When it comes to parenting, one of the things that is incredibly important in any household is consistency. If one of my boys smacks his brother for no reason and I let it slide, there is a decent chance that he will do it again. The kids know that we mean business when we threaten discipline if their actions don’t change, and then actually enforce that discipline afterwards if they didn’t shape up.
I say that knowing full well that grace is an important aspect of parenting as well, but it’s intentional and focused, not lazy and neglectful. I also say it knowing full well that something that works for one child, might be a huge swing and a miss on a different child. Trust me, we have three different children, very different.
But what do you do if consistency actually starts to happen, you begin to see positive results and you have a large sandcastle of the consistency built up and ready to take on the incoming tide. Only it’s not ready at all, and the tide, as predictable as it might seem, washes out the hard work you’ve put in and makes you have to go back to square one.
Well, that is exactly how things can happen as a step-parent.
In this post, I talked about some step-parenting basics from my own perspective. And one of the lessons I had to learn early on, as a step-dad whose kids biological father was still around, is the one I want to talk a bit more about today.
The tide that washes away your sandcastle I spoke is really simple, and certainly isn’t intentional, but it’s a brutal thing to have to go through. Here is the scenario…
You have the kids all week, you go through the normal routine, you try to do your best to make the consistency thing happen and then, ‘Biological Dad’ comes over and has the kids overnight at his place. They have a blast, but by the time they are home, the consistency sandcastle you’ve built needs a serious re-build.
Why does this happen?
Well, the kids have a different set of rules and expectations of a different parent that knows little to nothing of the consistency sandcastle you’ve worked so hard to build. The kids are suddenly brainwashed into thinking that none of the things you’ve built are important anymore and revert to whatever they were doing before you started to pack the sand together into something of substance. (I’m probably exaggerating some here, but you get the idea.)
When my kids were younger, this was incredibly difficult. My wife and I would regularly anticipate the kids coming home tired and of course unable to recall (some of) the things that we had been trying to instill.
So what’s the solution to this situation? Well, for our family, a big part of it was anticipation. For way too long my kids would come home in this state of exhaustion and I would automatically expect them to bounce back to our rules and regulations. This was my mistake. As time went on, I began to adjust and have tried to anticipate these situations more and more. It also helps to pull ‘Biological Dad’ in and let him know more about what you are trying to accomplish. It’s up to him if he wants to follow suit, which you can’t control, but it’s all you can do.
And, I’ll be honest, ten years later, it’s much easier, but it’s still difficult.
How do you rebuild your sandcastle after it gets crushed by the tide?