Sunday, October 17, 2010

Parenting Dilemma

We have a dilemma in our household that would be really beneficial to receive a bit of guidance or input from others with. It is a parenting issue and my husband and I seem to be at an impasse at resolving. So he asked that I put it to my Blog and FB friends in the hope that we could get others views on our situation. Comments would be GREATLY appreciated!!

I guess I should start with a bit of background. Our household consists of my husband, myself and my daughter (now age 16) with my stepson (age 13 in Dec.) visiting 3 weekends of the month and anytime he is out of school. Except for soccer season when he visits only on weekends he is not playing soccer (which usually means one weekend a month).

The dilemma started last December when I was readying the house for our Christmas get together with my family. I was cleaning and generally putting everything in its proper place. I had asked that the kids clean their rooms and put all of their things away.

My daughter did so, but my stepson did not. A couple of days before our get together I cleaned his room, putting all his things away and even going so far as placing storage containers and a large basket into his closet to help him KEEP his room clean going forth. I sorted his sports items into one container, GI Joe items into another, misc. toy guns into yet another container, matchbox cars and misc. items into the last container and all his army men and vehicles into the basket. Making his closet organized and easy to keep picked up. I also organized his board games at the top of his closet; placed his PS2 games and books in the cabinet beside his desk, all organized and easy to access; hung or folded his clothes and put them in the closet or the chest of drawers; placed a mesh cube near the closet to hold his dirty clothes; vacuumed his floor; made the bed; and dusted the furniture. I spent a good two hours on this room and it was spotlessly clean.

Then, the evening of our get together, he was playing with a remote control car and torturing our little dog. The dog was terrified of the car and he kept chasing the dog with it. After being told to stop several times my husband took the car away. This upset my stepson and he headed off to his room. After a few hours my husband went to check on him. The boy said that he was bored and looking for something to do, so he dumped all of the items from every storage container and the basket onto the floor. He had received a thousand piece build-a-car set for Christmas and had dumped every bit of it onto his dresser. He had eaten pistachios in the room and the shells were thrown all around the room. You could literally not walk through the room. I was frustrated that he had trashed the room. And felt that he should have to clean the mess himself. The build-a-car set was the only thing that was picked up before he left on this visitation.

So for the next few visitations this subject was a source of much distress in our house. He would visit, the messy room would be mentioned, but it never got touched. He also would leave his things outside in the yard causing them to have to be picked up by either his father, the man that mows our yard, or me.

On one visit, my daughter was voicing her frustration with having to keep her room picked up or not be allowed to do the things with her friends that she wanted to do, while the stepson was allowed to visit and do the things that he wanted to do and not have to touch his room. I reached the boiling point. I brought up the messy room and I raised my voice, yes, I yelled at my husband and the stepson. This sent the boy to his room crying where he called his mother. She in turn called my husband. He ended up taking the kid back home. Several phone calls were exchanged between my husband and his ex, it was a real source of distress for all. It was said that the boy did not understand what was expected of him and that he did not want to visit our house anymore. So for a few weeks he did not.

During this time, I put together lists for each child detailing the expectations of each of them. Both lists were then emailed to my husbands ex so that there would be NO confusion as to just what IS expected of both kids. The lists were discussed at his house with his mother and here on his next visitation. The day of his return to his mother, the room was said to be cleaned. His father did a quick check before heading out for the return trip. After they left I went into the room to put away some laundry. I opened the closet door and one of the storage containers fell out at my feet. The closet looked as if the items on the floor had been raked into the closet with some of the items being tossed into a container so that the closet door would shut. Some items had been shoved under the bed and into the cabinet. Pistachio shells were scattered behind the bed and under the desk. Dirty clothes were tossed behind the bed against the wall so as not to be seen when opening the bedroom door, others were tossed into the closet. Clean clothes that were hanging in the closet were also on the closet floor. Water bottles and Coke cans were sitting in the window and on the dresser. The room was still not clean and his things were still being left outside.

