All parenting advice says you should reward good behaviour. I’ve tried star charts and naughty steps, they never worked out for me. Then you find the things you did when they’re toddlers just stop working as they get older, probably because you expect different standards of behaviour as they get older.
Throw into this the complications divorce and blending families brings. When OH set up on his own seeing his 3 kids he didn’t create a new home following their mum’s rules, he based his set of rules on their mum’s but they were less rigid, they were adapted to suit him and how he wanted to parent. Then I come along with my set of rules and way of doing things with DD. When we moved in together I had to adapt my rules to suit some of his and he adapted some of mine to suit his and over time we have come together and set up standards of behaviour we expect by our 3 children in our house. I do not expect to be living by his ex’s rules, I found that hard to begin with. I do not want my daughter living by his ex’s rules. I appreciate for my step kids they come from one house with one set of standards/rules and into another with a different set. But that’s a learning lesson for life, different schools, different friend’s houses, different workplaces, different countries, all have different rules and laws that when you are there you need to abide by. You need to be flexible and adaptable, something they have not been taught.
Why do my step kids find it so difficult to abide by our family rules? Why are our rules not worthy of as much respect as their Mother’s? I hate our rules being compared to how their mum would do it. I hate how little respect they afford us.
This has been a problem for a while. Earlier in the year after reading ‘The Parenting Puzzle” we sat down with the kids and established between us a set of family rules. They aren’t much, general manners, tidy rooms, put washing away etc. Then we created a set of rewards. To earn the rewards the book recommended tokens, we decided to use pasta. We set aside a Tupperware and a bag of pasta and it was to be filled up at the end of every day. Once it was full they could choose a reward off the list. Each rule had a value of pasta assigned to it, so if it they did it, they got the pasta. Simple. Except, it’s actually hard work remembering to fill up the jar everyday. Counting out 3 pastas for this, 0 for that. It was also more complicated by the fact that my step kids aren’t here all the time. Another complication is that half of the rules are basic standards of politeness and cleanliness that my step kids lack and DD just does. So she’s getting rewarded for being herself. I still had to have a system in place if she did something wrong, which is generally early nights, no TV or loss of a toy for a week. This works for us, but doesn’t work for the step kids as they may not be here for a week.
Pasta jar has been a disaster. My step kids won’t do any of the rules because they aren’t getting the pasta and they are disrespectful , blaming us not giving them pasta for the fact they aren’t doing anything. Arggghhhhh!!!! I hate disrespect. So we needed a new plan, one that we as busy grown ups can actually find time to keep track of. The new plan has improved family rules with a lot more emphasis on manners and cleanliness (the main issues my step kids have) and some of the bad habits DD is growing into that are annoying the hell out of me! We are going to adopt a 3 strikes and you’re out policy, so if they break 3 rules they lose their pocket money for the week. We’re keeping pasta jar and if we feel they have been good we’ll put a handful of pasta in at the end of the week. When it’s full they can select a reward. But it is up to us to decide if they deserve it or not.
There are still holes in this plan. I can’t pick the step kids up for the rule they’ve broken if they’re not here when I find it. I’ve got to try and remember the petty thing they did or didn’t do until next time I see them. Plus it means they have to have their pocket money every week, which they can’t be trusted with as they sneak it out the house and back to their mum’s house, or spend it at the snack bar in school!!
The main problem I have is that they cannot respect us enough to obey a few simple rules. There has to be something in it for them. I’ve always been rubbish at the rewarding good behaviour thing, even with the dog. Yes I praise, when it is deserved, but I also shout and lecture and dole out punishments when my child has been naughty. My step kids have been brought up with the strict routine and rewarding good behaviour thing, I think, to be honest I have no idea what weird and wonderful methods their mother employs. The problem with rewarding is that they expect something for very little all the time. I feel it creates an attitude of “what’s in it for me if I do this?” rather than “I’ll be in trouble if I don’t do this” or “I’ll upset/hurt someone if I don’t do this” personally I think the latter is better. Does it not teach kids to think of others and teaches respect for others rather than just self obsession?
I’m not sure whether the new methods will work but they’re worth a try. Under new methods SD has already lost this week’s pocket money and she has only been here one night this week. It may encourage them to obey the rules to get their pocket money, but how does it teach respect for the rules? How do other parents/step parents cope with this? What methods do you have for enforcing rules?
We haven’t even got to chores yet, they’ll be getting some of them introduced soon. I don’t even know where to begin with that one!!