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Never sure when to step in.

Vichychoisse's picture

SO kind of lost it tonight and delivered some punishments to the skids that I thought were a little harsh. I don't usually like to step into these situations, but in this case, I do kind of feel bad for the skids.

SD10 had neglected to take out the trash last night as part of her usual chores. SO told her she needed to take it out in the morning when she left for school. She forgot, which ticked him off, and when she got home from school and was told to do it she gave him attitude. So, he told her she had to do both her and her sister's chores - a punishment I never like since it rewards the other. But still, the punishment pretty much fit the crime so not a big deal.

A little later, SD13 was asking him for help with homework and when he helped, she also gave him attitude to the effect of "I don't THAT kind of help, I need THIS kind of help", and dismissed him. I think this just pushed him over the edge into the "my kids are so ungrateful" land, and he decreed that they both were now doing their own chores and no one gets television time tonight. Again, pretty much standard.

But I guess that wasn't enough. He then asked them both to write lists of all of the things he does for them, followed by a list of all the things they do for him. I didn't hear any of this conversation, but I guess when he went to look at the lists of what they do for him, they wrote things like "go to school" and "get good grades". Apparently he insisted that these were not things they did for him - and it sounded like arguments ensued, and he ended up taking away SD10's birthday party on the weekend that she had been planning for weeks. I'm not sure what he took away from SD13, but likely something also on her list of things he does for her.

While I understand the lesson he wanted to impart with these lists, I feel like it's overboard to punish them for what they wrote, without clear understanding of what they did wrong or what they were expected to write down. I think his intention is to punish them for being ungrateful and lippy, but honestly the attitude they both displayed tonight is not really that unusual and typically just punished with a removal of simple privileges. SD10 is obviously devastated (and admittedly dumb for being a smart ass so close to such obvious punishment fodder), beyond what I personally think is appropriate.

Again though, I did not hear/see this whole conversation/argument and maybe a lot worse went on. Also, I typically take the policy that he is responsible so I am not going to "correct" his parenting or even offer advice unless he asks. I also don't want to set a precedent of participation. And yet I want SD10 to have her birthday party. BAH!

He's off at his monthly poker game with friends, so I could talk to him about it when he gets home and he's had time to relax and calm down.... but how far in should I step?


GoodbyeNormaJean's picture

You shouldn't step in. At all.

The typical punishment for being lippy and ungrateful evidently is uneffective, because they're still lippy and ungrateful.

It may seem harsh, but if he punishes them sharply once or twice, takes away something that actually MEANS something to them, and makes them miserable as a result of THEIR actions, maybe they will think twice before displaying the same attitude.

By stepping in and undermining, you are setting these kids up for a lifetime of hardship with entitlement attitudes. Let them sweat it for now, and they will be better for it in the long run.

DeeDeeTX's picture

Yep, you're not going to 100 percent agree with every punishment you DH hands out, but that's ok. The only way I could see getting involved would be if DH went crazy, and started beating them or something, but then you have bigger problems at that point.

twopines's picture

I don't think you should step in.

If your policy is he's responsible, and to only offer advice when asked, then let it be. Sure it's hard, no doubt about that.

Vichychoisse's picture

Thanks too all of you above! I agree with what you are saying, and will choose my battles and stay out of this one.

FreeNHappy's picture

Are you guys married? For some reason, it seems to make a difference (right or wrong, i'm not sure?) with how involved you are in disciplining your SO's kids. Whether you are the official SM or GF or soon-to-be SM, I think that if you are living in the same home with your SO's kids you should have a say in consequences and punishments. What I see here is that there is a lack of clarity and communication going on? It makes things confusing for everyone involved when rules and consequences are not explicitly laid out and always followed up on.

Not to toot my own horn or anything, Wink but with my ex-skids, I got the best results out of them discipline-wise more than their dad or the BM and my same rules work very well with my nieces and nephews, my best friends kids and any other kids that come to my house or that I babysit (yes, I am 30 and I still babysit for friends! Lol). My ex-skids were out of control and so badly behaved when I met my ex-H that he and BM never took them in public because their tantrums were so embarrassing! Even before we were married, but while we were living together and having the skids over half the time, I hammered out family rules with my H because I wanted to live in peace and not be subjected to tantrums and conflict.

Since my skids were fairly young, I sat down with my H and talked about what house rules we were going to have, agreed on them, agreed that both of us had equal roles in disciplining, and agreed on the specific consequences when rules were broken. I can tell you that it took a few rocky months, but the results were incredible! After H and I had worked it all out privately, we then sat down with the skids and presented a united front, let them know we would always back each other up and that they couldn't go from one parent to the other to try to get a different answer (that in itself had a consequence...). We kept it pretty simple, but I made a fun poster with the rules clearly written in colored markers and then we sat down with the skids and went over the rules and what would happen if they broke them. They were very basic, but dealt with politeness, basic courtesy, behavior and attitudes. We had a big problem with my older SS at that time with tone of voice and we had to have a serious talk with him about how tone can convey rudeness just as much as the actual words you choose. We stuck to the basics and the rules were pretty much 1) Be kind to each other and guests in our home 2) Clean up after yourself without being asked 2) No yelling, hitting, whining, tantrums of any kind 3) Chores and homework before any leisure activities etc... If they broke a rule or forgot to do chores, homework, clear their plate at dinner etc... they got ONE warning and if they did it again or had to be reminded again, they had a specific, pre-picked consequence. We definitely never gave a consequence that affected the other child, because I think that is confusing and complicates things (like you said, rewarding the other child for nothing).

