Appropriate discipline, boundaries for a 14-year-old
February 10, 2013 10:18 PM Subscribe
My son, 14, splits his time between my house and my ex-husband's house. About two years ago, my son's bed at his dad's house was taken away - he's been sleeping on the floor ever since. I am increasingly upset about this but unsure whether or how to intervene.
posted by webwench to human relations (110 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
My ex and I divorced 12 years ago, and both of us married other people about five years ago. My ex and his wife have a young daughter. My husband and I have no children together. My ex and I share custody 50/50 and have since our divorce. We've had a relatively peaceful relationship until about two years ago when our child-raising and disciplinary approach apparently diverged.
My son has always had minor behavioral problems - he's a B student when he's applying himself, and a C student when he's not, but he has always been a kid who gets in some trouble in school for things like being disrespectful, disrupting class by talking to a friend, etc. Usually nothing major, but enough that he lands in detention 2-3 times a year. He spent time seeing a counselor in 5th-6th grade, then when he seemed to be doing somewhat better behaviorally, we discontinued the counseling. In 8th grade, responding to more behavioral issues, we brought him to a psychologist, who we've been seeing every 2-3 weeks since. My son does consistently better for a few months, then will do something outrageously stupid and get into trouble, restrictions on his behavior tighten up for a while, he toes the line for a while, wash-rinse-repeat.
In 8th grade, at the same time as the psychologist was engaged, my ex-husband decided that a good way to handle discipline was to go full-lockdown - no TV, no game console, no outside privileges, and - the kicker - no bed. This was in reaction to my son stealing a combination lock from his science classroom, resulting in a day of in-school suspension and loss of the 8th grade class trip. The duration is basically 'until (ex) feels he has earned back his stuff'. My son was also grounded at my house, but we never had game consoles, he doesn't watch TV to speak of at our house anyway, and he still has (and will always have) a bed at my house.
My boy is in 9th grade now. He got into some moderate trouble shortly before Thanksgiving, and as a result he lost internet privileges at both houses, and lost a hunting trip with my family. He also lost his *shoes* at my ex's house - they took away his 2 pairs of moderately stylish shoes that he'd bought with birthday money, and replaced them with one pair of poorly-fitting shoes from a discount store, which his stepmom bought and brought home for my son to wear, without my son having even tried them on.
So, I've been aware of the bed thing for several months, and became aware of the extent of the shoe thing yesterday during a trip to the shoe store. I've been keeping my thoughts about the discipline at the ex's house mostly to myself with some unease, but I'm starting to consider whether it's time to engage in a discussion around modifying the custody agreement. I don't think it's acceptable to have a child sleeping on the floor over there, and I don't think it's acceptable to purposefully shoe your child in shoes 2+ sizes off as a punishment. I also feel like punishment should have a reasonable end date. That said, interfering in discipline at their house has potential to inject a lot of unpleasantness and drama into a situation that's been fairly stable until recently.
So, am I overreacting or underreacting? In my place, would you be seeking advice from a lawyer, or would you be keeping focus on your own household?