Visitations would come and go with the room and items outside being dicussed, but little was done to resolve the problem. If much was said about it the boy would call his mother and want to go home. I began to bring it up to my husband often, especially on visitation weekends. There just never seemed to be time to deal with it.

During the month of July while the boy was visiting for weeks at a time, I would mention the room and the things outside saying that if they were not putt away properly that I was going to do it myself and that there would be nothing left after doing so. I gave this warning several times giving the boy ample time to put his things away properly.

Finally, in mid August, I cleaned the room. I put everything into the storage containers sorting them as I had done before. But this time, I put the storage containers in the garage along with any item that I picked up out of the yard like his bike, electric scooter, basketballs, soccer balls and baseballs. I then bought a pad lock and locked the garage. I also moved his tv out of his room and into our bedroom, leaving the boy with pretty much a bed, dresser and desk.

The boy has had two visitations since my doing this. The first visit (Fri. to Sun.) he had brought his PS3 with him and my husband allowed him to hook it up in the living room after I had gone to bed the first night and to play it there during his visit. The only exception was in the evenings when all of us were in the living room and wanting to watch tv. On Sunday of this visit the boy was even allowed (by my husband) to play with a soccer ball outside that he said he found in the weeds. (My husband had been in the garage on Sat. doing some repairs and the boy was out there with him for awhile)

His last visitation upon arriving and finding the garage locked again the boy got a large rock and tried to beat the lock off of the door. After awhile his Dad went outside and gave him a baseball bat and some baseballs that were in the trunk of his car. The next morning I awoke to the sounds of the PS3 being played in the living room. And, again he was allowed to play it all weekend the same way he had the visitation before. Before leaving for his return trip home his Dad reminded him that he needed to pick up the baseball stuff outside. I mentioned the one laying in the back yard. And, after they left went outside and picked it up.

My husband is of the opinion that the boy has been punished enough and that I should return all his things to him. I on the other hand feel that there has been no punishment at all and that the things should remain where they are and that additional punishment should be added for his trying to distroy the lock.

We are asking you to give us your comments and views on this. It is a real problem in this household and we are both interested in what you have to say. PLEASE COMMENT!!! (either here or on FB)


  1. Well, from lots of experience in this field from my son....Does he have behavior problems? Does he have ADHD etc?
    Does he have to keep the room picked up by standards of a normal boy his age or by your standards which are hard for a boy to keep.
    I think all kids should have chores. I'm learning with Juan in therapy, he can't live up to my expectations (I am a clean freak) so he quit trying because it became too much stress.

    It sounds like the whole house is in turmoil over some toys and isn't that giving a child authority over the whole house?

    Have you given him manageable tasks like maybe every few hours go in and pick up 5 things? I'd personally give him his toys back, I mean he's a kid and they make messes especially boys.

    I learned to extend Juan a lot of mercy and finally understood he doesn't process things like I do and small chores are overwhelming to him.

    Have you asked him what's wrong with picking up the toys? Does he go in and start on it and then totally lose focus of what he's doing? This is my personal experience, it wasn't that Juan didn't want to finish picking up his room, it was the ADHD and HE COULDN'T pick up his room.

    Just my few cents and I know how hard it is, but I'd pick and choose my battles and wouldn't let a box full of G.I Joes cause problems for me n my husband.

    Life is short!