After homework, chores, dinner (which they had to help cook and set the table) and baths/showers/getting ready for bed, they were allowed one hour each with their choice of video games, computer time or watching tv. If they broke a rule involving not doing chores, homework or other obligations they lost 1/2 an hour of video/computer/tv time and an additional 1/2 hour for every additional broken rule, or rudeness in response to losing privileges (at his worst, my older SS lost two weeks of all privileges and 'gasp!' was forced to read books instead). If they broke a more serious rule, such as hitting, fighting, being rude to each other, us or friends in our home, they didn't get a warning and were sent straight to time-out in their bathroom, where they weren't allowed to read, talk to anyone or play. If they made noise, came out before the five mins were up etc... we turned the lights off for one minute (during the first month of this, my older SS punched a hole in the wall of the bathroom (something he had done multiple times before I met my H), shredded a shower curtain and screamed and flailed on the floor. The lights off thing sounded extreme when I first read about it in a parenting book, but in their case it was necessary and very effective...they both stopped having tantrums with us and their teachers at school said their behavior was improving dramatically (one was in special ed for autism and the other was in school mandated counseling because he was found being cruel to animals and bullying other kids-this all happened before I met H as well). They still continued to have tantrums with BM, but she used the tv and video games as a babysitter, had absolutely no rules or structure and let them get away with anything they wanted...When we made and put up the poster, after we had talked it over privately and with the skids, we all signed the bottom of the poster as a kind of behavior contract and the skids actually got pretty into it and I let them decorate the poster with drawings and stickers to make it more fun and have them be involved in creating it.

So basically, we were very strict and always followed through with consequences, but at the same time, they both knew very clearly EXACTLY what we expected out of them and what the rules were. We were extremely clear and they were encouraged to ask us anytime they weren't sure about whether something was allowed or not. BM jumped all over it at first and tried to use our high standards to turn the skids against us, but she was dismayed when they actually grew to like the rules and structure and asked if they could live with us full-time! They both ended up doing far better in school, making more friends, improving their behavior and attitudes and on top of everything they actually seemed hugely relieved to know that real adults were in control. They both got much happier and the whining and tantrums diminished to almost nothing (unless BM had them for a week, feeding them sugar non-stop and encouraging the bad behavior...then it took a couple days to get them back on track.) At first they both tried testing the rules (boundary testing is totally normal with kids and they do it to find out what the boundaries are, which is why you have to be so firm and clear), but by the time I left my H, they pretty much followed the rules without many problems.

In addition to the rules poster (which we put at their height in the kitchen so they could see it anytime) we also had a rewards chart and gave them stickers for exceptional behavior. The stickers added up and when they reached a certain amount, they got a fun treat. Every ten stickers got a small reward such as extra video game time, a trip to the arcade, renting a movie, staying up 1/2 and hour past their bedtime etc... and when they reached 50 stickers they got a bigger treat such as a day at the amusement park, being taken out to a movie/seeing an Imax movie, going ice skating etc... They got to pre-pick their own rewards and were given stickers for kind, thoughtful behavior, good grades, positive feedback from teachers etc... One time about a year after we began the house rules, my older SS got up an hour earlier than he needed to and cleaned the entire kitchen as a surprise for me! This was a twelve year old that a year previously had thrown himself on the floor at a grocery store and literally screamed and thrashed around when I wouldn't buy him candy!! We made it clear that the good behavior wasn't something to do just to get rewards and they couldn't just do a load of awesome things and get a sticker, it had to be genuine and sincere and the stickers were given out at my and H's discretion so they couldn't do specific things just to get rewards. Also, if they went a whole school week without losing a privilege or going to time-out, we took them to the video store, let them pick a kids movie (alternating week by week which skid got to pick the movie), got popcorn and treats and had family movie night on Friday, where we all watched movies and stayed up later than regular school nights. I think we struck a really good balance between discipline and rewards because I had tons of people come up to me and tell me that they couldn't believe the changes in the skids behavior and attitudes. It was probably the most rewarding part of my experience as a SM! I tend to be extremely patient with kids (having worked with them for years professionally) and my ex-H had a way harder time and lost his temper and got openly frustrated a lot more easily, but it helped that we both backed each other up no matter what (if either of us disagreed with a decision the other made in regards to discipline, we discussed it privately, never in front of the skids) and both had exactly equal roles in disciplining. When my H got too frustrated and felt like he was going to lose his temper and yell (as adults and parents, one of the house rules was that we weren't allowed to yell or be rude to the skids either! Respect goes both ways!) he would remove himself and go to the store, go for a drive or walk or anything to get out of the house until he cooled down. Even though it was hard at first, we kept emotion out of the rules and consequences and never lashed out at the skids when we were frustrated or angry. It really helped to have pre-planned consequences because it was so simple! If you broke a rule, you got a specific consequence and that was all there was to it!

