Do you ever feel like you are harder on your own kids, but your stepkids accuse you of giving your kids special treatment? The issue of my kids vs. your kids is prevalent in almost every blended family. Sibling rivalry is common and in blended families, it can be even trickier.
Before We Blended Our Family
The problem can stem from the differences in parenting before we met our spouse. When I was a young single mother, I instilled values in my kids that I felt strongly about. As a result, my kids knew expectations as they related to school, working around the house or in the yard, and earning their ability to buy things. Also, when the kids were younger, I used my bonuses to set up UTMA accounts (for college, cars, house, or whatever) so we would have those funds when the kids grew older. I expected to be a single mom for most of my life, so we didn’t live extravagantly and always budgeted our finances. We planned meals and didn’t waste food. My kids were also not allowed to resolve their differences with physical violence. For the most part, they were kind to each other, didn’t fight, and didn’t like to participate in others drama. They were service oriented and pretty laid back and easy going in their relationships.
My husband’s household was different. From my spouse’s perspective, he made money and his ex-wife spent money. She thought if there was money in the bank account, they could spend it. Their money went toward excessive clothing purchases, multiple plastic surgeries, hair extensions, buying things for the kids, and taking them out to eat a lot. They didn’t teach their kids to help with much of anything around the house. My husband did most of the cooking, cleaning, shopping, yard work, etc. (when it happened) because this isn’t how his ex-wife wasn’t much of a housekeeper. After she left him, he felt so badly that the kids’ mom had left, he never asked the kids to help with anything and took care of household maintenance himself. His kids were very vocal about everything, including always saying “I love you” and thanking us for everything we did all the time, as these values were more important to my husband and his ex-wife. However, his kids liked family drama, would get into physical fights, and complained every time my kids didn’t vocalize appreciation or say “I love you” enough.
After We Blended Our Family
After we were married, I had the same expectations of my kids, but was frustrated with his. I was sick of his kids simply vocalizing that they loved us and thanking us for everything and then never doing anything we asked or showing their appreciation (my perspective at the time). My kids still had to clean their rooms, do their homework, eat their vegetables and go to bed at a decent hour. They also had to help with things around the house. I tried to teach his kids how to do laundry, dishes, etc., but he usually swooped in to do it for them because he lacked faith in their ability to do it correctly. What was interesting was that they thought that I was easier on my kids. They clearly did not see that my expectations for my kids were much higher and when my kids complained, I would simply explain to them that I didn’t have any control over what my husband was willing to enforce. Of course, my kids thought I was easier on his kids.
Silbing Rivalry In Our Family
On one occasion, my young and financially responsible son of only 19 years old was supporting himself and his pregnant girlfriend and was $15 short on his rent and needed some extra money until payday. He called to ask if he could draw money from his UTMA account. I was concerned about his girlfriend who wasn’t working at the time getting the wrong idea about the use of those funds, so I offered for him to come over and help with filing or yard work and I would pay him that day. I explained that those funds weren’t for supporting his girlfriend that should be working (I know that sounds mean, but it wasn’t like they were married). I offered for him to come over and do some yard work or filing and I would pay him the same day. He was noticeably irritated with me and said he would figure it out. And guess what…he did and I knew he would!
A couple months later, my stepson (older than my son and still living in our basement) decided to go to Vegas for a rave party. He already had a history of drug and alcohol use and we were annoyed that he was going there to party for Father’s Day weekend instead of spending it with his dad. While he was in Vegas he ran out of money. My husband worried about whether he would make it back home and immediately sent him $150. Unfortunately, my son found out about that and asked me why we did that when we weren’t even willing to give him rent money. I explained that it wasn’t me that sent the money, and I didn’t have control over how my husband parented his kids. When I pointed out to him that my husband and I have total faith in his ability to be independent and figure things out he felt better. I also pointed out that we weren’t quite sure at the time that his stepbrother wouldn’t end up on the streets in some other state doing drugs and partying. I asked if he would rather be him or be like his stepbrother, and he easily responded that he would much rather be himself. His stepbrother is doing great now and is much more responsible than he was in the past.
What Has Helped Our Family
The issue of your kids versus my kids is a dilemma that I hear about from other stepparents as well. Here are some suggestions that might assist you in navigating this problem.
- Be careful about how you treat all of your kids. Make sure you have a reason for handling things the way you do when you are questioned. At times, you will need to agree to disagree.
- It’s okay to have differences and point them out because it gives the kids perspective on recognizing their differences in how they were brought up, what they want for their own lives, and gives insight as to why other kids in the family may have special circumstances.
- Where your spouse is concerned, make sure they know how much you love them and the kids. Make sure your spouse understands the importance of parenting each child individually and always remembering the difference between being the parent and the stepparent. They need to know that you always mean well and that you make mistakes.
- Sometimes you have to apologize and tell them you are doing the best you can.
In any family, blended or not, it is easy for our kids to feel like they aren’t being treated the same as their siblings. What’s most important is that you and your spouse are on the same page and your kids know that every decision you make is out of love and concern for them. Feel free to reach out or comment to contribute ideas, thoughts, and experiences that have worked well (or not) for you.
What is a blended family?
According to Your Dictionary, “A blended family is defined as a family made of two parents and their children from previous marriages. An example of a blended family is a woman with two children from a previous marriage who marries a man with three children from a previous marriage.”
What are common problems and challenges for blended families?
Common problems for blended families include children not feeling loved or feeling left out, sibling rivalry, children manipulating parents, ex-spouses, dreading holidays, vacations, marital problems, finances and discipline (or lack thereof).
Can blended families be successful?
Although many stepfamilies seem doomed for failure, it is absolutely possible for a blended family to be successful. While some situations are unhealthy for everyone involved, many families can be saved if there is a desire to work through the problems
How common are blended families?
Blended families are becoming more common. According to Pew Research 62% of children in the U.S. live in two-parent households and 15% of those are living with parents in a remarriage.
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