Kindergarten, Step Daughter, and Her Mom's Punishments

Updated on January 20, 2011
M.O. asks from Gilbert, AZ
20 answers

Hi Mamas! It's been a while since I've had to ask you ladies a question and this one may be a little complicated...or maybe not, lol. I have a kindergarten age step daughter (well her dad and I are not married yet, but essentially) as well as my own 3rd grade son and preschool daughter. step daughter and my son go to different schools. She gets in trouble a lot at school for not listening and following directions, talking to other students and disrupting class, and fighting sometimes (although all the info I get about these situations is 3rd hand). Her mom grounds her for getting in trouble at school, pretty much for the rest of the week and weekend whether she's at her house or ours, and she continues to get in trouble at school. I don't think grounding works for that young of an age, which seems to be backed up by the fact she's still getting in trouble at school. Her mom disagrees and gets upset with her dad when we do fun things with all the kids on our weekends, but she is always pretty well behaved for us (some listening issues when we first get her, but those clear up pretty quickly). How do I, or her father, handle this? Basically I am looking for advise on better, more effective and age appropriate consequences and how to talk to the mom about implementing those to see if they work or letting her know firmly that we will dole out consequences as we see fit when she is at our house. Thanks so much in advance for your help Mamas!

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answers from Orlando on

Her Mom & Dad need to work this out & you need to follow their lead... I think it would be a great idea for you to suggest that the two of them meet with the school counselor to sort through this. If a child has too many different sets of rules at each household this will only cause confusion & acting out... which may be why she is getting in trouble at school.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I really like Mommee's advice. You all have to co-parent, and you as a step are back-up for dad. Speaking with the school counselor to find out effective, age appropriate discipline is a great idea. The long term grounding seems excessive, and somewhat disconnected from the actions it is punishing. Something more targeted I think would make more sense, and all of you trying to be on the same page to correct the problem is really the best way to go. Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Minneapolis on

I think the girl's Mom and Dad should meet together with her teacher, so both parents are 100% in the loop on her school behavior. Dad can fill you in after the meeting. Mom and Dad should decide together what kind of improvement action needs to happen and what the "outside of school" consequences are for continued bad behavior. It should be consistant at both homes. I'm sorry, but that MAY mean that some weekends at your house, Dad has to stay home with her if she isn't allowed to go and do something fun that the other kids get to do. However, I think both Mom and Dad need to find the root cause of what is happening at school and work on a plan to fix it before she has too many more bad behavior reports.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Little Rock on

Well, since you aren't "technically" the step-mother, you are treading on thin ice with the biological mother and this will cause you stress in the future.
Your heart may be in the right place, but you are already creating discord in the blended family by asking about alternative ways to disipline your bf's daughter. Your boyfriend and his ex should come to an agreement about how to handle punishments for the sake of their daughter. You have no right to question the mother's form of punishment, and certainly not in front of the child.
You need to step back a put yourself in the mother's shoes. If your children's father had a girlfriend who came at you with this, would you be receptive? I think it's reasonable to say that no mother would appreciate being told that her form of punishing her child sucks.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Well, what I have found to be effective is to take away something she really likes. In our house, that's the Wii, DS, computer time.
"Grounding" is kind of a vague term to a Kindergartner, I think.
I think the house rules at moms should be = to the house rules at dads.
Your boyfriend and his ex should establish a rule list and have it posted at both houses.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Uh oh. I would let Dad talk to Mom about the fact that you two get to make the rules of your own household. You should not be in the middle.

I am a stepmother myself. You are acting as a parent, doing a parent's job, with parental feelings, but you have no legal rights unless you have become a legal guardian, so he needs to be the one to "let her know firmly." She isn't going to listen to another woman telling her how to raise her own child. She gets to make her own rules for her home, even if you disagree with them.

I agree about the grounding, though, especially for a week. At that age, even a few hours is tough for a kid to process. I expect that stress is causing the behavior problems. Perhaps you can share what is working for you, but be aware that it may not work at school, or in her mother's house --they are different environments, and children have different feelings and needs in different environments.

You can also talk to the child and let her know that her mother might need some help at home, and might need more rest, so maybe she can try to be a good helper at home. I am not suggesting that a Kinder take an adult's responsibility. I say this because sometimes children relate to vulnerability, and respond well to it. If Mom is stressed, the child may not pick up on the feelings, and just interpret it as, "Mom thinks I am bad", or "Mom doesn't like me". Letting her know that Mom is frustrated and may not know the right thing to do, might help the child think about the situation differently, and produce different behavior.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

The dad needs to tell mom that his weekend is his and he is not going to support her in the grounding. It is extremely unfair of her to try and mandate what you are allowed to do on your time.

