Should your boyfriend (or girlfriend) discipline your child?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  November 5, 2009 12:49 PM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

That headline could easily include step parents, but I ran out of room. The gist of the question remains the same: Should your significant other, who is not your child's parent, be allowed or encouraged to discipline your child?

Rachel Sarah at Single Mom Seeking brings up the issue, now that her boyfriend is becoming more of a fixture in her and her daughter's lives.

"I’m honest about this: Discipline has not been my strengths, and I work hard at setting boundaries," she confesses. But, "my daughter is feeling so comfortable with the boyfriend that she’s starting to push limits."

This is something I face constantly as a step parent. It happened a decade ago, when we were just starting to try to find our blended-family footing, and still happens now that our oldest girls are teenagers. What do you do when a child you love, a child you're raising -- but a child who isn't "yours" -- is pushing limits?

I think the answer depends on how you define "discipline."

In my case, I was (and am) comfortable with sending the big kids to their rooms. I'll correct manners, enforce our household rules, separate squabbling siblings, set time outs, revoke privileges, confiscate toys. But spanking? Personally, I've never felt comfortable about spanking my step kids (or even yelling at them). I'm not shirking my parental duties, and I am certainly no surrendered wife, but if harsher punishment needs to be meted out when my step kids with us, it seems like that should be up to their dad because, well, he's their dad. I'll back him up, I'll support his decision, but the decision is still his, not mine.

I also think the answer may differ depending on whether the significant other is male or female. Step dads are often lauded as heros for "saving" the single mom in distress and "taking on" her kids; few people blink if a step dad has to lay down the law. Step moms, though? Our authority is always in question, if not by the kids, then by other adults. I think there are far fewer single dads out there wondering if their girlfriends should have a hand in disciplining the kids.

So what do you think, parents? Is it ever appropriate for your significant other to discipline your child? And how do you define "discipline"?

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at lalphonse@globe.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

23 comments so far...
  1. I have to seriously disagree about the stepfather "saving the single mother in distress." Personally I never had any discipline problems with my own children and didn't require (or want) any help when I got married for the second time. What I have seen, not only in my experience, but hearing from other women in second marriages, is that the stepfather feels some need to exert control over the stepchildren and interferes with her discipline of the children, thereby damaging their relationship.

    It seems that there should be "rules of the house" that are agreed upon by both adults and they should also agree on consequences for disobeying those rules, but I think the parent should be the primary one for disciplining their own children. The stepparent should act like a responsible adult, but they are not his children. I would also agree that the same should happen when the roles are reversed and it's a stepmother.

    Thanks for weighing in, Liz C. By "Step dads are often lauded as heros," I mean that society tends to see them that way, not that the remarried moms do (Aside from the movie currently in theaters, how many fairy tales involve evil stepdads?). I completely agree with your last paragraph! -- LMA

    Posted by Liz C. November 5, 09 02:02 PM
  1. If the mom in question has been lax about discipline and now wants to tighten things up (maybe with some encouragement from her boyfriend), it is still up to her to discuss the rules and the consequences for breaking them.

    I think a reasonable guideline is that the boyfriend can enforce the kinds of things that any close friend or family member could do while babysitting. Some examples: anything safety related (touching stove, riding bike without helmet, hitting sibling). The only punishment permitted would be a time-out. No yelling or touching.

    If it's older children, they don't need to be disciplined immediately. They can wait for mom to address the situation.

    In my opinion, the boyfriend does not otherwise discipline, correct, shout at, or give orders to her kids. Probably true even if they get married and he becomes the step dad.

    Posted by just_cos November 5, 09 02:40 PM
  1. Personally, I don't think that SOs should be spending so much time with the kids, particularly without the bio-parent, that they NEED to discipline them on their own. If and when the mom/dad marries the SO, then the SO should be disciplining the children in a way that is consistent with the parent.

    It's so important for the biological parent and the step-parent to be on the same page with discipline. However, it is not realistic to expect the biological parent to handle all discipline and the step-parent to do none of it. Obviously, everything needs to be handled in as sensitive a manner as possible.

    Posted by JKR November 5, 09 03:23 PM
  1. To me, it depends on the custody situation, how long the couple has been together, and the ages of the children. If the children live in the house and are younger, by all means, a step-parent has every right to discipline them. I think it would be unfair to handcuff the other person by expecting them to wait and defer to the bio-parent all the time. If the kids are older and are only there on a every-other-weekend schedule, then the stepparent has less authority.

    It has been my experience as a stepmom that as long as the two adults are on the same page, its not a problem. The problem arises when there are two very different expectations about what the rules are going to be and what the consequences are if the rules are broken. Sometimes the stepparent doesn't even want to handle discipline.

    However, if someone is living under your roof, even if its only a handful of days a month, then I believe you have every right to enforce rules in your own home.

