The dynamics of being a step-parent often feel rather precarious. You’re a parent, but you’re not “the” parent. One of the big hurdles that many stepparents can deal with during this process is keeping their word to their children. They can often think to themselves, “how do I keep my word as a stepparent”.
While this requires extra work on your part when building a relationship with your step-child and often feels like most things are out of your control, it provides for some major perks and possibilities.
One thing I found that really helped in this process is by teaching the child that reliability is a wonderful trait in those around you. It will show that keeping your word to someone is very important in any relationship and will benefit everyone in the long run.
So how do you keep your word as a stepparent and get the same results from your stepchildren? By leading by example.
Why It’s Important To Keep My Word As A Step-Parent
Learning to trust is one of life’s most difficult tasks -Isaac Watts
There are many great quotes out there that talk about trust and as much as they can help at the moment, building this reality for the long term can be hard.
To really understand this concept and apply it to your, you will have to jump into how trust is really built and understand how you can also accomplish this just by putting in the effort.
Blind Trust Versus Earned Trust
Children inherently trust their parents. Their parents’ beliefs and demeanors are all they know during their formative years.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that parents are infallible well into a child’s teenage years, regardless of their composure. Children learn about the world through the lens of their foundations and everyday exposure but one day, that child can sit back and realizes that their parents could be wrong.
Think back for a moment over your childhood.
You may be able to pinpoint the first time you realized your parents weren’t flawless. For me, I was 15 years old on an airplane, which my parents had assured me was perfectly safe (it was), and it occurred to me that they might be wrong.
It altered my entire thought process, and suddenly I was questioning everything they’d ever told me. It was a revelation like no other, and it has stuck with me for nearly 20 years.
For step-parents, this blind trust doesn’t exist.
You have to earn the child’s trust. Depending on the child’s age, they might even be wary of you initially, making this process that much more challenging.
One thing you need to remember is that trust takes time. Rome was not built in one day and it is certainly difficult to build true trust with someone in a short period of time. It takes many encounters and conversations to really build a true bond with an individual so do not try to rush the process.
Another key thing to understand is that breaking that trust is one of the worst, if not, the worst thing you can do to another person. Once it’s broken, it’s hard to earn back.
This is why making promises and keeping them as a stepparent is one of the most important things you can do to build an everlasting bond with the child
It’s not just the big promises either.
Yes, it matters if you promise you’ll take them to Disneyworld this summer and then don’t, but it also matters if you promise you’ll show up for their chorus concert or help them bake cookies for their class.
It matters if you say you’ll take them to a friend’s house and pick them up at 3 am if they need you. Every promise you make and keep is one more step towards earning their trust and building a lasting relationship, and this trust becomes more and more imperative as they grow older.
The Perks of Earned Trust
While earned trust takes more effort, it lasts longer and is stronger than blind trust.
There will be many times that they’re nervous about approaching their bio-parents about something, and they need a safe outlet to express concerns and fears that they might otherwise keep to themselves.
As they age, they’ll turn to someone who has earned their trust. There’s a pivotal point, like the one I mentioned above, in which children begin to question their parents’ reliability. It’s crucial at this junction that at least one person within the parental spectrum has earned their trust.
Remember, you’re helping raise an entire human being with their own thoughts, fears, and issues. If you remain trustworthy, they always have someone in their corner they can turn towards, especially if they mess up. (They will mess up; they’re kids.)
I cannot count the times my step-children called me first because they knew I’d show up regardless of whatever else I had going on.
No excuses. I had promised them this, and they knew without a doubt they could count on me. Why? Because I spent years making promises and keeping them. I spent years making sure they could rely on me in a time of need. I put my children (both bio and bonus) first, above all else.
I’m not saying their parents were unreliable at all, simply that I had carefully cultivated a relationship in which they never had to doubt my dependability, and I was always upfront with them.
I had to work for it, which made me more aware of my words and actions than I might have otherwise been. All in all, when you’re asking yourself how do I keep my word as a stepparent, remember that earned trust is the key to this whole situation.
Is This All About Them Trusting Me?
No, this isn’t just about their trust at all.
There are numerous reasons beyond having the confidence of your step-child. As a step-parent, you’re not only a partner to your spouse; you’re a triad or quad of co-parents raising a child.
Earning the trust of the other co-parents is essential too, especially if the bio-parent/co-parent relationship isn’t the most ideal. It’s nice to think that everyone co-parents in perfect harmony, but it’s not a given or even the norm.
By keeping your promises to everyone involved, many aspects of parenting will be easier. If you say you’ll be there at 5 o’clock and don’t show up until 6:30, everyone has spent an hour and a half waiting for you.
That’s not okay, and it puts an unnecessary strain on both the child and the other co-parent.
Also, each parent, regardless of status, will affect the overall demeanor of the child as they age.
The example you set for your step-child matters just as much as that of the bio-parents, and sadly, in some cases, you might be one of the only reliable adults they encounter daily.
If it’s within your power to provide a shining example of credibility, they’ll soak it up and use it in their own lives as they become partners and parents themselves.
Understand That No One Is Perfect!
Due to the nature of step-parenting and what you represent as a factor a “step” outside of their parents, this is one habit you want to make a point of sticking to, no matter what.
You represent the outer world within the familial relationship. If you wish to raise a child that can easily see through someone with less than complimentary intentions, it starts with you.
You must understand a promise that isn’t kept becomes a lie. If you aren’t sure you will be able to keep a promise, don’t make it. It’s as simple as that.
Honesty is necessary and acceptable. It’s okay to say, “I’m not sure I’ll be able to, but I’ll try my best” or “I’ll aim for 5:30, but it might be 6 o’clock.” Being upfront about what you can commit to is another way to set a good example for your step-child.
Once you find a rhythm with them, it’ll mean more when you fully commit. They’ll know you mean it.
Of course, you can try your hardest, and things will happen that make it impossible to keep a promise. Don’t worry! As long as you’re doing your best, not making excuses, and you’ve been as honest and upfront as possible, your step-child will understand.
Life happens. It’s when late pickups become a habit, or they’re counting on you and you don’t follow through, that issues arise.
Related: When your child betrays your trust
Final Thoughts – How Do I Keep My Word As A Stepparent
Step-parenting can feel very isolating in the beginning as you find your way. You might be thinking to your self “how do I keep my word as a stepparent”. It can be frustrating especially if this is new to you but in reality, these feelings are normal.
It can be easy to feel jealous of the blind faith and trust children place in their bio-parents, especially if one of the parents is notorious for breaking that trust and the child still holds that parent on a pedestal.
There’s a rule in parenting that should apply to all involved, and it’s just as important as keeping promises. Never, and I seriously mean never, bad mouth any of the other parents to the child, even if they’re doing it to you. There are many ways you can handle this situation differently.
This is an unspoken promise you can make to your step-child and yourself on day one and keep indefinitely. They’ll never know, but that’s okay. Just keep to it, and you’ll be doing your absolute best for them from the very beginning.