“My Biggest Mistakes as a Stepmom” series.

I’m spilling the beans here on some of the biggest mistakes I’ve done as a stepmom and that I see other stepmoms (and stepdads) do. It’s only in becoming aware of the problem and the consequences of those actions that we can actually change to more positive behaviors. I’m looking forward to hearing your personal experiences and comments below.

When I first began to integrate myself into my stepdaughters’ lives, I had to learn to walk the line between having a disciplinarian role and having a good relationship with Hubby’s children. It’s difficult to carve out a place for yourself in an already-established family, where two biological parents already exist.
Learning to be a stepmom, I made a few mistakes along the way. One of these that I recognized in my parenting was reacting to my stepdaughters’ bad behavior or actions by asking, “Is that how your mother raised you?” There are a few reasons why this is an ineffective and unhelpful thing to say to your stepkids:

  • It’s a backdoor approach to bad-mouthing the other parent. Effective stepparenting or co-parenting begins with eliminating negativity and criticism of the other parent. It makes you look bad, as a role model and mentor to the stepchildren, and it doesn’t teach them good habits about how to treat other people. Remember, this is your stepchildren’s mother you’re talking about; you are implying that she doesn’t do a good job raising them. I know I wouldn’t want anyone to imply that about me to my son or anyone else.
  • It isn’t something you would say to your own child. Though I have told my son that I didn’t raise him to be disrespectful or mean, I would never say anything to him with the derogatory or critical tone of something like, “Is that the way your mother raised you?” The way you say something has just as much of an impact as what you say. Even though I was never trying to be malicious or spiteful on purpose, a phrase like this comes across as an insult and will be taken as an attack. You have to be careful with the tone you use—just think about it from their point of view, if you’re not sure whether it sounds negative or is possibly offensive.
  • It doesn’t address the real issue, which is that you want your stepchild’s behavior to change. When I’m frustrated or angry, I’m not thinking clearly and cannot properly address the behavior, attitude, or problem that I want to change in my stepdaughters. Questioning the parenting of the girls’ mother will not help to change the undesirable behavior or attitude though. Always talk about the behavior you want to change. Attacking the other person won’t get you what you want. Communicate what you find inappropriate or disrespectful, why you need it to change, and how they can change it.

You are in a difficult role as a stepmother. There are no official guidelines or rulebooks. You’re going to make mistakes, just as I have. While it is human nature to mess up, the key to mistakes is not letting them consume you. Instead, you should address the mistakes, genuinely apologize and try to effectively communicate the real issue to the children, then focus on how improve for the future. As a result, you will strengthen your relationship with your stepchildren and live a happier, more peaceful life at home.

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