|

Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Discipline in Step-Families

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: My five-year-old stepson lives with his mother and has been in trouble at school and at home. When he and his sister are here, they do the normal things that little kids do. There have been several meetings at school, which Dad, Mom, and I have gone to. Mom is always calling Dad to correct the children and says she doesn't want to be the mean parent. She lets the kids do just about anything they want -- play in the busy street, scream at her, and the future step-dad, etc. Here, they have to stay in the yard and they show themselves and everyone else respect. We are very worried about our son's behavior. He is very violent towards his teacher, sister, and Mom. What can his Dad and I do?

A: It would be good if all of you -- mom, future step-dad, dad, you, and the children -- could be involved in some family counseling. It might be better if someone other than you were to suggest this, though. Perhaps you could let the teacher or the school counselor know before your next conference that this would be a good suggestion and let him or her make it instead of you. The school counselor or the children's pediatrician could recommend a therapist in your community.

If these children, especially your stepson, are at the point of being violent toward other people, it's time to get some help. The school staff should be able to let the mom know that counseling is essential for the children, but if they are not, you may want to ask your attorney about legal steps to take.

Your stepchildren need to continue to see your house as a stable, structured place to be. Keep being consistent with them in enforcing rules and expecting good behavior. Make sure that they see there are rewards for that good behavior in the form of time with you and their dad, taking walks, playing games, or reading bedtime stories together.

Your last question brings up a fine line: Mom's house is hers and she gets to make the rules there, but dad needs to be seen as dad wherever he is and the children need to see that they cannot misbehave in front of him. It would be best if mom and dad could talk without the children around and agree to what rules will be enforced and where.

More on: Expert Advice

Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks

highlights

3 Fun Thanksgiving Games for Kids
Looking for some great Thanksgiving games to play with your kids? Print our free Pin the Feathers on the Turkey game, Pin the Hat on the Pilgrim game, and Thanksgiving Parade Bingo game for loads of laughs this Turkey Day!

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

Top Family Movies in Theaters for the Holidays
Taking the kids to the movies is a special family treat for the holidays! Don't miss 2014's best family films in theaters from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!