FamilyLife Blended® Podcast

95: Good Parenting, Good Stepparenting

with Gayla Grace, Ginger Hubbard | September 26, 2022
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As parents and stepparents, we want to raise our kids well, but we often feel inadequate. In this episode, Ron Deal talks with Ginger Hubbard about parenting the heart of our children, seeking a change in behavior that stems from a change in their heart, and motivating them to become God-pleasers, not people-pleasers.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Ron Deal

    Ron L. Deal is one of the most widely read and viewed experts on blended families in the country. He is Director of FamilyLife Blended® for FamilyLife®, founder of Smart Stepfamilies™, and the author and Consulting Editor of the Smart Stepfamily Series of books including the bestselling Building Love Together in Blended Families: The 5 Love Languages® and Becoming Stepfamily Smart (with Dr. Gary Chapman), The Smart Stepfamily: 7 Steps to a Healthy Family, and Preparing to Blend. Ron is a licensed marriage and family therapist, popular conference speaker, and host of the FamilyLife Blended podcast. He and his wife, Nan, have three sons and live in Little Rock, Arkansas. Learn more at

As parents and stepparents, we want to raise our kids well, but we often feel inadequate. In this episode, Ron Deal talks with Ginger Hubbard about parenting the heart of our children and motivating them to become God-pleasers, not people-pleasers.

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95: Good Parenting, Good Stepparenting

With Gayla Grace, Ginger Hubbard
September 26, 2022
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Ginger: Our whole purpose in training our children really is to help them understand that their sinful behavior stems from a sinful heart and that the only cure for a sinful heart is Jesus. When we depend on worldly methods for disciplining our kids that fail to expose the heart issues that drive that outward behavior, we miss the opportunity to point them to their need for Jesus, who is our only hope for real change.

Ron: Hey, welcome. This is FamilyLife Blended and I'm Ron Deal. This donor supported podcast helps blended families, and those who love them, pursue the relationships that matter most.

So glad you've joined us on this journey. Welcome to Episode number 95: Good Parenting, Good Stepparenting. Because hey, you want to be a better parent, right? Right. We'll stay tuned.

We recently heard from Sarah who gave us a five-star review. Thank you for that. She says, “I stumbled onto FamilyLife Blended and I've been bingeing back episodes.
And by the way, I think that's a great idea. We have a lot of great episodes. If you haven't caught up, hey, go back to number one and just start. She continues. She says I've listened. I've heard so many good nuggets for myself, our family and our friends. I share it often and find so much value. Thank you for your efforts. Such a blessing to me.” Well, hey Sarah, we're thrilled the podcast is making a difference in your life and thanks for paying it forward to others. Now you're making a difference in their lives. That's pretty cool.

By the way, if you really want to make a difference in people's lives, we've got a Summit on Stepfamily Ministry coming up real soon, helping you and your local church make a difference in the lives of other blended families. That's what this event is all about. It's the premier stepfamily ministry training event, and it's happening real soon, October 13 and 14, 2022, but it's not too late. You can join us. The show notes will tell you how.

Okay, I've said for years that nothing will drive you to your knees in prayer, more than parenting. Man, do we want good things for our kids? And boy, do we want to raise them well? But if you're like me, you know how inadequate you are to that task. Parenting is one thing; training the heart of your child to walk with God is another. Well, we're going to tackle both today in this episode of FamilyLife Blended.

Ginger Hubbard is the best-selling author of Don't Make Me Count to Three, Wise Words for Moms, and I Can't Believe You Just Said That. She speaks at events and conferences across the country, and she co-hosts the Parenting with Ginger Hubbard podcast. She's a mom and a stepmom to four children. You can learn more about her at

Gayla Grace and I interviewed her recently about parenting the heart and mind and soul of our kids. Here's our conversation with Ginger Hubbard.

Hey, Ginger. Thanks so much for joining Gayla and I on this episode. Thanks for being here.

Ginger: Yes. Thank you, Ron. I'm happy to be on with you guys.

Ron: For people who are not familiar with your podcast, would you just tell us a little bit about the kinds of things that you guys talk about?

Ginger: Sure. The Parenting with Ginger Hubbard podcast, we are all about helping parents learn how to reach past outward behaviors and really learn how to pull out what is going on in the hearts of their children, and then point them to the transformational power of Christ. And from a practical standpoint, we are all about helping parents move past the frustrations of not knowing how to handle specific issues with their children and into a confident and heart oriented and biblical approach to raising their kids

Ron: Past the frustrations to the child's heart; Gayla, boy, I could have used some of that when I was raising my kids.

Gayla: I'm thinking the same thing, Ron. Oh gosh.

Ron: You know, for many years, Gayla, people have asked you and I, “Where were you 20 years ago?” “Where were you five years ago when we started our family?” I'm thinking “Ginger, where were you 27 years ago when—I know you've been doing this a long time.

Gayla: I agree.

Ginger: Well, I was actually in first grade then, Ron, so— [Laughter] I’m just kidding.

Ron: Alright; we're going to go with that lie. That's our new reality. [Laughter] No; it's great to have you with us today. Hey, so Gayla, let's just for the listener/let's set this conversation up a little bit. We talk a lot on this podcast about stepparenting, co-parenting with another household/with a former spouse. We talk about the uniquenesses and intricacies of blended family parenting. What we don't spend a lot of time talking about is just the qualities of good parenting. Like what does it take to manage your child's behavior, to help teach and train their heart as Ginger just mentioned.

I think we're going to spend a little time today talking about good parenting and then layering in some of the other stuff on top of that. How does that sound to you?

Gayla: Yes, I think that's great because good parenting applies no matter what family you're in—traditional, stepfamily. I think it'll be very applicable.

Ron: Right. I just want to say to the biological parent, who's listening; yes, take this stuff, absorb it, run with it, say how in the world can I start to do that? For the stepparent, who's listening to this. You're going to run it through a couple of filters of: where's my relationship with the kids today? Am I in a place where I can implement this stuff directly?—maybe indirectly. How about if I work towards this? Maybe I shouldn't do that, but I can do this. You know, those would be some of the filters that we would give you as you're listening to the content.

Okay, Ginger, so there we go; let's dive in. As I was thinking about this conversation with you, I was thinking, “You know, it didn't take very long for the world/the Satan, if we could just refer to him as that, to mislead God's children. We don't know how long Adam and Eve were running around the garden naked, having fun. We have no idea, but I don't think it was too terribly long before temptation came into the world and the whole thing got thrown out of kilter.

So here we are as parents living today in a sinful world, as a result of that. And at the same time, you don't want us as parents to be influenced by the world in how we parent. What have you found to be the primary problem with the way the world tells us to raise our kids?

