The Value of a Stepdad

 My husband, Randy, and I will celebrate 17 years of marriage this year. My youngest daughter,  Jodi  (pictured) was 2 1/2 years old when we married. I had no idea what an influence my husband    would be with Jodi.

Jodi bonded easily with Randy from the beginning. She wanted to call him “Dad” at an early age, but my ex-husband forbade it. So, she called him by his first name until she got old enough to make her own choice. Then, she called him Dad.

Jodi’s biological dad floated in and out because of a life wrecked by addiction. There were many months we didn’t know where he was or if he was still alive. But every step of the way, Randy was there for her.

Randy will readily admit he wasn’t a perfect stepparent. As we blended our four children, we experienced emotional melt-downs and parenting collisions. We faced ex-spouse pressures and co-parenting conflicts. But Randy stayed the course, through the good and bad.

During Jodi’s elementary years, Randy taught her to ride a bike, helped with homework, and carpooled her to sleepovers and birthday parties. During middle school, Randy was Jodi’s biggest cheerleader as she tried out for the track team – running with her during her training season, and attending every meet he could. And through her high school years, Randy stayed close by her side – counseling her through boyfriend dilemmas, challenging maturity in her faith, and encouraging wise choices in her every day walk.

So, it was only natural when Jodi was selected for Homecoming Court as a high school senior, that she asked Randy to escort her on the football field. It was a proud moment for him that Friday night to walk arm in arm as her dad, a reward for many years of faithful stepparenting.

The stepparenting journey takes a different route for each of us. Some get to play more active roles than others. But we can each have a positive impact on our stepchildren if we commit to the journey, persevering through the challenges, celebrating the victories, and cherishing the relationships that are developed along the way, even if they aren’t perfect.

Do you recognize your value as a stepparent? If you’re a stepdad, how will you celebrate Father’s Day? I would love to hear from you.

Related Posts:

Creating a Stable Stepfamily: Commit to the Long Run

Character that Counts

Do You Feel Like an Outsider as a Stepparent?

What is Your Role as a Stepparent: Friend or Parent?

 In working with stepparents recently, I’ve noticed a common thread that spells disaster in the  early years of stepfamily development: the tendency for the stepparent to play a strong disciplinary role instead of allowing the biological parent to be the primary parent to his/her children.

I recognize the pattern because it happened in our home in the early years of our marriage.  Struggling with leftover guilt from my divorce, remarriage, new step-siblings for my children, and constant change, I became a permissive parent. I didn’t want to address misbehavior or dole out consequences. So my husband began doing it instead.

My husband’s intentions were good but the fall out of his actions was not good. His relationship with my girls wasn’t strong enough to withstand the negative side of parenting that occurs with discipline.   And it set him up to fail as he became an unlikeable stepparent.

Stepfamily authority Ron Deal says, “Kids will love an unlikeable parent, but rarely even like an unlikeable stepparent.” 

Tough words. It doesn’t seem fair. But it’s reality.

Stepparents cannot afford to overstep their boundaries. If we want to establish a long-term, loving relationship with our stepchildren, we have to start as a friend, rather than a parent.  The biological parent needs to take the primary disciplinary role as much as possible.

With younger stepchildren, the disciplinary role may move quicker into the hands of the stepparent if a loving, trusting relationship develops. But with older stepchildren, ages eight and up, it’s likely to take longer.

Other factors influence stepfamily relationships. My daughters’ father resisted any type of relationship between them and their stepdad and made confusing, negative remarks about my husband. It slowed down the relationship-building process because of the loyalty conflict they endured.

When my stepson lost his mother after a battle with colon cancer, our relationship took several strides backward. Grief, anger, and confusion surrounded my stepson. Although I had moved into a disciplinary role after several years of marriage, I reverted to a friend role. I allowed my husband to take over the primary disciplinary position again because my stepson began fighting against my maternal role.

