Blended Families Part 8: “You’re not my dad!”
“You’re not my dad!” “I don’t have to listen to you!” “You can’t tell me what to do!” I wonder how many times those statements have been made in step-families.
Or how about these, “They’re your kids, you deal with it!” or “They’re my kids, I’ll handle it!”
How does God expect us to handle these issues? Should the step-parent back off and let the biological parent deal with his or her children? Should we get into a power struggle and make sure the child knows who’s boss? Are children the sole responsibility of their natural parents?
In previous posts we’ve talked about favoritism, the goal of the blended family, how to love biblically, and the importance of right priorities, among other subjects. In the last two weeks we’ve talked about angry children and how we sometimes provoke them to anger.
Today we’ll talk about the challenges step-parents face concerning their involvement and authority in their step-children’s lives.
“You’re not my dad!”
And when a step-parent says to his or her spouse, “It’s your problem,” he or she is saying I’ve got no responsibility in this. When the parent says, “Let me deal with it my way,” he or she is saying, “It’s not your place.”
But, is any of that true? Does God’s blueprint for marriage change simply because a couple has been married previously?
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen. 2.24).
When a man and woman marry, they become one flesh. What she has is his and what he has is hers and not just material things. They are to serve God and do life together (Gen. 2.15-18). And that’s a good thing! In fact, it’s the reason many choose to remarry.
9 Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up (Eccl. 4.9-10).
But it means that neither of them can abdicate responsibility when the going gets tough. The commands given to parents is for both of them.
Ephesians 6.4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
And Colossians 3.21 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.”
Those commands are:
- Don’t provoke them to anger (see last week).
- Bring them up.
- Discipline them.
- Instruct them.
- Don’t exasperate them.
Notice that while because of the one flesh relationship those commands are for both of them, God spoke directly to fathers. Many husbands believe parenting is primarily their wife’s responsibility, but God says dads and step-dads have the ultimate responsibility (Eph. 5.23) and God will hold them accountable just as He did with Adam in the garden (Gen. 3.11).
“But the kids hate me!”
I know some of you are thinking, how is that possible when the kids seem to hate me for marrying their mom or dad. And sometimes the other biological parent appears to be doing everything he or she can to undermine your relationship with the children.
It may be true that God has allowed you to be in a difficult situation, but He promises to give you the grace and wisdom to deal with it.
14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in allpoints tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4).
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4.13).
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (Jas. 1).
We can count it all joy, not that we’re happy for the problems, but we can be joyful because we understand that God is using it to strengthen and mature us. And when we need wisdom in the midst of it, we can ask and receive it.
When was the last time you went to God in prayer before responding to a challenge to your authority? When was the last time you asked God to give you compassion for that rebellious son or daughter and for wisdom to reach his or her heart?
“But what about the other household?”
Maybe you feel like every bit of progress you make is undone when they visit the other parent. Maybe you have one set of rules and the other household has the opposite rules or none at all.
You are only responsible for what happens in your home. Unless there is genuine neglect or abuse, in which case you may need to involve the courts or other authorities, you have to trust God to take care of those issues. Remember He loves our children even more than we do. Whatever you do, don’t put the kids in the middle of your differences and do your best to speak well of the other parent.
“We only have them every other week-end.”
Again, you are still responsible for the time they’re with you and you will give an account for how you parent when they’re with you.
Especially, if the children are being raised in a non-Christian environment the majority of the time, let them see Christ in you. Seek to build a godly relationship with them. Let them see you honor Christ not only in your relationship with them, but let them see the difference God can make in your marriage and other areas of your life.
If You Realize You’ve Been Doing It Wrong
Sit down with your spouse and be open and honest about your failings. Ask him or her to forgive you. Then pray together and ask God to forgive you. Pray also for His wisdom and help.
Set aside some time to talk openly and honestly about your concerns. Go over Scripture together, beginning with the verses in this post. Consider reading a good biblical book on parenting together.
Sit down with the children and admit your failings. It’s not an excuse for any disobedience, disrespect, or rebellion on their part, but we are to take the logs out of our own eyes, before we can begin to help take the speck out of someone else’s eye (Matt. 7.3-5).
Let them know that you and your spouse are going to begin seeking God’s help and wisdom. Ask them to pray for you both. Don’t be put off or discouraged by any negative response on their part. You are responsible to be faithful (1 Cor. 4.2), not for their response.
Next week in “Blended Families Part 9: Formulating a Plan,” I’ll talk more about specific ways you and your spouse can fulfill God’s commands to parents in your family.
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp
Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick & Jessica Thompson
Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Hubbard
Strengthening Your Marriage by Wayne Mack
Some of the subjects I’ll cover in future blogs:
Blended families in the Bible
How to prepare your children for being in a blended family
Damage control—healing the mistakes
Dealing with in-laws and out-laws
Helping your child be part of the “other” blended family
Dealing with “exes”
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Getting ready for 2017
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