By Barbara Gibson
One of the biggest challenges for dating single-parents is establishing the role a new boyfriend or girlfriend should take in regards to authority and discipline. The following guidelines should be helpful:
· If your dating partner has met and is regularly around your children, you’ve obviously reached a point that the relationship is pretty serious.
· From a child’s earliest days, it’s a parent’s job to teach them to be respectful of others. No matter how much they like or don’t like Uncle Billy or your 3rd cousin or a grumpy grampa, it is their obligation to treat that person with respect. The same goes for how your child treats your partner.
· It’s generally best to let the parent handle discipline, rules, and authority over the children. The parent’s partner can be a friend, a supportive adult, and a buddy but should avoid the role of disciplinarian.
· Once the dating partner becomes a part of the family, either by marriage or by cohabitation, then it is reasonable for the step-parent to assume greater responsibility as an authority figure. This should be negotiated and agreed upon by both adults however and not in front of the children. Rules and expectations should be articulated to the children as “the rules of the house” not “his rules” or “her rules” that can be dismissed as coming from someone “who’s not my parent anyway.”
· In general, the primary parent should always be seen as the ultimate authority