I currently have these house rules for any kids that visit my home, although I do not discipline my kids friends, obviously, I just tell them if they've broken a rule (and I stick to basics like no hitting, saying please and thank you, cleaning up messes they make etc...) and let my friends step in and do the disciplining of their own kids. I am firm, calm and clear with my nieces and nephew and occasionally follow through on discipline if my sisters aren't there to do it, but my nieces and nephew adore me (and it's mutual!) and they very rarely misbehave with me.

Oh, another important point, I think is that once a consequence has been meted out and fulfilled, I didn't and don't currently hang on to it or "stay mad." Once the consequence is over and the behavior corrected, I am upbeat and cheerful and move on from it, which is also a big motivator with kids. They know i'm not mad at them, just their bad behavior, and I had to gently remind my ex-H to let things go once the consequence had been given, as was our agreement with each other and the skids. I think punishments need to have limits and once they're over, they're over and everyone can move on and not have the punishment be dragged out and make everyone around completely miserable.

So, yeah, that's my long-winded (sorry, I'm a rambler!!) take on discipline when it comes to (s)kids. If you only have them EOWeekend or very rarely, it's a little different, but if you have them 50/50, or every day or on any regular schedule at all and you are all cohabiting in the same home (at least part of the time) then I think it is absolutely appropriate to create and enforce some basic house rules. The vital thing is to come up with them and be in total agreement with your spouse, because if the rules aren't clear, the SM has a confusing or minimal role in discipline, if there is lack of communication between spouses, confuses everyone and sets the family up for disaster and chaos. I was raised with high standards and my parents insisted on polite behavior as a minimum and encouraged kindness, love and altruism and I will be eternally grateful for what they taught me (I once went to time-out three times during my own 8th birthday party and was super pissed and mad at the time, but in retrospect my mom absolutely did the right thing and I am grateful that she expected such high standards of behavior out of me and refused to put up with my brattiness, lol).

Anywaysies, I hope things get better, because it is really depressing and discouraging to have to live in a home with badly behaved kids, conflict and negativity and it's a lot more fun when everyone is kind to each other and gets the icky stuff (chores, homework etc...) out of the way so that fun can be had. Good luck and keep us posted!

Vichychoisse's picture

Thanks FNH! Rambling or not, very helpful. We're not married, just shacked up.

I too participated in a redoing of the rules this year, and if interested it's in a previous blog post. Things have been going very well with it, better than I expected. They are generally good kids, but of course they slip up once in awhile as they did last night, and of course being pre- and teen, they cop attitudes on occasion.

I am truly only interested in participating in these things under two circumstances: 1, it directly affects my life or my home and I want to have a say for that reason or 2, SO wants/needs help/advice because they are girls and I am too. I have no problem providing the gender balance he sometimes needs. I suppose that when I feel like he's being too harsh, that's what kicks in - the gender balance, nurturing mother blah blah. Although otherwise I am NOT that!

momagainfor4's picture

They sound like decent kids. I mean, kids get lippy and have an attitude. You do have to set them straight.
But.... There's a difference between a kid that is becoming a teen that has raging hormones streaming through their body and a kid that is just a behavioral problem altogether.
You have to consider what you're dealing with!

While I think the dad has good intentions, in my experience, people take things too far sometimes.
And kids do get to a point that they just flat out start to give up because they feel that they are defeated and can't make their dad happy regardless of what they do.
It's just a balancing act.
I think the punish to whole group thing really works. That puts pressure on the kids to be accountable. Now, taking over someone else's chores seems sorta weird to me. Why give the other kid a pass? That to me only builds resentment between the kids.
My suggestion is to just mention that he might try some different ideas for punishment.
That maybe his was ok but that you've read some other things that might help, too.
What works for one kid might not work for the other one.
Sorry, I put up with years of dealing with my ex husband who was a ranting drunk idiot most of the time. He either behaved ridiculous with our kids or always went overboard.
So I have to ask myself this a powertrip or am I really doing something worthwhile here? Or is it a parent/child pissing contest? Bc sometimes that's all it's about. The parent is the one that has to set the example.
You want to raise strong independent individuals who can make good decisions to go out into the world and prosper.
Alienating your kids by pointing out how much you do for them will only get you a "I never asked for you to do anything for me".
Which is totally opposite of what he's trying to illicit from them.
My point of view, his punishment will backfire if he keeps doing the same exact thing that he did this time.
I'm not sure you're relationship is that close bc you seem sorta scared of confronting him with your feelings or thoughts on this.

Vichychoisse's picture

Thanks momagain!

You make excellent points -- one to ponder especially is the powertrip thing.

I'm not scared of confronting him with my feelings, but I don't want to involve myself in this if it's not a battle worth fighting or if it means setting a precedent of being involved. Mainly the latter; if I start expressing opinions about how he punishes, then he may want to come to me for more. Hell to the no!