Let's be honest - step parenting and learning how to adapt to blended family life can be one of the toughest challenges that we face as parents and step parents.
Rearing children is about teaching kids right from wrong, how to make good choices, and how to behave in a way that aligns with the values that the blended family unit holds most dear.
But, we're not perfect and our children learn behavior by example.
Sometimes the answer lies in the realization that we as parents aren't always leading in the right direction, and being willing to give our kids permission to help us change course.
Blended Family Stories - Permission Works Both Ways
A few weeks ago while in a session with my counselor, I brought up the issue of my own temper.
With the pressures of a fast paced career, learning how to navigate the extra demands of our blended family, as well as challenges with our extended family, I found that my fuse had become short.
My shortened fuse seemed to be causing me to react to the little things my kids do as activating events, even if it had nothing to do with the root of my frustration.
You've probably been there before. I think we all have.
Some people get depressed. Some people withdraw. I however have a tendency to explode when my frustration reaches a boiling point.
My very wise counselor threw single recommendations in my direction - and it stopped me in my tracks:
"You correct their behavior all the time, right? So why not give them permission to call you out and correct yours?"
I was floored by this because I'd never thought of how much of an impact this one simple act of granting permission might have on the dynamic between my kids and I.
That evening, in what was indeed one of scariest conversations I've ever had with my two sons, I pulled Kaden and Jacob aside for a mutual conversation between gentleman right before bedtime.
For the first time since I had been struggling, I let them in on what was happening in my head, both mentally and emotionally. I apologized for my short fuse of late, and made sure they knew about my visits with my counselor so that they understood that I was taking action to fix the issues. We discussed the idea of being responsible for our own behavior and how sometimes simply saying "I'm sorry" isn't really enough.
It was amazing how much my then 5-year olds were able comprehend. They were open, attentive and supportive, and I had no idea they cared about me so much.
We also discussed being accountable for our behavior and actions, and for the first time ever, I gave them permission to call me out when they felt I was out of line, promising to them that I would be receptive if they voiced their concern. In return, they gave me theirs.
We shook hands, and that evening, equal footing and a common goal was established between father and sons.
What Permission Do You Give?
Permission works both ways. Especially in blended families.
A simple promise made between my sons and I has been enough to help me douse lit fuses before the flame hits the powder. In turn, leading by visual example (and not just lip service) has seemed to have an effect on their behavior as well.
So let me ask you -- what permission have you given your kids recently?