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Being A StepParent - Dos and Don'ts

Updated on June 6, 2012

Being a stepparent is not easy, especially if the child refuses to accept you. If you are a stepparent or are about to become one, you are at the right place. I have had a stepmother for the last decade or so, so I know what I am talking about when I say there are things that a stepparent should never do. Being a stepparent does not mean that you should have no control over what happens in the home, you are still a parent and are required to act as one. Here are a few things you should and should not do as a stepparent.

A Few Things Stepparents Should and Should Not Do

Respect the child's space
Don't give the impression that you are a replacement
Give the child time to know and accept you
Don't bribe the child
Discuss beforehand what you are to be called
Don't force your ideas and beliefs
Spend quality time with the child
Don't force the child to call you 'Mommy' or 'Daddy'

Do respect the child's space

Whether it is their bedroom, play area, or other personal space, it is important for you to respect their space. When they want to be alone in their bedroom or wherever in the house they may be, let them have that time alone. Avoid forcing the child to show physical display of emotion towards you such as hugging or kissing. If you do this, you are imposing on their personal space and they are likely to resent you for it.

Give the child time to know you

Do give the child time to get to know you and accept you for who you are. If you force yourself on the child, they may pull away from you. Allow them to get to know you in their own time. A child is naturally curious and will want to find out what you like and do not like. When they figure out what type of person you are, then they can grow to love you for who you are and not because you have joined the family.


My way or the highway!

Do learn how the child is used to things being done around the home. Gradually introduce your way to the child. If you approach matters with a 'My way or the high way' attitude, there may be many problems. It is not fair to the child to have everything turned upside down because you are there. It is also not fair for you to have to change your way of doing things to fit in with the family members. Gradually introduce your way of doing things to the child and pay attention to how they do it. For example, if the way you cook is different from what they are used to, invite them join you in the kitchen while you prepare a meal. Who knows, they may prefer your way.

Do not force your practices and ideas of how things should be done on the child. In every family, there are going to be tasks that are carried out differently. For example, I think cooked plantains should be nice and soft while my stepmother thinks they should be hard enough to cut without squashing it. Both of us are neither right nor wrong, we just have different likes. Make compromises, try doing something the child's way (with thought), and encourage them to try it your way.

What do I call you?

Do discuss with your partner and the child what you are to be called. Aunty or something else that is respectful is one way to start. Do not force the child to call you Mommy or Daddy

Do you think step parents should be allowed to discipline children?

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Do discuss with your partner the ways in which you can enforce discipline without crossing boundaries. Some people believe that step-parents are not to discipline children, while others believe they can lay down the law just as well as any other parent. Do not discipline the child without first agreeing with how this is to be done with the other parent. Discuss disciplining before you even move in with the family, especially if your children will be moving in with you, your partner, and their children. Can you imagine what can happen if you believe in spanking your children and your partner does not?

You are NOT a replacement

Do not give the child the impression that you are there to take the place of their parent. You will be acting in the same role but you are not there to 'replace' anyone. It is unreasonable to expect the child to accept you if you are acting as if their birth mother or father did not exist. If you acknowledge the life (and/or death) of their parent, things will flow a bit smoother. One way to prevent the 'replacement' feeling is to allow the child to keep photos or memorabilia of their parent if they want to. I doubt you will want a glamor shot of your spouses' ex-mate in full display. So if it bothers you, ask them to keep it in their bedroom or somewhere private.


Do not use treats to earn the child's love. Even biological parents tend to do this but that does not make it right. Allow the child to know and love you for who you are.

Try not to show preference. If you have children that are joining this new family with you, be careful of being bias.

Spend quality time with the child and get to know them. Find out their likes and dislikes


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    • Loi-Renee profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Jamaica

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I think terrible stepmothers (and step-dads) are many, but there are just as many if not more good step-parents. As I got older I came to realize that my stepmother couldn't have had it easy either, even though there are things that she does even to this day that I don't agree with.

      I would also like to hear what stories others have. Comment. Let us know your story.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Hello. I am having a huge dilemma. I have three daughters and a son from my ex. Then I have a new baby girl from this relationship. Tamara -15, Anthony-13, Trinity and Cassidy 8 and now Haylee 7 months. Bill, is my new boyfriend of 1 year and 9 months and is the dad to Haylee. We weren't expecting to have a baby together let alone so soon into our relationship. But the issue is that my oldest kids and Bill can't get along. He thinks the oldest kids are lazy and disrespectful cuz they wont change haylee and arent doing things how he thinks they should. The other day tamara was sick and told me to tell him that she isn't in mood for joking. He took it so personally that he refuses to come here to my place while my four kids from ex are home. So Im left to be by myself all week or until I decide to go to his place. As we don't live together. He constantly tells me how I deal with them is wrong and until things change he wont come around. He told me about 5 months ago that his buddy was fixing up a rental of his for us to live in together but keeps telling me he can't live with me if two oldest are there.then he tells me the reason why nothing is happening with having a future yet together is all things going wtong on my side. I feel very torn between my kids and him and hes a good man besides this. Please help as I don't know what I should do????

    • wckdstepmother30 profile image

      Wicked Stepmother 

      4 years ago from My Living Room

      I like your article. Thanks for keeping it simple and straightforward, and especially for give some respect and credibility to the stepmom's position. I imagine becoming a stepmom yourself has really affected your position. I would love to hear from the others who left comments about negative experiences with stepmoms, especially the one who said 'Terrible stepmothers are a dime a dozen.' I would love to know specifically why they think that is the case. It is my goal to tear down the common negative misconceptions about stepmothers and help them get the respect they deserve.

    • Loi-Renee profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Jamaica

      Terrible stepmothers are a dime a dozen, and there will be more to come. Its sad but its the truth. I hope your friend, sister, and anyone else who have had to deal with a terrible stepmother have been able to overcome the ordeal.

      I have noticed that it is usually the stepmothers that get the bad rap(whether they deserve it or not) because they tend to be more emotional and are likely to do things that a stepfather would not dream of doing.

      Thank you for your input moonlake and thanks for the vote. See you around.

    • moonlake profile image


      6 years ago from America

      Now days it's not just step-parents but live-ins. A person in our family has finally figured out he is living with a witch that has mistreated his children for the last time. He has told her to leave.

      I had a sister-in-law with a terrible stepmother and friend many years ago with a terrible stepmother.

      Good hub voted up.

    • Loi-Renee profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Jamaica

      Thank you Cardisa. You are right, the child should be allowed to adjust to the situation before anyone moves in, but there are things that we just cannot prepare for. Knowing and accepting someone into your family is different from sharing your home with them. The child may not even understand how serious the situation is until the first week of the move.

      I never thought I would say this but stepparents should be allowed to discipline. That was a sore spot for me. I did not believe my stepmother should be allowed to say or do anything that comes close to disciplining. Especially since all the changes were so sudden and we did not really know each other. In setting the guidelines and boundaries, both parents should be realistic and remember that they too need to adhere to the guidelines.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      This is really great and I do believe that step-parents should be allowed to discipline the kids. You now are a parent regardless of whether or not you are the biological parent. Boundaries should be set and guidelines whenever a change such as this is to be made.

      On the other hand, parents should also respect their children's wishes and not marry someone because they are lonely. It is important that the child gets to know the stepparent before they move in to allow the child to adjust. The transition should start prior to the living arrangements.

    • Loi-Renee profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Jamaica

      You are welcome Cherrietgee. It is good to know that she has you to talk to. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Cherrietgee profile image


      6 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks for sharing this information. I have a student who has told me horror stories about her step-mother. I wish that lady had the opportunity to read the information that was presented here.


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