About blended families. My stepchildren have horrible manners. It makes it difficult when they visit because they are a few years older and my children tend to copy their barbarous behavior. When my stepchildren have gone home to their mother and I try to correct the copycat behavior of my own brood, I need to do so without putting down my stepchildren or their mother.
It’s like I’m dealing with two cultures. How should this be handled? For instance, it makes good table manners hard to reinforce.
–EB, Cambridge, MA
This is a common problem in many families.
In your house you set the rules. Be consistent by enforcing ‘the rules of the house.’ The rules include table manners. Saying “please’ and ‘thank you,’ putting down the toilet seat, clearing their plate, putting away toys, etc. Make a list. Post it where the children of every height can see it. Even if they can’t read, they’ll know that it is there and you can point to “brush your teeth,” if you have to.
Should one of your stepchildren question you as to, for instance, why they have to use a knife and fork when they don’t need to at home, simply say: In a family, especially the size of ours, which includes you, there have to be rules or there is chaos. In this family, in this house we follow a set of rules and manners.
The point you’re making to all the children is that in your house rules and table manners are important. If they’re all young enough to have a chart where they add stars for following the rules, use one.
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