Blended Families Part 17: Loyalty Conflicts & Blended Families in the Bible + LINKUP

 

Blended Families Part 17: Loyalty & Blended Families in the Bible - Today I'll talk about loyalty issues, blended families in the Bible, and then wrap things up.

Blended Families Part 17: Loyalty Conflicts & Blended Families in the Bible

 

Over the last 4½ months, we’ve looked at blended family issues of all kinds: the losses and the gains involved, how to love one another biblically, God’s goal in blending a family, favoritism, anger and how we might unintentionally provoke our children to anger. We’ve talked about step-parenting, behavior contracts, dealing with ex’s and the differences in rules between two households. We’ve also talked about the importance of taking responsibility when we’re wrong and humbly confessing our sins, even to our children. We’ve discussed the importance of overcoming evil with good and how to help our children adjust.

Last week in “Blended Families Part 16: 4 Rules of Communication,” we discussed the importance of good biblical communication and looked at 4 simple rules that can help us stay on track. I also explained something we call the “put-offs and put-ons” from Ephesians 4.22-24. We might call it God’s methodology for change.

Click here for previous posts in this in depth series.

Today I’ll talk about loyalty issues, blended families in the Bible, and then wrap things up. Next week I’ll start a new series, “Marriage Made in Heaven?”

 

Hearts: Ours & Our Children’s

 

We’ve talked a lot about heart issues and how God is always dealing with us on that level, no matter what challenges we face. He’s also working all things for good so we can become progressively more like Christ. We need to remember that and remind our children when they’re struggling. In fact, Romans 8.28-29 might be a good passage to memorize as a family.

We can also do some self-evaluation (and help our children to do the same), especially when we’re tempted to fight and quarrel, to see what we’re wanting and whether or not we might be wanting it too much.

James 1.13-15: Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death (Jas. 1).

James 4. 1-4: Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?

Even good desires, obedient children, an ex-spouse who does what he (or she) says he will, step-children who respect us, a step-parent who doesn’t show favoritism, etc., can become a lust (any strongly held desire) if we want them so much that we’re willing to sin against God and others to get them.

As I said in the last post, we need to make appropriate changes, not just on the doing level, but in our attitudes and thinking, as well. That is a two-part process: both putting off unbiblical thoughts, words, and actions, and putting on godly ones.

 

Loyalty Conflicts

 

One thing we haven’t spent much time on is loyalty conflicts. Spouses can struggle with loyalty issues if one of them is constantly trying to appease an ex-spouse. This requires loving change on both their parts. The new spouse needs to understand that some contact and compromise with our ex is necessary for the sake of the children and the glory of God. But we need to remember that our loyalty is always to our current spouse. Our responsibility is not to please our ex, but to please God, see “Blended Families Part 4: The Goal of Life”

Parents can struggle with loyalty issues when it comes to spending time with and parenting step-children. But love shouldn’t be exclusive. Showing love to one doesn’t mean we don’t love the other. It helps if we can begin to see the blended family as a whole, instead of “yours and mine.” For more on this subject, you might want to read, “Blended Families Part 3: Loving Not Liking Each Other.”

Children, too, can struggle with loyalty issues. As one little girl said, “On Mother’s Day I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t even know what I should do or could do. If I went with my stepmother, my mother would be furious. If I went with my mother, my stepmother would be upset. I couldn’t even think about it. It’s the worst situation I ever had in my life.”

We need to help our children understand that we want them to be loyal to God. That means to demonstrate biblical love for both sets of parents. And even though it’s challenging, we can do a lot to alleviate the stress our children feel, by giving them permission to treat the other parent or parents lovingly. And we need to set a good example for them by how we treat our ex and his or her new spouse.

 

Dealing with In-Laws

 

Many parents welcome their child’s new family with open arms, but others might be less accepting of a new spouse and children. Sometimes it’s because of loyalty to the former spouse. Other times it’s an unwillingness to see step-children as “theirs.”

If it continues to be an issue, you may need to prayerfully and lovingly sit down with them and let them know you need their help to do the hard work of blending a family. Let them know that you understand that they have different feelings for children who have been part of their lives before. Genuine relationships take time. But you may need to firmly let them know that you can’t allow them to come into the family situation and show favoritism to some of the children.

