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When you’re a stepparent, it’s not uncommon to take on a more passive role in your stepfamily. After all, these are not your biological children and they already have two parents looking after them. Unfortunately, this passivity often has adverse effects and before long, you’re left wondering how you were left with such little control over what’s going on in your life and in your home. Asserting yourself in your blended family can feel unnatural at times, but it’s completely necessary if you’re ever going to truly find your groove as a family. Here are ten ways to become a more assertive stepparent.

Get acquainted with the word “no”

Many stepmothers will attempt to people please their way into acceptance. The logic being, “If I’m nice enough, my stepfamily will have no choice but to love and accept me.” Sadly, niceness doesn’t guarantee acceptance and this mentality often sets stepmothers up to become a doormat who is constantly being taken advantage of. It’s a good thing to want to do for your stepchildren, but not at the expense of your mental health, happiness, and overall wellbeing. Saying no to requests that are unreasonable doesn’t make you a bad person and it definitely doesn’t make you an evil stepmother.

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Stop doing everything

While you’re getting reacquainted with the word “no,” you should also put your desire to do all and be all in check. It’s unrealistic and will often leave your feeling burned out and unappreciated. Do what you can, but it’s also okay to step back and allow others to pick up some of the slack. You are not a robot, you’re a human being with limitations just like everyone else.

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Establish boundaries

Boundaries are important in any relationship and stepfamilies are no different. Boundaries are guidelines that teach people how to treat you. While it may feel easier to go along to get along, it’s important to communicate clearly with your spouse and stepchildren about boundaries in regard to your household and relationships.

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Remember that this your life too

When stepping into the role of a stepparent, it can be pretty easy to feel as though you’ve lost control of your life. Not only do you have to consider the children and their needs and wants, but it often also means that you have to take the needs and wants of your spouse’s ex into consideration as well. While some experts will tell you to adopt the mentality that the children must come first, it is also important to remind yourself that this is your life too and your needs are also important.

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Drown out the voices that say, “you signed up for this”

People like to play mind games and bully stepparents into submission by telling them “you signed up for this” in order to avoid listening or acting on their concerns. And so often, we internalize the phrase and use it to deny ourselves when the going gets tough. Don’t fall for the bullsh-t. Stepparenting is hard as hell and few people truly comprehend how difficult it is until they’re knee-deep in it.

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Realize that you can’t please everyone

Remember that people-pleasing we talked about in slide one? Here’s another reason to stop trying to do so: you’ll never succeed. It’s impossible to make sure that everyone is happy at all times. Someone is almost always going to be upset, especially in these scenarios, regardless of how hard you try to bend over backward. It’s best that you learn to be okay with that. The only person’s happiness that you are completely responsible for is your own. Do what you can for others and keep it moving, but don’t drive yourself crazy.

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Speak up when something bothers you

Stepparents are known for taking things on the chin and biting their tongues way longer than they should for the sake of keeping the peace. Sadly, this only leads to crippling resentment that either leads to permanent damage in the marriage, stepparenting relationship, or both. You are not required to tolerate being disrespected or dismissed just because you chose to marry a person with kids.

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Correct inappropriate behavior

Many stepparents choose to leave discipline to the child’s biological parents. However, discipline and correction are two very different things. Do not allow anyone to convince you that it is not your place to correct your stepchild if something inappropriate takes place in your presence. Subscribing to the notion that you can’t say anything to your bonus kids about their behavior will leave you feeling both frustrated and powerless in your own home. It doesn’t mean that you have to scream, yell, or even take on a negative tone; however, you should feel comfortable calling out inappropriate behavior and telling them to stop.

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Use daily affirmations

Raising children is hard work, whether they’re biologically yours or not. Keep yourself grounded by meditating and using daily affirmations to start your day. Some of the affirmations recommended by FreeAffirmationns.org include:

“I am assertive”
“I speak my mind”
“I tell others how I feel”
“I stand up for myself”
“I am confident when talking to others”
“I am firm with others when needed”
“I set boundaries and tell others what I want”
“I speak my mind openly”
“I confidently take control of a situation when needed”
“I express myself honestly”

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Stop falling for the guilt trips

Divorce sucks and they can be especially hard on children. They didn’t ask for this. No child wants to see their parents break up and it can be hard for children to see their parents with someone new. This is all true, but what’s also true is that you had nothing to do with anything of those things, so feel free to let go of the guilt. Continuing to carry the weight of this will only make you crazy and convince that you’re required to tolerate inappropriate behavior.

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