that you will raise yours and he raises his (or get coaching to come to an agreeable solution). Now the kids who are required to abide by the rules could have a problem with this, since they have to obey your rules but their stepsiblings do not.
This is a very sticky situation but if your spouse is unwilling to change, do you end it with divorce? Some have and some have made it work. You do not want to compromise how you feel it best to parent your own child and yet you do not want your kids to feel they have standards the others don’t have to live by. Your spouse may be a rejecting parent to your child and a permissive parent to their own. So you have to do what’s best for your child. Love them. Continue to discipline them. And set a standard in your home. Soon, you will all be able to see a difference in the kids who have expectations set on them and those who don’t. Kids with fair and consistent rules and who know their parent loves them enough to discipline them, will be more successful in life and happy in the long run.
A parent dealing with this situation says: “”My 10 yr old son who is with us full-time is expected to abide by the rules and is disciplined for not doing so. When he sees my husband’s children not being treated in the same manner he notices how unfair it is. I explain to him that he’s much better off because those rules are helping to make him a better person. He almost feels sorry for the other kids that they’re not being made to follow the rules. He’s seen over the last few years how their behavior has gotten worse without consistent, loving discipline and follow through.”
So if you feel your spouse compromises their parenting standards, it does not mean you have to weaken your own otherwise your biological kids are left with no one to parent them in a fair and balanced manner with love. Reassure your children of your love and commitment to them and explain the reasons behind the rules and the consequences you set. If your children understand the purpose of the boundaries and feel you are being reasonable they are more likely to comply.
Encouragement for the couple relationship: The kids do grow up and eventually move out. And spouses do wake up. Hang on and do what’s right by your kids, especially in the eyes of the Lord, and He will reward you. Pray and believe that God is big enough to do a miracle in your home. And never belittle your spouse in front of the children regarding their different parenting style; you don’t want the kids to lose respect for them on account of what you say.
Hebrews 12:11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
If you have this situation going on in your home and want to receive further coaching I am available, just contact me here at my website. May God Bless You as you work to Blend Your StepFamily.