    Posted by Stepmomof1 November 5, 09 03:36 PM
  1. I agree wholeheartedly with Stepmomof1. I never felt like there was an issue with someone else disciplining my kids, whether it was my boyfriend or someone else (as long as we are on the same page as far as what to do when the kids are out of line),

    Posted by Desiree November 5, 09 07:03 PM
  1. I think this is exactly why discipline methods in the home need to be something that anyone (parent, sig other, babysitter, whoever) can easily enforce.

    If you're not comfortable with someone else using your discipline techniques, I think that you should be rethinking your techniques.

    This is not to say that there's one approach that works for everyone, but the way that you raise a child is that there is one consistent voice from all the adult in their life whether it's that you're using the Caveman technique from Happiest Toddler, 1/2/3 magic, the naughty step, 3 warning and a time out, whatever.

    My 1 year old daughter needs to know that if she bites, she will get the same reaction from me, my husband, her grandparents, and any other adult caregiver she may encounter.

    Posted by C November 5, 09 07:38 PM
  1. The biological custody parent has to decide what the boundaries are. Other adults in the extended family and household can keep one eye open for kids that always find ways to get past rules.

    Younger children need to be restrained when they cross boundaries--including running around with sharp objects, running out of the yard, climbing up kitchen counters, etc.

    I have no problem with any sensible person who restrains a child in imminent danger, and who then carries the child over to the parent for a discussion of the problem.

    This seems to carry a much stronger message than shouting NO. The quiet discussion reinforces the sense of transgression.

    Posted by Irene November 5, 09 08:11 PM
  1. I wasn't allowed to discipline my now ex-girlfriend's kids. I was rendered powerless. The kids would push the limits when I was put in there charge, but I was given to license to discipline on any level. If I said anything, they would complain to their mother and their mother would come down on me. "Stop complaining about my kids. They're good kids." Well, yes they are, but they still misbehave like kids do. Adults are adults, and kids are kids. I'm not talking about spanking here, but adults should be able to correct inappropriate behavior and the parents should encourage respect.

    Posted by DadsMatterToo November 6, 09 12:17 AM
  1. My boyfriend and I parent our kids very differently. His daughter is 8 and has very limited boundaries on her behavior. My kids are 12 and 15 and were not allowed to behave and talk the way that his daughter does. That being said, he is her father and should parent her in whatever way he see's as appropriate. I dont feel its my place or job to correct her behavior unless it directly affects me. For example, she can talk back to him all she wants if that is what he allows but I will not allow it to myself because that is my personal boundary not his. There are still problems however. She makes rules such as "no kissing" and instead of explaining to her that we WILL be kissing because its important to us, he tries to sneak one when she isnt looking. I have problems with this and other examples of him bending to her will but really my only choice in this situation is to decide if II can handle this, want to go along with it or just go home. Our rlationship might not make it when the issues on her boundaries get biger, but I feel it wouldnt help the relationships if I tried to impose my ways of doing things on him when he doesnt apparently feel the same way I do. I refuse to complete with an 8 year old.

    Posted by Brenda May 3, 10 08:43 AM
  1. My BF of 6mths has custody of his son, i have 2 girls. When he brings his son to my house we always get into it b/c his son is kind of wild and I do not allow that in my house so when i tell him to stop doing whatever it is, my BF gets mad at me. My relationship is on the rocks b/c of this. If the shoe was on the other foot and we were at his place (he lives with parents), then he can tell my girls not do cross his boundaries. I didn't even yell or anything just told his son not to throw dirt and then not to punch my daughter in the chest.

    Posted by Shortygirl September 14, 10 02:21 PM
  1. "I also think the answer may differ depending on whether the significant other is male or female."

    I take serious exception to this. This reeks of sexism and a double standard. No thanks.

    I agree with C above, who wrote: "discipline methods in the home need to be something that anyone (parent, sig other, babysitter, whoever) can easily enforce."

    Posted by Independent October 28, 10 09:14 PM
  1. I know with my godson, my boyfriend and I are both pretty strict. In front of his parents, if he gets out of hand, I pick him up and put him on timeout against the wall or door, where he can see us all continueing the activity he is no longer allowed in because of his behavior. We all ignore him, and when he stops fussing, I go over and talk to him about it, and he is allowed back to the group. I dont believe in spanking. The occasional slap on the hand, maybe... but out right spanking will never happen. This is the type of behavior (removing the child from the situation, timeouts, and talks) I would expect from everyone I know. If my child is acting out, the closest person should be able to handle a timeout. Yelling doesnt work... it just teaches your child to be angry and yell back.

