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View Full Version : Disciplining of Children in Blended Fams



Twinkle
April 26th, 2008, 10:39 AM
OK...so I often worry how discipline works with stepkids. In my mind, when the kids are with me in my home, it's my rules, my discipline.

Now...I don't spank and I am not at all strict...but I do have certain expectations. How do I set my boundaries without creating resentful children? I know their father stands behind me...but should the expectations come from him?

Rudas Starblaze
April 26th, 2008, 10:53 AM
i would say it depends on the punishment in question.

for instance, my sons stepdad whipped him with a belt and bruised him all up a few years ago. of course the locan and state police and DCFS in illinois didnt do jack about it. needless to say i made it very clear what would happen if he so much as yelled at my son let along laid a finger on him again. fortunatly, hes not touched my son since.

GEBS
April 26th, 2008, 02:14 PM
OK...so I often worry how discipline works with stepkids. In my mind, when the kids are with me in my home, it's my rules, my discipline.

Now...I don't spank and I am not at all strict...but I do have certain expectations. How do I set my boundaries without creating resentful children? I know their father stands behind me...but should the expectations come from him?


mol and I spent a lot of time talking about our expectations for the kids. I have a lot of rules that I never saw as rules until Trey got here. I saw it as just a way to live. Trey saw it as rules. To me, cleaning up after yourself is good manners, not a rule. Lifting the toilet seat is good manners, not a rule. Table manners are not a rule, they're just how you eat. Coming home before the street lights are on, that's a rule.

Trey fought the "rules" every step of our journey together. He is just now getting to the point where he doesn't fight it. Most days. :) I know that Trey is a special case so it might not take so long in your house.

In the beginning I expected mol to enforce any rules we had. I covered the basics like food and drink don't come out of the dining room or kitchen but anything too far beyond that mol had to cover. When a rule was broken I expected mol to talk with Trey about it. I would talk with Trey again later when he wasn't getting in trouble to explain again why we have that rule and how it effects our household when the rule is broken. Trey needs a lot of reinforcement.

Now I do scold him when it's needed. If an extended grounding is in order mol still covers that. We usually talk alone before we talk to Trey. We try to work out any details (length of time, what he's grounded from) before we talk to him. mol tells him what his punishment is but we're both there when he's told (most times) so that there is no manipulation later on. He tries to trick me into letting him have things his dad says no to if I'm not there to witness the grounding rules.

With the girls it's much easier. I tell them to keep their sippy cups in the kitchen and they do. The first time here they didn't. Trin was especially good at hiding things she wasn't supposed to have. She's put food in her pull-ups so I wouldn't see it and hide it in the bedroom for later. She would put her drinks in her babydoll's diaper bag and carry it off. When I'd catch her she'd give me the cutest little grin and say "I didn't do it." It was like a game to her. It didn't take long for her to start listening to me though.

The most trouble I've had with the girls was bed time or dinner time. They aren't crazy eating the food I give them. We had to compromise on food a few times but over all they were good about it. If we had sushi I would give them chicken and mac and cheese. Then they would want the sushi because the rest of us were eating it. I was so proud the first time they asked for sushi :smile: I have a pic of Trin stealing sushi off mol's plate in one of my albums.


I'm sure if you two talk about the expectations before the kids are there things will go fine. The most important part is that you two communicate what is expected to each other and the kids. If he's supporting you then I wouldn't worry too much. They will probably defy you at first but that shouldn't last. Keep calm and know that whatever they do it's probably normal for kids going through a change. Stand your ground (gently). They will adjust.





for instance, my sons stepdad whipped him with a belt and bruised him all up a few years ago

If someone did that to my son I would be spending a long time in jail. You have much better control than I do.

Ziana
April 26th, 2008, 11:56 PM
Our family is a little different from most step-families that I have known. For instance my daughter calls my husband Daddy, and his son calls me Mom. We (my husband and I) have been together since 2004, and we were married in 2006. My daughter is 10, and his son is 12. We have only had custody of the boy child since 2006. Both kids are disciplined as if we were an original family, not a blended family.

Cat
April 27th, 2008, 10:08 AM
OK...so I often worry how discipline works with stepkids. In my mind, when the kids are with me in my home, it's my rules, my discipline.

Now...I don't spank and I am not at all strict...but I do have certain expectations. How do I set my boundaries without creating resentful children? I know their father stands behind me...but should the expectations come from him?

