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Discipline in Blended Families

In an ideal world, parenting young children would be a perfect seamless transition from the innocent, adorable, cuddly baby stage to the cooperative, responsible, loveable child. In reality, high expectations usually collapse prior to the child turning two as the angelic baby becomes a self willed little person who desires independence while being ill equipped, psychologically or developmentally, to handle it. It is completely understandable that parents worry about doing the right thing amid the surge of family giving their opinions and the excessive supply of parenting books littering the bookshelves. Greater complications ensue when dealing with blended families because each parent desires to raise their children in their own way.

According to a couple of parenting specialists, Foster Cline & Jim Fay, who wrote the definitive parenting book, "Parenting with Love and Logic", the primary steps for successful parenting, starting with children as young as 6 months old, are:

1. Set concrete restrictions with enforceable statements

2. Allow the child to make choices and experience natural consequences of those actions. "Consultant" is the name for this parenting method. It helps children understand how to think for themselves which works to their advantage all throughout their lives.

When my grandchild traveled from her dad's home to her mom's, she regularly got confused about which behaviors were allowed in which home. While her dad permitted her to whine, manipulate, and scream at his house, her mother had clear expectations and limitations for her daughter.

A kind prompt from her mom, like "Oh! I think you've forgotten about your actions here in this home" would almost always result in a transformation from whining and commanding to showing respect and adopting a cheerful attitude - her mom couldn't get over what a difference being a consistent consultant made in the level of harmony in their life, even when her father used a completely different strategy in his home.

It's never too early (or late) to begin setting restrictions and allowing kids to be taught from the rational consequences of choices. The pleasure of parenting takes a lot of practice. Here are some ideas that will help you set down foundations of raising reliable, intelligent, obedient kids in your blended family:

1. Time for Bed- Decide on a bedtime and a consistent routine (30-45 minutes "calming period") that directs your child to her bedroom with the fixed expectation that she'll remain there, quiet down and go to sleep.

2. Family Meals- Schedule a weekly meal where every family member helps with preparation jobs and clean up. Allow the youngest kids to choose from the easiest jobs to create the feeling that they are valued and have responsibility. Model and reinforce table manners.

Every parent wants to raise trustworthy, confident, cheerful kids, and even though it can be hard to think about getting serious about it when they are cute babies or adorable, energetic toddlers, it's vital to expose them to the logical consequences of their behavior. When they have the ability to recognize the connection between their behavior and the responses of their mother and father, it's time. This happens somewhere between the ages of 7-9 months.

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About Author
Emily Bouchard, has over 18 years of experience in working with children and families dealing with adversity. She has a Master's Degree in Social Work and a Bachelor's degree in Child Development. She publishes a free Blended Families newsletter.

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