There’s a refrain I hear pretty often in comments from stepmoms in my Facebook group, The Spectacular Stepmom. Their partner has agreed to do something, usually around discipline, rules, schedules or schoolwork, but somehow he never follows through and nothing changes.
When this happens, it’s easy to get emotional because it feels like you’re being ignored or like your opinions and needs don’t matter.
Here are some fresh ways to look at this situation and some strategies for what to do next.
1. Let’s get something straight; we all agree to do things that we don’t follow through on.
That’s what New Years resolutions are all about! We set ourselves a task to make some kind of change, but who ever follows through the way they intended?
The harder the thing is, the more likely it is that you won’t follow through, at least not for long or not the way you hoped you would.
So, just like when you promise yourself you’ll get to the gym 5 days a week or cut down on coffee, this could really be a failure of willpower rather than a failure of goodwill.
TIP: If you think this is what’s happening, don’t nag (because…you’re not his mother!) but do ask what you can do to help. Support him as he works to make a change he really wants to make but has trouble with for any number of reasons.
You can help by checking out books, videos, podcasts or other resources on parenting techniques. It totally takes a village to raise a child – even for a dad.
2. It might be about something you really notice but that he barely sees, like mess or chaos.
Personal share: I love to live in a clean environment, but I’m not much help to myself much in that regard. I’m really happy when my husband cleans the kitchen because he does a way better job than I do. I have a crazy habit of leaving a few things in the sink when I’m done cleaning. I do it all the time, it’s like I don’t even see them! I also leave the cupboard doors open a lot despite my best intentions to not do that. I’m not being lazy or passive-aggressive, I just don’t notice it – it’s that simple.
Your spouse might have a blind spot for something that really irritates you.
TIP: Ask if he prefers that you bring it to his attention (without nagging) or just ignore it. Many stepmoms find that it just takes a few weeks of allowing things to truly pile up for their partner to start noticing sooner and either doing his part or getting his kids to do theirs.
N.B. If what your husband fails to notice is a child’s inconsiderate behaviour directed at you, I believe you should always point that out, although not in front of the child. I don’t think anyone should ignore being badly treated. Besides, it’s his job to teach his kids appropriate social skills, and hopefully he doesn’t really want to raise brats.
3. He might have agreed with you about whatever it was in order to avoid an argument, although he doesn’t really share your ideas about parenting.
Truth is, he gets to raise his kids the way he wants. He doesn’t have to agree with you although it would be great if you could have a better conversation about that so you know where you both stand.
The definition of integrity is *acting in alignment with your values*. If you aren’t clear about what your values are, or if you easily give up on your values whenever they require some effort or sacrifice, you’re not showing the best of yourself to your kids – the very people who deserve to see it the most! It’s really important to do what you say you’re going to do.
TIP: Let go of what you don’t agree about so he doesn’t feel that you’re judging him. While it’s his right to do things his way, it’s very important not to send a mixed message to his kids. Announcing consequences that never happen is just as bad as promising something good and not delivering on it. Being reliable is the cornerstone of good parenting.
At the end of the day, the most important thing you can do to help your partner follow through is making sure you schedule regular time to be alone together – time to nurture each other in your relationship, time to celebrate what’s working well in your family which will always be a work in progress.
If it helps at all, know that the special challenges of step-parenting are helping you to hone your skill at being happy *no matter* the external circumstances. Imagine how powerful you’ll be when you can feel perfectly happy standing in your messy kitchen or knee-deep in laundry. You’ll be able to conquer anything!
Want more solid advice about getting good follow-through about discipline and more? Subscribe to the Essential Stepmom podcast, wherever you listen.