Living with Intention......
definitely one of the first "must haves" for any Blended Family to be on the path to success. The parents MUST both decide to be intentional in their everyday lives. This takes some planning, you can't be "intentional on the fly". It is about pre-deciding how you plan to interact with those in your home, what your goal/expectation is and how you plan to get there.
Most stepparents have goals/expectations, they just don't pre-plan or decide how they will achieve them; they just kind of expect them to magically happen
I know this is something that blended families struggle with because I hear it time and time again from clients. I also have experienced it in my own home. The stepparent is excited for the blending to begin. They have all kinds of goals and expectations of how they "see" this family really coming together. One of the common statements I hear stepparents say who have ended up disappointed when their goals/expectations have not been met is, "I don't understand. I don't bother the kid/kids. I'm nice to them. I treat them decently. Heck, I overlook their attitudes and tones that, if I'm honest, really get on my nerves. I do all of this and the kid/kids show me no respect. They either ignore what I ask or tell them to do or they argue back that their mom/dad (biological parent) didn't tell them they had to. I give up. This just isn't going to work".
I just want to give up. These kids are the one's with the problem and I don't see it working.
Don't Give Up....Get Intentional, Be Engaged
Intentional, as stated in the featured picture, means to "perform with awareness; to be done deliberately, consciously, or on purpose." So how do you do this as the stepparent? What does this look like when "doing life" together.
Do's and Don'ts
- Do: understand what each kid is "into" or interested in and ask questions, show interest, or do your research on the topic so you are able to have a conversation about said interest. This shows the kid you find them "worth the time". Trust me, they will notice
Don't: decide that the child's interest is silly, ridiculous or something you won't acknowledge. Remember who the adult is and who the child is. Don't belittle or make fun of what they are interested in. This shows you are not sensitive to their feelings or interested in what makes them happy. Trust me, they will notice.
2. Do: Show the stepchild something you are interested in or something you can teach them. If you are a stepdad teach them how to do something. If there is a home improvement project that has to be done, don't just have your stepchild help but TEACH....and then encourage and praise the for the job they did. If you are a stepmom you can do the same thing. Affirmation, this takes you a long way.
Don't: Wait for the child to ask to be involved or ask to help out. Don't wait for them to take the initiative. You are the adult, YOU take the first step. Ignoring them, it won't get you anywhere.
3. Do: Take an interest in their education. Ask them what their favorite subject is, what they like about their school day or even what they don't like. Try to draw a connection from what you liked or didn't like when you were in school. Ask if they need any help when doing homework or if there is a test to study for, especially if it is a subject that you are good at. Praise them when they bring home good grades or talk about something they have done well in school. This shows you really care about their present but also their future.
Don't: Criticize their grades or school work if you have not offered to do anything to come along side the biological parent and offer help or support to the child. Don't lecture AFTER the fact, especially if BEFORE the fact you didn't take any interest. This shows all you really care about is correcting, pointing out their failures, or criticizing.
4. Do: Help establish a routine that you are involved in with the kid/kids. This could be as simple as family dinner. This would look like a time to engage in meaningful conversation, remaining positive in nature, and hopefully some laughter. Talk about your day, ask about their day, and make the time intentional and meaningful. If you ask them questions and show an interest in what they have to say, it will make dinner time something they look forward to and will take you far in your relationship.
Don't: Only exist within your own schedule, as you would do if none of the blended family were there with you. If we use the dinner time example here, don't let this be a time where you bring up negative topics. This isn't the time for interrogations or bringing up what chores were not done or to air your frustrations. Those should take place more one-on-one or at a later time. If you keep the conversation negative or make dinner time uncomfortable, they will not look forward to it and will become a large block in your relationship. Also, if the family is eating together (children and biological parent) be PRESENT. This is not the time to find other things to do that interest you. Nothing says "I'm not wanting to be part of the group" louder than ignoring a family routine.
5. Do: Buy a gift specifically from you for their birthday and sign the card yourself. This may sound so little or silly. I can't tell you how many kids have talked about this to me in both a positive and negative way. The positive side is they were impressed that their stepparent took the time to specifically think of them and go out of their way to get something they like. I've had many point out that the stepparent also signed the card themselves. This stood out to show that they were accepting of the child.
Don't: Ask what they got when they are opening a gift that is labeled from you and the biological parent. This shows you didn't let the day even impact you in any way. If you don't sign the card it makes your name on the card meaningless to the message that is written on it. As mentioned above, the negative comments I've had from kids in my office is that their stepparent "didn't even care enough to get them a gift" or "they didn't even think about today being my special day". Trust me when I say, they definitely notice the signature on the card.
These are just 5 simple tips on how to be Intentional and Engaged. The list can go on and on. If you follow the "do" section on each one of these, you will be on the right path. Respect given to you doesn't happen overnight. The biological parent gets respect and is seen as authority from the beginning.
You, the stepparent, don't earn the respect or authority position just because you married their mom or dad.
It has to be earned and it STARTS WITH YOU. It is not up to the child to come up with ways to live intentionally with you. And don't give up when it doesn't work right away. Remember, it takes time. However, if you make intentional choices in these areas and others AND make sure you stay away from the "don't" part of the list, you will gain respect and it won't be long until you will have earned the place/title of an authority figure in their life.
Question: What tips do you have for other families who are struggling in this area? Maybe you have some positive or negatives to do or stay away from. I look forward to hearing your answers.
"Seek Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly With Your God"
Servant of the King,