Its complicated, and the answers vary with the specific people and situations. For me, I refuse to have a kid in my home and in my care whom I cannot discipline. Just ain't happening. That said, even if I believed in spanking, which I don't, I would not ever lay a finger on a stepchild because it would put me in for way too much grief and misunderstanding. How it works here is I uphold any standing rules and administer standing punishments. If I needed to give a consequence for something new and dh wasn't around to talk to, I'd either handle it myself if it was minor, or tell sd that dh and I would talk about what to do if it wasn't. She's old enough to understand that she's being punished for something she did even if the punishment isn't immediate.

Yes I think the expectations should come from the bio. The two of you need to be in agreement as much as possible about the house rules and what, if any consequences there are for breaking them.

Just curious--what are yours?

Twinkle
April 29th, 2008, 12:11 PM
Basically, I expect toys and things to be picked up and put away when they are finished. I expect food and drink to be eaten at the table unless it's a special treat. I expect that you place your dish in the sink when you are done.

I'd like to see dirty laundry be placed in the laundry basket...and not all over the floor.

I'm really just wanting neatness...or at least as much neatness as one could reasonably expect. I'm not a Drill Sergeant...but nothing is more gross than plates of food and glasses of milk or whatever all over the house...and I hate tripping over toys.

That's really it.

The rest of it I can roll with, and work out as I go. The above listed are things that I just have to have though...or it will drive me insane.

GEBS
April 29th, 2008, 12:19 PM
It does not sound like you are asking for much. I think you're going to do fine. I can't imagine your partner having a problem making the kids do those things. They may already do it at their home. :)

Cat
April 30th, 2008, 08:44 AM
Sounds entirely reasonable to me too.

We used to have sd pick up after herself as the first part of her pre-bed routine. And if I recall correctly, hanging up her coat/jacket was the very first issue I handled with her. I'd hope your partner would want his child to learn these habits.

Nitefalle
June 20th, 2008, 09:30 AM
I think the most important thing is that you back each other up. If the child thinks that you two are divided on these issues, they will take advantage. If they know that Dad would have handled the situation the exact same way as you did, they have nothing to complain about.

My situation is a little different because we've had shared custody since JT was 5 months, and he's now 2. He calls me mommy and listens to me as he listens to my SO, his father. We try and agree on how to handle situations, which aren't too bad at this point (he's a really good kid) and we recognize that my SO is the softy while I am a little stricter on things. We try to work around that and use it to our advantage.

soulforge
May 2nd, 2009, 04:46 PM
i agree each situation is defferent as people are. i understand the fear of the sp disciplining the kid/s. so far my experience has been my so is taking it slow and not pushing too much to be replacement mom. but she does ask for respect and cooperation. one night my kids were arguing over nothing and she told them they need to stop..firmly. the next morning they gaver a morning hug. there was no problem. my ex and her so have no kids. so i amnot sure how i would handle someone elses children. i would take my time with them. but there definatly needs to be a united front..

Terra Mater
May 2nd, 2009, 08:58 PM
I didn't have as many issues with this since in my home, I made the "rules". The kids were required to listen to the step the same as they would listen to me. Accomodations were made for the special needs of individuals and differing ideals as the kids grew old. It is an interesting combination of totalitarian anarchy.

Some "rules" could be overturned by a majority vote and some family members had more than one vote at their disposal. here's how it worked:
Each person has one vote as a person.
Working persons contributing to the household gain an extra vote.
The child who did the majority of chores on any given day was given an extra vote as was the adult who did the most.
An additional vote and tiebreaker priviledges were given to any family member on their birthday.

This voting method encouraged much bonding, bribery, and blackmail amongst the kids, but in general worked for just about any issue that came up. It also encouraged hubby and I to blend parenting styles and even allowed the children to have a modicum of say in how they were raised.

In addition, there were always three levels to any goals we set for the kids:

Bare minimum-failing to meet bare minimum resulted in discipline. An example is that the kids were required to pass classes with a C.
Tried hard-gained favor points that could be applied to other areas that were giving the child trouble. An example is if the kids got more B's than C's on their report cards.
Top notch-gained favor points as well as tangible rewards like extra video game time, cash rewards, etc. All A's on a report card was guaranteed to gain the child greater freedom, extra spending money, a party, etc.
The three levels came about for those areas where hubby and I just could not agree on. Hubby's family and mine were totalitarian about grades and hubby felt that bare minimum should be more A's than B's with C's being punishable with extra study time. I was more interested in realistic expectations when it came to the grades. As long as my kids could hold their own in a conversation about their studies showing that they actually understood what they were supposed to be learning and could give real world applications for the knowledge, I couldn't care less if they were steady C students.

soulforge
May 2nd, 2009, 09:20 PM
ok..those are wonderful outside the box ideas..i have a 12 yo son who is sturggling with my divorce and passing 6 grade. if it is ok i would like to talk in further detail about your style..i think that might make the child feel less inadequite...and more empowering..

