Stepkid's Punishement Carrying over from House to House?

Updated on December 07, 2012
C.M. asks from Bartlett, IL
20 answers

This is something my husband (and I) have struggled with.

My husband and his ex want to present a united front to their daughter, and I think that's a wonderful thing! However, my husband has gone back and forth on whether a punishment should continue from one house to the other when my SD goes from her mom's to here.

On one hand, they want to present a united front, and they also want to show her that she can't skip out on her consequences by just going to the other parent's house. Being grounded for a week means she's grounded for a week. Period.

On the other hand, there are factors that go into why she did something incorrect in the first place and also it can ruin the plans of the other family.

The current situation is my SD did something bad at her mom's house, and then hid the evidence and lied about it. She was found out, and she was grounded. One day later she came back to our house, and her mom wanted the grounding to continue because this wasn't a first offense and grounding her for one day didn't see to do any good the last 2 times she hid and lied about something.

My husband wants her to stop hiding things and lying, but also feels that part of the reason she lied was because her mom doesn't provide her a chance to fix the problem, like we do. In our house, we focus on FIXING a mistake made. If you make a mistake, fine, but then you have to fix it by repairing the damage, or doing extra chores to make it up if someone else has to take a lot of time to fix the mistake. My husband believes that the lying happens because his daughter feels she has no choice, she's going to be punished either way. We don't punish as much here as we try to do natural consequences.

It also ruins the plans my husband has made for the week. We had family plans to see a movie, and if she's grounded then we all can't go.

What do you do in your houses? I'd like to advise my husband as he has asked what I think.

I think that presenting a united front is a good thing for their daughter. I also know that she has a greater chance to make mistakes at her mom's house because there is less supervision, less guidance, and she has a younger brother that is a little devil.

I think it would probably be better to give consequences that are immediate and don't need to carry over to the other house like extra chores or going to bed early. However, I do know that sometimes that's not enough.

Insights appreciated!

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answers from Kansas City on

i think a united front is SO ideal. great job to all of you for that!

i would suggest taking it one step further. if something happens, and either you or his ex expect the punishment to need to carry over to the other house - make a phone call. decide together what works for both houses. i think it really is that simple. keep each other in the loop.

it's great that you are trying to carry it over to both houses - but it's not really fair, if that's the expectation, for ONE parent to make the call on the punishment. know what i mean?

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Ground her at your house with something else. Yes, you all still go to a movie, but she cannot (say) use her cell all weekend while she is with you.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

It's tricky. I think if the behavior was severe (getting suspended from school, taking the car without permission, etc.) then the consequence can be enforced on both sides **with prior discussion about what that consequence might be**. But if she lied to her mom, then she needs to face the music with her. You can back her up by saying that you are disappointed with this behavior and that she should not lie to her mom. But this kind of falls in the gray area of how much control do you have in each other's homes? If there's no dietary concerns, but you don't like her having sugar, does that mean she can no longer buy Froot Loops? Or if it works for their household to have her bedtime at 8:30 but she sees you mostly on weekends do you have to enforce that bedtime?

What one of my friends did was make a clock. The kid would act up right at the end of visits, figuring she'd be scott free in a couple of hours. So SM and Dad said no, next time we see you, you owe us. You owe us the 10 minutes you fought about putting on your shoes and getting out to the car. You owe us the 10 minutes you argued in the store. Etc. And the next time she came over, they worked out how she paid back the time on her clock. Maybe she sat out for 20 minutes while her cousins played. Or maybe she did 20 minutes worth of chores or went to bed early. Friend said it really stopped a lot of end of the weekend fights and they got to enjoy their time much more.

DH can also say, "I back you up that she needs to stop x behavior. However, we have family time planned and I will have to think about how I'm going to deal with her behavior on my time." So maybe your household goes to the movie, and she has to do something to fix the problem with her mom. Write a letter of apology or something.

It's just a slippery slope when you dictate each other's households, especially if there are very different parenting styles. It's kind of like "just wait til your father comes home!" which means Mom just gave up her authority and Dad is always the heavy. And that's no fun, either. It is not uncommon for a kid to act one way in one place and another way in another place. They will behave according to what they can get away with/what the expectations are. Mom's house, Dad's house, Grandma's house, school...

IMO, there's more than one way to be united on the end goal of not tolerating the behavior, even if you take different steps to get there. And, also, if there's a behavior seen often in one home and not in the other, then the change needs to happen in A and not necessarily B. You can try to help her through it on your end, but Mom needs to change something on hers if SD predominantly lies to HER. If my SD didn't pick up her bathroom at her mom's house, there was nothing we could do about it. That was on her mom and SF.

Bottom line is IF they are going to do this, they need to discuss each situation in advance and agree to terms - which may or may not be exactly the same in each home, depending on parenting styles. Mom may be angry, but that doesn't mean SD comes to your home every time with a list of consequences you were not involved in making.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I thought that grounding means that the kids cannot spend time with friends or in case of the teenagers also get their multiple communication devises locked in a box. Family events in our home do not qualify as grounding, they are opportunities for us to reconnect and be together as a family. Does the mother think that isolating her daughter in the room will make the girl any wiser?

