"Just call her by her first name, they already have a mama!"; "It is just disrespectful to let him call that man, daddy!"; just a couple statements made by biological parents regarding their feelings about their child's desire or willingness to refer to their stepparent as anything similiar to mom or dad. Whether, the child simply refers to the stepparent as mama or daddy or as mama (firstname) or daddy ( first name), the child's reference to the stepparent seems to evoke very emotional responses of rebuke from their respective biological parent. Is the biological parent correct in their protest? Should the child never refer to their stepparent as anything that indicates they server in a parental role? Is a young child calling an adult by their first name respectful or disrespectful? Who decides? Let's discuss.
First of all the title of stepmother or stepfather indicates that the role is one that has to be "stepped" into. The existence of the family has come about as a result of the loss of another. Therefore the individual is voluntarily assuming responsibility of parenthood when they become the new spouse. As a result of that new responsibility, life changes are inevitably made such as changes in finances; considerations about travel; holiday arrangements and family gatherings; etc. In the process of all the changes, bonds with the child/ren are formed, traditions are created, and memories are made. Thus along with the new responsibilities come reward and respect.
Additionally, where love is shown to children, it is returned. It is quite natural and seamless for a child (especially if young or school age) to bond with an adult that is loving to them in everyday activities. The child who is sick and nursed to health;who wets the bed and gets cleaned up;eats popcorn in the middle of the night; who shares common interests with their stepparent, will easily attach and word mother or father (when referring to their stepparent)will roll off of their tongue without effort or coercion. In, fact in such instances of love and bonding, there are no "steps".
Is it disrespectful to the biological parent for the child to refer to their stepparent as mother or father or anything similar? As long as their are no disparaging or disrespectful remarks or actions toward the biological parent, the answer is absolutely not. It is a benefit to the child who has loving parents in their custodial home and non custodial home. Biological parents should actually relax easier knowing that in their absence, their child is being loved and cared for with consideration of their well being. Also, knowing that their child shares an affinity and affection the other parents in their lives should comfort instead of confusion for the biological parents.
Unselfish love is required in all families especially blended families. Where children are concerned, they should make the decision on what they feel comfortable calling their stepparent as long as the stepparent agrees. If it is the first name or some version of mother or father, if it is agreed upon in that household, it should stand. Never, should the biological parent forbid the child from calling their stepparent what has been agreed upon. Because in ideal blended families, there are no steps.