    Love ya

  2. Hey Jeanette, Just a brief overall, sounds like the issue is deeper than
    Hartzell not cleaning, and doing just enough to get by. I'm sure Michael has some guilt feelings of not wanting to be consistent on discipline while he is there, since their time is limited. And I'm sure Hartzell knows this and probably even if unconsciously, manipulates this. You and Michael need to be on the EXACT same page...and from what I understand, which is little about blended families, Michael needs to be the one who enforces this consistently, as hard as it is for him. Sounds like you are having to be the enforcer and with the dynamics of the family, then you are having to be the bad guy...and Michael might not want to be...again because of his limited time with Hartzell. But as we all know with children, blended or otherwise, consistency is necessary. Kids understand A + B = C. You do this...this happens, you don't do this...this happens or DOESN"T happen...period. No gray area. Maybe some of his "stuff" needs to be put up for awhile permanently if necessary, since it's a cause for alot of temptation. You and I both know kids today have TOOOO much stuff. Maybe simplify his room, let him choose a few things he might want to play with and nothing else. There is going to be ALOT of whining and crying...pouting and calling Mom or whoever will listen. But he's 13 and if he doesn't learn now, we all know he's about to learn a really HUGE lesson about how the "real world" doesn't care if he gets his way or not. Being firm HARD as it is, will pay off. Kids need to know what to gray areas because they will always push for those gray areas...didn't we all? It's whether or not we got away with it and I know the way you and I were raised, we didn't!!! Well, maybe I did, but I know YOU didn't!!! lol. Just some suggestions which are always easier said than done. But you and Micheal, being on the same page, HIM being the enforcer, and consistency and downsizing all that
    "stuff" he has in his room and to earn it back after he picks it up and listens to his father. And right, it's not right for one child to have to do things and not the other. Anyway, good luck and I'll be praying for you guys. It's hard enough having a teen, without all the other dynamics. And if there is a non-involved third party that you and Michael respect that can meet with you guys and maybe even his mom, that way you ALL are on the same page.

    At least, this is what you want to strive for. And I don't know all the situation, just what you have told me...and of course I'm bias cause your my neice, but I would want the best for all of you. So you asked and those are my thoughts. Love ya, Carol

  3. I just read Dianna's answer and I really like her answer better. I really like her ideas. I'm more of an authoritarian which doesn't work for some kids. Listen to her, it's some great advice.! See, I've learned something today.

  4. I think you did right by putting his toys away so he can't get to them and I believe that your husband needs to punish him for trying to break the lock. I have a 14 year old and yes he is my son not a step-son but I have to take away his computer and other things when he doesn't do or listen to what we are telling him. It's not fair to your daughter if he gets by with everything. I maybe wrong but if he gets by with a simple thing as putting away his things then when he gets older it will be something else and it could be something that could cause a bigger problem for you both. I know that there is his mother but you all three need to stand together and not let him work you all against each other. Which to me sounds like what he is doing. Best of luck on your problem. It is so hard to raise kids these days.

  5. I am a firm believer that the fear of God is what works with most adolesent or adults. Don't do the crime if you cannot do the time.
    If you allow him and out, he knows he can get away with it.
    Kids today more than ever need structure and displine. In my oppinion if this behavior is allowed to continue as a child, he will need a good lawyer as an adult.
    I have to agree with Carol you guys need to be on the same page what ever you decide. Good Luck and Happy Parenting!!!

  6. Curl, I used to be like you in the authority thing, but it doesn't work with all kids. You have to find a strategy that works with Hartsel and use it.
    I agree w/ you that it should be Michael and not Jeanette, but that would strain Michael and Hartsel both if everytime he was to come over the same box of G.I. Joes were still an issue.
    What I did to my kiddies and even Savannah was they had too many toys and I had them go through them and give away a bunch.....Then if they didn't touch a certain toy for 6 months out it went.
    It's hard especially when it's straining a marriage and parent/child relationship.
    That's why I got divorced and I learned how wrong Kyle and I both were.
    Sadly, everything you could do wrong.....Him, I and the school did wrong. Now that it's being done right lifes going so much smoother.
    Parents need like a big graduation party instead of the kids LOL!!! It's hard work!