    Posted by FaerieGodMother November 1, 10 12:07 AM
  1. I am not a step parent, however I baby sit my niece and nephew on a daily basis. At their house they practically get away with murder, and I have different rules at my house. I don't allow food in my living room, or for the kids to go outside without supervision. My question is... Is it ok for me as their aunt, when they are at my house to put them in time out if needed? I have been trying to do a marble jar where they can earn marbles for good behavior, but they get taken away if they disobey rules. But they seem to not care when I take them out. They play nicely with my daughter, but when I have found Ranch Dressing all over my living room carpet and couch, I feel this is where a time out is necessary. Any advise?

    Posted by Margo July 9, 11 11:22 AM
  1. I believe that any trusted adult should be able to discipline my children if they get out of hand. That being said, would I let a complete stranger discipline my children...no. Would I let someone i don't trust discipline my children...no. But as to the posters question, yes, my boyfriend is allowed to discipline my children, after he asks me what he should do. He is NOT allowed to take it on himself to discipline my children, but if one of my children gets out of hand and he comes to me to ask what he should do, I fully expect him to PROPERLY carry out the discipline that I would have done myself. This can, and does, include light spanking on the clothed bottom, and if the child is back talking a light tap to the cheek or mouth. He in no way takes it on himself to do those things, only if I have given him express permission. I have many in my family, however, that have argued and fussed with me about this...oh well. I am their parent and if I see no problem with it, and they are not being abused, I believe other people should parent in their own way.


    myself. This can include

    Posted by Chelsea Baker August 2, 11 03:27 PM
  1. I think this depends on many factors. The primary being the relationship between the SO and the child. If the child does not have a fairly close relationship with the SO then "definitely not". The question then becomes "why do they not have a fairly close relationship"? It may be because the SO is acting out parenting before developing the relationship. The child may "do as their told" but they will resent it and withdraw from the SO, and thus further estrange the relationship. SO's should never force their parenting on someone else child. I agree in large part that an Aunt or Uncle or even another close friend can often do this, but the SO cannot until such time as they are fully accepted by the child and have developed a close and trusting relationship. To some degree SO's are always judged and tested in ways that biological parents and relatives are not. It is the old adage "blood is thicker than water". So you SO's out there beware that "being right" could be exactly the wrong thing to do.

    Posted by Scott Herndon January 8, 12 11:49 PM
  1. I am a girlfriend (no kids) to a divorced man with two girls (ages 3 & 7). The kids and I have a good relationship considering that the relationship between mom and dad is not amicable. I am also an aunt, with a close relationship, to my nephew of 7 and niece of 3. Imagine my difficulty when it comes to disciplining my boyfriend's kids and my nephew and niece? My sister and I are very much on the same page when it comes to disciplining her kids. There is a very fine boundary when you say too much as an outsider to someone else's kids. However, it also gets very confusing and difficult when your sister and your boyfriend's disciplining tactics are different. I sometimes feel like I lead a dual life with dual personalities. There is always the tremendous pressure on me to be more than perfect in handling the kids. My partner naturally is more protective, more so out of guilt and his passive-aggressive nature. He takes longer to enforce any kind of discipline. In saying so the slightest slip up from me can lead to a huge argument afterwards. And next week my boyfriend will say the same words to his daughter for which I got into untold trouble for. I feel that it is very unfair for parents to expect so much from an individual who has never been a parent. From my side I can only say that I try my best every time. It is hard to walk into an 'instant' family. I don't know what my "role" is, because I am not a mother or stepmother nor an aunt. Family is easy. You grew up with your sibling's kids, the kids are familiar and you know them. But when you enter a divorced family you have to build a relationship with the kids. And kids are kids. They push their boundaries to a point where the pressure cooker would've blew it's lid long ago. It's new, it's difficult, in many ways it could be a sacrifice. Parents when you are dating someone please spend time with you partner and discuss disciplining in detail with them before any clashes can occur. Correct you partner in a gentle and amicable way when they make a mistake. You as a parent have made plenty mistakes already. It's not nice to be shouted at, humiliated and embarrassed by a parent-partner when they want you to be so perfect. Practice those rules you want implemented on your children on your partner as well. Respect goes many ways in a situation like this and your partner needs to be encouraged and not broken down. It is difficult enough to try and get to know your partner with the kids in tow. It is a wonderful experience though and I wouldn't trade it for anything. To hear those girls saying 'I love you' makes my heart melt into my shoes. Somewhere I have been saying something right....

    Posted by Hannalie February 1, 12 04:06 PM
  1. I am a boyfriend of a girl with two kids. One is in his early teens and the other is in kindergarten. The oldest one was name calling me the other night and the only thing I did was I got into is face. I wanted so much to spank him but held back. My girlfriend gives me permission to deciple. What should I have done to him?

