How to Be Authoritative With Teen Stepchildren


A blended family, consisting of a biological parent, a stepparent and possibly children belonging to each parent, presents ongoing challenges to everyone involved. If the new marriage happens when children are adolescents, the dynamics can be even more difficult, advises psychologist Carl Pickhardt, with the Psychology Today website. The stepparent’s goal will be to find a way to be an authoritative parent figure to a teenage stepchild.

  • Hold a family meeting as soon as possible after your blended family goes live. This is the time for both you and your new spouse to present a united front to the kids, showing the children that you’ll be working together as a unified team, advises social worker James Lehman, with the Empowering Parents website.

  • Explain your expectations and the ground rules for the family. Keep them simple as everyone becomes acclimated to the new dynamics. Following house rules and showing respect for everyone should cover the basics. Make sure both parents are present and agree on with these rules so the kids see and understand that they come from the parental team.

  • Step back from taking a disciplinary role with stepchildren initially, advises marriage and family therapist Ron Deal, with the Focus on the Family website. Give this role to the biological parent to enable you to build a relationship based on mutual respect first.

  • Monitor and supervise the stepchild’s conduct and activities to help manage the family and keep kids accountable about their whereabouts and activities. This monitoring need not involve discipline -- simple family management is a more effective way to approach this task.

  • Build and nurture a relationship with the teen by engaging in positive interaction and by spending nonthreatening time together. Allow the child to lead this relationship. You’ll know when the relationship is strong enough to move into discipline by positive and respectful feelings that go back and forth between the stepparent and the stepchild.

  • Move into a disciplinary role after you’ve laid the groundwork of a solid connection with your stepchild first. Enforce family rules consistently and fairly with every child in the family. Although you might feel a stronger emotional connection with your biological children, it’s essential that you discipline each child in the family consistently and similarly, advises Lehman.

  • Expect your spouse to support you in your new role of disciplinarian with all the children in the family. For children to accept this authoritative discipline from both parents, the biological parent needs to proceed carefully to show the children unity with the stepparent.

  • Listen when children have issues to discuss. Children in a blended family can feel defenseless and vulnerable, but respecting them enough to listen helps children feel valued and important.


  • Photo Credit Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images
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