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Getting it right from the start

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

My husband and I are about to get custody of his 15 year old daughter.  He and I have a 3 year old daughter together.  I've been trying to find all I can on dealing with teenage stepchildren and getting myself mentally, emotionally and physically prepared for the changes of having my stepdaughter with us full-time.

 

My question has to do with discipline.  First of all, I agree 100% that it should be my husband's job to discipline my stepdaughter.  But my husband works in a job that requires a lot of travel.  In fact, he'll be in a whole other state for the first nine months after we get custody.  So I am going to HAVE to be a disciplinarian, and I am *worried*.  She has not been raised well and there are bad habits that will need to be worked through.  Like actually doing homework and attending school.  She also has been permitted to smoke and drink with her mother's full knowledge.  And she has been sexually active for two years.

 

She is a very sweet and smart girl, but she has had some obvious deficiencies with her upbringing.  My DH seems to think there will be no problems, but I am more realistic.  I know he will support me fully, but I want to make sure I am prepared before she ever comes to live with us so we can minimize problems.  But how am I going to be the one to step in and get her to do her homework and not stay out all night and the like without causing big-time resentment and riffs within the family?

post #2 of 5

I have not been in your situation and do not know the background, however I would suggest all sitting down (you, your husband, your stepdaughter) with a family counselor to come up with a behavior contract.  Set out the expectations and rules for the household and then come up with what happens if those expectations or rules or what have you aren't met.  Make sure your stepdaughter has input into the whole process.  Obviously it will be something that will be revised quite often but I would try to make it as comprehensive as possible at the beginning.  If it is something you can all agree on, hopefully it will take the emotion out of disciplining.  For us, it has been a lifesaver to have a paper that my son signed that says "If I don't do my homework, I miss baseball practice" or whatever.  He can't argue with it and we don't have to feel like the bad guys.

 

Family meetings are really helpful with a teen as well.  For us, making sure our teen feels heard has made a huge difference in his attitude.  It helps us to approach issues with a "how can we resolve this" attitude rather than being adversarial.

 

I'm sure there will be others who come along with much better advice but the family meetings and the behavior contract have lessened conflict within our family in a major way.

post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ornery View Post

I have not been in your situation and do not know the background, however I would suggest all sitting down (you, your husband, your stepdaughter) with a family counselor to come up with a behavior contract.  Set out the expectations and rules for the household and then come up with what happens if those expectations or rules or what have you aren't met.  Make sure your stepdaughter has input into the whole process.  Obviously it will be something that will be revised quite often but I would try to make it as comprehensive as possible at the beginning.  If it is something you can all agree on, hopefully it will take the emotion out of disciplining.  For us, it has been a lifesaver to have a paper that my son signed that says "If I don't do my homework, I miss baseball practice" or whatever.  He can't argue with it and we don't have to feel like the bad guys.

 

Family meetings are really helpful with a teen as well.  For us, making sure our teen feels heard has made a huge difference in his attitude.  It helps us to approach issues with a "how can we resolve this" attitude rather than being adversarial.

 

I'm sure there will be others who come along with much better advice but the family meetings and the behavior contract have lessened conflict within our family in a major way.



That is a very good idea.  That way she still has rules and consequences while her dad is away without my having to step in as the "disciplinarian". 

 

Can I ask a stupid question?  What do you have in your behavioral contract? 

 

post #4 of 5

Not a stupid question at all.  My son isn't involved with drugs, alcohol or sex (YET) so we don't have much regarding those issues at this point, except for some general language about safety.  Plus we haven't sat down with a counselor since my ds was 12 so the issues were much different.  We originally did it because my DH and I don't always see eye to eye on discipline issues and it was a way for us to provide consistent expectations and consequences. 

 

Ours is mostly aimed towards schoolwork and chores.  For instance, if ds doesn't complete his chores in a timely manner (at this point that is by 9 at night), other chores get added.  If he doesn't keep his GPA above a certain point, he doesn't participate in certain activities until he raises it.  That sort of thing.  Very basic.  We're actually trying to redo parts of it right now because he hasn't been feeling respected lately and neither have we.  He's headed off on a mission trip to Mexico next week and then we have an appointment to sit down with a counselor and work out some new things.

 

Examples I've seen online were aimed towards kids who had issues with skipping school, drug and alcohol use, stealing, dishonesty, etc.  I don't have that language but I'm sure googling "behavior contracts" would provide some pretty good templates.

post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 

Thanks so much for your help.  I googled behavioral contract and got tons of information.  I think that will give us a good jumping off point.

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