    Posted by scott June 13, 12 10:34 PM
  1. I am engaged to A divorced Man with 2 boys 14+13 Both with opposite personalities. The elder is beyond angry for having a younger brother and has been since birth. Acting out and hitting was normal behavior when I met them. amazed to see the younger one gets the blame, oh stop being a baby..
    I have witnessed the older telling Dad he's only teasing while I see his other two fingers drilling in his rib cage.. No one believed me.
    Their mom works till 6pm every day and the younger one told me about the torture he has endured while Mom is at work.
    It was the first complaint ever mentioned to her out of concern for protection as he is made to hold his hands out or get punched in the stomach.. I asked the mom to put a better lock on his bedroom since older can break in.. She told them I am overbearing. needy and boys are just boys.
    It would also help if she came out of the closet ever so slightly to confirm what she dresses like, acts like.. yelling at the Hockey rink with vains popping out of her head at every game until people had to tell her to shut up! Tough new York Man type lezbian, but thats ok.. I'm just too sensitive..
    I am seeking advice on how to love this life with Boys who are only on the computer.. sometimes begging them to take a shower.. only come to life for a game. or school..
    It's gotten to the point where the older one will not even acknowledge me as I repectfully knock on the door asking if he would like a brownie... long silence... then WHAT!!,
    Last night I tried to say goodbye after the last 2 week vaca with us.. I wanted to show older something., Dirty look, no response, walked downstairs and out the door.. felt like an idiot...called him a jerk..
    I let him have it when his mom drove up I took the hand of Dad to watch what I told him about respect. .
    Today I apologized for my part to his mom and now she wants to get him legally able to not have to come over anymore.. where is the team work.
    this is the first time I stood up for my feelings as a paying tennent not really engaged anymore with a buzz kill jerk for a son who's mom and he get a kick out of me over reacting...hahahhaha.

    Posted by Kelly Simpson August 27, 12 10:08 AM
  1. A step parent NEEDS to discipline the children, the child and step parent's relationship is all based on respect and respect is listening to one another, If the child steps out of line, the step parent needs to address the situation so it does not happen again. If people say step parents should not discipline, then other adults such as family members, or teachers or even authorities have no right to discipline the child either and that is not ever true. The actions taken against the child should although be conversed between the couple prior to any discipline is made, and agreed upon.

    Posted by Polly September 12, 12 06:07 PM
  1. I wouldn't have a problem with my boyfriend disciplining my daughter but he too has a 5 year old yet doesn't discipline equally. He yells and screams at my child and tells her to go to her room all the while intimidating her and insisting on physically moving her along. It's devastating for my child. He does not yell and scream at his child, why mine? At the same time he doesn't even give me a chance to correct her negative behavior. So it ends up that my child is so upset, I'm trying to let him know it's not acceptable to scream in front of our children, hw starts yelling at me bc I know am comforting my child bc he didnt let me handle it from the get go!

    Posted by manni October 20, 12 01:51 AM
  1. Too many step parents and boyfriends overstep their boundaries. The parent should be the #1 adult guiding the child with proper support from the other party. That parent should not just turn over the job of parenting to the new boyfriend; it's harmful to the child as well as the relationship between all of them. I am seeing this right now in my daughter - basically letting her boyfriend be the major influence. Although he is a professional, a psychologist, this is my daughter's child and she should be building a good relationship first and foremost with her child so the child will listen and respect her in her teen years. You just can't turn over your basic responsibility of raising your child because you have a boyfriend. Ignoring a child when they have needs and going through a major change in their lives is not fair to the child. Grownups can make it --- children need trust, understanding and kindness. Most of all they need to be shown love and that they aren't a burden.

    Posted by Stella April 30, 13 06:52 AM
  1. My kids 8 and 4, go to dads couple days a week. He just moved in with gf 2 months ago and only been together a Lil over a year. To me she is just his gf and nothing to our kids and I have a problem with her even just putting my 4 year old on time out. They are under dads care when they are with him so shouldn't he be the one giving her the time outs? I told them that until and if they marry well then I can probably accept. But not now.

    Posted by Chela September 2, 13 08:57 AM
  1. I am in a relationship with my boyfriend who has a 3 year old daughter. She is great. I leave the disciplining to him. I don't over step any boundaries unless I'm told to. Now maybe someone can help me. Over the past weekend we went to the zoo it was fun. We had a good time for the most part. I was feeling dizzy and I had a headache towards the end. He told me to watch his daughter and wait by the bench. I said ok. He went to get the wagon and his daughter was with me. She decided to move from the bench. I told her that her dad wanted us to wait. She didn't listen to me. She walked away. I followed her and I kept telling her we need to go back daddy is waiting for us. Still she didn't listen to me. He came back and started yelling at me because he thought something bad happened to her. I try to explain the situation but he didn't want to hear. Yes I could have carried her but she was too heavy for me especially when I wasn't feeling well. She doesn't see me as an authority figure I think he should have told her the next time you have to listen to her. I didn't know how to handle the situation without me grabbing her and telling her dad I hurt her. I'm trying to avoid that because it's her word against mine. He is still upset he hasn't spoken to me. He said that I'm the adult I should have done something. Yea I am the adult I do tell her no and say please and thank you but there are lines that I don't cross when it comes to parenting especially when she sees me as daddy friend.
    I don't know what should I have done? I need advice because I feel horrible about this. I love him we dated before he had a child.

