Step kids - How do you cope with kids that aren’t yours?

by DannyUK

Coming out of a relationship where you’ve had kids and starting another relationship with a woman who has kids of her own is tricky. There’s a minefield of decisions to tackle when the children you’re surrounded by aren’t yours.

When I met my (now ex-) wife, we agreed from day one that we would have a set of rules for any children we had. The basis of this was that any decision made concerning the children would be agreed by us both. If one felt strongly for or against something, they’d be backed by the other.

Four kids and many years later we’re now divorced, but thankfully we split on as positive terms as possible, and with enough respect to both honour our original agreement. Although there are times when I am looking after the kids, and I will perhaps let them do something their mum wouldn’t normally allow (and this also works when they are at their mums and doing something I normally wouldn’t allow), there is a lot of dialogue between us parents as to what is and isn’t allowed.

This works well and means that Mel and I are never played off against each other by the kids, and any sentence started by the kids with “But I’m allowed to do that at mummy’s!” is swiftly met with “But you’re not at mummy’s now, you’re at daddy’s!” which seems to work.

Moving from that dynamic to one where you’ve no real control and little input (and rightly so, especially in my scenario where I’m fairly newly acquainted with the two little people) is strange.

These are two children that I plan on having in my life for the rest of my life, simply by virtue of being hopelessly in love with their mum, but how do you react when you’re an adult figure who is staying in their house for a couple of nights, or when you’re all out at the zoo for the day?

My girlfriend’s two don’t know me amazingly well, having only met me a handful of times, and I can see already that our parenting styles differ massively in some respects. I’m definitely more or a shouter, which I’ve always blamed on having four very noisy kids rather than truly embracing the throat-hoarseing approach.

The girlfriend, however, is far more tactile than I am, and whereas I tend to err on the “It’s only a scratch” side of small injuries, I’ve seen her respond rapidly with kisses, cuddles and kind words. If I used my parenting methods on her two, they’d probably be devastated, and if my other half used hers on my four, I’ve no doubt they would love her for it, but milk it for everything they could get. (Though I am naturally cynical, so maybe I’m doing them a disservice).

I’m not sure there is a correct answer. Until such a time when MrsDannyUK and I are a more permanent fixture in each others kids’ lives, it’s not something that needs immediate addressing, and due to the long distance between us and various other factors, we’re unlikely to be moving in together any time soon.

At the moment we each tend to take a back seat when it comes to disciplining the others’ kids. I bite my tongue and let her deal with things in her own way, as I’m sure she does with me. I think we both have the respect of all six of our combined offspring that they would listen if we verbally admonished them, though I equally think that there’d be little need for either of us to step in.

Steps kids - How do you cope with them? Have you ever had to deal with disciplining step children?

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