Ginger: Well, Ron, there are just so many faulty child training methods out there. And what I've discovered to be the common denominator in all of them is an emphasis on a behavioral change instead of a heart change. But we need to remember that our goal is not just to get our children to outwardly comply, but to reach their hearts with a gospel of Christ.

When we adopt these popular, but deceptive, worldly, parenting philosophies, and methods that the world offers where the goal is just behavior modification only, we miss the issues of the heart and the whole purpose of training our children. We need to learn how to recognize and resist the temptation to parent as the world tells us to parent and to look to the infallible word of God, where we've been provided with everything we need for life and godliness.

2 Peter 1:3-5 says “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who has called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” So bottom line is that everything the world offers that's contrary to what the word of God tells us is corrupt, including the way the world tells us to parent.

Ron: Hmm. I'm keying in on that word. Corrupt. Uh, I've often thought of my job as a parent is to try to give my kids a hard drive in their heart/in their mind, so they can think, so they can respond based on truth, and the software to run it. If I'm just telling them what to do from the outside, that's not really them learning how to be a person/how to live in faithfulness to God. If they have a corrupt hard drive, well, you can't do anything.
And that's essentially what the world gives us as parents and gives our kids, I think.

Ginger: That's right. And the/our whole purpose in training our children really is to help them understand that their sinful behavior stems from a sinful heart and that the only cure for a sinful heart is Jesus. When we depend on worldly methods for disciplining our kids that fail to expose the heart issues/that drive that outward behavior, we miss the opportunity to point them to their need for Jesus, who is our only hope for real change.

If we could view all of their sinful behaviors as precious opportunities to point them to Jesus, we would be far more righteous in our training. We would be eager and joyful all the time rather than angry and frustrated. But now I will say, I know better than anyone that that is so much easier said than done, but we are to strive for our attitude to be like the attitude of Christ. And when we blow it, which we are all going to blow it sometimes, we can be thankful for forgiveness and grace.

Gayla: Amen.

Ron: Gayla, did you see your kids’ misbehavior as joyful opportunities to help train them? [Laughter]

Gayla: No, no; usually it just created frustration in me. You know, the other thing that I hear you saying, Ginger, that Ron and I, we talk about sometimes is to chase the pain, look at what is behind that behavior instead of just looking at surface value of, “Oh, this is misbehavior. I have to address it.” But what's behind that? What is—you know, the behavior is just a symptom, and we want to get to the root of it is what I hear you saying.

Ginger: That's right. Because there are just so many parents who have developed this philosophy that if they could get their children to act right, to behave, that they're raising them the right way, but there is far more to parenting than getting our children and our stepchildren to act right. We have to get them to think right and to be motivated out of a love for God, rather than a fear of punishment. The only way we can do that is to look past that outward behavior and get to the heart of the matter. If we can reach the heart, well then the behavior's going to take care of itself.

Ron: And that's the long-term play. We're trying to raise adults. We're trying to raise people who don't need us anymore. We're trying to work ourselves out of a job, right?

Ginger: That's right. That's right. And you know, we also need to keep in mind that it is possible for us to cause our children to change their irritating behavior to that which is acceptable to us without an actual heart change taking place. But teaching children to change their outward behavior only, that's really no more commendable than teaching a seal to jump through a hoop. A change in behavior that does not stem from a change in heart is not commendable. It's actually condemnable because it's based on that same sort of hypocrisy that Jesus condemned in the Pharisees.

He said that they honored him with their lips that is outwardly, but that their hearts were far from him. And Jesus labeled them as people who washed the outside of the cup while the inside was still unclean. So that can happen if we are only addressing those outward behaviors, but not really addressing the heart issues.

Ron: I want to get into some of the worldly parenting strategies that you say are just not effective here in just a minute. But I just got my toes stepped on just a little bit when you said that, because if I as a parent am not cleaning the inside of the cup, in my own heart, how in the world am I going to help train and teach my child to do that in their heart?

If I'm just focused on the externals for me—looking good, doing what need to do, being successful, making the money, whatever it is, that's all exterior also; that's not really a heart who's chasing after God. And so, this always starts with me, doesn't it?

Ginger: It does. I think it's important that our children know that we realize that as well; that we have some of these same struggles that they have. And so when we blow it with our kids—sometimes the times that I blew it with my kids and my step kids turned out to be some of the most teachable moments, because God was able to use that for me to humble myself in front of my children and stepchildren and say, “You know, the angry way that I just spoke to you, it did show respect for you and it did not honor God. Will you please forgive me? Let me try that again, in a way that does show respect for you and does honor God.”

And so, when I would, you know, just humbly come before my children and admit that I've blown it and ask their forgiveness, God's spirit comes down in those moments because what our children are witnessing then, and our stepchildren, is they see what the conviction of the Holy Spirit looks like and the way that we are to rightly respond to that conviction of the Holy Spirit. When we blow it, we don't need to just beat ourselves up. We need to even take those opportunities to let our children see what repentance and making things right looks like.

Ron: Okay, I’ve got to follow up because you guys are both stepmoms. I love what you just said. I'm also imagining somebody listening right now going “Okay, I'm the stepparent and I've got a tenuous relationship with this stepchild in particular as it is, and I just made a big mistake and now you want me to own it—you want me to admit that/you want me to apologize? They already have enough weapons against me. Why would I want to give them more ammunition in that?” What would you say?

Ginger: Well, again, because that is what we're called to do. When we sin against God, when we sin against someone else, we are called to go and repent and to make things right with that person. Anytime I've ever done that, I never felt like it gave my kids, or my step kids, ammunition against me. Instead, it helped them to see that I am human. I'm sinful, just like they are. And I blow it just like they do, but that I have this desire to make things right, because I love them, and I love God and I want to do the right thing by them.

I never felt like that gave them ammunition. I always felt like it really, that God used those moments to soften their hearts and to see again, what the conviction of the Holy Spirit looks like in the way that we're supposed to rightly respond to that.

Gayla: Exactly. You know the verse you quoted earlier from 2 Peter talks about in his power. Ron, I think some of this stuff we can't do on our own, it's only in the power of the Holy Spirit. Are we going to do what we know is the right thing to do?

Also, I always love to think about God's grace and how God's grace is continuous for us, even when we don't deserve it. And how much more do we need to offer that grace to our step kids and our kids and what a difference it makes in relationships.

And so, I think that sometimes we just have to realize, “Well, what's the long-term outcome going to be? It's going to be good if I choose to be humble and offer grace and continue doing my part, even when it's hard.”

