Blended Family Blues
"I'm the mother of four kids. I'm engaged to a man, and he has three kids of his own. Between the two of us, that makes seven," Stefani says. "One of our biggest problems is our kids do not get along. There seems to be a lot of jealousy among all of them, constant fighting when they're all together, pretty bad chaos, they get physical with each other sometimes. It gets pretty rough. We have no idea how to fix this."
Stefani and Shenan join the show via Polycom video. "What do you think the biggest challenge is to making this work?" Dr. Phil asks the couple. "If you were going to make a list, what's at number one, as far as obstacles?"
"What rules are we supposed to bend, and what rules should we enforce, since there are two separate households involved?" Stefani replies.[AD]
"You have to understand what your role is with each of the children. If you get into a child's life as a stepparent, after they're 2, 3, 4, 5 years old, you have a different bond with them, a different role with them, than you do if you're there really, really early." Dr. Phil explains. "So for Shenan to be a primary disciplinarian with your children, or for you to be a primary disciplinarian with his children, just simply won't work."
Dr. Phil says the stepparent can play a supporting role in disciplining the kids. "It doesn't mean you don't want some universal rules, but the delivery has to be from the biological parent," he says.
Dr. Borba highlights the four critical Rs of parenting. "You've really got to establish what the role is " what do you expect your role to be, what do you expect the other parenting partner to be " so you're really clear, particularly on that thing called discipline," she explains. "If you're trying to blend a family, your second R would be how are you going to bring these rituals together? You had rituals in your own home. They had rituals over there " maybe from family dinners, to the holidays to bedtime " but you need to be able to share those."
The third R is respect. "You've really got to spell out to your kids that, â€˜It's going to be tough for you to love this person, but you must like this person, as well as those other kids,'" Dr. Borba says.
"With [Shenan's] oldest, he definitely sees me as threat," Stefani reveals. "When Dad is spending time with me, us sitting together and talking, he feels that he has to be right in the middle of it."
[AD]"You two have to be the united front when you sit down and have those family meetings, so you're really spelling out what your expectations are to those kids," Dr. Borba says. "They need that security and stability."
"Like [Stefani] said, she doesn't try to discipline them primarily, but I'm not going to let them run her over or be disrespectful," Shenan says.
"They need to understand how to respect and treat women," Dr. Phil agrees. "I really hope you guys will sit down and have these family meetings. As corny as they sound, I promise you, the cathartic effect, just getting it off their chest, will make a huge, huge difference."