Stepfamily Step-Up

If you’d like to turn your life upside down, tornado style, try a second marriage.  Seriously.  If you’re looking for a wild ride, marry again.  For serious thrill seekers, add kids.  Statistics tell us that second and third marriages are very risky.  I gotta tell ya, we have learned this first hand and it’s true.

We’ve had our share of failures.  Ugly ones.  But we’ve stumbled upon a little success here and there and I wanted to share a specific strategy that’s working for us.

Our StepSensational Family

Our StepSensational Family

Our family has a total of 4 kids.  One, my husband’s grown son.  Two and three, my daughter and son from my first marriage.  Fourth, our child together, one of life’s little surprises, haha.  When Dwayne and I married, I already had a rhythm of life going with my two kids.  He already had a bachelor style thing going since his son is grown.  It was challenging to try to mix the two.  Then we threw a baby like a grenade into the mix.  The guilt I feel over the pain my kids have been through, the tight schedule we keep, the vast differences in our parenting philosophies… are you feeling motion sickness yet?

Anyway… one of the biggest things we have going for us is our “want-to.”  We both WANT to make this work.  My husband is so willing and enthusiastic about helping me and the kids.  One of our biggest frustrations came from the differences in our expectations for the kids.  Since my husband is off earlier than I, he has the kids for several hours in the afternoons on his own.  He expected the kids to take on some chores and responsibilities.  I agree with that.  But often I’d come home to unhappy faces and a disagreement would ensue.  I felt he was expecting too much.  He felt the kids were only responsive when I asked them to do things.  I felt stuck in the middle, wanting my kids to be happy and feeling they were good kids, and wanting my husband to be happy and feeling respected, and who in the world was looking out for how mommy was feeling????

We sat down as a family and aired out our expectations.  We came up with a list of responsibilities.  We put down a lot of detail, from what time we get up in the morning to who does what chores.  We listed consequences in writing.  We all signed our family document and we posted it on the wall.  From that night on, we agreed we would all refer to our family contract.  The kids’ chore assignments are on there.  We  no longer ask more than once or remind.  Everyone knows what to do because it’s listed on the wall.  If it’s not done, the consequences are also listed.  No more guesswork.  No more he said they said.  I can’t tell you how effective this has been for us and how peacemaking.

1)  The kids love it.  They’ve never said this aloud, but I can tell.  They rose to the challenge of having a more grown up style of responsibility.  They are relieved to know they won’t be nagged or begged.  They don’t have to wonder what will make us happy.  I’m so proud of how my kids have followed through with this agreement.  The responsibility is on them.  If they choose not to do the chore, they’ve chosen their own consequence.  I’ve found they know how to make good choices.

2)  My husband loves it.  He doesn’t have to explain to me or try to get me to enforce a rule.  Either the job is done or it isn’t, and the resulting action is in writing.  He’s no longer the bad guy, no longer the one who has to try to enforce the chores since the kids make that choice for themselves.

3)  I love it!  I don’t have to feel stuck between making my kids and my husband happy when it comes to household chores.  I no longer come home to conflict about who’s doing or not doing chores.

This one agreement has done more to bring about family harmony than anything else we’ve tried.  We are blessed to be dealing with just regular family stuff, no serious behavioral issues or special needs.  I’m no expert, and I hope this doesn’t seem too simplistic, but I thought I’d share what has worked for us in the hope that the idea might also help some of the rest of you who are in the step-family storm chasing life.

So you step-people out there… what are your great ideas?

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One Response to Stepfamily Step-Up

  1. Jennifer Timmons-Crooms says:

    I agree that sitting down and making all the house rules, including consequences and rewards, has been extremely beneficial to our blended family. We still set boundaries, not just for the kids, but for adult family members as well, i.e. Exes, grandparents, etcetera. This can be tricky but very useful in helping raise happy and healthy children!

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