Ginger: When we are willing to humble ourselves, God's grace always comes down when we're willing to humble ourselves.

Ron: Yes, it does, and that's what we're promised. I think that principle applies in human relationships as well. So let me just talk to that stepparent for just a second. The fear in you that says, “No, I can't own that or admit that in front of this child, because we have a difficult relationship right now” is I think another lie.

I think if you own, if you admit, if you humble down, the first reaction from the child might be “Ha, I got some ammunition against you,” but the long-term response from that child more than likely is one of a softening of their heart, rather than a hardening of their heart. They begin to respect you even more because of who you are and because you're not pretentious and acting like you've got it all together when you really don't. So that draws them toward you, which is what you want.

So, as Ginger said, when she made her first comment about this, this is tremendous influence when we humble down in front of our kids about this. And again, keep in mind the long-term play here is you're modeling for them a heart that you hope that they too will adopt. And so that is training of the heart.

Okay. So, let's kind of walk through some of those parenting approaches that really have more of a world's priority behind them; not God's priority behind them. They may work from an external standpoint of reshaping behavior in the short term, but they're not really going to be the long-term play that we're really after. Bribing; is that a good one, Ginger?

Ginger: It is. I think that's probably one of the most common mistakes that parents make that fails to reach the heart. And it's probably also one of the easiest traps to fall into because it's just so tempting to say something like, “Honey, if you obey mom in the store today, I'll give you some candy.”

I observed this mom in Walmart telling her three-year-old—he looked like he was two and a half/three years old—to come to her. The child heard the instructions completely, ignored his mom, and just took off running in the other direction. And in desperation, this mom yells down the aisle of Walmart, “Come to mommy and I'll give you a sucker.”
And of course, the child goes from hearing impaired to exceptional hearing and comes quickly to mom's side.

But this is not training the child in obedience. This is rewarding the child for stubbornness. Giving them a reward in order to get them to obey, that encourages them in selfishness. Because their motive for obeying is “Yeah, sure. I'll obey for what I can get out of it,” and that's a selfish reason. Children should be taught to obey because it's right and because it pleases God, not to get a reward.

Ron: You know, we've got a golden retriever at our house, Gayla, and that strategy works really well towards it. [Laughter] We can get this dog to do whatever we want.
All we’ve got to do is have a big enough treat. [Laughter]

Ginger: Well, but you're talking about dogs. We're talking about children.

Ron: Oh, okay. Alright, yes; there's a small, important point right there.

Gayla: That's good; differentiate between the two.

Ginger: I will say though, that I used bribing with potty training. Don't ever ask me any questions about potty training for our podcast. We have had so many people, our listeners write in and say, “Can you talk about potty training?” I'm like, “No, no, I actually can't. I have nothing to say about potty training. It was a terrible experience in our home. I don't know what I did wrong, so I don't need to be advising you on this.” But I did bribe with that. I had a little jar of M&M's®. So there are exceptions.

Ron: It's okay if you don't agree with this, but I kind of think that bribing as something that helps children move into a skill set that they don't want to try but they could learn, or you know, trying a new food or trying a new—you're going to learn to play the piano.
“Well, we'd like for you to just try it and if you'll give it a shot, we'll reward you with this.” That's not heart training. That's just, we want to try to help you step into a new space in your life. There might be a time and a place for that, but I am totally 100% agreement with you that when bribing is our primary strategy to regain some semblance of control over what's happening with the child, we are in deep trouble.

Ginger: Right. I totally agree with what you're saying, Ron; that that's very different. You know, if a child is learning how to hone a skill and you want to give them a reward for that, there's nothing wrong with that. Rewards motivate us to learn new skills and to do things well. I mean, just like when you win athletic games, you get trophies; that's a reward. So that's very different learning a skill. And I kind of lump that in with potty training. That's learning a new skill.

Ron: Yes; that’s exactly what I was thinking.

Ginger: It's fine to reward for that. Yes, I agree 100 percent. But what I'm talking about here is when it comes down to God's command for children to obey their parents. They need to do that out of a motive of “Because it's the right thing to do,” not because “Oh, yes, if I obey, I'm going to get something out of it.” You don't want their motive for obeying God's commands to be for selfish reasons like that. You want it to be out of a heart of “This is right. God tells me to obey my parents and so I want to please Him, and I want to do the right thing just because it's the right thing to do.”

Ron: I'm imagining when two households get into a bribing war with a child. You offer one bribe, and the other household offers a bigger bribe or something more specific that the child wants. “Well, we'll give you a smartphone.” “Well, we'll give you the internet in your room.” “Well, we'll give you …” On and on it goes. All of a sudden, this kid has so much power in their world and very few boundaries, because everybody's trying to win them over.

Ginger: Right. That's right.

Something else that just popped into my head is I recently heard someone advising for a child that is stealing to have a chest of toys or treats in it and every time the child, like say goes into the parent's bedroom to steal something, instead they say, “Okay, if you want to go in here and steal this, instead of doing that, you can go to the treasure chest and get a prize.” Well, to me, that's not wise at all because I mean, that's/all that's going to do is motivate the child to steal more because then I get to go get more prizes.

So, you know, there's a balance there in knowing when a reward is okay, and when we need to teach our children to do what's right because God has called them to do what's right, and out of a heart to obey Him and please Him.

Gayla: Yes. And you know, Ron, I'm thinking about where we do talk about differences in two homes. Oftentimes, there is kind of this competition that can go on between homes and co-parents. I mean, nobody ever wins when you're trying to just one up somebody. And so, you know, Ginger, what I hear you saying is we just pull out of that altogether and instead, we take a whole different route and say, “We're training our kids’ heart. That's what we're looking at.”

We're not going to compete with something that's going on in another home. Instead, we're going to take a whole different approach and it starts with God loves you. God has a plan for you. And as a result of that, we obey Him. We're called to obey Him and also know the love of Him for us, which gives us motivation I feel like to obey Him, and we pull out of that competition stuff that can go on with co-parenting.

Ginger: Right. And also, we want to point out, we don't want to just use God's word when our children have done something wrong. Think about it; when a child does something right on their own without being told to do that, what's the first thing they want to do? They want to come tell you about it because there's so much joy in their hearts. And so, when they come to us with something like that, because they've done the right thing, “Oh honey, that joy that I see in your heart that is bubbling up and overflowing, God put that joy in your heart because you just chose to obey Him and to follow His commands.” And when we do that, He puts joy in our hearts, which reflects His own joy.

And so, those are the kind of conversations that we want to have with our kids instead of offering them a bribe to obey.