I’ve seen situations where grandparents came to visit and brought lavish gifts for their biological grandchildren while step siblings looked on in hurt or anger. This can be devastating to any sense of unity and acceptance.  Continue reading

Blended Families Part 16: 4 Rules of Communication + LINKUP

Hi Everyone, I apologize. Some code must be corrupted in this post. I have tried everything to eliminate it. Removing photos, redoing things. Nothing seems to help. But the linkup is working.

 

Last week in Blended Families Part 15: Helping Children Adjust we talked about the two major pitfalls into which parents in blended families fall: either becoming overly focused on the children’s outward behavior or turning their children into victims. Today we’re going to talk about biblical communication and God’s methodology for change.

Some children in blended families adjust quickly and easily, but others struggle with fear, worry, anger, and loyalty conflicts.

Children may be angry about losing their position in the family, losing the dream of their original family being restored, unwanted changes, jealousy toward new step-siblings or any number of other things.

One of the most important skills in overcoming anger and building good relationships is learning how to communicate in a loving, God-honoring way. Ephesians 4 contains some of the clearest passages on the subject of communication. The principles can be summed up in 4 easy to understand “rules” that you can apply and teach your children.

 

4 Rules of Communication

 

  • Be honest.
  • Keep current.
  • Attack the problem, not the person.
  • Act, don’t react.

 

Be Honest.

 

Ephesians 4.25 says:

Therefore, putting away lying, Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.

Sounds simple enough, but being honest is more that just not telling a lie. It’s, also, more than blurting out the unadulterated truth. It involves being open and transparent in a loving way.

The first part of being honest is to communicate. “Let each of you speak …”

The second part is to speak truth. It’s not enough to just “not lie.” We must also speak truth.

For example: If, after you and your husband agreed not to make any unnecessary purchases, you put those shoes you wanted on your credit card, slipped them into the house when you’re husband wasn’t home, and simply never brought it up, you may not have lied, but your weren’t being honest either.

rt 16: 4 Rules of Communication + LINKUP" >Our children need to understand the same principle. Instead of just punishing them for not telling you about a bad grade, sit down and explain why it’s wrong from God’s Word. Let them know that you struggle with living God’s way, too. Use it as an opportunity to teach them how much we need His help to live His way. Turn it into a gospel moment.

Whether they listen attentively or roll their eyes, you’re planting seeds.

So we and our children are to speak and to speak truth, but we must also learn to speak the truth in love. Ephesians 4.15 says:

[B]ut, speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.

For example: If your child grew up learning to make his bed and keep his room reasonably neat and now shares a room with a step-sibling who doesn’t seem to know what a clothes hanger or a hamper is, the answer isn’t to tell his sibling he’s a slob.

Instead, help him learn to pray (another gospel moment) and ask God for wisdom about talking to his brother. It could be something like, “Hey, I’m not crazy about cleaning the room either. I used to resent it when my mom made me stay home until I did. But I learned it’s easier to just get it over with. It looks better when my friends come to hang out, too. Can I give you a hand?”

So rule #1 is: “Be honest.” Speak. Speak the truth. Speak the truth in love.  Continue reading

Blended Families Part 15: Helping Children Adjust + LINKUP

 

Blended Families Part 15: Helping Children Adjust - Today we'll discuss how to help your children and step-children adjust to blended family life and some of the issues that may need to be addressed.

I so sorry the linkup is late. My mom fell a couple of weeks ago and broke her hip. I’m staying with her for a while and just got her home from rehab yesterday. Please keep her in your prayers, not just for her healing, but for her to come to know the Lord.

Blended Families Part 15: Helping Children Adjust

 

Over the last two weeks in “Blended Families Part 13: Differences Between Households” and “Blended Families Part 14: Overcoming Evil,” we have been looking at ways to deal with the different rules and expectations between your household and that of your ex in a God-honoring way. We, also, looked at how to evaluate whether or not to address any particular situation and how to respond when you ex isn’t willing to work on issues. Last week we talked about ways to live in peace and solve problems. Today and next week, we’ll discuss how to help your children and step-children adjust to blended family life and some of the issues that may need to be addressed.

Click here for previous posts in this series.

 

The Challenge for All Families

 

When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus replied:

37 “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matt. 22.37-39 NLT).

This can be challenging in all families as people live with one another day after day, seeing each other in the best and worst of circumstances. It’s especially challenging as we seek to blend two families into one.

