The Art of Staying Out Of an Argument with Your Stepchild

Posted September 9, 2010 by

I am presently helping to raise my second “blended family.”  I consider my first blended family a success story due to the fact that I never said a negative word about my stepchildren’s mother and she became a very supportive liaison when I divorced my stepchildren’s dad.  Also, maintaining a loving and positive relationship with my stepchildren to this day after divorcing their dad seven years ago, in my heart feels like a success as well.  I attribute these personal accomplishments to staying out of “it.”

I have been invited into many arguments, 98% of which I have declined.  The typical scenario goes like this ….  A stepchild has done something outside the house rules … their biological parent is trying to manage them into understanding the importance of “following the rules.”  The stepchild then says or does something to try to engage my participation by breaking another house rule or saying something ugly about me or even about the biological parent. I will then remind myself the following: “they are a kids and they know not what they say.” I will go to another room, or take a walk and disregard their invitation. That’s because as soon as I say anything at all, the focus is off of the child and onto ME . Any effective parenting the biological parent has accomplished is now in jeopardy.

I deeply believe we must show respect to the stepchild’s biological parent by giving them the space to work this out “one on one” with the child,  rather than become just the opportunity the child was looking for to redirect the argument.

It is a basic principle and I imagine most parents have figured this out.  But maybe there is one parent out there who thinks they are helping/ defending/ backing up/ assisting the biological parent, when more than likely the interjection is counterproductive, as I found out so long ago.  I would hope this gently helps those parents see why their good intentions may not help.  Many people that work with troubled kids in a variety of areas will tell you flat out, as a stepparent you really don’t stand a chance in this type of scenario.

Sometimes, the biological parent is passive and not inclined to deal with the poor behavior.  In my experience, the passive parent is still more effective than the stepparent.  The biological parent has more history with the child and generally would have better instincts on how the parental conversation should flow regarding breaking the rules.

I believe the important thread here is to have good communication between you and the biological parent. Know what the house rules are and the potential consequences for breaking them.  Though the house rules should be well known within the home, the debates and discussions about them between the adults should be completely private without the children knowing who made the rules and where the weak links may be between the adults.  In our home, the adults talk/debate privately about parental strategies.

Kids are smart; they are wiser to the world at 10 years of age than I was at 20.  It is a different world entirely. Though the values of life have not changed, people have.  We may have to work twice as hard to teach our future leaders the cause and effect of their words and actions,  but the investment in your precious child is well worth the price.


Empowering Parents welcomes Julia Clark to the Parent Blogger team! Julia is the single mother of an 8-year-old girl. She is presently also caring for her gently aging father. Julia has two older stepchildren, a boy and a girl in their twenties, from her first marriage. She is also five years into her second blended family with her fiancé and his three children, a 12-year-old boy, a 15-year-old girl and an 18-year-old boy. “With three generations at home, it’s always busy,” says Julia.

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