Ron: Okay, one last thought, and then we'll move on to the next one. Bribing is what you do on the front end to get somebody to do something. Reward is what you spontaneously do on the back end. It could be just coming on the reward they are feeling and the joy that they're experiencing, or it could be a hug or a smile or a, “Hey, love the effort that you put into that. Way to go. You definitely are reaping the benefits of all the work.” Those sorts of rewarding thoughts and comments and affirmations from parents, that's on the back end. Bribes, what you use on the front end.

Okay. Another one you talk about is threatening. Yes, that's not a good strategy, is it?

Ginger: Yes. Threatening. And this one usually comes after we have repeated our instruction several times to no avail and so we pull out the big guns. “If you don't start sharing your toys right now, I'm going to send them all off to kids who will share.” But this teaches them that mom and dad do not mean what they say.

You know, how many of our parents in an attempt to get us to appreciate our toys talked about the kids and share our toys, talked about the kids on the other side of the world who don't have any toys. But how many of our parents actually followed through with that threat and gathered up, boxed up, taped up all of our toys and shipped them off to Timbuktu. Probably not too many.

We need to avoid saying things that we don't mean because this is how we get ourselves in a pickle. If we tell them that there's going to be a consequence, there needs to be a consequence because if there's not, we're going to cause our children to question our word. And if we cry Wolf too many times, we'll eventually lose our effectiveness because our kids are going to lose respect for our authority.

Our children, they need to have confidence that our word is our word. And when they have that confidence, it actually brings about a sense of security in their lives. Please don't think for one second that I didn't blow it with my kids in these very areas that we're talking about. I wanted to be a good mom.

I mean before I even had kids, I was reading all the parenting books. I just wanted to be the best mom that I could be. And then as they got older, I even wrote a couple of them. I totally knew better, but I still found myself falling into some of these same traps that we're talking about right now.

I remember one time in particular, when I caught myself falling into the trap of threatening my kids. I'd been telling them all day that they needed to get their rooms clean and they were just procrastinating and not obeying what I was telling them to do. So what did I do? I pulled out the big guns. I threw out a threat. I said, “If you guys don't hurry up and get these rooms cleaned up, you are not spending the night with Nana and Papa tonight.” Well, I knew good and well, I wasn't about to forfeit my free night with no kids in order to follow through with that threat.

Ron: Nana and Papa are going to be upset about it too.

Ginger: That's right. That's another thing that we would never want to withhold is time with the grandparent, because that is so precious. But all that to say, Ron, Matthew 5:37 says simply let your yes be yes and your no be no. In other words, we really need to say what we mean and mean what we say or we're going to exasperate our kids. Really, anything other than that is unfair because then they don't know when to take us seriously.

Proverbs 15:28 says that we're to weigh our answers. That means that we need to think before we speak, we should try not to issue a warning or a command unless we're willing to follow through and try not to say yes or no to something, unless we're sure that's going to be our answer.

Ron: Okay. Empty threats, not helpful.
Uh, number three, repeating instructions. You mean saying it over and over and over and over and over and over and over—

Ginger: —and over and over. [Laughter] Yes; been there, done that one too. But you know, if you think about it, threatening is along the same lines as repeating our instructions or going back on our instructions, which are, you know, again, these traps that we don't want to fall into.

My oldest stepson, Hudson, he is a total history buff, especially when it comes to battles and war history. He's really helped me to have a deeper understanding of battle strategies and how our military works. One thing that I have found really interesting is that when we look at some of the most admirable and successful generals in our country, we see that they all had one thing in common. They were all certain of their commands before they issued them.

Soldiers don't respect or respond well to an uncertain or inconsistent leader, which is interesting because that goes right along with what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:8. He said, “For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?” and that's how it is in parenting. If we issue half-hearted commands to our children and we don't require them to follow through immediately, we send mixed signals and that can even cause our children to question their own position in the family because they become uncertain of when and how to respond to our instructions.

When we are uncertain, inconsistent, and wishy washy in our instructions, it can cause our children to be insecure and unsure of their own actions. We want to strive to lead our children with confidence so that they can find security and stability in their call to respect and obey their parents.

Gayla: You know one thing I think about as you talk about that is in regard to stepfamily life, there's often so many dynamics. There can be chaos in the home on transition days. There’re overwhelming emotions at times. I think we have to get a mindset of ahead of ourselves so that if this is a transition day, which means there's overwhelming emotions coming into our home, then how are we going to handle that? How are we going to bring them into a home that provides some peace? And even though it's a Sunday, maybe we choose not to go to church that night because we know that just creates more angst and emotions that are hard to manage.

So I—you know, kind of what I hear you saying is we have to be aware even of ourselves and how much we can manage before we're going to bowl over.
And then end up doing some of these things because it feels like the easy route, but it's not the route long term.

Ginger: Right. Yes, I couldn't agree more. And we have to be a student of our children, especially in these blended families where you do have those transitions of them coming and going and the frustrations that they have in that.

So just looking for ways to show grace with their feelings and to be willing to make adjustments to help them make those transitions a little bit easier. I think all of that plays into good parenting and good stepparenting.

Ron: I’ve just got to add, Gayla, I think that's a really insightful comment. Because I think sometimes all of us, no matter biological family or blended family situation, you get halfway into a moment and maybe you're expressing a request or something you want the children to do and then you realize, “Oh, something else is at play here. You know, this is a transition moment and they're really sad about coming home from the other home, or vice versa—leaving us and going to the other home, or something else is going on and I don't really know what's—”

I don't think there's any shame at all in kind of pulling back as a parent and saying, “You know what, I'm going to rethink that.” And just saying out loud in this, “Hold on a minute; let's talk about that. I feel like something else is going on. Let's talk about you and what you're feeling right now. And stay that order.  We'll come back to that if it's appropriate at some point, but I feel like we need to deal with this thing first.

That's not being a leader like Ginger was saying who doesn't even know what their commands are to the soldiers. That's somebody who's wise enough to recognize something else is here and I need to slow down a bit and back up. No shame in that, right.

Ginger: Yes; that's right.

Ron: Okay; appealing to emotions. Gayla was just talking about how emotions can run high. What is appealing to emotions as a tool to try to get our children to act right?

Ginger: Well, I could say this because I'm a mom, but I think one of the most typical ways that we do that as moms is by trying to make them feel guilty. You know that “After all I do for you, this is how you repay me.” [Laughter] And, you know, as moms and stepmoms, we do so much for our kids, and we make a lot of sacrifices so it can be very easy for us to start feeling sorry for ourselves and think that our kids actually owe us obedience and respect. But we want their motives for doing the right thing to come from a heart to please God, not from a parent inflicted guilt trip.