Yet, no where is it more important that we, especially parents, live out these commands. We won’t do it perfectly, but we can do it humbly and imperfectly, by relying on God’s grace. Doing so is important to our children’s view of Christianity.

 

Loving Though They Didn’t Choose

 

While their parents chose a partner, children are called to love people with whom they didn’t choose to live. In the process, their hearts are exposed as they’re forced to share, submit to parental authority, to give, and to love. And while all families face change from time to time, children in a blended families often face sudden and drastic change.

Some of the changes might be:

  • Birth order
  • Position of priority with the biological parent
  • The need to share a room
  • Moving
  • A change of school
  • A change of neighbors
  • Loss of contact with extended family

And we could add many more.

 

Two Major Pitfalls

 

Parents in blended families can easily fall into one or both of two major pitfalls.

The first is to get focused merely on outward behavior without addressing the heart. Parents may come up with a rule for everything. The focus becomes all about complying with those house rules. Of course, some rules are OK, but focusing on compliance without dealing with heart issues creates little pharisees, at best.

Children learn to live in that economy. They learn how to get what they want by keeping the rules and, often, learn to manipulate by showing the right amount of penitence over bad behavior. Then when they’re out from under their parents’ authority, they begin to live out of the thoughts and motives that were in their hearts all along. They go away to collage or leave home and quit doing what’s right.  Continue reading

Blended Families Part 14: Overcoming Evil + LINKUP

 

Blended Families Part 14: Overcoming Evil - Last week in "Blended Families Part 13: Differences Between Households," we began looking at ways to deal with the different rules and expectations between your household and that of your ex in a God-honoring way. We looked at how to evaluate whether or not to make an issue out of any situation and began talking about how to respond when you ex isn't willing to work on issues. This week we'll discuss more ways we can seek to live in peace and solve problems.

Blended Families Part 14: Overcoming Evil

 

Last week in “Blended Families Part 13: Differences Between Households,” we began looking at ways to deal with the different rules and expectations between your household and that of your ex in a God-honoring way. We looked at how to evaluate whether or not to address any situation and began talking about how to respond when you ex isn’t willing to work on issues. This week we’ll discuss more ways we can seek to live in peace and solve problems.

Click here for previous posts in this series.

Last week I left off with the question, “What if, after all your planning and attempts to handle a particular situation wisely and well, your ex is not willing to work with you or solve the problem?”

I said your first reaction might be to return evil for evil or at least to withhold any good. I encouraged you to remember that is not a God-honoring option (Rom. 12.17-21), that God will not allow you to be in any situation that you cannot handle in a righteous way (1 Cor. 10.13), and that He promises to use every situation for your good and His glory by helping us become more like Christ (Rom. 8.28-29).

Now let’s look at that Romans 12 passage again:

17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

This passage instructs us to do all that we can to live at peace with others. There’s no exception for former spouses. It also says that we are not to seek revenge or return evil for evil. And unless an ex or the new spouse is doing something illegal (in which case we need to involve the proper authorities), we are to overcome evil with good.

Returning evil with evil comes naturally and returning evil with good feels awkward, at first. And there are, usually, well-meaning friends and family members telling us to do the opposite. But this is an opportunity to determine to live in ways that are pleasing to God (2 Cor. 5.9), rather than ourselves or others.

What are some ways we can overcome evil with good?

 

Returning Evil with Good

 

Ways to return evil with good:

  • Take your children shopping to buy Christmas or birthday gifts for your ex and his or her spouse.
  • Be flexible with visitation.
  • Allow him or her to have the children for a holiday or another special day.
  • Acknowledge them and, possibly, sit with them at events in which your children participate.
  • Invite them to your child’s birthday celebration, graduation party, or other special event.
  • Send cookies or some other treat when the children visit.
  • Speak well of them to others.
  • Meet a need (send a meal when someone is sick, etc.).
  • Buy birthday or special occasion gifts for your children’s step-siblings.
  • Pray for them.

Brainstorm other ideas and share them in the comments section.

 

As Much as It Depends on You

 

Notice verse 18 says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” We are to do our part and leave the results with God. We’re not to quit because our efforts aren’t appreciated, fret about it, or expect something in return.

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret—it only causes harm (Ps. 27.7-8).