  7. When my kid brother was living with me and going to college, his girlfriend (now his wife and mother of his children) would come to the house to wait for him to get home from college or from his job. One day I came home from work and found her cleaning his room. I said "Don't do that or you'll be doing it for the rest of your life" and she said "I can't stand it" so I replied "Just leave the room, close the door so you don't see it, and wait in another room." Fortunately, she took my advice, and he became a very helpful husband.
    That said, he was an intelligent, normal kid who'd been raised like an only child because the rest of us were grown up when Dad and Mom had him, so Mom found it easier to do things for him than to argue with him.
    If, however, your stepson has problems like ADHD, or depression or something, you will have to learn how to work with him.
    There's also a chance he's just being obnoxious, because some teenage boys just are, in which case I would suggest finding a very very good family counsellor.
    However, and this might be tough for you, his mother should also be involved in the counseling. Right now, he is making you the bad mom and her the good mom, for whatever reason.
    Thank you for visiting my blog, and I hope you find the answer to this very stressful problem.
    -- Kay, Alberta

  8. Ok, I guess I need to make this clear. He has NO ADHD or behavior problems. He is very well behaved in school and in afterschool where there are consequences to his actions. He is a very smart kid.

  9. It should be the same rules concerning the chores for both children, but.... it doesn't mean they have to go about doing the chores the same way. If your daughter likes to get hers done right away so she has the rest of the time to do other things, that might be her way. Your son maybe needs to do it another way for it to work for him. A little bit at a time throughout the weekend.
    We all do things differently, but that doesn't or shouldn't mean, one way is better than the other.
    There really should not be the need for you to have to spend 2 hours cleaning in your son or daughter's room.
    I do agree, both you and your husband should be on the same page with things, but honestly, that doesn't always happen. Sometimes it is a wish, more than a reality. I don't think it is possible to be on the same page with EVERYTHING. You are two different people.
    But, compromising is good. Talk to each other about the things in your son's room that bothers you the most. Food, laundry, or toys scattered. Maybe some of the issues will be more important to you and you can live with the others.

  10. I like the way you boxed everything up and locked it all in the garage. A bit of applied psychology handled well - the behavior had to change, or else. I like that there were consequence, that were unknown in advance. a price was paid.

    It is easy for me to say, of course, being about 900 miles away from the situation...

    Did the kid suffer enough to learn his lesson about the mess? I can't say. The bigger thing is the fairness argument that I hate, but all need to participate in adhering to the rules.

    Our two are 21 and 19, our daughter a college graduate in May, our son a Junior.. Yet, even at 21, we do have to make the point that in the house, all are one - sort of...

  11. This is interesting because though I have two grown daughters of my own and my significant other has two of his own, this is still somewhat of an issue at our house, since one of his daughters has recently returned home after a broken engagement with a fiance. One of my own daughters will also be moving back in this summer after the semester is over. His daughter is messy and uses being busy as an excuse. My own daughter knows better and I expect her to at least clean up after herself and she knows this. But if his daughter doesn't, I don't have a leg to stand on with my own. Though mine is mature enough to understand the situation and will pick up after herself regardless of what her SS does.

    In any event, I agree with you and I think your husband should come down a lot harder on his son. You shouldn't have to be the one doing it and making yourself the heavy. It sounds like he resents having to take responsibility for his things and the breaking of the lock actually sounds to me like an act of aggression. There should be consequences for that. Your husband is wrong: it is NOT punishment the boy is receiving. What you have imposed are DIRECT consequences as a result of his irresponsible behavior. There is no excuse for throwing nut shells all over a room! He has to know this! It sounds like he did it on purpose. Your husband should oversee the clean-up of his room every time he visits. Your husband should remain calm but firm about what the expectations are.

    Good luck!

  12. Hey Jeanette, Hartzel is one angry boy and is having some issues about the divorce. I sense that he resents you because he feels you are coming between him and his dad. I also feel your anger and resentment of him because of the disruptions he causes. I will tell you will NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER win in a power struggle with a child. Maybe you and Michael can talk to him and tell him that he seems unhappy when he visits....let him know you welcome his visits and ask what you can do to help him enjoy and feel more a part of the family. Then it is compromise time. Come to some sort of rules all of you can live with, but don't emphasize the rules. Don't overreact if he doesn't follow all of them. Jerry Dean and I used to go round and round about his room, and looking back I could have handled it differently. And for heaven's sake stop buying nuts that have shells. Love you and will keep all of you in my prayers. Blended families are tough to manage.

