How do you agree on family rules when you’re a stepparent?

Advice for stepdads and blended families on family rules

Continuing our six-part series on how to father in a blended family, this week’s advice is around how to set up rules and guidelines for your new family.

All kids need some guidelines, so it is important to develop a set of rules with your partner and establish them in the home.

Discussing these new rules should be done together as a team, so everyone feels they were part of the process. As a team you can all agree to work together with your family’s set of rules. Some families put them on the back of the fridge, or in a place where you will see them daily.

Contents of this article
  1. How to define your role with discipline
  2. How to work with you partner and follow their lead
  3. Why it is important to approach this as a team

Tip 1: How to define your role with discipline
  • Research tells us that a stepdad should not be the primary disciplinarian until he has built a level of trust, love, and care with the children.
  • Your role should be to support your partner and reinforce their messages.

“What I did find hard was the question of how to discipline the children. When we moved in together, I backed off when it came to discipline and natural boundaries. I felt like I had to see how my partner did everything, and not really interfere if I thought I would deal with something differently. She said that I should do what I felt was natural, but I didn’t want to be disruptive”. – Stepdad advice

Tip 2: How to work together and follow your partner’s lead
  • Work with your partner to develop household rules with and discipline strategies – discuss how you will be involved in these.
  • Keep in mind that change to discipline strategies will be added to all other changes that the children are adapting to. If change isn’t needed in this area, don’t make it unnecessarily.
  • Meet as a family and talk about the rules and include the kids in the discussion so they can participate.
  • When a rule is broken, you can then talk to the child about breaking a rule instead of disciplining them.

Tip 3: Reach agreement together as a team about house rules
  • Some decisions about house rules may come through private conversation with your partner; however, family meetings are a great idea.
  • The more that you can involve the children in the ‘rules’ discussion and allow them to have a voice, the more likely it is that they will agree with whatever is decided.
  • Once the rules are made, stay consistent.

“Prioritise developing a parenting plan. We found that, when we actually talked about it and develop common rules, the kids did a lot better.” Stepdad advice

Stepdads and Blended Families
The learnings in this article series are based on our research and years of experience supporting fathers and father-figures. But the fact is, everyone’s situation is different, so feel free to be creative, and adapt our wisdom to suit your circumstances.

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