If the biological parent takes a passive disciplinary role, problems ensue. Children need to be held to behavioral standards, and if the biological parent neglects his/her role, it’s natural for the stepparent to step in. But that’s not the answer. In The Smart Stepmom, co-authors Laura Petherbridge and Ron Deal commit an entire chapter to the importance of engaged fathers: “Dad Smart: She Can’t Do It Without You.” Recommended reading if you’re suffering in this area.

Stepchildren come in all sorts and sizes. Some will embrace a stepparent in their lives, quickly developing a loving relationship, which allows you to begin a disciplinary role almost immediately. However, most will not. Allow the child to set the pace and determine your role as your relationship develops for a better chance at a meaningful, long-term relationship.

Do you agree? What has been your experience as a friend or parent to your stepchildren? I would love to hear your comments.

Related Posts:

Learning to Accept the Things You Cannot Change

What is our Role as a Stepparent?

The Danger of Comparing Your Stepfamily to Another

Learning How to Love My Stepchildren

As I continue my stepmom stories from our Stepping with Purpose e-book, I’m including one today from Laura Petherbridge, co-author of The Smart Stepmom. I think you’ll find her story encouraging.

“If I’m being totally honest there were times in my early years as a stepmom that I didn’t even like my stepsons, much less love them. To me they appeared spoiled and pampered, plus everyone in my husband’s family seemed to tip-toe around their wants and whines. This was the total opposite of the extremely strict, “children are seen and not heard,” single parent home in which I was raised.

  But as a Christian I desired to learn how to love them. I knew Christ could teach me, if I was willing. My heart’s cry was to be a loving stepmom who had a positive influence on my husband’s sons. So I prayed, and sought God’s wisdom.

The first thing God revealed to me was that I had a tainted view of the boys. They were hurting kids, not bratty villains. Their sharp, stinging comments were merely an angry response to their circumstances. They didn’t view me as a wonderful new addition to their family; to them I was the new woman rocking their boat of security. In their eyes, I was taking away their Daddy.

Plus, I had to accept that just because I was raised in a stern home with firm rules didn’t mean that was how my husband or his former wife wanted to raise their children. I was not the parent – they were. Therefore, unless the kids were being disrespectful or harmful to me, it was not my place to interfere. For a control freak like me it was extremely  hard to do, but if my marriage was to survive I had to step back, and let go of the things I could not control.

The second discovery I made was that God would use the good and the bad in my life for His glory, if I let Him. He wanted to transform my painful childhood into a channel to love. My dad remarried twice after the divorce from my mom. Therefore, I knew what it felt like to be the child who moved from the front seat in my dad’s car and life, to the back seat. This revelation stirred in me a tremendous compassion toward my stepsons. I understood it wasn’t me they were rejecting, but the circumstances. And they were afraid of more change.

Thirdly, I encountered the “Daddy Wound” to my own soul. One of the things that used to infuriate me about my stepsons was the way they treated their dad. I felt they were neglectful, rude and unappreciative. My husband was diligent to visit his kids and to pay child support on time. He would get excited and make plans for visitation, but at the last  minute the boys would cancel. I’d watch him break down and cry saying, “They don’t believe that I love them, they don’t want to spend time with me.”

I was enraged and would think to myself, “I longed to have a dad who wanted to spend time with me, but he was always too busy. You have a loving father who is willing to give his time and resources and this is how you treat him. How dare you?” The toxic thoughts would brew inside of me, until one day God broke through my wall of pain. He revealed that my fury was a “knee jerk” reaction to my own deep seated feelings of abandonment.

As my Heavenly Daddy revealed all of these things, I surrendered my anger, frustration, and the need to be in control. He began to heal the wounds in my little soul, and filled the hole of shame and loneliness that had resided there for so long with His unconditional love. The freedom and peace that followed flowed into a love for others, including my stepsons.

