That post was inspired by a question we received from a soon-to-be stepmother who was seeking help about her soon-to-be stepchildren and their unacceptable behavior. To paraphrase, the children had been brought up with little-to-no "rules" and were now acting out terribly. She described that her and the father of these children (her future husband) were now using punishment with them, but that when the kids were with their mother, they weren't punished at all. The mother "let them do whatever they want and gave them no structure." When it was time for the kids to visit her and their father, they would display extremely violent tantrums.
She mentioned that some of her punishments were working, but that she needed additional help with P.E.T. to figure out how to get them under control.
Here was my response:
These children are going through some very intense emotions during this time in their life. They have lost the comfort of having one home, are conflicted between having to choose which parent to be with, being forced into living part-time with a woman who is not their mother, having to compete for their father's attention, and on top of it all they are not having a say in any of these things that affect their lives directly. Children in this situation often will act out in other areas, like it sounds they are doing.
It sounds like you are trying to, or have already implemented some big changes in the style of parenting with your soon to be stepkids. It is working somewhat well while the kids are in your custody, but when they are with their mother, they go back to acting out. Their mother caters more to her children's feelings (whether rational or not) and you're having a hard time trying to implement the consistency of your parenting style. They really don't want to go back over to your house and every time it's your "turn", they have to be physically forced into the car. That sounds like some very unhappy children!
You mentioned that you are using some punishments in order to modify their behaviors. Please be aware that P.E.T. is NOT an advocate of punishment whatsoever. The use of punishment does not promote self-discipline, creates fear and long-term resentment, and usually it only works when the parent is around. Once parents are out of sight, the children go right back to their unnaceptable behavior. This sounds like something that you experienced first-hand, with the kids reverting right back to their ways once they were with their mother. And let's face it - like adults too, children don't like to be forced into doing anything.
At the same time, P.E.T. does not promote permissiveness either. This is a very common misconception and must be addressed here too! Permissiveness creates children that are spoiled, ungreatful and often careless with the feelings and needs of others. How will a child be able to grow up to be a responsible and self-sufficient adult if they are never given the opportunity (and practice) to make their own decisions and promote the kind of discipline that comes from WITHIN? Children brought up with permissive parents usually have a difficult time when entering the adult world.
With punishment AND permissiveness ruled out, most parents don't realize that their is a third choice. They do not have to pick one or the other. That's where P.E.T. comes in. The P.E.T. skills are too detailed to explain in an email here, but I assure you that a P.E.T. Instructor or any of our parenting materials will give you detailed "how-to's" on everything, as well as explain to you the REASONS why they work.
Please let me know what area you are located in. Hopefully, we have a Certified Instructor in your area who will be able to work with the entire family.
What do you think? Let me know...
by: Selena George, Program Manager