Elements of Fitness – A Mother's Memoir

Discipline and Co-parenting

Disciplining children can be hard enough as it is in a traditional family.  But add divorce, joint custody and getting remarried to the equation and it makes it even more difficult.

The girl’s father was very lazy, nothing bothered him and it took pulling teeth and ultimatums to get him to lift a finger.  Now I’m in a relationship that is quite the opposite:  Frank does things way before I even need to ask.  The problem with this type of personality though is that he is ‘Johnny on the Spot’ when it comes to my girls and the proper discipline.

I’m from the school that no one disciplines your children except their own parents (unless of course they’re staying at someone else’s home and the parents aren’t around). 

disciplineFrank is from the school that anyone can and should take matters into their own hands.  [I don’t mean literally.  Neither one of us has never laid a hand on any of the kids.]

For example, this just happened the other day, Frank and I stayed up way later than we normally do watching movies and then the following morning Frankie woke up and we didn’t hear him cry.  Kaitlyn’s room is right next to his so she went in his room, took him out of his crib and brought the baby into her room to play with the idea that she was helping us out. 

Me, being the lover of all things sleep, loved this.  I’ve allowed her to do this in the past, either by me asking her to go get him or vice versa so I’ve seen her take him out of the crib many times and she’s never had a problem.  Plus, if she had a hard time taking him out and accidentally hurt his legs or something he would not hesitate to cry.  But that scenario has never happened.

So I wake up with Frank walking into our room with the baby and he said “Did you know Kaitlyn takes the baby out of the crib?”  I said yes and thought that would be the end of it.  He then says “I don’t want her taking him out of the crib unless she asks us first and we say its ok”.  To which I replied ok and went back to sleep.

The next day as we’re all sitting around the table having lunch and Kaitlyn tells Frank something funny that happened that morning and Frank asked if she got the baby out of the crib.  Her and I both said yes.  He got pretty upset and said he didn’t want her to do it anymore.  I told him I recalled that he didn’t want her to do it without getting permission first.  He then said no, he doesn’t want her doing it at all.  He explained that he doesn’t feel she’s strong enough and didn’t think it was a good idea.  Then I got upset that he was doing this in front of the children and not allowing me a say in this.  I explained that if the baby was getting hurt he would cry as she was pulling him out of the crib, etc.

The most frustrating aspect of all of this is that he and I (like all parents) are supposed to be a united front.  So we can’t argue about it in front of the children.  But at the same time, pressing issues need to be dealt with immediately so the kids understand the consequences of their actions right away.

The other reason this hit home a little too much is because just a couple weeks ago, the girl’s father told me that the girls tell him that I do ‘whatever Frank says’.  This absolutely boggled my mind, first, because supposedly it came from the girls and second, I do not do as I’m told.  I never have.  So this was a complete shocker.  Now I know that my ex loves to say stuff to get under my skin and he never has a nice thing to say about Frank but the thing that cut to the core of me was wondering if that was really the girl’s perception of me?  Now I know they’re only 7 and 6 but still.  He also told me that the girls tell him that I make Frank his dinner and his drinks.  I told my ex that this is coming from our children and that I make dinner and get drinks for everyone.  I also added that I used to make dinner and drinks for him and I too when we were together.  It was then that he realized what I was saying (or at least pretended to).

So after this heated moment at the dinner table all of these thoughts started running through my mind.  And all I kept wondering was what the girls were thinking.  So since Frank raised his voice I decided to raise mine.  I told him “I did not appreciate him talking to me that way, especially in front of the children and I wanted an apology.”  He started to apologize right then but I said I wasn’t done yet.  I then said “if you have a problem with how I do things around here talk to me about it behind closed doors where we can resolve it between the two of us.”  He told me (in front of the children) that I was right and that he was sorry… and then everyone was silent for the next few minutes.

Now this isn’t, of course, the least or worst of examples.  It was just the most recent.  We’ve always had this problem about discipline.  He thinks I’m not consistent enough and I think he’s too harsh.  We’ve been to plenty of parenting classes due to horrendous allegations by my ex where we learned that you have to tell a child 2000 times each behavior you’re trying to correct. 

Last month, my youngest daughter got all her toys taken away by Frank because he’s had to tell her too many times to pick up her toys after she’s done playing with them.  And he did this when I wasn’t home.  Now I understand that there should have been some form of consequence but I thought taking away all her toys was way over the top.  I also don’t think that he, being the soon-to-be-Stepdad, should be the disciplinarian.  And many counselors and other people in the field we’ve spoken to agree with me on that.

But he disagrees.  He doesn’t believe he should’ve waited til I got home to let me handle it.

Anyways, the point of me sharing this is to try and figure out if I’m alone in this.  I can’t be.  But does every blended family household go through this?  Or anything remotely similar?  Did anyone grow up in a broken home?  What were your experiences?  How would you have handled either scenario differently?

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July 8, 2009 - Posted by | Being a Mom, Children, Discipline, Divorce, Family | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. So glad you wrote this! My ex husband and I have one daughter who is five. We are both now in long term relationships that will most likely lead to remarriage. My daughter can be a pistol. She can also be VERY sweet.

    My ex comes from a very passive aggressive home where he NEVER saw his parents disagree or argue. My family is, well, Italian and from New York. Huge extremes.

    I don’t think arguing in front of kids is a bad thing unless it gets nasty. Kids need to see people work through a problem without anger and yelling. They need to see that it’s okay to disagree and still love someone. It will help you tremendously when they get to be teenagers. They will have learned how to work out differences.

    As to the discipline, I think you and Frank need to figure out boundaries. My boyfriend is only alone with my daughter on nights where I may have a meeting and he helps out. He gets flustered if she acts up. He is just new at being around kids. When we are together, he just defers to me saying, “I think I heard your mom say not to do that.”

    Maybe you could agree on house rules and change or modify them as needed.

    Again, great post. So glad to see others worry about these things like I do!

    Comment by Vanessa | July 8, 2009 | Reply

  2. oh wow – I have been searching and searching for someone who is experiencing the same thing I am!!!! What you posted is EXACTLY what is going on at home for me. I have two girls 12 and 10.5 and he says I’m not “consistent” and I say he is too “harsh”. LOL We also have a two year old together. I see this post is from quite a long time ago so I’m hoping you have some good advice for me on what to do because quite frankly this is tearing me/us apart. Has this problem been resolved for you guys and how did you do it?

    Comment by cassee01 | October 6, 2011 | Reply


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