When I first met my husband, my step-daughter was four years old. She was so young and impressionable and, naively, all I wanted to do was to help him protect her from the “big bad world” and be the best mom I could be when she was with us. What I didn’t realize immediately was that there were areas where there would be some discord when it came to making decisions about this little girl’s life. I knew that there were issues that caused the divorce in the first place, but I didn’t think that differing parenting styles were going to be a problem. Wow, was I wrong.
I love my step-daughter. I really do. She is a great kid and I like to spend time with her and talk to her. I wish I could do more to make sure that she has the kind of upbringing I am trying hard to give my younger girls, but I hit a brick wall sometimes. When I first met my step-daughter, she was so young and I wanted her to stay that way forever. What parent doesn’t? I soon realized that different people have different opinions about how your decisions can affect innocence of children.
We all could agree that taking a young girl to see a boxing match is too violent. Taking her to a downtown bar has disaster written all over it. Great! We agree on something! Watching a movie where a blind girl is getting chased through the woods by a red monster? Where is the harm in that? She wasn’t really paying attention anyway. No, I guess our parenting styles aren’t the same, are they?
I’ll admit that I am lucky because my husband and I are on the same page about many things. We have two younger daughters of our own in addition to my step-daughter so it comes pretty natural to see eye-to-eye on matters concerning her. The hang-up is trying to speak with the other biological parent about our concerns over the kinds of movies that my step-daughter is exposed to. How does a step-parent battle a strong-willed biological parent? First, you don’t battle. Second, you don’t do anything head on. That will just give you a headache.
One of the best ways to handle a disagreement between biological parents and step-parents over movies that a child is exposed to, if direct confrontation about the inappropriateness of the movie choices doesn’t work, is to talk with the child. Granted, some bells can’t be unrung and some kids aren’t old enough to help in this manner but communication with your step-child will rarely be in vain. A conversation about the movies he or she is watching can give you some great quality time together. Ask them to recap the movie. What did they like about it? What did they not like? What did they remember most? Did they feel it was an appropriate movie? I love to talk to my step-daughter about what she thinks. It is the only way I am going to be able to understand her more but I also use these conversations as teaching moments. Rather than bashing on her mother for the poor choices she has made, I let her know what I would have done in the situation and why. I ask her what she would do in the situation. I ask her what she thought about the more adult scenarios in the movies and get her to open up. Now, I won’t pretend that I am naive enough to believe that she doesn’t ever say what she thinks I want to hear, all kids play their parents, biological or not. But the quality time I spend with her conversing about the controversial movies, is time well-spent, especially compared to the useless arguing that I could do with her “real” parent(s).