Step-Parenting: Rebuilding The Sandcastle

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?


5 thoughts on “Step-Parenting: Rebuilding The Sandcastle”

  1. I was wondering your opinion about when both families have two different kinds of sandcastles? We are, at present, living best case scenario divorced and remarried families, but mom and dad’s houses are very different. Mom finds value in time together with few plans, choice instead of checklists. Dad focuses more on structure, order and family activities. Both are fine schools of thought, but they are very different for the kids.

    The thing I grieve most for my kids is that they have to live in two very different environments and adapt in each. My daughter seems to struggle a bit with that, the boys don’t seem to mind.

    Since you’ve been doing this a while, what have you learned about how the kids transition when in both households the sandcastles are legitimate, yet different.

  2. Erica,

    I think communication with the other parents and the kids will make a difference. If you know how they are being parented away from you, it’s easier to adjust when they are with you. I hope that helps some, thanks for the comment.

  3. Step parents have unique roles trying to negotiate between two different sets of rules. I was a frustrated mom with a strong willed child. I tried everything to get relief and to be the best mom I could be. I finally found an interactive parenting app at It is a discipline program that helps chidren give happy, first time obedience while learning to think of others, build moral character and learn educational concepts. I like it for many reasons, but it is fabulous using it strong willed children. It gives balance and fairness to the discipline of children and helps unite parenting and family togetherness. My strong willed child responded completely to this program. I was amazed at how compliant and happy she became.It is guaranteed for 30 days too. I don’t know of too many books and parenting programs that are. It is really an amazing program that comes jam-packed with ideas and an outlined program with guaranteed success for happy parenting experiences. It also outlines a Christian parenting discipline program solidly based on the scriptures using the Garden of Eden as the beginning point for building a happy family garden. The author asks what the difference is between a bribe, blessing and reward. I used to say, Why should I bribe my child to do what I say? I am the mother-I ask, they do. But I learned something very important at that changed my whole thought process. Now I bless and reward I feel so much better about myself and my parenting skills. The children thank me and tell me I am the best mom in the world while they happily do what I ask.

  4. Thanks for the website,Debbie, another friend just recently told me to try it. My step-son is very strong-willed, and is constantly spoiled by his mom, who lives out of town , but sends him expensive items, money, etc. all the time. It is difficult to reward this child, as if he doesn’t get something from me(stepmom) or his real dad, my husband, all he has to do is ask his mom and she sends it!
    My husband is fairly good and consistent with things, but he is afraid that if he takes away “things” that his mom sends, then his son will up and move back w/ his mom (who constantly moves in boyfriend of the month, has another son who is in and out of jail living there).
    I will try this new program, and hope something works, because this child has me befuddled, and is going against my house rules, of techno gagets in his room, etc. because “dad is a little afraid to let this boy threaten to move in w/ mom if he doesn’t get access to his to all his stuff. It is impacting my relationship and respect of my husband, as he and I discussed house rules, and now his child has changed them, and my kids think this kid is changing our rules.

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