    Posted by rosy October 27, 13 11:24 AM
 
23 comments so far...
  1. I have to seriously disagree about the stepfather "saving the single mother in distress." Personally I never had any discipline problems with my own children and didn't require (or want) any help when I got married for the second time. What I have seen, not only in my experience, but hearing from other women in second marriages, is that the stepfather feels some need to exert control over the stepchildren and interferes with her discipline of the children, thereby damaging their relationship.

    It seems that there should be "rules of the house" that are agreed upon by both adults and they should also agree on consequences for disobeying those rules, but I think the parent should be the primary one for disciplining their own children. The stepparent should act like a responsible adult, but they are not his children. I would also agree that the same should happen when the roles are reversed and it's a stepmother.

    Thanks for weighing in, Liz C. By "Step dads are often lauded as heros," I mean that society tends to see them that way, not that the remarried moms do (Aside from the movie currently in theaters, how many fairy tales involve evil stepdads?). I completely agree with your last paragraph! -- LMA

    Posted by Liz C. November 5, 09 02:02 PM
  1. If the mom in question has been lax about discipline and now wants to tighten things up (maybe with some encouragement from her boyfriend), it is still up to her to discuss the rules and the consequences for breaking them.

    I think a reasonable guideline is that the boyfriend can enforce the kinds of things that any close friend or family member could do while babysitting. Some examples: anything safety related (touching stove, riding bike without helmet, hitting sibling). The only punishment permitted would be a time-out. No yelling or touching.

    If it's older children, they don't need to be disciplined immediately. They can wait for mom to address the situation.

    In my opinion, the boyfriend does not otherwise discipline, correct, shout at, or give orders to her kids. Probably true even if they get married and he becomes the step dad.

    Posted by just_cos November 5, 09 02:40 PM
  1. Personally, I don't think that SOs should be spending so much time with the kids, particularly without the bio-parent, that they NEED to discipline them on their own. If and when the mom/dad marries the SO, then the SO should be disciplining the children in a way that is consistent with the parent.

    It's so important for the biological parent and the step-parent to be on the same page with discipline. However, it is not realistic to expect the biological parent to handle all discipline and the step-parent to do none of it. Obviously, everything needs to be handled in as sensitive a manner as possible.

    Posted by JKR November 5, 09 03:23 PM
  1. To me, it depends on the custody situation, how long the couple has been together, and the ages of the children. If the children live in the house and are younger, by all means, a step-parent has every right to discipline them. I think it would be unfair to handcuff the other person by expecting them to wait and defer to the bio-parent all the time. If the kids are older and are only there on a every-other-weekend schedule, then the stepparent has less authority.

    It has been my experience as a stepmom that as long as the two adults are on the same page, its not a problem. The problem arises when there are two very different expectations about what the rules are going to be and what the consequences are if the rules are broken. Sometimes the stepparent doesn't even want to handle discipline.

    However, if someone is living under your roof, even if its only a handful of days a month, then I believe you have every right to enforce rules in your own home.

    Posted by Stepmomof1 November 5, 09 03:36 PM
  1. I agree wholeheartedly with Stepmomof1. I never felt like there was an issue with someone else disciplining my kids, whether it was my boyfriend or someone else (as long as we are on the same page as far as what to do when the kids are out of line),

    Posted by Desiree November 5, 09 07:03 PM
  1. I think this is exactly why discipline methods in the home need to be something that anyone (parent, sig other, babysitter, whoever) can easily enforce.

    If you're not comfortable with someone else using your discipline techniques, I think that you should be rethinking your techniques.

    This is not to say that there's one approach that works for everyone, but the way that you raise a child is that there is one consistent voice from all the adult in their life whether it's that you're using the Caveman technique from Happiest Toddler, 1/2/3 magic, the naughty step, 3 warning and a time out, whatever.

    My 1 year old daughter needs to know that if she bites, she will get the same reaction from me, my husband, her grandparents, and any other adult caregiver she may encounter.

    Posted by C November 5, 09 07:38 PM
  1. The biological custody parent has to decide what the boundaries are. Other adults in the extended family and household can keep one eye open for kids that always find ways to get past rules.

    Younger children need to be restrained when they cross boundaries--including running around with sharp objects, running out of the yard, climbing up kitchen counters, etc.

    I have no problem with any sensible person who restrains a child in imminent danger, and who then carries the child over to the parent for a discussion of the problem.

