What does “nacho parenting of stepchildren” even mean? It means that the step-parent should treat their partner’s children as if they are the children of a friend. They should leave the primary disciplining of the children to the organic parents.
The term “nacho parenting” was invented by Lori and David Sims. They said “not your child, not your responsibility.” But the method now involves a bit more complexity than this. For example, although it is more of a hands-off method, it doesn’t mean the step-parent should let the kids destroy the place and it doesn’t mean you should stand by and let them hurt themselves.
The basic principle is that the step-parent should focus on getting to know their step-children and to develop a positive bond with them. Becoming the disciplinarian too early can hinder the development of a good relationship.
It reminds me of how in some Native American tribes, the parents aren’t the primary disciplinarians. Instead the aunts and uncles take on this role. This means the parent can be the “good cop” so to speak and their children see them as someone that loves them rather than as someone that controls them. The teenage children tend to confide in them more because of this. Whereas they are often afraid of what their aunt or uncle will do when they hear about what they have done.
How does nacho parenting work in practice?
When a step-parent encounters a behavior that requires some disciplining, their first resort should be to report it to their partner – the parent. Then they leave it up to the parent to decide what action if any should be taken.
They should also leave it to the parent to set the ground rules.
It doesn’t mean the step-parent should ignore the children or disrespect them. In fact they should try and take an active interest in the children. And to participate as much as possible in activities that the children enjoy doing with them. Remember the goal isn’t to become a replacement parent, but rather to develop a warm supportive relationship with the step-children.
And if the step-parent has children of their own, it is very important that they are just as positive and loving towards the step-children as they are towards their own children. However, they will probably also act as disciplinarians of their own children.
So if appropriate, try the “nacho parenting of stepchildren” method and if you face any issues, discuss it with one of our counselors.