Now since my husband’s ex lost the court hearing, his son was with us during the summer even though he wasn't getting the privacy they claimed he needed until we moved into the house. With summer though, kids don’t have school, and last year my husband and his ex-wife did not coordinate with summer camp like previous years. It can be challenging during the summertime when your child is off, and you are still working. It also doesn’t help when you have one parent that doesn’t seem to really work. I say this because last summer, my stepson would complain and ask why we were so busy, and that there was nothing to do. It came to the point that he admitted that his mom will check her emails every 30 minutes or so, but besides that, she’d be outside playing with him. That really made us upset. It seemed as though it was a problem that we were hard working people who had jobs during the day. It's not like everyone out there makes $200,000 a year and doesn't have to really work. So, my stepson also didn’t appreciate that we weren’t always available to play with him like his mom was/is.
The thing about parents and children though, is yes, you can play with them. There is nothing wrong with playing with your children. You can play a board game, play catch in your backyard, etc. You are your child's authority. That is the role and responsibility of a parent. If you try to be friends with your child, it comes at the cost of your authority, and it undermines your role as a parent. We had fun with Ben when we could, but his dad was a very busy person during the day with his job and he had to work hard to support his son. He kept the authority, but also kept the balance of fun too. It also seemed like a problem that my husband worked, and it was a crime with how busy he was during the daytime. My husband's ex on the other hand tells people just how close she and her son are that she will talk about personal things with him that a child should not know about a parent.
As a child gets older the amount of emotional requirements change and you become more functional because the goal of older kids is to prepare them to live without you. My husband has always had that type of mindset. With that, we decided to create a summer chore chart to keep him busy and have him continue to learn a few things here and there.
Some of the things from the Summer Chore Chart were:
Shovel or Rake Leaves
Share Projects with Others
Help with Groceries
Help with Dinner
And these some of the rewards that he could choose from were:
Ice Cream Out
Hot Lunch at School
Buy a Book / New Toy
Extra Computer Time
Gaming Console for our Household
But he also had some negative rewards too where points would be taken away if he:
Using bad language / bad mouthing
Not obeying stepmom and dad
Again, these are just a hand full of things from the chore list, but from some of the rewards you see listed, it seems like something fun for any child. You have a goal of a reward you want to claim, so you do what you can to achieve it. For the months of June and July, it was great! My husband’s son was having a blast. He was actually reading, doing research papers, and even presenting his topic to anyone who wanted to hear. He even did a 4-part series on the county of Rome that he said he was going to expand on. He even wanted to vacuum and clean every car. Meaning mine, his dad’s and both his grandparents’ cars, as well as go grocery shopping with his grandma and even bring all the grocery bags in. My stepson’s goal was 1500 points so then we could take him to Six Flags. Our goal was to make that happen and go on Monday, August 29, 2022, as an end of the summer event.
It was a great 2 months, but then August 6th happened. Our wedding. Don’t get me wrong, my stepson loved me and was so excited I was becoming his stepmom. You’ll find out later that he eventually told people that he never loved me, and we never got along, and that I cried myself to sleep being with his dad. But, overall, my stepson was so happy. I think this was the last good day we really had with him before the colluding started. Once we moved into the house together, things started to change. My stepson was no longer interested in the summer chore chart. A child who was so motivated and determined became someone who was disrespectful, rude, and misbehaving towards not just me but Michael and even his grandparents. Because of him being this way, he started to lose points after points and then would get madder that we were taking the points away.
What didn't help was during these times, my husband couldn't take his son's phone away. His son's phone though? It wasn't my stepson's phone. He isn't the one paying for it, so it's really not the child's phone, but since my husband had to sign a court order that said his son was allowed all access to his mom, he would be violating it if he took it. Sometimes we felt like my stepson purposely did what he did to show he was the one running the show and we had to listen to him.
When you have one parent that wants to discipline a child and give consequences and the other parent is the "fun" parent, the child will unfortunately pick the easy way out and pick the "fun" parent. It also didn't help that my stepson would text his mom immediately after something "bad" happened. Meaning after his father would give a basic consequence for pre-teen/teenagers.
