7
   

Disciplining Children That Aren't Yours

 
 
tony503
 
Thu 2 Jan, 2014 02:23 pm
Before I get into my question, here is some background:

I am engaged to a wonderful woman who has two wonderful girls (8 and 9 years old). Well, wonderful when they want to be. Before I came into the picture, these children were raised quite a bit differently than I was. I come from two parents who are still married and I was raised with discipline, respect and love. My mom and dad were also raised by parents who never divorced and instilled respect, discipline and love.

My fiance's children have been through quite a lot. They have a dad who has been out of the picture for many years (jail and prison). My fiance and he divorced when the children were very young (2 and 3). She left him and took full custody of the girls when he became abusive. Though they were young, they still have memories of him yelling, pulling out knives, hurting their mom, etc.

A couple years later she entered into another relationship that became abusive. Though he was verbally abusive towards her, he was not physically abusive towards her. However, he would belt the girls (by now ages 5 and 6) when they committed the smallest of infractions. He would yell and cuss at them if he was watching TV in his room and they came in. One of them has told me that she remembers coming home from first grade on many occasions and he would yell "get the &$#* out of my room you stupid little girl". If my fiance and him got into an argument he would kick them all out of the house for the night with nowhere to go. Unfortunately, my fiance worked for him and had no means to immediately escape and go somewhere. She spent months and months enduring this while she secretly saved money to leave and move far away to start over.

That is when I met her and immediately fell in love with her and her children. I have no kids of my own, and was always hesitant entering into a relationship where there were kids, but this was different. The girls were yearning to have a father figure in their life and we clicked very well.

After a few months I started seeing flags with the girls' behavior. The older one (8 at that time) would immediately go to severe anger with any issue, which even was scary at times. She would have a possessed look in her eye and would scream at the top of her lungs if I tried getting close to her to talk. I caught her scratching herself and pulling her hair out a few times when she was very upset. The younger one would throw temper tantrums like I had only seen toddlers throw. Tantrums over the smallest things such as wanting something different for dinner, not laying with her until she fell all the way asleep or not being allowed to watch tv. These tantrums would be full-on kicking and screaming bloody murder and would go on relentlessly for an hour or two. They would be so loud that I thought they neighbors would think she was getting abused.

Needless to say, I was feeling very out of my element considering the only experience I had with raising kids was with younger siblings. I saw the potential in them for becoming beautiful and loving children, but also saw the potential for drug-addicted or pregnant teenagers. This is when I had a talk with my fiance and told her they need to get into counseling. They had been through so much that it was effecting how they were dealing with emotions and I had done everything I knew how to do from my experience with how I was raised.

It took two therapists before finding the one we liked best and after a year of therapy and sticking to my guns (with discipline and rewards) their behavior started turning around. The older one's anger completely disappeared and she was very responsive to my discipline. Her and I have become very close and she listens to everything I say when I tell her to do something. The younger one is a different story. She, like her sister, respects me and when it is just me with them they are courteous and do everything I tell them to. They have realized that when I take a privilege away for 3 days that means 3 days. They know that when I tell them I'm taking them to Chuck 'e' Cheese for not fighting for a week that I will really do it. I always think about my dad's advice that he gave me once about parenting: "Punish so it stings but not not so long or often that they adapt. Reward so it's exciting but not so much that it becomes the norm."

However, when it is just them with their mom it is nothing but fighting, disrespect, anger, whining, throwing fits, etc. with the younger one. It seems that every other day I'm getting a call at work when she is screaming at the top of her lungs because her hair isn't done the right way or because she won't get ready for school. I know that earlier in her life my fiance wasn't there for her as much as she should have been. She had them young and would leave them with grandma a lot so she could go live life as a 21 year old. The year or two right before I met them, she did everything she could to make them happy and make up for those years, including giving in at every turn. I feel like I'm fighting an uphill battle because the younger one has had it instilled in her mind that "if I yell hard enough, and long enough, I'll get my way with mom."

Now, finally, here is my question:

With the younger one I have exhausted all means of discipline and rewards that I know of. I have tried reward programs with calendars and stars and toys and fun things to do. I have tried discipline with grounding, taking away tv, ipads and video games. I have used every situation as a learning lesson and kneel down and go over her why it was wrong, making sure she knows why I punished her, etc. Yet she still misbehaves and throws temper tantrums with her mom. She has an unbelievable sense of entitlement and acts like she was a princess in a past life - she is bossy, demanding, disrespectful and whiny to her mom (and sometimes, but rarely, to me). I'm in a difficult position because I am now the enforcer and the disciplinary but I'm not there to witness how the situations go down and I am punishing based on hearsay and her behavior has stopped improving.

If any of you have made it this far into the reading, I would really appreciate any help/feedback you can give! It seems that I have hit a disciplinary plateau with the younger and am at a loss with what to do next. I'm doing the best I can considering I only have 2 years now of being "dad" and am only parenting based on how I was parented. My methods have worked beautifully with the older girl but are ineffective with the younger one. Please help!


 
jespah
 
  3  
Thu 2 Jan, 2014 02:39 pm
@tony503,
This is above your pay grade. These kids need therapy to deal with what's happened to them. I see they've gotten some, but they need more. And your fiancée needs it, too (if you mention that she's in counseling, I missed that, sorry). And probably parenting classes.
PUNKEY
 
  1  
Thu 2 Jan, 2014 03:39 pm
@tony503,
Tony - you have told us all the admirable things YOU are doing, but you are not mentioning your fiance's participation in this mess.

