What is Nacho Parenting and How to Apply It with Your Stepchildren?

Nacho parenting proposes to detach from conflict with your partner's children. Learn more about it in the following article.
What is Nacho Parenting and How to Apply It with Your Stepchildren?
Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 10 June, 2023

Nacho parenting or Nacho Kids is a play on words. If we quickly pronounce “not your kids“, it sounds like “NachoKids“. However, behind this parenting approach is the experience of Lori Sims and David Sims, a couple “in formation” that seeks to get along with each other’s children.

Lory and David – creators of the nacho parenting model – are a couple like any other: They formed a new family, a “blended” one, with all the challenges that this implies. From their experience, with successes and failures, they sought to share a series of recommendations that aim to relieve new couples with children from previous relationships and find a healthy way of relating to each other.

What is nacho parenting?

Nacho parenting consists of a series of recommendations to accompany those situations of mixed or blended families. That is, when a new couple is formed and one of its members (or both) has children from their previous relationship.

Undoubtedly, bringing families together is a challenge, as we’re interested in integrating every member in the best possible way. And what’s the best way? From the Nacho parenting approach, the advice is oriented toward the philosophy of “Nacho kids, nacho problems.”

A study by E. Beguet (2009) aimed at investigating the relationships in stepfamilies shows that, in general, the new partner doesn’t feel involved in the raising of their stepchildren. However, when this happens, it’s often perceived as problematic.

This is exactly what Lori Sims tells on the Nacho Parenting’s website: How frustrating it was trying to get along with David’s children. That was until, in a family counseling session, the expert told her “They’re not your children.”

At first, hearing these words for Lori felt a bit “strong,” even perhaps “somewhat violent.” However, upon further reflection, she realized that keeping some distance could be a solution.

In other words, it’s not about disengaging “just for the sake of it,” but doing so for a purpose, which is to allow the partner and their children some breathing room so they can manage as they see fit, trusting that they know each other and will find a way to do so.

At the same time, it’s a method that’s particularly recommended when the tension between the stepparent and stepchild presents difficulties.

It’s also about getting out of those critical positions, which give the impression that we have the right answer or the correct solution. On the contrary, we leave the biological parent to take action as they see fit and offer ourselves as support or company.

Therefore, as partners, we accept that a family nucleus already existed, we respect it, and seek to create a new bond, not a “replacement” one. We don’t want to be the new parent, we simply want to create the best relationship possible.

A father and son sitting on a couch together, while and mother and son sit together at a table in the foreground.
The most important thing is to give your partner and their child the space they need to connect and problem-solve.

How does nacho parenting work?

Some of the premises of nacho parenting can be found on the Nacho Kids website. We’ll talk about the following points.

Allow your partner to be the parent

You can be your partner’s supporter and make yourself available to help them in whatever they need, but you’re a supporter, someone who follows directions, not someone who imposes themself or makes decisions.

Respecting family times and logistics

Although we try to “come in peace”, it doesn’t always happen. Why is this? There are multiple explanations. One of them has to do with the fact that sometimes we try to incorporate ourselves into a “foreign” family dynamic, speaking our own language.

For example, we try to replicate in our partner’s house something that’s typical of our home. This can be invasive or even an imposition. Undoubtedly, it’ll be the first wrong step in a relationship that’s just beginning.

You don’t have to be a parent to your stepchildren to win their affection

They already have a parent. Sometimes children even have to learn to “navigate” between biological parents who don’t quite see eye to eye. Because of this, they may not be interested in adding a third factor to an equation that already has its own complexity. You can look to build another role.

Intervening less is sometimes intervening more

During parenting, we often want to intervene in order to be noticed and to gain a position. This is how we fall into certain traps and even power struggles. From Nacho Kids, they suggest that sometimes it may seem that we’re not in control of a situation because we don’t intervene, but just the opposite happens.

The advantages of nacho parenting

This strategy focuses on not imposing our presence in the children’s lives, allowing their biological parents to make the main decisions about their education and care. Let’s look at some of the advantages of nacho parenting.

It enables openness and a different way of communication

Instead of imposing our presence and opinion in the lives of our partner’s children, we focus on listening and respecting their perspective and fostering an open and honest dialogue. Sometimes we can even come to understand a certain point of view and contribute from this place of our own.

It takes us away from the focus of conflict

We stop being the scapegoat for conflicts that don’t belong to us. Even if we look from the outside, we can learn to identify what the source of the problem is, what triggers arguments, etc. With a slightly cooler eye, we can serve as a collaborative “third eye” for our partner.

We’re a source of help if they ask for it

This parenting approach considers directing children to the appropriate parent valid. We don’t necessarily have to have an answer. Sometimes the best answer is “I recommend you talk it over with your parent.”

The disadvantages of nacho parenting

While nacho parenting may have some benefits, there are also some disadvantages to consider. Know some of the disadvantages below:

  • Disguised as “nacho parenting” is detachment, disinterest, or neglect toward a partner’s children.
  • One of the objectives of nacho parenting is to “achieve disconnection” from the conflict. Undoubtedly, detaching from the conflict and taking distance is something that requires practice. It’s not easy to do.
  • It’s difficult not to intervene when there are complex behavioral problems and we’re present. In this case, depending on the child and the conflict, not intervening can be taken as complicity. There are times when children need limits and the biological parent isn’t present.
  • Like all parenting methods, it’s not “one size fits all”. It’s necessary to take into account how many children are in each family, what ages they are, and what each one needs. Every family is different. Sometimes, what works in one case isn’t successful in other cases.
A woman looking at a tablet while her partner looks at a phone with his daughter.
It’s not about indifference, it’s about respecting the family dynamics that already existed in the home.

What to keep in mind about nacho parenting?

Like any type of parenting, it must be consistent and accepted by the people involved. It doesn’t work if the first month we apply some recommendations and the following month we give up and do the opposite.

On the other hand, it’s worth clarifying that it’s not a practice that can be applied in all families. For many people, even for the parent, it’s not an option not to get involved. There are even families that manage to agree on new rules and feel comfortable with them.

Each family has its experience and its best “method”

In terms of parenting, we’ll always have what to read or what advice to listen to. It just so happens that every experience is unique, as is every family. To really make it work, it’s best to keep in mind not a catalog of guidelines, but our values.

For example, respect, community, affection, etc. Once we’re clear about what kind of education we want, it’ll be easier to orient ourselves and experiment with different paths. As that’s also what parenting is about: Building one’s own path and accepting when we make mistakes.

In any case, it’s always an option to receive professional guidance to help us unravel the complex realities of family life.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Ramírez, T. D., & Lamas, B. G. (2018). La familia ensamblada: una nueva concepción familiar. Anales de la Facultad de Ciencias Jurídicas y Sociales de la Universidad Nacional de La Plata, (48).
  • Street, M. C. (2005). Las familias ensambladas en la Argentina hacia el año 2001: Des-cubriendo los “tuyos, los míos y los nuestros”. In VIII Jornadas Argentinas de Estudios de Población. Asociación de Estudios de Población de la Argentina.
  • García-Moreno, A., Pitre Redondo, R. C., & Amaya López, N. (2020). Relaciones padres e hijos un reto para las familias ensamblada.
  • Béguet, B. E. (2009). Las relaciones funcionales en las familias ensambladas. In I Congreso Internacional de Investigación y Práctica Profesional en Psicología (Vol. 4, p. 27).
  • Silverberg B. Care of Diverse Families: Single-Parent, Multigenerational, and Blended Families. FP Essent. 2023 Jan;524:19-24. PMID: 36626714.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.