    This seems to carry a much stronger message than shouting NO. The quiet discussion reinforces the sense of transgression.

    Posted by Irene November 5, 09 08:11 PM
  1. I wasn't allowed to discipline my now ex-girlfriend's kids. I was rendered powerless. The kids would push the limits when I was put in there charge, but I was given to license to discipline on any level. If I said anything, they would complain to their mother and their mother would come down on me. "Stop complaining about my kids. They're good kids." Well, yes they are, but they still misbehave like kids do. Adults are adults, and kids are kids. I'm not talking about spanking here, but adults should be able to correct inappropriate behavior and the parents should encourage respect.

    Posted by DadsMatterToo November 6, 09 12:17 AM
  1. My boyfriend and I parent our kids very differently. His daughter is 8 and has very limited boundaries on her behavior. My kids are 12 and 15 and were not allowed to behave and talk the way that his daughter does. That being said, he is her father and should parent her in whatever way he see's as appropriate. I dont feel its my place or job to correct her behavior unless it directly affects me. For example, she can talk back to him all she wants if that is what he allows but I will not allow it to myself because that is my personal boundary not his. There are still problems however. She makes rules such as "no kissing" and instead of explaining to her that we WILL be kissing because its important to us, he tries to sneak one when she isnt looking. I have problems with this and other examples of him bending to her will but really my only choice in this situation is to decide if II can handle this, want to go along with it or just go home. Our rlationship might not make it when the issues on her boundaries get biger, but I feel it wouldnt help the relationships if I tried to impose my ways of doing things on him when he doesnt apparently feel the same way I do. I refuse to complete with an 8 year old.

    Posted by Brenda May 3, 10 08:43 AM
  1. My BF of 6mths has custody of his son, i have 2 girls. When he brings his son to my house we always get into it b/c his son is kind of wild and I do not allow that in my house so when i tell him to stop doing whatever it is, my BF gets mad at me. My relationship is on the rocks b/c of this. If the shoe was on the other foot and we were at his place (he lives with parents), then he can tell my girls not do cross his boundaries. I didn't even yell or anything just told his son not to throw dirt and then not to punch my daughter in the chest.

    Posted by Shortygirl September 14, 10 02:21 PM
  1. "I also think the answer may differ depending on whether the significant other is male or female."

    I take serious exception to this. This reeks of sexism and a double standard. No thanks.

    I agree with C above, who wrote: "discipline methods in the home need to be something that anyone (parent, sig other, babysitter, whoever) can easily enforce."

    Posted by Independent October 28, 10 09:14 PM
  1. I know with my godson, my boyfriend and I are both pretty strict. In front of his parents, if he gets out of hand, I pick him up and put him on timeout against the wall or door, where he can see us all continueing the activity he is no longer allowed in because of his behavior. We all ignore him, and when he stops fussing, I go over and talk to him about it, and he is allowed back to the group. I dont believe in spanking. The occasional slap on the hand, maybe... but out right spanking will never happen. This is the type of behavior (removing the child from the situation, timeouts, and talks) I would expect from everyone I know. If my child is acting out, the closest person should be able to handle a timeout. Yelling doesnt work... it just teaches your child to be angry and yell back.

    Posted by FaerieGodMother November 1, 10 12:07 AM
  1. I am not a step parent, however I baby sit my niece and nephew on a daily basis. At their house they practically get away with murder, and I have different rules at my house. I don't allow food in my living room, or for the kids to go outside without supervision. My question is... Is it ok for me as their aunt, when they are at my house to put them in time out if needed? I have been trying to do a marble jar where they can earn marbles for good behavior, but they get taken away if they disobey rules. But they seem to not care when I take them out. They play nicely with my daughter, but when I have found Ranch Dressing all over my living room carpet and couch, I feel this is where a time out is necessary. Any advise?

    Posted by Margo July 9, 11 11:22 AM
  1. I believe that any trusted adult should be able to discipline my children if they get out of hand. That being said, would I let a complete stranger discipline my children...no. Would I let someone i don't trust discipline my children...no. But as to the posters question, yes, my boyfriend is allowed to discipline my children, after he asks me what he should do. He is NOT allowed to take it on himself to discipline my children, but if one of my children gets out of hand and he comes to me to ask what he should do, I fully expect him to PROPERLY carry out the discipline that I would have done myself. This can, and does, include light spanking on the clothed bottom, and if the child is back talking a light tap to the cheek or mouth. He in no way takes it on himself to do those things, only if I have given him express permission. I have many in my family, however, that have argued and fussed with me about this...oh well. I am their parent and if I see no problem with it, and they are not being abused, I believe other people should parent in their own way.