Let me just say that putting a guilt trip on our kids, you know, it might sometimes be effective for manipulating their behavior, but even if it does, it stems from a wrong motive. It would be with a motive of people pleasing. And that is not a healthy way to live. Take it from a still recovering people pleaser.

I think a lot of times the temptation to appeal to their emotions and make them feel guilty stems from our own sinful hearts. Ron, you were talking about that in the beginning. We always need to evaluate our own motives in the way that we're parenting because we’re selfish in nature. Also, we're tempted to internalize it when our kids choose to disobey our instructions. But here's what we need to understand. When we're being self-focused, we're going to view their disobedience and disrespect as a sin against us instead of a sin against God. And that's a problem.

Again, we don't want our motives for our kids to obey because it pleases us because that can cause our kids to develop unhealthy habits that lead to the emotional bondage of people pleasing. We want to motivate our children to be God pleasers, not people pleasers.

Ron: That is so good. What you're saying is their obedience is not about making me happy.

Ginger: Right.

Ron: It's really first and foremost about their relationship with God and what's right. And so, if I'm making it all about me, then I may feel like I'm owed something from them and then use that against them.

Ginger: Right; and that's not what we want to do. You know, even with my step kids, sometimes when they would speak disrespectfully to me, I would take it personally. I would internalize that, but that's not good for me to do. I mean, my motive and my goal should teach them to obey and be respectful because that pleases God, and it's also going to put joy in their hearts.

Even sometimes I would hear them on the phone with their biological mom talking very disrespectfully to her. When they would hang up, they would be angry and all angst about things and in a bad mood. I would bring that to their attention. I would say, “You know, sweetie, I've noticed when you're talking to your mom, that when you start having that disrespectful attitude toward her, man, it makes you so unhappy.”

“But when I see you choosing to show respect and speak to her with respect, even when you may not agree with what she's saying, your heart is so much more joyful. You have a choice even if you don't agree with what she's saying. If you choose to be respectful to her, you are going to have more peace and joy in your own heart. I see the difference in you when you do that.” That really spoke to them.

Gayla: Ginger, I really like that because I feel like what you're saying is also illustrates the importance of when we teach our kids to give because it's the right thing to do, and it comes from the heart. It helps us to feel good and know that we've done the right thing.

I think that's what you're saying here; that there are situations where we want to be talking to our kids about being obedient and this is what God calls us to. As a result of it, it produces joy and peace and knowing that we have done what God has called us to do by being obedient. 

Ginger: Yes.

Ron: Good stuff.

Okay. We’ve got two more: counting to three and reasoning with small children.

Gayla: The counting to three; I can't wait to hear you talk about this. [Laughter]
Ginger: This, Gayla, this is actually my personal favorite. This is why I titled my first parenting book, Don't Make Me Count to Three.

Gayla: Oh, I love it.

Ginger: Because we see these parents all, certainly not us, but we see these other parents all around us who say, “If you don't do this by the time I count to three, you're going to get it;” and then they start their count. Sometimes they even hold up their fingers as if that's going to add some extra incentive. They say “One.” The child doesn't move. “Two.” The child still doesn't move.

Ron: All we're doing is teaching the child/we're just teaching them to ignore us. That's what we’re doing.

Ginger: Exactly; you're so right. Then you see the—and typically they'll go “Two and a half” because they really don't want to get to three.

Gayla: Yes, yes. [Laughter]

Ginger: Here's the thing. Children will rise to the standard that the parents set. If you don't expect your child to obey until you count to three, well, he's probably not going to obey until you count. Why not expect instant obedience? This leaves no room for question or confusion. It is so much easier. It is so much more peaceful, and it is definitely more biblical. And you know what, if my small child is about to step off the curb into a busy street, I don't want to have to count to three before he obeys. Training our children to quickly obey ought to be the standard.

We need to be aware of those things like bribing and threatening and repeating our instructions two or three times and raising our voices or giving them to that count of three, because these things actually draw us away from teaching our children to instantly and completely obey in the way that pleases God.

Let me just add too, that parents are often responsible for the habits of their children. When we count to three, we're causing our children to get into the habit of delayed obedience and delayed obedience is disobedience. What counting to three does is it encourages them to put off obeying until absolutely necessary. But we want our children to view obedience as their best option not as a choice to put off until the last minute.

Also, our ultimate goal is for our children to love and obey Jesus, who is their ultimate authority. So, while they're young and in our home, we have this opportunity to help them get into the habit of obeying us without delay so that hopefully when they surrender to the Lordship of Jesus, they're going to find it a little bit easier to obey him without delay because they're already in that habit of obeying.

All that to say, as we consider our spiritual goals in training our children to be followers of Christ, before we begin that count to three, perhaps we need to ask ourselves, do I want my child to be in the habit of obeying God the first time, the second time, or the third time?

Gayla: Yes, I was thinking the same thing. Delayed obedience is disobedience and it's the same thing in regard to the Lord. That we want to teach them right up front. And then you also think about like, you know, as we talk about, “We're raising adults,” when you move into the work world, are you going to get “One, two, three” before you're supposed to do what you've been asked to do? [Laughter] Probably not.

Ginger: Good point. That's right. That's right.

Ron: All of this is reminding me of that age old joke, why do kids have middle names? So they'll know when to behave. [Laughter]

Ginger: Yes.

Ron: It's like the equivalent of counting; it's sort of like, ignore me, ignore me, ignore me. Okay, now I'm serious. If I get loud enough or I use your middle name or I get to three, now I'm serious. Well, I guess you weren't serious then before then.

Okay. We’ve got one more: reasoning with small children. You mean you can't talk them into wanting to be obedient. [Laughter]

Ginger: That's right. And we're not talking about older children here where some mature, respectful reasoning might be appropriate sometimes. We're talking about reasoning with young children. For example, mom ask her six-year-old, “Honey, don't you want to come and eat lunch now?”
“No thanks, Mom. I'm playing with my cars.”
“Oh, but sweetie, your hot dog's going to get cold if you don't come and eat now.” “That's okay. I think I'd rather play with my cars.”
“Well, honey, I thought if you would come and eat lunch right now, we might have time to go to the park after.”
“Okay, Mom, I'll be in there in just a minute.” You see, instead of just simply telling her son what she wanted and then expecting that prompt obedience, this mom is trying to talk her son into obeying.

Ron: Yes.

Ginger: But the thing is parents who try to reason with their young children normally end up frustrated, and quite often outwitted, and then we usually wind up resorting to a bribe in order to get that response we’re after. Reasoning with small children in an attempt to get them to obey, it causes confusion because it places that young child in a position that they are not mature or responsible enough to handle. It erases that line of authority that God has put between the parent and the child. And it places that child up on a peer level with a parent. We need to clearly instruct our children and then expect that obedience.

