Power Step Parenting: Unwise Stepparents Punish Before Building a Relationship

Author and stepparent expert Ron L. Deal, states, By my estimation, this is the most common and one of the most destructive mistakes stepparents make. I’ve established that parental authority develops gradually over time and increases through bonding and the development of a trusting relationship. (If you want to test my assertion, just go to a neighbor’s house and try to punish his children. Just because you live next door doesn’t mean you have any say over those children. You can claim authority, but the level of authority the neighbor or his kids grant you will be much less than what you claim). Susan Gammache calls this “parental status”, that is, the degree that step-family members consider the step-parent a parent to stepchildren. Parents might expect step-children to readily accept discipline from their step-parent, and step-parents might claim to have as much authority as a biological parent, but what really counts is how much authority children will accept from the step-parent. I’ve heard stepdads fall back on scripture and claim that since “I am the man of the house I should have the power of the father” please remember, the children have a father (even if he is deceased); you’re an added authority in their life. If you want to exasperate your stepchildren quickly (see Eph. 6:4), push yourself onto your stepchildren, claiming authority you don’t yet have. Rather, the ability to lead and influence children comes the old-fashioned way – you earn it. Trust, respect, and honor grow out of relational history, and there’s no quick way to establish that. Stepparents must be dedicated to building a relationship over time. Ron L. Deal, The Smart Stepfamily, (Bloomington, MI: (Bethany House Publishers, 2002)