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How to Be Authoritative With Teen Stepchildren

by Tiffany Raiford

A marriage of high expectations and respect is a combination that is likely to earn respect in return from your stepchildren. According to Diana Baumrind, a clinical and development psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, this is authoritative parenting and it is more likely to ensure your stepchildren grow up successfully. The children of authoritative parents, whether biological or step, are more likely to succeed in school, in personality and in social situations than children whose parents are too involved or not involved enough.

Engage your stepchild, advises Focus on the Family, a website designed to help families grow and thrive. The key to being an authoritative stepparent is to be involved in your stepchild’s life. This includes her interests, her hobbies, her friendships and her school life. Being involved means going to her softball games and showing up for parent meetings at school. Being engaged means talking to her about her life and what interests her in a way that shows you are genuinely interested and not just nosy. You can offer to take her shopping for her upcoming dance, but don’t pry her for information on her date; wait for her to bring that up and take her lead.

Discipline your stepchildren accordingly if you want to be an authoritative parent, advises Ronald L. Pitzer, a professor of social work at the University of Minnesota. Make sure you and your spouse discuss the rules and consequences of breaking those rules with the kids and ensure you discipline them accordingly when the rules are broken. If your stepson breaks curfew, enforce the discipline that goes with breaking curfew, such as grounding him for the remainder of the weekend. When you are consistent in enforcing the rules, your stepchildren learn that you mean business and are less likely to break the rules. Failing to apply the consequences when the rules are broken is not authoritative parenting, it is permissive parenting.

Treat your stepchild with love and affection, advises Pitzer. The role of an authoritative parent includes a good balance of discipline and high expectations and love and affection. Without love and affection, the authoritative parent becomes a controlling parent, which leaves teens feeling unattached and causes potential behavior problems. When you respond to your stepchild’s needs with care and concern, it shows you respect her, which is more likely to make her respect you in return. This supportive, accepting behavior helps to build her self-esteem and confidence. Additionally, knowing she is accepted and loved by you helps her understand that when you do discipline her, it’s coming from a place of love and concern rather than spite and hatred.

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