Ron: Okay. I want to make a little reflection about all of these. First of all, I'm as guilty as the next person. I've done all of these at some point or another with our three kids, you know?

Ginger: Same.

Gayla: Me too.

Ron: The reason I think they're so attractive is because they often get immediate results, sort of what we want, and it gets over the quick little hump and now I don't have to deal with it anymore. And so, the bribe worked and really, it's about not wanting to press in and do the hard work of the heart work. That requires a little bit more time, a little more patience, a little bit more structure. and I just don't want to mess with it.

Ginger: Right.

Ron: Somebody's listening right now and you're going, “I so see myself in these things.” Okay; back up a step, recognize that sometimes we're just taking the easy way out.
Sometimes we just didn't know what else to do and so it's a lack of knowledge. We're going to talk about some better things here in a minute with Ginger; but when you recognize these are some things you've relied on, make the decision that you're not going to do that anymore. You're going to begin to put those things off and move towards something different.

Now, before we move to what's different, let me just make another observation. What about people who—in our home we're trying to do long term heart work with our kids, but the other home, boy, they resort to all these little quick manipulative strategies all the time. We're sort of competing with that, like Gayla said earlier. They give bribes and we don't. They're doing stuff and the kids are drawn into, “Hey, I get my way over there.
And I get to—you know, they count to a hundred before they ever do anything [Laughter] and empty threats. But over here, you guys toe the line and have structure and boundaries.” What a temptation to either get soft in your parenting but to also feel like you're competing with the other home.

I just want to say—and I'd love if you guys have something to add to this, please do, but I just want to say, look, just like we said a minute ago, the quick short-term, get through it strategy may get you a little of what you're looking for quickly, but at long term, it fails to train the heart of your child.

Likewise, if you start competing with the other household and you start resorting to quick strategies to quote, win the kid's heart, or whatever it is, long term, you're going to have more battles. But respond with godliness and patience and build into their heart and help them find that internal hard drive and create that so that they are responding out of their own desire for obedience, not your desire for obedience, and long term I think you're going to find that the kids are more attracted, more drawn into your household because what you offer is something of substance. So don't get fooled by that quick competition.

Ginger: That's good, Ron. One thing I'd like to add to that is also don't criticize the other home. If there are two different discipline methods going on there and the other home is doing things differently and you feel like it's not the right way, don't criticize them, just do it the right way in your home.

Gayla: I totally agree, Ginger. And know that even if they are really pushing back—for instance, during their teenage years—it doesn't mean that they're not still absorbing it though. They may not understand it until they're adults. I mean, this has happened with us. We've had our adult kids come back and say, “Thank you for making us toe the line.” It doesn't mean that they're going to be nice about it as teenagers in your home, but you don't know what they're absorbing that you'll see the results of later.

Ginger: Gayla, that is so good. Basically, God's Word does not return void.
If we are teaching our children the Word of God—a lot of times God's working in ways that we are not aware of/ways that we cannot see. But yes, His Word does not return void and so that is our goal is to instill God's Word in their heart because God's Word is living and active.

In Hebrews it says it's “living and active, sharper than a double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and the attitudes of the heart.” So it's really not anything that we can say as stepparents that's going to make a difference. It's God's Word that will penetrate the heart.

We always want to be pointing them back to God's Word, not just when they do things wrong, but just in everyday life. We're to talk about the Word of God as we sit at home, as we walk along the road, as we lie down and as we get up. And so, when we have that balance, when we're even talking about some of the good things that God is doing—

I can't tell you how many times with my kids, and my step kids, I would come and talk about what I learned in my quiet time that morning, “You know, honey, I was reading my Bible this morning and praying about something, and I'm just really excited about something that God showed me,” and I would share it with them. They always seem to like to hear that. Because that's not pointing a finger at them. It's talking about how I'm learning through the living, active power of God's Word as well.

Ron: Yes. My youngest son is 23 and just graduated college and he was having dinner with my wife and I the other night. Nan and I were both reflecting on we've just felt a lot of gratitude lately for God's mercy on us in our lives and struggles that we've had and just how we've just feeling His hand of grace on us. We were just sort of bubbling out loud about that and next thing you know, he's reflecting on his own life, and he's sort of adopting that perspective and it just sort of begins to connect.

So even with a young adult, that strategy of me going first and then talking about what the Lord's doing in my life becomes an influence in his life.

Okay Ginger, we've talked a lot about what not to do. You’ve got to help us. What should we do? You got a little three step plan that you can share with us?

Ginger: I do; step one that I always like to encourage parents in is to ask heart probing questions. And for the reason for that is if you think about it, in so many of the stories in scripture when someone did something wrong, Jesus didn't wave his finger in their face and say, “This is what you did wrong, and this is what you should have done.”

Instead, a lot of times, Jesus used heart probing questions. And in order for the people to answer those questions, they had to evaluate themselves, because Jesus was a skilled heart prober. He knew how to ask those questions in such a way that the people would have to take their focus off of the circumstances and situations around them and onto the sin in their own heart.

And then—so that's step one, heart probing questions. Then Ephesians 4:22-24 says that we are to “put off our old self… and put on our new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Step two is what to put off, what God's Word says about that particular behavior, and what it can lead to if it's continued.

And then, step three is what to put on/how to replace what is wrong with what is right.

You know, so often in our parenting, we're tempted to stop our training at telling our kids what not to do; but what is equally important, if not more important, is that we train them in what to do. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says that when we are tempted, “God is faithful.
He will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear. But when we are tempted, he will always provide us with a way out.” He always gives us a means of escape.

When we correct our children for wrong behavior but fail to train them in righteous behavior, we will exasperate them, because we're not providing them with that way out.
We're not giving them that means of escape. And according to the Bible, that sort of neglect will provoke them to anger. So really there will never be a situation where this doesn't apply.

So as a rule in parenting, anytime we correct our children for wrong behavior, we want to have them walk through right behavior. This is how we train our children to walk in the righteousness of Christ. This is what the Bible means when it says to train them in righteousness, it's never enough to train them in what not to do. We have to follow through and train them in what to do.

Ron: Give us a practical example, put it all together for us.

Ginger: Alright, let's say that the child comes, and he speaks disrespectfully. A lot of times we'll say something like “That was disrespectful,” “no video games for you tonight,” and so the child is rebuked and given a consequence. His parents or stepparents, we think we've done well because we've identified exactly what it is the child did wrong. He was being disrespectful, and we punished him for it.