INSIST that she attend parenting classes with you and she get on the same wave length that you are taking in dealing with these kids. With these special needs children, BOTH of you must work together.

Also - tell the mother that you are no longer answering the phone when she cannot handle this child. You are assuming the role of not only taking full responsibility of the parenting, but also the girl sees you as the authoritarian and her mother as a co-child or chump.

Then . . . Please think about whether or not you want to take on this THREE-some, because that's really what this is all about.

Linkat
 
  1  
Thu 2 Jan, 2014 03:40 pm
@jespah,
I agree with, jespah, I think you need to have the three probably even four (even though the older girl seems to be doing well) as it is a family issue to continue with counseling. This is way beyond our help - but I would like to say what a wonderful and understanding dad you have been to these girls. I know that one day they, both, will completely appreciate it. And thank you for being so good to them.
0 Replies
 
tony503
 
  1  
Thu 2 Jan, 2014 09:04 pm
@PUNKEY,
Let's just say that she is doing better than when I first came into the picture. At first, I had thought these 2 girls had so much trauma happen to them that they had chemical imbalances that were causing this. After time I realized that is possibly true, but a great deal was with how she was parenting them. Groundings would be forgotten after a few hours, bad words would slip out easily and giving in to whines was the norm. When I had that realization I insisted that she go to therapy with them, which she started doing. She is getting much better, and giving in much less, but I feel like Nanny 911 when I'm trying to coach her from behind a wall lol.

Punkey, I took your advice just now (kind of ) when everyone got home from school/work and I was going to have a talk with her daughter and punish her for a tantrum thrown this morning after I left for work. I coached my fiance on what I would say, how I would deliver it, what my punishment would be, etc. but made her deliver it. I heard some whines and pouting but no yelling. It's a start I guess.

And to answer your last line, I have already thought about that... a lot. I've had a couple years to think about that. I was definitely guarded in the beginning, but with seeing how much all 3 have improved, how awesome we can be as a family and how much I've fallen in love with all 3, it makes me want to keep working on it and take on this three-some.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  5  
Thu 2 Jan, 2014 09:17 pm
@tony503,
I am with jespah. I think that the trauma history has affected the children's attachment with their mother, that they are probably angry with her for not protecting them previously and that good therapy with someone who understands attachment and trauma really well, and who will work with mother and daughter/s together to deal with the effects of the past on their relationships, a significant of amount of the time instead of just trying to work with the kid/s alone. If I were doing that work I'd be involving you at least some of the time, too.

Edit: I note your addition that mum finds it hard to be consistent. I find this a lot with parents whose children have been exposed to abuse and it is a routine part of the work that I would be doing, were I working with this family, to give lots of time with mum to look at her own experiences of being parented as well as explore other things that may get in the way of calm empathic firmness for her. Guilt may be a big part of it, or it may be her learned style of parenting.

By the way, as the girls move into a closer relationship with you, this may enable them to work out some of their anger with previous abusive father figures on you, so be prepared for some tough times ahead for you, too!

I'd be having a good look at some of the neurobiology of trauma and how to assist kids with traumatic histories if I were you and your fiance! As well as getting lots of info from your therapist. I can recommend some books if you like.

Trauma.org isn't a bad beginning.

These children were traumatised in what should have been a loving relationship, and the beginnings of close relationships with others can trigger them and they test the waters to see if mum and new dad are really safe and caring. Every little drama along the way where the adults are remain loving and are calmer, wiser and stronger (in a non-abusive way) than the child is a healing moment.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Thu 2 Jan, 2014 09:31 pm
@dlowan,
Listen to dlowan, she knows about all this.


0 Replies
 
tony503
 
  2  
Thu 2 Jan, 2014 10:00 pm
@dlowan,
Thanks for that response dlowan! A) I would love book suggestions. B) Any advice on what I can be doing now to prevent what you suggested may happen in the future (with them taking out their anger on me)? I feel like I've gotten to the end of my playbook lol.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Thu 2 Jan, 2014 10:16 pm
@tony503,
Dlowan lives all kinds of stuff in daily life. Don't get hurt if she doesn't answer.


If she posts on a2k, it is oft for play.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  2  
Fri 3 Jan, 2014 03:39 am
@tony503,
Honey.....believe it or not if they take their anger out on you it's a good thing!

I'll be think me of books......most I have are for therapists and are a bit dry.


Be back later
jespah
 
  4  
Fri 3 Jan, 2014 08:49 am
@tony503,
I do want you to know that it's really fantastic that you're willing to do this, and you're not just ready to run screaming.

It's people like you, who make homes like yours (and I suspect that even being there to consistently take the garbage out and come home from work at a more or less predictable hour is a part of it, too, as that demonstrates stability and dependability), who help to heal.

Smile
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  2  
Wed 8 Jan, 2014 07:45 pm
@dlowan,
Sorry, been distracted.

Just to begin...this is a resource developed for teachers, but it begins with an excellent summary of the neurobiology of trauma and has some suggestions for management;

http://www.ccyp.vic.gov.au/childsafetycommissioner/downloads/calmer_classrooms.pdf


Ah'll be bavk.
0 Replies
 
janiceong
 
  1  
Tue 29 Sep, 2015 12:10 am
@tony503,
I hope mom n daughter gets help it's never easy. I also hope she will grow out of it and that in time she will realize that doesn't work. mostly importantly glad that you haven't given up on them. I am raising two kids not my own nor my husband's and it's completely hard so I understand.
0 Replies
 
 

Related Topics

 
  1. Forums
  2. » Disciplining Children That Aren't Yours
Copyright © 2022 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.06 seconds on 07/02/2022 at 11:01:04