Step children

Dustan - posted on 11/01/2013 ( 1 mom has responded )




I am a family with 5 children an I have one child with my wife and one that is considered a step child. She treats my biological children different from hers and is more strict, I do not deal this is right nor fair for the children. Anyone have any suggestions?


[deleted account]

It's hard to give an opinion with so little information about the family. I'd be interested in knowing the ages of these children and exactly how you feel they are treated differently. I think basic house rules should be the same for everyone across the board, and discipline is warranted for anyone breaking the rules. Basic rules, in my opinion, would be things like respecting authority figures (even if it is not your biological parent), respecting your siblings and their belongings, cleaning up after yourself as well as keeping up with assigned chores, table manners, and not engaging in physical/emotional abuse (no hitting, name calling, vulgarity, etc.). However, how each child is punished or disciplined should be according to age and maturity level, and sometimes even personality. Older kids should be given more responsibility, but also more privileges, and their punishments can be much different than a young child's punishment for the same offense. For example, if my 3 year old child screams and calls me a bitch, I would first give a "calm-down" time and then have a discussion with them about name calling and how hurtful that word is to Mama and other women. I would give a warning and the next time maybe take something away or whatever. This is because very little children are often just mimicking what they have witnessed and may not fully understand the offense. Younger children also need MUCH more practice and reminding before they learn right from wrong, and they are still very green in developing impulse control as well as control of their emotions. Now, if I had a 16 year old child who screamed at me and called me a bitch, you'd better believe the punishment is going to be much more severe! The kid knows exactly what he did, and by that age should have better control of his emotions and his tongue, and if he doesn't, then that is a good reason for stricter discipline. That's an extreme example, of course. It can be a little harder when you're discerning discipline between, say, a 3 year old and a 6 year old. But there IS still a difference in what they can understand. Since you don't say the kids ages, I don't know if this is possibly her reason for treating them differently. Just a thought.
Sometimes personality can also have an effect on how a parent treats kids. I had a little sister who was spanked ALLLL the time when she was little. She wasn't particularly bad, she was just very busy and mischievous. However, I can count on one hand how many times I was spanked as a child. A stern look would set me straight most of the time. Openly scold me, and I'd probably cry and put MYSELF in time-out for a while and never do the crime again. My little sister could commit the same offense and get spanked the very first time she tried it, because she was much stronger willed and my parents knew she required stronger discipline. My mom's motto when we were growing up was "Fair is not equal." And I firmly believe that. A child who shows they are more trustworthy should be given more privileges. A child who constantly disobeys may have to be supervised more closely and have tighter rules until they can prove they can be more respectful of the rules. Again these are just thoughts, you don't really give enough information for me to have an opinion on whether she is truly being unfair, or just parenting them differently because they are all different children with different ages and dispositions.
If she is truly being unfair, like overlooking her 5 year old doing something, then punishing YOUR 5 year old for doing the same thing, then that's definitely a problem. In that event, my advice would be to sit down with her and suggest that, together, you come up with some basic house rules that you both agree on and what is age-appropriate discipline for breaking those rules. If this is the case, I definitely understand your frustration! My husband has a little girl from a previous relationship and we have a son together who is one year younger. For a couple years he allowed his daughter to get away with murder, and would HARSHLY discipline our son for the same offenses, and it drove me nuts because she was older and understood more. The level of unfairness was starkly obvious. At two years old his daughter already had figured out to watch for daddy to turn his head before smacking her brother in the face and taking his toy. I would quietly draw his attention to it asking that he address her behavior, and he would roll his eyes and say "all kids do that stuff." Then our ONE year old, who was only doing what his sister had just showed him, would bat back at her and my husband would smack his little hand and yell at him not to hit his sister! And this was constant during his daughter's visitation days for a long time, and was the source of much arguing and resentment between us. By the age of 18 months we had taught our son that if he wanted something he had to say "May I please have ...?" And if he didn't, my husband (and I, of course) would say, "How do you ask nicely?" before giving it to him. But his daughter has always simply told him "Daddy I want ..." and he just gives it to her. It is rare now that we ever have to remind our son to say please or thank you. But at 5 years old, I'm not sure I could recall a time when I've heard his daughter ask please for anything. But he won't withhold anything from her until she asks politely, the way he will with our son. She demanded it, she got it. For years he was allowing her to become a spoiled brat just because he felt bad that he didn't see her as much. It took me pointing out every discrepancy in his treatment of them for almost two years, and explaining to him OVER AND OVER how he was doing HER a disservice in not teaching her to behave better before he began to treat them fairly. That's what I think finally did it, to be honest. He really started seeing how his daughter could NEVER play nice and would make comments like "I don't know why she's like that" or "She seems to hate us all, I don't understand why". And I would tell him it's because she's not being taught to value anyone around her, she's getting whatever she wants by just taking it from someone else or demanding it rudely and not learning social boundaries or respect for others. After having those discussions SEVERAL times he really started disciplining her along the same lines he does our kids because he WANTED her to be a good person. So maybe you could put it to your wife that way...? Favoritism does absolutely nothing positive for the child receiving it. And it will create resentment among the children. It took a long time, and I'm sure I sounded like a nag, but you know what? My husband eventually agreed with that philosophy and we are now on the same page, and the children get along MUCH better.

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