When we do something only to get a certain result, our motives are wrong. Our desire should be to please God (2 Cor. 5.9), not to get our ex-spouse to change. Things may change, but if that’s our primary motivation, we’ll quit if we don’t get the result we desire.

We, also, need to have a biblical view of success. We’re successful when we obey God. If we’re right with God in our attitudes and actions we can have peace and joy whether or not our circumstances change.

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full (Jn. 10.9-11).

A note of caution: While we should apply these principles, we always need to remember that our current spouse is our priority. Don’t pour time and energy into your relationship with your ex that rightfully belongs to your spouse and be careful to include him or her in your plans to overcome evil with good.

 

Prepare for Life in a Sin-Cursed World

 

We live in a sin-cursed world and we need to know that people will sin against us.

14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (1 Pet. 3.14-17).

So we need to prepare for it. My husband told me once that every day as he prays, he chooses in advance to forgive anyone who sins against him. We need to plan to forgive and extend grace to others whether or not they deserve it. It’s the way God deals with us. We, also, need to plan how to overcome evil with good. Even when we know we should, it won’t just happen.

One of the hardest times to do it is when we believe our children are being hurt by the other parent’s inconsiderate or sinful behavior. For example, it’s your ex’s week-end to have the kids, but he or she never shows up.  Continue reading

Blended Families Part 13: Differences Between Households + LINKUP

 

blended-16

Blended Families Part 13: Differences Between Households

 

If you missed last week’s post on the importance of seeking forgiveness for your part in any conflict, I would encourage you to read it. It’s so important that we do our part to live at peace with everyone, including our ex-spouses.

This week in “Blended Families Part 13: Differences Between Households,” we’ll look at how to deal with the different rules and expectations between your house and that of your ex. We’ll also talk about how God can use it all for good.

Click here for previous posts in this series.

 

Different Rules & Expectations

 

Struggles over different rules and expectations from one household to another are some of the biggest and most frequent problems blended families and single divorced families face. If you’ve been divorced for any length of time, you’ve probably faced challenges in this area.

While parents may feel very strongly about their own rules, differences are not necessarily sinful, or even wrong, they are just different. If something is clearly immoral or illegal, you should involve the proper authorities. Otherwise, you should seek to accept one another’s differences.

Surprisingly, children can adjust to differing sets of rules. And since Philippians 2.3-4 says that we are to prefer others rather than ourselves, it’s wrong to insist that our rules be followed at the other parent’s home.

 

So on a practical level, how do you deal with differences in a God-honoring way?

 

Suppose you ask you son to turn off the TV and do his homework and he responds, “Dad lets me watch TV first.” You can just gently and firmly say, “That’s at dad’s house, now turn off the TV and do your homework.” No commentary needed.

Your ability to do it in a way that glorifies God will depend on your thinking. If you immediately think, “I can’t believe my ex is that irresponsible!” or “Why doesn’t he respect my rules?” it will show up in your attitude both with your son and your ex.

1 Corinthians 13.7 says, “love believes all things.” It might be better translated “love believes the best.” You can choose to believe the best about your ex. Watching TV first doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about your son’s homework, it just means he’s handling things differently.

We also have to learn to recognize the difference between our rules and God’s commandments. While you may think doing homework first is wiser, it’s your rule, not God’s commandment.  Continue reading

Blended Families Part 12: Seven A’s of Confession + LINKUP

 

Blended Families Part 12: Seven A's of Confession - In last week's post, Blended Families Part 11: How to Start Dealing with Ex's, we talked about some of the reasons for conflict and the beginning steps of working toward a better relationship with an ex-spouse. We discussed the need to first seek God's help to have the right heart attitude and then to do some self-examination.

Blended Families Part 12: Seven A’s of Confession

 

In last week’s post, Blended Families Part 11: How to Start Dealing with Ex’s, we talked about some of the reasons for conflict and the beginning steps of working toward a better relationship with an ex-spouse. We discussed the need to first seek God’s help to have the right heart attitude and then to do some self-examination (Matt. 7.3-5).

I suggested making a “log list” of ways you’ve sinned against your ex without focusing on what he or she has done or not done.

This week in “Blended Families Part 12: Seven A’s of Confession,” we’ll look at the next step.

Click here for previous posts in this series.

 

Seeking Peace Starts with You

 

God puts a high priority on peace and reconciliation in our relationships.

Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone (Rom. 12.18 NLT).

23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matt. 5.23-24).

