Should Your New Partner Discipline Your Children? (Pt 1)

A grown man and a little kid hanging out under a flowering tree.

This is a highly contested subject – the issue of whether or not a parent’s new partner has any right to discipline their children. And not to confuse the subject anymore, but the truth is that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. There are a number of factors that come into play here, and have an influence on whether or not your partner should play any role in the discipline of your children. Curious? Let’s take a look…

Factors to consider when deciding on your new partner’s role in your children’s lives:

The age of your children:

This matters because younger children might be more open to the idea of a new person (eventually) stepping into the role of “caregiver”, whereas older children are likely to be more resistant. Especially if they feel like this person is trying to replace their other parent. If you have older children, be aware that they may never warm up to the idea of being parented by “an interloper”, while younger children may warm to the idea over time. It all depends on how you introduce the idea to them, and how your new partner handled the interactions

The timeline of events:

A partner who moves in and starts trying to tell your kids what to do within days or weeks is likely to meet with serious resistance and even resentment. Taking on the role of disciplinarian is never welcomed before that person has had time to get to know the children, and develop a loving relationship with them. Discipline should come from a place of love and concern. So until your children feel loved by your new partner, and truly believe that the concern is genuine, they aren’t likely to respond well to any efforts made by your partner to discipline them.

Your partner’s experience with children:

A person who has their own kids will have a better idea of how to handle interactions with children. A person with no kids, and therefore no experience parenting, will bring their inexperience to the table. And it shows. If your kids know your new partner has no kids of their own, they may resent that person’s efforts to parent them. The idea that they “don’t know what they’re doing” or “don’t have the right to tell me what to do ” is likely to create resistance, especially in older kids.

The way your partner handles the interactions:

A partner who steps in as an authoritarian, setting absolute rules and doling out punishments is likely to be poorly received. But a partner who shows affection, gets to know the children as individuals, and handles behavioral issues with firm kindness and deference to the parent’s wishes is far more likely to be well received. If you believe your partner would be a good co-parent in your home, talk to them about slowly introducing the idea, starting in small ways and working their way up to addressing the bigger issues.

It’s possible to have a healthy parent/child relationship with your partner’s kids

Join us next time for some tips on how to work your way slowly into this role, and how to achieve a healthy relationship between your kids and your new partner. Until then, if you have child custody or child support issues that you need help with, we’re available 24/7 to work with you on that. Our skilled family law attorneys have helped countless Michigan parents with every aspect of their divorces. Just call 866 766 5245 today to discuss your case with someone who can make a difference for you.