Yes, she needs to act better but his visit time is for him to do what he wants. What if he planned a trip to Disneyland and had bought the tickets, paid hotel reservations etc...and the mom said she's grounded she has to stay at your house this weekend and not do anything fun, I would be telling her off. But it's dad's job to tell her no, that it's his time and not hers.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

Telling my Kindergartener no TV for 2 days for every bad report usually helps with her behavior!!

I agree grounding a 5 y/o ALL WEEK and WEEKEND for not listening, etc at school is a bit much, simply because it's not within their development abilities to really understand.

When the child is at your house, it should be your rules - unless Mom has hard rules about certain things. Punishments should not be one of them.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Salt Lake City on

I agree that its too much to ask to ground her while she is with you guys. But, I think that is something that your soon to be husband should talk to her about not you. I bet a lot of why she gets into trouble is because of the family situation divorce and remarrying can be hard on kids. So I would suggest having your husband talk to his ex wife about not punishing their daughter into your time and to maybe come up with ideas to share. I dont know any punishments because for that age usually doing a notty spot for 1 min per year is appropriate but that is hard when you dont do it immediately after the bad behavior. Maybe taking away privileges she likes- tv for the night? good luck

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

It's soo difficult to be a step parent! The three of you need to deal with what's going on in school and obviously Mom is trying but not succeeding. Can you get Dad (it has to come from him not you) to request a meeting with the teacher right away. All three of you can hear the problems and any suggestions the teacher has for improving the situation. Punishment is not the most important thing when teaching a five year old how to behave. She needs to PRACTICE talking about problems and not fighting (find out more about what is starting the fights and then role play how she could have handled it differently. Practice following two step directions. play games with her that she has to follow directions, take her places where she has to PRACTICE being quiet. Sounds like she might be acting out of anger- Get her counseling! She doesn't sound like a typical Kindergartener and ALL focus should be on helping her, NOT punishing her, so don't talk to Mom about disagreeing with HOW she's punishing, just the fact you should not HAVE to punish a kindergartner so much!
Force your hubby to insist on learning more about how to PREVENT the problems. I hope you can get him to help his daughter!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I think that most of the time it's not effective for one parent to dictate the consequences at the other house. Her deciding to ground her daughter and then wanting her ex to enforce it impacts your home. Similarly, if he made a choice that he wanted carried into her home, she would probably resent being dictated to, especially if it hindered her plans.

I think that while her father can back up her mother, her mother may need to accept that his consequence for their daughter's behavior might need to be different than hers. Maybe instead of being grounded during the short time she sees her dad, the child could do yard work for x time per bad note sent home from school. Or sit out part of an event and have to watch the other kids get to play first because she "owes" her dad x time for each bad note.

I also think that the father, if he isn't already, needs to get involved directly with the teacher and discuss his concerns and have her discuss concerns directly with him. Most teachers these days have email.

Each kid is different. My stepson plays video games so sometimes DH would take the cables for his game systems and let him stare at the paperweights they became. My stepdaughter is social, so sometimes we would tell her no party. Find your stepdaughter's currency within your home and go from there.

I don't remember a time when we asked BM to enforce a consequence in her home. I recall incidents she was told about, but what she did or didn't do was her decision. It's hard when there are two homes and two sets of "rules" but kids deal with different environments all the time (like school vs home vs grandma's house). If you wouldn't take a kid to grandma's and expect grandma to ground her, then why do that to her at her father's house?

Also, if the behavior is limited to school, then try to get to the bottom of it. Is it always with the same kid(s)? Same situations? My stepdaughter used to get bored and read non-school books during math class and other inappropriate times, or try to show off during a quiet time, etc. We worked with her on ways to help her remember how to behave.

I hope that made sense.

I agree that Dad and Mom should talk directly, but there's no reason IMO, that you can't give Dad input first.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dover on

I don't think Mom's punishments should restrict where or what you and your boyfriend can go or do on your visitations; however, I do think that all adults involved should be willing to work together and execute punishments (or rewards) as needed. Can mom and dad (and you too if you are all agreeable) sit down and come to an agreement about punishments (consistency is key)?

I think maybe a sticker or reward chart for a child of this age can work very well. Something as simple as happy or sad faces drawn in. A frown on any given day = no tv, etc that frowns all week = some small reward each weekend. A month with no frowns = a bigger reward.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Children need positive reinforcement, that long of grounding isn't going to teach her anything at this age. You should all meet with the teacher and discuss these issues.