Infinite Grey
May 2nd, 2009, 09:34 PM
OK...so I often worry how discipline works with stepkids. In my mind, when the kids are with me in my home, it's my rules, my discipline.

Now...I don't spank and I am not at all strict...but I do have certain expectations. How do I set my boundaries without creating resentful children? I know their father stands behind me...but should the expectations come from him?

Whip out the hose! Or a telephone cord.


Actually I have little idea - just be reasonable, like you would if the children were your own... provided you're reasonable... what are your rules/expectations?

Terra Mater
May 2nd, 2009, 11:02 PM
ok..those are wonderful outside the box ideas..i have a 12 yo son who is sturggling with my divorce and passing 6 grade. if it is ok i would like to talk in further detail about your style..i think that might make the child feel less inadequite...and more empowering..

Twelve is a difficult age for any child (noth that there are many easy ages for children). Coping with a divorce definately does not make things any easier, and if the divorce was bitter, it makes it all the harder.

http://www.cadivorce.com/content.aspx?id=714 has some activites that can help him to better cope with his feelings about the divorce.

One activity that I will add, and many folks may question, is a "swear journal". Pre-teens and teens have a lot of anger at the best of times, going through a divorce increases the anger tenfold. A "swear journal" is a journal where the child can express, in any language or pictures they choose to use, the darker feelings they are having at this time.

The "rules" for this journal are:

Swear words, "I hate", any negative terms are allowed towards any source, but only in the journal.
The journal never goes to school or anywhere else the child might be judged harshly for its content.
Anything written in the journal is "safe", though you may read it, you can never discipline them for the contents of that journal.
Sometimes kids cannot talk about what is really bothering them openly; they are too afraid of getting in trouble for what they might say. The journal does not teach the child to swear (if they do not know the words, they are not likely to write them down) but it does teach them that being angry is okay as long as you do not hurt yourself or others in your anger.

Many children of divorce may start out hating one or both parents for the divorce and then hate themselves. Add to this normal stresses at school and trying to cope with multiple homes and new people and the child's anger overwhelms them and causes them to act out. Addressing the anger is the best way to get the child "back on track".

I would also suggest the "three levels" approach that I use. this gives the child a feeling of control when so much else in their life is out of their control. At first, though you set three levels of goals, the only goal you are focusing on helping them attain is "bare minimum", less fighting that way. After about a week of bare minimum, then start offering more encouragement for climbing to the next level.

This close to the end of the school year you may have to accept that he may have to spend some time in summer school to catch up. Section out the work he needs to do to catch up and make the bare minimum be to catch up by the end of the year. The consequence is self imposing, summer school is a torment to any child that is not addicted to education or a chronic over-achiever. Talk to the child's teacher and explain the situation and what you are trying to do, you may find the teacher willing to make great compromises.

If you are interested in more, you have only to ask.

soulforge
May 2nd, 2009, 11:32 PM
thank you so much!!! i have plenty of notebooks for him to choose from..and yes it has been very bitter..my ex found out about my current SO past and had her arrested friday.. i havt deciced what to tell my kids yet..so i am struggling too.. i am going to start some of your ideas tonight...thank you again.. i love my kids and i hate to see them suffer..both of my kids have gotten very attached to my current SO and i worry how they are going to take it when i tell them she wont be around for a long while..they have already told me "she has to stay" .. it just makes it that much harder to cope. i cant thank you enough for your advice...

soulforge
May 3rd, 2009, 12:29 AM
i feel i need to clarify the so history a little..its nothing big..she is a very good woman and i am blessed to have her in my life..she would never do anything that would endanger my kids..or me. i hope you will not judge her for her past. i do not.

Nesta
May 3rd, 2009, 04:34 AM
This is something I've had to put a lot of thought into recently.

When I'm with the kids then I'm the responsible adult so what I say goes. My step-children don't misbehave as such, it's all just normal 'working out the boundaries' stuff so we never actually have to discipline them. I don't opt out of guiding them when their Dad is home either, he welcomes having me to help out and discuss things because he was a single parent for so long.