I think your approach is better since you are giving this girl a chance to redeem herself and to work on her mistakes. Teenagers lie to the parents precisely because they do not want to be punished! For your teenager not to lie to you you have to work on having a very strong bonds with them and even then some kids lie because they want to protect parents from being hurt learning some bad things about the kid. The truth is - we all lie, for whatever reason. Each incident should be taken separately, discussed, and the reasons addressed and consequences dolled out as needed. Eventually, the parents have to realize that they may not know all the details of their kids misbehavior and daily lives at all times, but the kids need to know what the expectations are even if the parent is not aware of what is happening. Another thing, I personally feel that a parent has to be reasonable with punishments because you do not want your kid to be so afraid of disclosing things to you that they go out there and make some bigger mistakes trying to cover up the original crime. At the same time, yes, you need to have consequences and present the united front. So it is a balance, but like I said in our home we do not include family events in punishment categories. Even if my son was acting as devil - he will earn no friends over the weekend, or no games on the weekend penalty, but he will still go to the play with me or I will invite him to jog with me on Saturday morning because these are opportunities to connect, discuss, and to spend time together (and for some teens it may look like a punishment on the surface to spend half a day with a parent instead of friends).
That's my take on the issue. You guys are lucky that you are all on the same page! It is just needs some better communication and tuning! Perhaps both parents can agree on the predetermined consequences (since the behavior has a tendency to repeat) ahead of time and stick to that. Another thing, the mom or dad do not have to tell the kid what punishment is right away, one of them can say "there will be a consequence, but what it will be I will discuss with your father and let you know". The kid will await the punishment anxiously and the parents can come to terms on what they find acceptable.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

I agree with Sunni. In our house, family time and God time is sacred. Everyone is a part of Family Movie/Game Night, and everyone goes to church Sunday and Wednesday. For the rest of the time, if they're grounded, they're grounded.

So make the judgement call. Is it family time or God time? Then it doesn't fall into grounding.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I think as long as your SD's mom isn't punishing and grounding her all the time, that you guys should carry out the punishment, regardless of whether it's what you would do.

The consistency and knowing that her parents are united are most important for her, and will serve well in the future.

I think, since mom asked, you guys should carry out the grounding. Hopefully mom's a decent parent, so this won't be a common occurrence. If it becomes a common occurrence, then your husband might have to sit down with mom and work out some other arrangement.

But this time, do it.

I like Adansmama's suggestion to call ahead of time to work out a mutual consequence. Perfect solution.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

You and hubby are making excuses for her. Mom said this wasn't the first time she has lied to her. Different parenting styles or not, do not provide her with an excuse for misbehaving and then lying to her mother about it. Lying is lying and it is NEVER right for a kid to lie to their parent.

Sorry if your plans are ruined, but I think the punishment should carry over from one house to the next. That's how my daughter and I do it with my GD. If she gets in trouble at my house, she is still in trouble at mom's. Kids need to know the lines of communication are open and that the people in charge of them do have a united front. If you do anything less, she is going to play one against the other for the duration of her childhood and probably into adulthood.

So, it comes down to what's more important to you - going to the movies or being part of a parenting team.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

They always refused to punish my children at school for not doing the dishes or making the bed. Just kidding, kind of absurd isn't it. Two separate homes and two separate circumstances. You can be united but that might just mean not screaming and yelling at eachother in front of the children. I agree with the immediate consequences. And age appropriate. Again pretty silly to tell a one year old they can't go to Disneyworld if they don't eat their beans since they in all likelihood do not even know what that means. And well, final thought, we all make mistakes on a daily basis so isn't the one punishment good enough? Sounds kind of not surprising that the parents are divorced.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dover on

"Grounding" means different things to different people so hubby and his ex should have that discussion to see if they are on the same page. If so, grounding can go with child to either home. If not, it is pointless to carry it over.

I don't think being "grounded" should exclude a child from a family event nor should it punish other family members. I do agree with a united front whenever possible and sometimes that does mean carrying over the punishment. Ideally, the two homes could have similiar consequences.

Maybe your hubby and his ex can agree to discuss punishment before it is implemented IF it will carry over to the other house and that way, both are on board and that can be spelled out when the punishment is told to your step-daughter and if it won't be extended to the other home, she can be told that it will be paused during that time and will resume when she returns to the home where the punishment was dished out from.