Each stepfamily has its own hurdles, ours is no different. Choosing and learning to love my stepsons didn’t automatically fix every problem. But it did teach me how to see them through Christ’s eyes, and  not my own. And that transforms everything.”

Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker who serves couples and single adults with topics on relationships, stepfamilies, singles, divorce prevention, and divorce recovery. She is the author of When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t,” and a featured expert on the DivorceCare DVD series. Her book The Smart Stepmom, is co-authored with stepfamily expert Ron L. Deal. Her website is www.TheSmartStepmom.com

Will you please join us at our next stepmom retreat? It’s a great place for hope, healing, and camaraderie with other stepmoms walking the same journey. Details here: http://sisterhoodofstepmoms.com/

 

Other Posts You Might Like:

Celebrating Mother’s Day as a Stepmom

Affirming You in Your Role as a Childless Stepmom

Sick of Stepparenting?

Are you Willing To Go the Distance as a Stepparent?

My husband, Randy, and I leave tomorrow to travel to Little Rock to run the Little Rock marathon on Sunday. The picture below is after last year’s race – Randy is on the left.

Randy posted a faster time last year than his previous four marathon events. On our way home from LR, we talked about how he improved his time. Many of his training methods relate to similar strategies we can use as stepparents.

1. If it isn’t working, try something different. Randy had struggled with leg cramps toward the end of each previous marathon race. This time, he sought help from a specialty running store and used some magnesium tablets that seem to have prevented the cramps, allowing him to decrease his walk breaks at the end of the race.

If you’re struggling in a particular area of your stepparenting role and don’t know a solution, it may be time to seek help. Find a pastor, trusted friend or counselor who is familiar with stepfamily dynamics to confide in and seek advice. Check out coaching/counseling options that are offered through stepfamily sites (including mine here).

2.  Be willing to invest a lot of time. Preparing to run 26.2 miles in a marathon is not an easy feat. The training schedule involves 18-22 weeks of strenuous running, along with other cross training workouts. Attempting to run a marathon without the training leads to failure.

Successful stepparenting also involves a lot of time. Stepping into your stepchild’s life and expecting an instant relationship only leads to disappointment. Be willing to spend time getting to know your stepchild, understanding his likes/dislikes, and finding common ground on which to build a relationship.

3. Expect setbacks along the way. Long distance training often leads to injury. The workouts are hard and your body begins to break down. An unexpected weakness shows up through a muscle strain, bone fracture, or ligament tear. With adequate rest and therapy, injuries heal and the training can begin again.

Stepparents can also expect setbacks. A difficult ex-spouse, rebellious teen-ager, or unexpected conflict can lead to setback. It may take months or years to work through a difficult phase, but progress can always begin again if you don’t give up.

4. The biggest prize comes at the end but there are rewards along the journey. The medal earned for completing a marathon is placed around the runner’s neck as he crosses the finish line. However, a sense of pride and satisfaction is enjoyed throughout the training period as a runner sets and reaches goals he never dreamed possible.

The greatest reward for successful stepparenting is experienced as stepchildren leave home, appreciative of strong relationships they share with one another. However, stepparenting also has rewards throughout the journey as bonding occurs and love for one another develops.

Successful stepparenting, like marathon training, has rewards worth seeking. But the journey to the finish line can also be cherished when you choose to keep going the distance, even when it’s not easy.

How do you keep going as a stepparent when the road gets tough? Will you share? 

Related Posts:

There’s Beauty After the Pain

It’s Always Too Early to Quit

Lessons Learned about Stepparenting from Tim Tebow

If you’re a football fan (or even if you’re not), you’ve likely heard the ongoing publicity surrounding Tim Tebow. Tebow is currently the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos and has made a name for himself with his unorthodox QB skill set and frequent display of religious devotion.

