Question: My husband and I have a blended family with a total of 4 children, ranging in ages from 10-19. Prior to our marriage 2 years ago, everyone got along pretty well, but lately my teenagers have given us some trouble. My husband has not dealt with teenagers before and he finds them very disrespectful. I see him withdrawing more and more from them and even worse, from me. I have read your book, Love & Respect, and I agree with the principles. How can I apply it in this situation?
Answer: When a couple marries and has children, parenting problems are inevitable as we all have different ideas and backgrounds from which we parent. But in the blended family, it becomes even more complicated and emotional. Of utmost importance is that the two of you decide on your parenting plan and the boundaries around who does what. You must present a united front to your children or they will take advantage of any weak link they can find.
As for applying Love and Respect to your situation, the principle is the same: your husband’s deepest need is for respect, and when he feels disrespected he will tend to act in unloving ways, in this case by withdrawing. Your respect for him is all the more important, but beyond that, there is the issue of your children’s disrespect. This is an opportunity for you to teach your children this principle.
Because they are teenagers does not let them off the hook! Yes, it is “typical” for adolescents to resist parental involvement, but these years give us many teachable moments. Respect for their stepfather is something you can teach them and insist upon, even if they do not agree with him. For example, there is a respectful way to disagree with someone in authority and you can effectively teach and model this to your children. This is a lesson they need as they navigate life.
Beyond that, be aware of the common pitfalls amongst blended parents – and I am speaking to all step-parents here, male and female. Do you consistently put your children’s needs above your spouse’s? Do you support your wife or husband when your children are disrespectful or do they “get by” with being disrespectful to your spouse? Above all, don’t pit your children against your spouse! Some of this can be quite subtle, yet devastating.