    myself. This can include

    Posted by Chelsea Baker August 2, 11 03:27 PM
  1. I think this depends on many factors. The primary being the relationship between the SO and the child. If the child does not have a fairly close relationship with the SO then "definitely not". The question then becomes "why do they not have a fairly close relationship"? It may be because the SO is acting out parenting before developing the relationship. The child may "do as their told" but they will resent it and withdraw from the SO, and thus further estrange the relationship. SO's should never force their parenting on someone else child. I agree in large part that an Aunt or Uncle or even another close friend can often do this, but the SO cannot until such time as they are fully accepted by the child and have developed a close and trusting relationship. To some degree SO's are always judged and tested in ways that biological parents and relatives are not. It is the old adage "blood is thicker than water". So you SO's out there beware that "being right" could be exactly the wrong thing to do.

    Posted by Scott Herndon January 8, 12 11:49 PM
  1. I am a girlfriend (no kids) to a divorced man with two girls (ages 3 & 7). The kids and I have a good relationship considering that the relationship between mom and dad is not amicable. I am also an aunt, with a close relationship, to my nephew of 7 and niece of 3. Imagine my difficulty when it comes to disciplining my boyfriend's kids and my nephew and niece? My sister and I are very much on the same page when it comes to disciplining her kids. There is a very fine boundary when you say too much as an outsider to someone else's kids. However, it also gets very confusing and difficult when your sister and your boyfriend's disciplining tactics are different. I sometimes feel like I lead a dual life with dual personalities. There is always the tremendous pressure on me to be more than perfect in handling the kids. My partner naturally is more protective, more so out of guilt and his passive-aggressive nature. He takes longer to enforce any kind of discipline. In saying so the slightest slip up from me can lead to a huge argument afterwards. And next week my boyfriend will say the same words to his daughter for which I got into untold trouble for. I feel that it is very unfair for parents to expect so much from an individual who has never been a parent. From my side I can only say that I try my best every time. It is hard to walk into an 'instant' family. I don't know what my "role" is, because I am not a mother or stepmother nor an aunt. Family is easy. You grew up with your sibling's kids, the kids are familiar and you know them. But when you enter a divorced family you have to build a relationship with the kids. And kids are kids. They push their boundaries to a point where the pressure cooker would've blew it's lid long ago. It's new, it's difficult, in many ways it could be a sacrifice. Parents when you are dating someone please spend time with you partner and discuss disciplining in detail with them before any clashes can occur. Correct you partner in a gentle and amicable way when they make a mistake. You as a parent have made plenty mistakes already. It's not nice to be shouted at, humiliated and embarrassed by a parent-partner when they want you to be so perfect. Practice those rules you want implemented on your children on your partner as well. Respect goes many ways in a situation like this and your partner needs to be encouraged and not broken down. It is difficult enough to try and get to know your partner with the kids in tow. It is a wonderful experience though and I wouldn't trade it for anything. To hear those girls saying 'I love you' makes my heart melt into my shoes. Somewhere I have been saying something right....

    Posted by Hannalie February 1, 12 04:06 PM
  1. I am a boyfriend of a girl with two kids. One is in his early teens and the other is in kindergarten. The oldest one was name calling me the other night and the only thing I did was I got into is face. I wanted so much to spank him but held back. My girlfriend gives me permission to deciple. What should I have done to him?

    Posted by scott June 13, 12 10:34 PM
  1. I am engaged to A divorced Man with 2 boys 14+13 Both with opposite personalities. The elder is beyond angry for having a younger brother and has been since birth. Acting out and hitting was normal behavior when I met them. amazed to see the younger one gets the blame, oh stop being a baby..
    I have witnessed the older telling Dad he's only teasing while I see his other two fingers drilling in his rib cage.. No one believed me.
    Their mom works till 6pm every day and the younger one told me about the torture he has endured while Mom is at work.
    It was the first complaint ever mentioned to her out of concern for protection as he is made to hold his hands out or get punched in the stomach.. I asked the mom to put a better lock on his bedroom since older can break in.. She told them I am overbearing. needy and boys are just boys.
    It would also help if she came out of the closet ever so slightly to confirm what she dresses like, acts like.. yelling at the Hockey rink with vains popping out of her head at every game until people had to tell her to shut up! Tough new York Man type lezbian, but thats ok.. I'm just too sensitive..
    I am seeking advice on how to love this life with Boys who are only on the computer.. sometimes begging them to take a shower.. only come to life for a game. or school..
    It's gotten to the point where the older one will not even acknowledge me as I repectfully knock on the door asking if he would like a brownie... long silence... then WHAT!!,
    Last night I tried to say goodbye after the last 2 week vaca with us.. I wanted to show older something., Dirty look, no response, walked downstairs and out the door.. felt like an idiot...called him a jerk..
    I let him have it when his mom drove up I took the hand of Dad to watch what I told him about respect. .
    Today I apologized for my part to his mom and now she wants to get him legally able to not have to come over anymore.. where is the team work.
    this is the first time I stood up for my feelings as a paying tennent not really engaged anymore with a buzz kill jerk for a son who's mom and he get a kick out of me over reacting...hahahhaha.