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He’s a guy that’s easy to like with his tenacious spirit and committed attitude toward living for the Lord. But in addition to being a good guy, his life demonstrates some takeaway thoughts related to stepparenting. Here’s a few:

1. Prayer can turn bad into good.  Tim Tebow’s mother contracted amoebic dysentry while a missionary with her husband in the Phillipines, and was treated with strong antibiotics before realizing she was pregnant. Her doctors advised her to abort, assuring her the baby would be severely disabled due to the drugs.

She refused to abort because of her faith and, instead, prayed for a healthy son. Tim Tebow was born August 14, 1987, reportedly malnourished, but healthy. Nothing is too big for God.

2. There’s more than one way to reach success. Tebow has been criticized for his awkward throwing motion, his inaccuracy in passing completions, and his unorthodox method of playing. But you can’t deny his quarterback success as his team heads to the AFC Divisional Round this Saturday night.

In similar fashion, stepparenting success is reached in different ways. There’s not only one way that works. Determine the techniques that will bond and strengthen relationships in your stepfamily and execute them.

3. Don’t give up, regardless of what others are saying. If Tebow had listened to his critics at the beginning of the season, he would have never won a football game. Instead, he continued to believe in himself and work toward his goals, despite the opposition.

Stepfamilies are given a bad rap. Statistics tell us that 60% of second marriages and 73% of third  marriages end in divorce. But those statistics don’t have to apply to us. Believe in yourself and your ability for long-term success in your stepparenting relationships and don’t look back. Refuse to quit even when it’s hard.

Tim Tebow is not perfect but his example gives some thoughts to ponder as we relate it to stepparenting challenges. 

Do you agree? What are your thoughts?

Related Posts:

Character that Counts

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

When Stepparenting Isn’t What You Expected

Seven Tips for Finding Balance in the Midst of Holiday Chaos

Our family leaves on an extended holiday trip in just over 2 weeks and I keep wondering how I’m going to get everything done. So, here are a few tips I’ve created to help myself maintain balance during this busy time of year – I hope you find them helpful also.

1. Prioritze your schedule to include activities most important to you. Say no to everything else and to obligations someone else can manage.
For me, that includes attending my son’s Christmas party at school, special church services, a holiday piano performance in our hometown, a few Christmas parties, and various other events. However, it doesn’t include ladies bunko night, the symphony performance, or lunch with each of my girlfriends to exchange gifts – there simply isn’t time for all that. 

2. Start each day with a spiritual act – prayer, devotional, Bible reading, listening to songs of praise, etc. to center your mind and soul for the day.
When we start our day with God in control, it allows for a God-centered day instead of a  man-centered one.  

3. Don’t allow someone else power over your emotions (i.e. ex-spouses, children/stepchildren).
Commit to staying in control of your emotions instead of allowing someone else to take that power from you. Walk away from volatile emotions or heated conversations. Engage in communication via e-mail or texting if necessary.

4. Stay faithful to healthy eating patterns and a regular exercise routine.
Get up earlier than usual if you need to, but don’t skimp on exercise and sensible eating. You will feel better and manage your demanding schedule more competently if you maintain healthy habits through the season.

5. Break down consuming tasks into chunk-size actions that can be completed a little at a time.
For instance, I easily become overwhelmed when I think about shopping for our five children in addition to parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, etc. However, if  I choose one child to focus on until I’m finished and then move to the next child or a parent or whatever, the task seems less daunting.

6. Commit to making each day positive.
We have so much to be thankful for and if we choose to focus on the positives in our life, we will manage our schedule with greater ease. If we have a bump in the road one day, we can choose to pick ourselves up and keep moving forward instead of allowing negative thoughts to set in.

7. Read Thriving at the Holidays: A Stepparent’s Guide to Success – Unwrapping the Gift of Peace (an easy-to-read e-book) to find additional tips on maintaing balance and creating a peaceful season.  

There they are – 7 tips for finding balance during holiday chaos.

Do you another tip to add? Would you please share it with us?

Related Posts:

Holiday Tip: Balancing Your Time as you Consider What’s Important

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Live One Day at a Time