But what we want to do is we want to require them to practice that biblical alternative to the sinful behavior. In my books, I refer to this as The Practice Principle. The Practice Principle involves correcting the child's wrong behavior by having him practice the right behavior until the right behavior becomes habitual. Now, it is essential that the sin is identified and hopefully that they ask for forgiveness for being disrespectful, but it's also essential that they practice that biblical alternative.

After rebuking the child for being disrespectful and perhaps enforcing a consequence, if you feel that's necessary, we would want to have him go back to the scene of the crime and practice communicating the right way by using the appropriate words and the appropriate tone of voice. And for many children, particularly mine, as they grew into their teen years, the appropriate facial expression. [Laughter]

So, in every parenting—

Ron: Work on that face.

Ginger: —to us, right.  In every parenting talk that I give, my main objective is to encourage those parents to use the scriptures for training their children. The reason that we want to use scripture is because 2 Timothy 3:16 says that “All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, correcting, convicting and training in righteousness.” We use the scriptures because it's not our words, but God's words that will expose the wrong, convict the guilty, and promote righteousness.

So one little tool that I have for that, that's great for step/moms and step moms is Wise Words for Moms and what I've done there—I use this with my stepsons too—is I've broken down all these different behaviors that kids struggle with—like whining and lying and tattling and disrespecting and disobeying, all/everything I could think of—22 different behaviors and this three-step plan that I've just told you about: the asking heart probing questions, the what to put off and what to put on, I've given you that.

It's like/it looks like a calendar. It's basically a quick reference flip chart when our sweet little angels grow horns and we're in a loss for words. It really helped me tremendously because I don't know about you guys, but when I would find myself in the heat of the moment—you know, maybe I'm busy doing something or I'm emotional or upset about something that day—those are the times that I would find myself not relying on God's Word and God's wisdom, but my own. That was never beneficial for anybody.

I just kept that little quick reference flip chart in my kitchen. I had mine hanging in my kitchen and when I could go to that very quickly, it helped me to have more self-control because I have like two or three suggested heart probing questions. It's going to help get past that outward behavior instead of just addressing it from an outward perspective and really help get to the heart issue. And then I have scripture for what to put off and what to put on. It just helped me to have more self-control and some accountability for training them in God's word. Because it's hard to scream God's Word at them.

Ron: [Laughter] It kind of makes you regroup.

Gayla: I'm also curious when this behavior shows up, perhaps the use of empathy in talking to the child about, “You know, I understand you're mad at John because while you were at your mom's house, he came and he took stuff out of your room and that must be so hard for you.” I'm curious your thoughts on also including that as part of the steps.

Ginger: Absolutely. We never want to disregard how our children are feeling or what they're thinking, especially in situations where we know they've been wronged. We want to be careful not criticize the person that has wronged them, especially if it's someone from the biological family. But we can always, definitely want to say, “You know, I understand that. I understand why that would make you feel that way. That's a hard thing.” So sympathize with them and be understanding in that. Absolutely.

Ron: To me, that lumps into the heart probing question. Jesus asked people about their life, about circumstance and, you know, did get to the heart of the matter, if you will, about what was going on with them. Sometimes cutting right to the heart.

I'm thinking of the woman at the well in John 4. You know, go call your husband was a way of getting her to pay attention to him so that he could speak into her greatest thirst in life. And that was to be loved and embraced and accepted, and for her shame to be washed away. All of which he could do, but she wouldn't let him talk about those things because the shame got in the way.

So, you know, him asking some heart questions, chasing that pain, if you will, Gayla, in terms of: what hurts for you? “Oh, oh, hold on. You came in with disrespect all over the place. It seemed to me there's something going on here. What's behind this?” helping the child slow down a little bit, reflect on their own selves and what they're feeling so that you can then say “Well, what you just did was disrespectful.” That's the putting off, right. And “We need to take that off.”

I'd love for you to/I love that practice principle: “Why don't you back up?” I've been/I did that a few times with my kids. “Why don't you back up, come back in the room and try it again.” I'd say that with a little smile on my face. Like, “Okay, second chance. Here we go. Let's do it.” Ginger, what I hear you saying is that gives a kid a chance to sort of rewind, put on that new self in that moment, and walk in and try again.

Ginger: That's right. And you know, as far as The Practice Principle, I like to give this example. When I was a little girl, I put on a pair of roller skates. I stood up and I immediately fell. After a while though, I could skate/roll maybe several feet before falling. And then Ron, by the time I was 12, after years and years of practice, I could skate with no more effort than it took for me to walk. Now, skating does not come natural, but through the discipline of practicing over and over and over, it became like second nature to me.

Although this is a physical illustration, it works the same spiritually. When we have our children exercise spiritual wisdom from God's Word over and over and over, it's going to start becoming more like second nature to them. So again, you know, it's never enough to train them in what not to do. We have to train them in what to do, and then we want to require them to physically practice what is right.

Can you guys imagine trying to teach your child how to tie his shoe without The Practice Principle? [Laughter] No, just verbally walking him through that process is not going to be enough. At some point we have to physically demonstrate to the child exactly how it's done and then require him to practice it by himself. If The Practice Principle is vital for teaching such morally neutral an everyday task as tying shoes, how much more important is it for training children in Christlike character?

Ron: Okay, gang. Here's what I want us to do now. I want us to just layer in that big elephant in the room question for stepparents who are listening, who are saying,
“Well, can I do this? Like, that's a great three step sort of thing. That's a good model for me to hold onto, but am I the one to do the put off and the put on?” I just want us to talk around it because I don't think it's a simple yes or no answer.

People who have listened this podcast over time will know that we teach that in the beginning stepparents should really focus on building relationship with their children. Let the biological parent do the hard work of parenting, especially if there's a big “no” coming to the child or a consequence that needs to be implemented.

But that we also teach that stepparents are kind of like babysitters/teachers on the first day of school in the beginning; they can get things done. They're an extension of the biological parent. You're not completely powerless. You shouldn't be. We don't want you to be. And yet there are limits to what your role can be until you've had time to really bond and develop a relationship with a child.

So this is gray, you know, it just is. And the thing, I guess I want to come down on for parents is if you're the stepparent, give it a go, try this, talk to the biological parent—“What do you think? Can I be the one who next time the child walks in the room and is really sassy can I say something about that?”—have a conversation and decide together whether that's territory you want to step into as a stepparent.

If you feel like that's going to bring some harm to your developing new relationship, then don't. If you think “Yes, I think I've got a little gas in the tank here,” develop some equity with this child. “I think I can spend a few chips,” then give it a go and try. Always listen: “What happened? How did it go?” Talk again as a couple: “Should I do it again? Should I back up?” I think this is an evolving conversation and we just have to do the best we can with it.

