Updated: Mar 29, 2019
Bonding occurs between parents and children primarily in the first two years of a child’s life. In this stage, less discipline is necessary than in any other point in development. This allows parents and children to bond before it is time to discipline. This natural order of things is ideal; if children know you love them, structure and even somewhat firm discipline will likely be effective.
What then happens when stepparents enter into the life of a child?
“Often times, a new stepfather or stepmother wants to be in charge or at least expects the children to listen, mind, and be respectful immediately after saying "I do."
Allow time to get to know your new stepchild. The same bonding principle is true for stepparents as it takes two to five years of bonding before children willingly comply and respect their stepparent. During that two to five year window, it is best to take a supportive role and allow your spouse to handle discipline. Overtime, if the spouse desires a partner in handling their children, a gradual evolution and transfer of power is natural and generally accepted by the new blended family.
Determination to step in and play mom or dad by strict discipline with a child before adequate bonding time has taken place, will likely breed discord among your new family, especially in your new marriage. Just like anyone you would respect, a caring, close bond is needed before sweeping in to rule “under your roof.”
In the mean time, get to know your new stepchild and show that you care before trying to be in charge. Support the parent of these children while gaining the privilege and right to help in disciplining.
Haley Bryant, LPC, LMFT