  13. Hiya! Just adding my 2 cents since you asked. lol

    Considering he is 13, he is well able to clean his room. I had this problem with my step-kids and my own kids as well when adding a "new" chore for them.

    I would show them when the chore was done (before they did it for the first time) that this is how I expected it to look when they are done doing the chore. Then for the next 5 or 6 times that they had to do that particular chore, I would tell them to let me know when they thought they were finished and we would walk/view the area together and I would explain, what if anything, I expected done differently. Then they would have to fix it and let me know when they did and we would repeat the process.

    After 5 or 6 times of viewing their chore and giving them feedback, it was up to them to do it right. If not, things or privileges were taken away. With my step-kids, they lived with us and visited with their mom and my kids visited their dad. I knew what time they were all leaving. In the morning I would remind them that everything had to be put away before they left. Period. About an hour before they had to go, I would go make sure that everything was done. If not, they needed to do it right then. I'd check on them ever 5 mins making sure they were actually doing so. Things outside of their room had to be done first (toys outside, in living room, ect). Then if their room wasn't finished, their door was shut and that was the first thing they had to do when they came back. AND there were punishments for it not being done.

    This worked out wonderfully. Why? The main reason ~ my other half and I had come to agreements in regards to chores, expectations, privileges and consequences before we even started.

    I hate to say it, but if your other half is not on board 110%, it's not going to work and the turmoil is going to continue.

    The first thing I would do, sit down with your hubby and talk, yes a two sided conversation, everything out before his son comes over again.

  14. Wow! I sense your frustration.

    Telling a 13-yo just to clean his room isn't enough. They need to have explicit instruction about where exactly to put clean clothes, dirty clothes, toys, food, etc. You're essentially dealing with a 2-yo with BO. And that means shoving everything into a closet (or under the bed) with the least effort.

    But I think you're expecting a bit too much. My personal limit is that food in the room is off limits. Nut shells, soda cans, candy wrappers etc. are not allowed, and if they're found, the room will be cleared out enough to be cleaned. It should be explained that food and their containers attract pests, which, in some cases can cause damage. (BTW, in some work places, a no-food rule is strictly enforced.)

    Otherwise, I'd say overlook the disorder, even if it means clothes & toys on the floor. Maybe he can spend time with your husband away from the house?

    I'm curious about the condition of his room at the other house.

    Good luck!

  15. Jeanette, Everything has consequences ~ if you don't do your job, don't do your homework, etc. Also, rules usually are applied fairly in these instances. So, if you don't do your chores, you don't get your toys or TV.

    I applaud you for locking up his toys. After all, you son is 13, he quite capable of keeping his room picked up. We have 4 kids (23, 20, 13, 11) Only 1 girl ~ the 13 yr old. My boys learned how to do laundry at age 10, they've always had chores, and we have not paid allowances until the last month!

    I agree with some of the other comments. Your husband has to get on board, the 2 of you have to be a TEAM! There is no I in TEAM!
    Good luck!

  16. Here is my 2cents. The young man is "working" both you and his father. I think the turmoil he is causing is just what he wants! I'm going to be 60 next month, so perhaps my thinking is a bit dated to some. If your stepson isn't given parameters to live/work within he will be yet another grown person who feels he is entitled to everything. Now, the problem here is that his father, not you, is the one who should be enforcing the rules. He must man-up and tell this boy that his behaviour will not be acceptable in your home. You, in the eyes of this child, are an interloper. Unfortunate, but his dad should make it clear to him that this is your home and the occupants are you, your daughter & himself. The boy is welcomed to come and have this be his home too, but he must obey the rules. He can do some sugarcoating by letting him know that the presence of another male in the house is desired or some such. I think it is absolutely wrong of your husband to go soft on the boy will hurt him in the long run. As far as going to see a counselor---most psychiatrists/psychologists are majorly screwed up themselves!! My advise would be for dad to start being "the bad cop" and for you to step back and see if he is the man who you hope he is. If the boy stops visiting it will be his loss. The stress this child is causing you and your husband must cease. This might sound cruel, but kids are kids and you need to be the adults.

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