    Posted by Kelly Simpson August 27, 12 10:08 AM
  1. A step parent NEEDS to discipline the children, the child and step parent's relationship is all based on respect and respect is listening to one another, If the child steps out of line, the step parent needs to address the situation so it does not happen again. If people say step parents should not discipline, then other adults such as family members, or teachers or even authorities have no right to discipline the child either and that is not ever true. The actions taken against the child should although be conversed between the couple prior to any discipline is made, and agreed upon.

    Posted by Polly September 12, 12 06:07 PM
  1. I wouldn't have a problem with my boyfriend disciplining my daughter but he too has a 5 year old yet doesn't discipline equally. He yells and screams at my child and tells her to go to her room all the while intimidating her and insisting on physically moving her along. It's devastating for my child. He does not yell and scream at his child, why mine? At the same time he doesn't even give me a chance to correct her negative behavior. So it ends up that my child is so upset, I'm trying to let him know it's not acceptable to scream in front of our children, hw starts yelling at me bc I know am comforting my child bc he didnt let me handle it from the get go!

    Posted by manni October 20, 12 01:51 AM
  1. Too many step parents and boyfriends overstep their boundaries. The parent should be the #1 adult guiding the child with proper support from the other party. That parent should not just turn over the job of parenting to the new boyfriend; it's harmful to the child as well as the relationship between all of them. I am seeing this right now in my daughter - basically letting her boyfriend be the major influence. Although he is a professional, a psychologist, this is my daughter's child and she should be building a good relationship first and foremost with her child so the child will listen and respect her in her teen years. You just can't turn over your basic responsibility of raising your child because you have a boyfriend. Ignoring a child when they have needs and going through a major change in their lives is not fair to the child. Grownups can make it --- children need trust, understanding and kindness. Most of all they need to be shown love and that they aren't a burden.

    Posted by Stella April 30, 13 06:52 AM
  1. My kids 8 and 4, go to dads couple days a week. He just moved in with gf 2 months ago and only been together a Lil over a year. To me she is just his gf and nothing to our kids and I have a problem with her even just putting my 4 year old on time out. They are under dads care when they are with him so shouldn't he be the one giving her the time outs? I told them that until and if they marry well then I can probably accept. But not now.

    Posted by Chela September 2, 13 08:57 AM
  1. I am in a relationship with my boyfriend who has a 3 year old daughter. She is great. I leave the disciplining to him. I don't over step any boundaries unless I'm told to. Now maybe someone can help me. Over the past weekend we went to the zoo it was fun. We had a good time for the most part. I was feeling dizzy and I had a headache towards the end. He told me to watch his daughter and wait by the bench. I said ok. He went to get the wagon and his daughter was with me. She decided to move from the bench. I told her that her dad wanted us to wait. She didn't listen to me. She walked away. I followed her and I kept telling her we need to go back daddy is waiting for us. Still she didn't listen to me. He came back and started yelling at me because he thought something bad happened to her. I try to explain the situation but he didn't want to hear. Yes I could have carried her but she was too heavy for me especially when I wasn't feeling well. She doesn't see me as an authority figure I think he should have told her the next time you have to listen to her. I didn't know how to handle the situation without me grabbing her and telling her dad I hurt her. I'm trying to avoid that because it's her word against mine. He is still upset he hasn't spoken to me. He said that I'm the adult I should have done something. Yea I am the adult I do tell her no and say please and thank you but there are lines that I don't cross when it comes to parenting especially when she sees me as daddy friend.
    I don't know what should I have done? I need advice because I feel horrible about this. I love him we dated before he had a child.

    Posted by rosy October 27, 13 11:24 AM
add your comment
Required
Required (will not be published)

This blogger might want to review your comment before posting it.

About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

Submit a question for Barbara's Mailbag


Ask Barbara a question

Barbara answers questions on a wide range of topics, including autism, breastfeeding, bullying, discipline, divorce, kindergarten, potty training, sleep, tantrums, and much, much more.

Send your questions to her at:
meltzbarbara (at) gmail.com.
Please include your name and hometown.

Child in Mind

Moms
All parenting discussions
Discussions

High needs/fussy baby

memes98 writes "My 10.5 month old DS has been fussy ever since he was born, but I am getting very frustrated because I thought he would be much better by now...has anyone else been through this?"

More community voices

Child in Mind

Corner Kicks

Dirty Old Boston

Mortal Matters

On Deck

TEDx Beacon Street

RSS feed


click here to subscribe to
Child Caring

archives