In this specific case, I think you should go to the family movie but consider her grounded in other aspects (that don't prevent you doing things as a family).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

you shouldnt ground a kid without calming down and not being angry at the time to avoid making crazy punnishments (you're grounded for a year), atleast that's true with my 6 year old. I have no experience with older kids though. So why not use the fact that parents need to discuss the punnishment if it will affect both houses before doling it out as a positive?
It will give yor husband and her mom a time to speak on the phone about the behaviour and he can ask if she's thought of approaching it a diferent way, and if not, fine, but then they can come up with a punnishment that works for both parents.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I don't understand why a family outing would not be ok when she is grounded. Then you give her control over what the other side does when she is there. If she had plans to go to a movie with her friends then of course the answer is no. I don't think it is appropriate that one individuals behavior ruins it for the whole family.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

the problem is that the consequence is not only affecting her. so ground her from
outside playtime etc
or (and this works wonders lol)
make the consequence something that benefits the family
for instance instead of grounding give her a job to do that will make her think twice about what she did. so for instance clean out the fridge, dust the baseboards around the house, weed a garden. somthing that makes her get hot and sweaty.

being grounded should not in any way affect her being part of a family function.


answers from Hartford on

A united front would be ideal, and using your own home's guidelines so that the discipline fits the style of your home. I think that's fair.

But I also don't think that you and your husband are obligated to follow through with a punishment 100% that her mother inflicts because as you insinuated, her punishments aren't actually discipline but simply punitive and they really just serve to inhibit family plans in your own home.

If you and your husband have children together and/or you have children from a previous relationship, the punishment your step-daughter has is doubly unfair since it affects everyone in the house and you all end up "punished." In that sort of instance I think it's acceptable to over-ride the punishment.

"M'Chelle, we just wanted to let you know that we went to the movies and took Clara with us. Yes, we know you grounded her. We've stuck to your punishment but this was a family outing and we felt that it would be unfair to all of the other children if we canceled it and we didn't feel it was right to leave her home alone. You can tack an extra day on to her punishment at your house if you feel the need to, but that's up to you."



answers from Oklahoma City on

Dad and mom need to talk. Obviously the child goes between 2 homes so grounding cannot be a punishment. That is not the right choice. When the child misbehaves the need instant consequences.

When my daughter has her oldest boys for a visit from my ex, he has adopted one and has guardianship of the other, and one of the doesn't mind or gets in trouble they sit in the corner or write sentences or a paper about what they did and what they should have done differently.

Grandad only gets involved if they just get totally off track. She has called him once or twice due to one refusing to do homework.

Both parent figures have to be generally "in the same book"....I live with hubby and we aren't always "on the same page" when it comes to discipline. The closest we can get to being on the same page is just being in the same book sometimes.

Mom cannot decide your plans and schedule, she just isn't allowed. If she were mean and knew you had something wonderful planned she might just find some little offense and ground her just so you couldn't do it.


answers from St. Louis on

It is in my opinion a complicated issue. My ex loves to ground and tends to not enforce it at his own house but would love it if I did. As you would imagine I tell him where he can put his grounding.

Here is what I explained to my ex, nothing I can do at my house will compel them to behave at your house. I am simply not there to enforce order and they know it. Sure if you told me they did this I could ground them but they are smart, they know you forget so half the time it will never be communicated to my side. The only way you can get them to behave for you is for you to discipline.

I see a united front as having the same expectations for their behavior. How you go about doing that shouldn't effect the other household.

I guess I see this from my view which is they behave for me and not for him and he wants me to somehow control them at his house which is just never going to happen. Plus I am very targeted in my discipline. It doesn't take more than a few hours to associate cause and effect.

Okay and my ex is an idiot!



answers from Los Angeles on

Compromise. Give her a chance to think about how she can fix this with her mom. Help her with it so she doesn't feel alone. Once she has a solution that is realistic enjoy your time as you had planned.


answers from Washington DC on

I think both the dad and the mom need to find punishments THEY can enforce during their time. So if the grounding needs to carry over, then maybe she will be off of grounding when she is with you guys, but she goes back on it when she is with mom. Or there has got to be something else. No allowance that week, no dance (whatever sport or activity), no electronics, etc. I'd look into that option instead.



answers from Minneapolis on

It sounds like your SD really struggles with the issue her Mom punished her for. Although I do like the approach in your family about getting a chance to fix your mistakes, I think consistancy is important. She needs to see you and your DH supporting her Mom's authority, and that you are a united team, even if it may be harder to behave at Mom's house. She should still be expected to do so. I think your DH and SD's Mom need to agree specifically on what "grounded" means. And maybe come up with one of her favorite things (Ipod, TV, friend time, etc) to be taken away as a consequence. Something concrete instead of "being grounded" In this case, I would definitely keep her Mom's consequences at your house. Your plans were going to a movie. That is something that can be done another time anyway. It's not like she is going to miss a once in a lifetime time family event or activity.


answers from Phoenix on

We are a blended family and we keep the discipline to one house. I get what you are saying, but in reality, it doesn't work for the same reasons you stated. If our kids are grounded for a week and after day 4 go to their dads, their grounding will continue for the remainder 3 days after they come BACK from their dads. Same thing for his house. That way it doesn't interfere with the plans at the other house. This works for us. Good luck.



answers from Dallas on

I love Sherry's answer. You already had family plans, so keep them. But the grounding stays in place for the other things.

Is there any way that SD's parents can pow-wow over the tools to correct the behavior re. lying? Obviously not all exes can have decent conversations, but you never know. Good luck!

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