All of this is all dependent upon the biological parent. If you are a threatening and empty parent/if you are counting to three or a hundred/if you are, you know, essentially powerless in your authority, that really sets a stepparent up to have a much harder go at moving into parenting. It just is imbalanced.

So, ladies, I just threw a lot at you right there. Thoughts, comments—what other layers are there that we should add to the conversation?

Ginger: Well, I think that it's different in every home and every situation. There are just so many variables that play into how much a stepparent does as far as the child training and the discipline and that sort of thing.

And so, in our situation, my husband's boys, we split time with their biological mom. They had raised the boys together, obviously before they divorced, and they had a certain way that they did that. It was completely opposite of the way that I trained my kids. And so, I learned the hard way when they first came into my home and tried to talk my husband into parenting the way that I did, and that wasn't right for me to do that.

I very quickly found out that I needed to back up and however my husband and their biological mom, they needed to talk and agree on how they were going to handle things with the boys. I stayed out of that part of it. I stayed out of consequences. I stayed out of, you know, any kind of punishment. I don't like to say the word punishment. I think consequences is a better word.

But what I was able to do as a stepmom was ask heart probing questions. I had so many conversations with my stepsons where, you know, they're struggling with something, whether it's a wrong behavior or a wrong attitude, or maybe they've even been done wrong in some way, just being able to ask them heart probing questions. Questions are a great way to pull out what is going on in their hearts if you know how to ask them the right way.

I found that I was able, and they welcomed me to have conversations with them when I would ask them questions that showed them that I loved them, and I was interested in how they were feeling and what they were thinking. But as far as the consequences for when they disobeyed or made wrong choices, I left that up to my husband and his ex-wife because I just didn't want to be the person that interfered with that. I didn't feel like that was the wise thing for me to do.

Gayla: Yes. I like that. I think the putting consequences on the stepchildren is better done typically by a biological parent. But I will also say, I think some stepparents get put in positions where they spend a lot of time with their stepchildren when the biological parent isn't there and those are situations where the stepparent does need to be able to begin to do some of these steps that you've talked about.

And really, it helps if the biological parent has already set it up for that stepparent and said with their kids, “Listen, when I'm not here after school and your stepmom is here, I am giving her the authority to do what normally I would do.”

Ron: So important.

Gayla: “I want you guys to respond to her.”

Ginger: Right.

Gayla: It's like you said, Ron, every situation is different, every home is different; but there are certainly dynamics where I think a stepparent can step in and begin to do some of these things.

Ron: If you're a stepparent listening, and this is day one for you as the stepparent, there's so much wisdom in saying, “Okay, my job right now is being an extension of their parent. My job is to build relationship.” And yes, you can be an influence. Yes, you can ask heart probing questions. Yes, you can take interest in what's going on with them and you can talk out loud about your own life and let yourself and your story be an example to them. Like that's all a part of parenting, of nurturing and guiding, and formulating the heart and mind and soul of these children.

You're still a part of the parenting process, but you're going to back off of the hard moments where it takes some real gumption to follow through with a consequence or something that the child's not going to be happy about. That's—well you’re going to let the biological parent focus on that.

But if you're listening right now and you're a stepparent and you're well into your stepfamily journey and you're/you feel established and strengthened in your relationship with your stepchildren, by all means, jump into this three-step process. You have a lot to offer, and don't ever think that, you know, “Well, I'm just a stepparent. I shouldn't be doing any of this thing.” I don't think that's the place you want to land at all. I, I think you have more to offer than maybe you realize.

Again, it's a conversation you and your spouse, the biological parent, you guys decide together how you're going to move forward in working together and being a team. It will grow and it'll change and evolve over time. But I think you've got some really good principles from Ginger today that will give you a structure. Some solid principles that you can act on that will really make a difference for your kids in your home.

Ginger, thank you so much for being with us. We really appreciate it.

Ginger: Thank you, Ron. It was a pleasure to get to talk with you guys and encourage your listeners.

Ron: You've been listening to my conversation with Ginger Hubbard. I'm Ron Deal, and this is FamilyLife Blended.

In our conversation with Ginger, Gayla and I discussed some of the unique stepfamily issues that parents face. Well, McKayla wrote to us about another one that she's facing. She says “I've read and reread The Smart Stepfamily and The Smart Stepmom. I'm a young stepmother, just 22 years old and I have five step kids. The oldest of which is 16. Now, when she threw the ‘You're not my mom’ thing at me, I was totally prepared and responded just like you outlined in your book. Worked like a charm,” she says, “and she never said it to me again.”

“Well, now, my stepdaughter is using the ‘I can't respect you because you're only a few years older than me’ strategy. How do I approach this one?”

Well, McKayla, giving you a script seemed to help a little bit last time so here's another one. You might start by reminding her that she wants to be respected for her age too. And then you might shift to what is likely really going on. It might sound like this: “Yeah, you're right. I'm only 22 but age counts for something, right? I mean you're 16 and you're starting to drive. What if we treated you like you were only 15 and we didn't respect your age. I don't suppose you'd like that very much.”

“But I doubt this whole age thing is what this is really all about. I mean, if I were you, it'd be kind of weird having a stepmom who was pretty young. I bet you wish your mom was here instead of me. I get it. I just want you to know you don't have to love me. You don't have to think of me as your mom. I'm not. But we can still get along with each other. And I think we can respect each other for who we are, no matter what our age is.
I'm good with that. How about you?”

Give that a try, McKayla. I hope it's helpful. Toss that her way, and then just keep pressing forward, trying to build trust, getting to know each other. There's no silver bullet in this stepmom relationship stuff. Relationship comes the old-fashioned way. You have to earn it. So just keep trying to earn it.

Hey, if you have a topic or question you'd like for us to address on a future podcast, you can email it to us or you can leave us a voice message. The show notes will tell you how you can do that. If you like more information about my guest, you'll find that in the show notes as well. Or you can just check it out at the FamilyLife Blended podcast page, podcast.

Next time, we're going to hear from couples just like you who are making a difference in the lives of others in their community. That's Get On Board, next time on FamilyLife Blended.

I'm Ron Deal; thanks for listening. Thanks to our monthly donors who make this podcast possible. If you'd like to join our FamilyLife partner program, or just say thank you with a one-time donation, look in the show notes for a link. Believe me, every dollar helps.

Our producer is Marcus Holt; mastering engineer, Jarrett Roskey; project coordinator, Ann Ancarrow, and theme music composed and performed by Braden Deal.

FamilyLife Blended is part of the FamilyLife Podcast Network. Helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.


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