Perhaps you can all read some professional discipline advice, Dr. Sears is an expert in this area:

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Flagstaff on

I agree and disagree about co parenting in different households. The reason her parents don't live together may have been because they had different opinions and couldn't agree and maybe specifically about parenting issues. It would be a wonderful world if two households of same kid(s) could agree to same consequences yet I haven't really seen that happen much...Depending on how your/your husband (to be) relationship is with her would mean a lot. If you're on solid ground, have some tea and think of some daily rewards rather then punishments, or only daily punishments, especially at her age.
If she has a bad day, she goes to bed early because maybe she didn't sleep enough. If she's in trouble in school, maybe she doesn't have dessert that night because the sugar was too much for her body to handle. Natural consequences.
I don't think it's appropriate to loose a whole weekend of activities. At that age it does affect the whole family and weekend plans since she can't stay home on her own and surely you want to spend time with her regardless.

She should be able to enjoy weekends with her mom or with your family.
Maybe let her know that you're planning on bringing her to a movie on the weekend if she doesn't have any teacher conflicts....then follow through...

Don't know, it's a challenging situation. Just make sure that you stay positive with her and honest to your expectations at your home.

The other question is do you have her on school days or just weekends? If you don't have her on school days, it would suck that all the discipline comes from her mom and not at your house. If this is the situation, maybe you need to let her know that you'll need to support her moms decision about lame weekends....

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I would talk to her Mom. You will gain alot of respect from your Step Daughter also by talking to her Mom. Her Mom/Dad should make the decisions and should be in agreement. The child will suffer otherwise.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

A child that young needs more immediate and short-term consequences. It is best to reward good behavior and you may not get as much bad behavior to punish, especially for a child who is having regular challenges (there may be more to that, either with the child or the adults around her, e.g. inconsistent rules, unrealistic expectations).
As an example, I have a son with ADHD; he gets to use his computer or other electronic that he loves for x amount of time based on good behavior at school. He earns this privilege rather lose if for misbehaving.
Also, for us, weekends are mostly fun family time. No school or work-related stuff. He would have to do something really extreme at school to be punished on weekend for it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

It is hard that when you have fun things planned that it has to be canceled for all because of the punishment of one, but that is what being a parent is about. If YOUR son was on punishment, YOU would expect the other parent to honor that punishment.

I do agree that long punishments are counter-productive. It gets to the point where she is always on punishment, can't dig her way out, and so well what's one more day on the pile...

It could also be that the girl's personality just doesn't mesh with the teacher's personality or teaching style and that is contributing to all of the chaos.

My son was sent to the office one day for talking in class, when the 'talking' was that he hadn't heard what the instruction was and had asked the neighbor kid to repeat it.

I think the two bio parents need to have a sitdown with the teacher and guidance counselor to see what they feel the main problem is. Are there other kids in the class having problems? Is it possible that she is showing signs of ADD? Maybe the pediatrician needs to be brought in ...


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chattanooga on

She doesn't have the right to punish your SD during the small amount of time she's at YOUR house. It's not fair to expect you guys to spend your weekend with her enforcing the grounding. What would be the point in her even coming over? I think that Mom needs to find out WHY her kid is causing so much trouble. My little cousin used to get in sooo much trouble in kindergarten-1st grade... until he had a teacher that gave him 2nd grade work. He was challenged, and calmed right down. It turned out that he was getting so BORED with the work he was given that he acted up in class.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Flagstaff on

The ideal situation would be for the dad and his ex to talk to each other and work out a plan of discipline that works for everyone, although the chances of this happening may not be very high. It does not seem right that a punishment the mom gives carries over to the dads house, especially if the dad does not agree with the punishment. It does not teach the child anything by punishing them for a prolonged amount of time at that age. As you stated, it is not working because she is still getting into trouble. Time to find a new punishment that actually works. The punishment should be more immediate than that. What is the school doing when the child acts out? Does she get a punishment at school? I think it is more effective for the child to be punished at school directly after an incident occurs there. My daughter has lost recess, or go to the behavior counselor or the office and do school work when she misbehaved at school. She has lost special priviliges in the classroom that she loves, such as picking a book off the shelf to read quietly or play a special game. Your husband should talk to the teacher and find out if there is something that they can do at school as a result of her bad behavior. At home, a punishment that is kind of old school, but works, is writing sentences. My friend used this as a punishment for their son when he had the exact same behaviors you describe and it actually worked. He hated having to write sentences after school. Arecent punishment for my daughter has been that she does not get to play video games if she has problems at school that day. She is so proud and excited when it was a good day, it seems to be working. Rewarding good behavior seems to work better than punishing bad behavior though. You (or her dad or mom) could do like a lot of teachers do and give out points or "mom" dollars for each day she behaves and when she earns so many she can pick a toy out of a prize box (cheap little items from the dollar store), or do something special like go to a movie, bowling, buy a new book, etc.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I've been a step-mom. Don't get pulled into doing parenting of this girl yourself. Your husband needs to have a convo with his x deciding exactly what things he will agree to "punish". Otherwise, the ex has no right dictating any sort of punishment that extends to your visitation time.

1 mom found this helpful
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