Step Talk: To discipline or not to discipline?

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ALEXANDRA MORTENSEN / Contributing Writer

Contrary to the belief shared by many children and teens (myself way back when included), itís not fun to discipline your kids. In fact, itís truly as miserable for us as it is for them. It can be hard to feel consistently strong and secure. Sometimes you do feel resolute, but other times youíre secretly questioning yourself. Are you being too strict? Not strict enough? What punishment is appropriate for what offense?

Itís tough, and weíre only talking discipline. Now, letís throw being a stepparent into the mix. Where is your place?

I believe that a great rule of thumb is to follow the rules that are set by the biological parents - especially the major rules. If your spouse is the only biological parent in place, then this falls to them. If thereís a no spanking rule, follow it. If homework is to be done by a certain time, follow that. While we love our stepkids and put our whole heart into being one of the parents raising them, itís simply not our place to override those guidelines that the biological parents decided upon.

This allows for much-needed consistency and structure for the involved children. Ideally, momís house and dadís house donít feel like wildly different places. Remember, as tough of a pill as it is to swallow at times, it isnít a competition and whatís really important is the kids. And, as tempting as it might be to try to buy love with candy, ice cream and lax rules, donít do it.

On the flip side, you also donít want to be the quintessential evil stepparent. While we love our stepkids, they also might more easily get on our nerves. Itís just the truth! If youíre slipping into drill sergeant mode, take a breath. Use the framework set in place by the biological parents as a foundation and then simply behave the same as you would with your own children. In my uncertain moments I ask myself ďWhat would I do if this was my child?Ē Then, I make sure that falls under Joshís rules and I do that.

A final rule I recommend is to allow yourself to take a step back without guilt. If Iím feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how to discipline one of my stepsons, I donít. I am never unavailable if either of them needs me, but sometimes it seems to make the most sense in my stepmom story to let my husband, who has always been their dad, do the disciplining for a day.

You can learn more about my life as a stepmom at my website www.theonlystepmom.com.

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