He doesn’t say seek peace with everyone but your ex, but rather do “all that you can” to live at peace with “everyone.” Certainly, there are some people who won’t be at peace with us, but unless there is some reason (like physical abuse or safety issues), we should be willing to do our part.

The next step is seeking forgiveness for the things on your log list.

This can be challenging if you believe your ex-spouse is the one who should be asking for forgiveness, but remember, you are only responsible for you. What the other person has done is between them and God.

 

Seeking Forgiveness God’s Way

 

Seeking forgiveness requires three things: repentance, confession, and asking.

Repentance is a change of thinking that leads to a change of action. Confession is to agree with what God says about something and asking is more than saying, “I’m sorry.” It is a sincere request to be released from a debt.

 

The Seven A’s of Confession

 

Peacemaker Ministries explains what’s involved in a biblical confession:

  1. Address Everyone Involved. As a general rule, you should confess your sins to every person who has been directly affected by your wrongdoing. Note that since all sins offend God by violating His will, all sins should be first confessed to Him.
  2. Avoid If, But, and Maybe. The best way to ruin a confession is to use words that shift the blame to others or that appear to minimize or excuse your guilt.
  3. Admit Specifically. Specific admissions help convince others that you are honestly facing up to what your have done.
  4. Acknowledge the Hurt. Your goal is to show that you understand how the other person felt as a result of your words or actions. Although you should not dwell excessively on feelings, it is important to show that you understand how other people feel and to express genuine sorrow for hurting them.
  5. Accept the Consequences. The harder you work to make restitution and repair any damage you have caused, the easier it will be for others to believe your confession is genuine.
  6. Alter Your Behavior. Explain to the person how you plan to change your behavior in the future. This could involve describing some of the attitude, character, and behavior changes you hope to make with God’s help.
  7. Ask for Forgiveness (and Allow Time). Ask, “Will you forgive me?” Be willing to allow the person some time to work through things.

 

Examples of biblical confessions:

“I realize I have not been treating you fairly and I want to change. Specifically, I have made it hard for you to pick up the kids and I have frequently brought them to your house late, cutting into your time with them. I plan to make every effort to have them there on time and ready when you to pick them up at my house. I’d like to make it up to you by allowing you to have them for Thanksgiving, even though it’s my turn. I want you to know that I’m sincere and I hope to prove it to you. Will you forgive me?”

“I want to ask forgiveness for lying about you in court. I told the judge that you were not a good mother/father. I also lied about how much money I make. I have damaged your reputation and cheated you out of child support. I plan to write the judge a letter and I will give a copy to you and both of our lawyers so the child support can be adjusted. Will you please forgive me?”

Some of you probably gasped when you read the second one. Taking responsibility for things like that runs contrary to the adversarial nature of the divorce process. But we are called to live radical lives … radically pleasing to God. And remember part of sincere repentance includes a willingness to accept the consequences of our actions.

 

Push Back from Your Current Spouse

 

Even though you may be convinced of the necessity of confession and restitution, your current spouse may or may not be completely on board, especially where either contact with your ex or financial repercussions are concerned.  Continue reading

Blended Families Part 11: How to Start Dealing with Ex’s + LINKUP

 

Blended Families Part 11: How to Start Dealing with Ex'es - This week we'll begin talking about the prickly subject of dealing with ex's. Over the next couple of weeks we'll discover some things that may improve relationships so you can better co-parent your children and find out how to respond biblically when he or she isn't willing to work with you. In this post we'll look at some of the precipitating factors and talk about where to start.

Blended Families Part 11: How to Start Dealing with Ex’s

 

In last week’s post, “Behavior Contracts,” we talked about two tools for more successful and biblical parenting, “behavior contracts” and “think papers.” By the way, both are great tools for any family, not just blended ones.

This week in “How to Start Dealing with Ex’s,” we’ll begin talking about the prickly subject of dealing with ex-spouses. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll discover some things that may improve relationships so you can better co-parent your children and find out how to respond biblically when your ex isn’t willing to work with you. In this post we’ll look at some of the precipitating factors for this kind of conflict and talk about how to start working through the issues.

Click here for previous posts in this series.

 

A Lethal Combination of Guilt, Anger & Bitterness

 

Dealing with relationships with ex-spouses is often one of the most difficult challenges for a blended family. Although some formerly married couples are able to work out their differences and successfully co-parent their children, many find their attempts filled with conflict.