When you look at the Connecticut DCF child discipline page on their website, it breaks down consequences for each age group. https://portal.ct.gov/DCF/Families/Disciplining-your-Child
For ages 9–12-year-olds it states, "Kids in this age group - just as with all ages - can be disciplined with natural consequences. As they mature and request more independence and responsibility, teaching them to deal with the consequences of their behavior is an effective and appropriate method of discipline. For example, if your fifth grader has not done his or her homework before bedtime, should you make him or her stay up or help him finish? Probably not, since you'll be missing an opportunity to teach your child something about life. If he or she doesn't do homework earlier, your child will go to school without it the next day and suffer the resulting bad grade. It's natural for you to want to rescue your child from any mistakes, but in the long run you'll be doing your child more of a favor if you let him or her fail sometimes. Your child will see what behaving improperly can mean, and will probably not make those mistakes again. However, if your child does not seem to be learning from natural consequences, you should set up your own consequences to help him modify his behavior more effectively."
Since my stepson was going to be 13 in 2023, we also took a look at what it said for ages 13-up. It states, "By now you've laid the groundwork. Your child knows what's expected of him or her and knows that you mean what you say about the consequences of bad behavior. Don't let down your guard now - discipline is just as important for teens as it is for younger children. Just like the 4-year-old who needs you to set a bedtime and stick to it, no matter how much he or she whines, your teen needs to know boundaries, too. Make sure to set up rules regarding homework, visits by friends, curfews, and dating and discuss them beforehand with your teenager so there will be no misunderstandings. Your teen, although he or she will probably complain from time to time, will realize that you are in control. Believe it or not, teens still want and need you to set limits and enforce order in their lives, even as you grant them greater freedom and responsibility. When your teen does break a rule, taking away privileges may seem to be the best plan of action. While it's fine to take away the car for a week, for example, be sure to discuss with your child why coming home an hour past curfew is unacceptable and worrisome. It's also important to give a teenager some control over life. Not only will this limit the number of power struggles you may have, it will help your teen to respect the decisions you must make for him or her. With a younger teen, you could allow him or her to make his or her own decisions concerning school clothes, hair styles, or even the condition of his or her room. As your teen gets older, that realm of control might be extended to include an occasional relaxed curfew. It's also important to focus on the positives. For example, have your child earn a later curfew by demonstrating positive behavior, rather than giving your teen an earlier curfew as punishment for irresponsible behavior."
So even though my husband was giving basic discipline for his son's age, it was a problem because his mom saw no reason to give consequences. There was one point that she even said to my husband that if he did give him a consequence, it would just be another reason why he doesn't want to be with us.
Due to this behavior, Six Flag did not happen in which it seemed my stepson didn't care in the end, but it made myself and my husband upset that he would act the way he did. I can say that my stepson did have points left over though. It wasn't enough to take him to Six Flags and by Christmas there was so much colluding going on, that it wasn't a suggestion anyway. But with the remaining points, we decided to get him a video game set for Christmas so he could play with his dad. Unfortunately, the first thing he tried to do was take it to his mom's house. He tended to do this in the past where one of us on this side of the family would get him something and then he would bring it to his mom and then claim that there wasn't anything fun to do at his dad's and to show he's a "bad" person.
Shortly after the summer chore chart fell through at the end of August, my husband found a book that focused on pre-teens/teens and preparing them for the real world. My husband was going to shift to the direction of the book and teach his son that he can have Freedom, but that there were Expectations, and Consequences if things weren't followed through on. I can say that even the woman from DCF said she loved it since she also had a teenager, and even took a picture of our examples. However, to my stepson and his mother, and anyone that followed their narrative thought it was abuse.
Though we were going to present this new approach, my stepson was going to present the blue notebook. The one thing that really started the colluding. It was a blue notebook that was originally bought on August 14th when his dad and I took him school shopping. But instead of it being for school, it was going to be for twisting events around to make us look bad.