I think it really depends on the ages of the children concerned, how long the step-parent has been in their lives and how their family separated in the first place.

I introduced several changes when I moved in with the family. They have chores and more guidelines but these have mostly been accepted without too much fuss. The youngest did go through a phase of testing to see whether she could get away with ignoring me if I asked her to do a chore. Their Dad always backs me up though and I think this is vital. Children need to see that adults can communicate well and are in agreement.

The girls see that their Dad is happy and that I genuinely care for all of them. They do test us out with various issues but that is just part of growing up.

I tend to just sit them down and talk about what is going on when they display any kind of stressed/unhappy behaviour. It has always worked so far.

Another important factor is gently introducing children to the idea of an adult who is not their parent telling what they can/can't do. I stayed quiet and let their Dad do all the work for a long time. I think this helped a lot because I got to observe their relationships and they were much calmer because I didn't step in.

Perhaps most importantly, I have lots of patience :)

Kraheera
May 5th, 2009, 12:07 AM
I think the situation depends not only on who the children are, but also what their ages are, what rules they are used to, and generally, how patient YOU are.


When my father remarried, I was 13, and used to being the only girl in the house. Not only that, but he married a practicing 7th day adventist, who had some rather kooky rules. Like not being allowed to read certain books or watch certain movies, not being allowed to watch cartoons on Saturday, etc.

She handled it beautifully. She held her daughter to the standards she was used to, but the only thing she pushed for in our house on a 'universal' rule was no more pork. Hey, we didn't mind losing pork. I could always eat pork when we went out to dinner or something.

Slowly, (and I do mean slowly, it took 2 years), she got to the point where she could discipline us kids by sending us to our rooms. She never yelled, exactly... but she had the LOOK. That one that wilts every child at 1000 paces. She didn't need to yell.

To this day, I tend to listen when she speaks. And it might be because she didn't just come in and try to change everything. She didn't try to make us do what her daughter did. She didn't try to make us be anything but what we were.

kristadb
May 5th, 2009, 01:09 AM
I always feel for people who have merged families when the kids are older. I joined my partner's life eight years ago (or, was it 9? :toofless: ) and his boys were barely out of diapers. He has full custody of them, with their mom having them on the weekends and holidays. I've raised them so there is that level of respect that comes with having raised a kid since that age.

With that said, one thing that helps is th reminder that there are rules at mom's house and rules at dad's. They may not be the same. It's no different than the rules at school are different than the rules at grandma's or at the store or at the library.

I think that chores are a requirement of anyone living in a household, be it children or adults. You are not their slave. It's harder to explain this when you are a stay at home parent, of course. If you are both working, then really you aren't a slave. The easiest solution is to write up the chores and expectations that you would expect of any child in your home and then go over it with your partner. Have a few items which are important and worth fighting over and a few that aren't. I've heard of other parents having great luck with that (I never needed this since it's my way, my rules, and the end of the conversation...again, I'm lucky...but I also let them play with power tools and swear at home ;) ).

Sometimes, I think the step-mom gets the crappy end of the deal. Even I do, but the kids have been around long enough to get that and will call out their mother when that happens. They have had 2 mothers for nearly all of their lives; they don't play us against each other and they certainly don't allow their mother to pit us all against each other. Like I said, I'm really lucky.

Pagan Warrior
November 2nd, 2009, 01:17 PM
I've just recently began this journy myself. My girlfriend and her two children have moved into my house with me and my two children. Her kids consist of a 10 year old girl and an 8 year old boy, while mine are a 5 year old girl and an 11 year old girl. This has been more difficult on my side because my oldest daughter has been the "alpha female" of the household for a long time and is having some issues with my girlfriend taking her spot. However, things are working out well and the kids are adjusting.

Her son is easy because he thinks I am the sun, moon, and stars. He's such an adorable kid too, we traded ties last night. He has this tiny clip-on tie, and was offering it to me for work. So, I pulled out my tie rack and let him choose any one he wanted and then tied it on him.

Likewise my youngest daughter just adores my girlfriend! So those two are falling in line really well. Our oldest daughters are having a tougher time, but they will adjust. So far the biggest success factor is communicating about what we each felt was good or bad in any given discipline situation. At the moment we are working towards unified "house rules" but we are trying very hard to keep things equal in terms of rules and consequences.