These conflicts can result in arguments over visitation, rules at each others’ homes, child support, and a host of other issues. Children are often expected to take sides, carry messages back and forth, and report back about what’s going on when they are with the other parent. Children can become casualties in a war that seems to never end.

Depending on who wanted or caused the divorce (at least in the eyes of the other person), ex-spouses can be filled with bitterness or guilt, anger or hurt or any combination.

A person who left may suffer guilt that causes them to continue trying to prove they were right in leaving. This results in constant complaining and criticizing.

The person who’s been sinned against may be angry and begrudge the other any happiness. He or she may hope the other one will finally realize what a huge mistake they made or somehow have to pay for their “crimes.” Their anger may not just be about how they have been hurt, but about how their children have been hurt, too.

Sometimes the conflict began during the former marriage, possibly even going on for years leading up to the divorce. Sometimes conflict comes to the surface when a former mate remarries.

In some cases, the anger, bitterness or guilt drains energy that should be going into a new marriage. In other cases, one spouse may spend a great deal of time and effort trying to appease the former spouse and keep peace at any cost. Both can create problems in a new marriage.

Guilt and anger can both cause problems in relationships with children and step-children. Guild may cause a biological parent to over-indulge their own children and/or be cold and indifferent, even harsh to their step-children.

Anger can be directed at children who want to live with or spend more time with the other parent. Some ex-spouses lay a big dose of guilt on children who start building a relationship with their step-parent.

No matter what combination of guilt, anger, bitterness or jealousy are driving the conflicts, God expects us to do our part to resolve the issues and respond in ways that are pleasing to Him (2 Cor. 5.9).

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matt. 5.23-24).

 

Where do you start?

 

It starts with you!

First, get your heart right. No matter how you’ve been sinned against or how often, God intends to use it for good in your life.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8.28-29).

When Joseph was reunited with his brothers after years spent as a slave and in prison because of their sin, he said:

19 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.21 Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Gen. 50)

 

Do Some Self-Examination

 

Second, examine yourself to see where you may be guilty of causing or aggravating conflict.

Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matt. 7)

Make a list of your own logs. Pray for God’s help, be brutally honest with yourself and Him. To do this effectively, you can’t minimize your part, blame-shift to your ex, or justify your sins.

Some possible logs:  Continue reading

Blended Families Part 10: Behavior Contracts + LINKUP

 

Blended Families Part 10: Behavior Contracts + LINKUP

Blended Families Part 10: Behavior Contracts

 

In last week’s post, “A Plan for Successful Step-Parenting,” we talked about beginning to plan for more effective step-parenting, starting with better communication between you and your spouse and working on a “behavior contract” for each child when age appropriate. Today we’ll talk about how to have a family conference and introduce the behavior contract to your children. We’ll also discuss how to get older children and teens to use a “think paper” to examine their own hearts and actions. (By the way, “behavior contracts” and “think papers” are great for all families, not just blended ones.)

Click here for previous posts in this series.

Last week I said that many parents in blended families (and all families) spend too much of their time putting out fires and dealing with bad behavior. Let’s look at our two parenting verses again:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6.4).

Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart (Col. 3.21).

More than merely dealing with bad behavior, parents should be instructing their children in right ways of living and responding. Rather than just trying to control their behavior, we should be teaching them to control themselves.  “Bringing them up” means helping them understand how to live under God’s authority and gain a desire to please Him.

Last week I introduced a “behavior contract” as a tool that can be useful in that plan.

Remember, God gives us clear instructions. He spells out how we should live and the consequences of disobeying Him (Gen. 2.16-17; Deut. 28; Gal. 6.7-8). We should do the same for our children so we don’t exasperate them with unclear expectations and inconsistency.

I suggested you start by making a list of the strengths and weaknesses of each child, list character qualities that need to be developed, and come up with appropriate rewards and consequences. From those lists you can work with your spouse to develop a behavior contract for each child.

Example for a 15-year-old boy:

behavior-contract

Notice, rewards are not always material things. Remember, the goal is to learn to live under God’s authority with a genuine desire to please Him.

 

Introducing the Behavior Contract to Your Children

 

Once you and your spouse have worked up a behavior contract for each child (you may have to simplify it for younger children), sit down as a family. If necessary, confess your own failures to be consistent, provide clear expectations, or any other way that you have sinned against them.

