Real Life Leading 68:
Who’s Your Daddy? Mutual Respect is Key in Blended Family Parenting
Just yesterday I had a conversation with Kyle, my girls’ stepfather, about a situation involving our teenage daughter and one of her friends. The situation has been on-going for sometime, and we’re thankful to say that it seems to have been resolved very well last night. Before it was resolved, however, Kyle and I were discussing it and came to the conclusion that we feel strongly and similarly about it. What I appreciated most about our conversation, though, was when he said, “I told Carly ‘I’m not your dad, and I’ll never try to be your dad, but I do think that…’” and then shared his opinion about the situation. There’s two big keys in his statement that have helped our blended family, and I wanted to share them with you.
First, his willingness to acknowledge that it’s not his job to try to replace me is something that many blended families know in theory but not all of them are willing to actually say or abide by. We’ve known each other for almost six years now, and Kyle has always been consistent in maintaining his role as a father-figure without trying to be the girls’ father. This habit shows respect for my position as father that is critical for all of us to maintain a good relationship. Do we always agree? Of course not! But when we disagree, we try to do so amicably, quietly, and respectfully, and I’m grateful to say that he makes this much easier than it might be otherwise. So the first key here is that mutual respect among all the parents is a must. I would say that even if you don’t actually feel respectful about the other adults, treat them that way anyway. Remember the Golden Rule of our youth, and treat others with the respect you’d like to be shown. This will go a long way toward good relations in a blended family.
The second key to his statement was that he was still willing to share his opinion, knowing it would be respectfully received. That is, just because he isn’t the girls’ father, that does NOT mean that his opinion doesn’t matter. It certainly does matter, both to me and to our kids, especially when they’re at his and their mother’s house. And so I need to make sure that I respect his opinion (yes, even when we disagree) and that I tell him so. Thus in our conversation yesterday I told him that I appreciate how protective he is of our daughters, and I am grateful that he feels so strongly about taking care of them.
When we work together to raise our children, everyone benefits. And cooperation in this type of situation always needs to begin with mutual respect. When we show that to each other, it makes our relationships better, and it sets a powerful example for our children as well. Remember, our job is not to try to be the ‘favorite’ parent but rather it is to be the best set of parents that we can be. When my parents divorced and my mother eventually got together with the man I call my stepdad, he and my father were never anything short of respectful toward each other. If you want more details, check out my book (Extra)Ordinary Leadership: 10 Things Dad Taught Me Without Saying Anything. (If you’d like a free copy, just email me and I’ll send you the PDF!)
Action Step: This week, look to build a stronger relationship with the other adults in your blended family by showing them respect and by looking to cooperate rather than compete with each other.