Let them know that you have confessed your failures to God (providing you have) and that you have a plan to change with His help. Explain the goal of parenting and that you will answer to God for your faithfulness in this area. Take a few minutes to pray as a family. You may want to read Ephesians 6.1-4 together.

teen-girlThen meet with each child and review their lists of strengths and weaknesses. Spend as much time praising them for their strengths as you do talking about their weaknesses. Explain the behavior contract and go over each item.

If the child has some suggestions to which you can agree, make those changes. But this is not a negotiation, you are the parents and you are not required to make changes that you don’t believe are beneficial.

Post the contract in a prominent place and take a few days to teach and implement it before beginning the consequences. When it’s necessary to give consequences, remind the child that consequences result from their choices. Forgetting is not an excuse. Consistency is key. It’s not the severity of the consequences, but the certainty of correction that brings results.  Continue reading

Blended Families Part 9: A Plan for Successful Step-Parenting + LINKUP

 

Blended Families Part 9: A Plan for Successful Step-Parenting - We've all heard the saying, "Fail to plan; plan to fail." In last week's post, "You're not my dad!," we talked about the challenges step-parents face when children don't recognize their authority or when step-parents refuse to get involved in parenting issues. Today we'll talk about a plan for successful step-parenting.

Blended Families Part 9: A Plan for Successful Step-Parenting

 

We’ve all heard the saying, “Fail to plan; plan to fail.” In last week’s post, “You’re not my dad!,” we talked about the challenges step-parents face when children don’t recognize their authority or when step-parents refuse to get involved in parenting issues. Today we’ll talk about a plan for successful step-parenting and a great tool for parents called a “behavior contract.”

 

Last week I said that God has a blueprint for marriage (Gen. 2.24) and because it involves a one flesh relationship, both biological parents and step-parents have a responsibility to bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6.4) and to not exasperate them or provoke them to anger (Col. 3.21; Eph. 6.4).

So how do we apply those principles to real life step-parenting?

 

Make a Plan

 

Some suggestions for getting started:

For the Biological Father:

  • Spend more time communicating with your wife. What are her concerns?
  • Work on a behavior contract for each of the children (more in a minute).
  • Communicate to your children that you support your wife, that she is their authority, and that they must obey her.
  • Have zero tolerance for disrespect toward her.

For the Step-Father:

  • Sit down with your wife and work out a behavior contract for each of the children.
  • Allow your wife to be the initial up-front person when both of you are present.
  • When you disagree with your wife, discuss it in private.
  • Remember that you are still the leader of the home and ultimately responsible for what goes on in the home, including parenting the children.

For the Biological Mother:

  • Recognize you husband is the head of the home.
  • Work with your husband to establish a behavior contract for each of the children.
  • Explain to the children that your husband is the head of the home. Explain they must obey his authority.
  • If you disagree with your husband, discuss it in private.

For the Step-Mother:

  • Ask your husband what responsibilities he wants you to handle.
  • Work with your husband to develop a behavior contract for each of the children.
  • Be consistent to follow through with your husband’s decisions.
  • If you disagree with your husband, discuss it in private.

 

What is a behavior contract?

 

A behavior contract is merely a tool to help you define your expectations for each child and the resulting consequences and rewards.

Many parents in blended families spend most of their time putting out fires and dealing with bad behavior. But God’s instructions involve much more. Let’s look at those two parenting verses again:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6.4).

Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart (Col. 3.21).

Disciplining for wrong behavior is only one part of parenting. Just as important, maybe more so in the long run, is instructing children in the right way to go.

God gives us clear instructions. He spells out how we should live and the consequences of disobeying Him (Gen. 2.16-17; Deut. 28; Gal. 6.7-8). We should do the same for our children. Too often children are exasperated because parents are inconsistent or unclear about their expectations. This is where a behavior contract can help.

 

Writing Out a Behavior Contract

 

Start by working together with your spouse to make a list of the strengths and weaknesses of each child. Examples might be:  Continue reading

Blended Families Part 8: “You’re not my dad!” + LINKUP

 

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?

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?

 

We’ve been talking about the challenges blended families face and some of the ways their struggles are common to us all.

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!”

When a child or teenager makes this statement, the implication is, you have no authority in my life.

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.

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, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 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.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. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 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?  Continue reading