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SuperMouse's avatar

Should a custodial parent expect a non-custodial parent to enforce their punishment?

Asked by SuperMouse (30829points) March 14th, 2012

Earlier in the week we caught our youngest son in a whopper of a lie. We had caught him in some smaller lies previously and this one was not only a real dozy, but he told a second lie to cover his tracks. He was of course disciplined every time it happened, and because his habit seemed to be escalating we brought the hammer down pretty hard. For this entire week he is grounded from playing with friends and from his ipod, he is also not allowed to play outside or watch television. This is the evening he spends with his dad. The most we could do was make him leave is ipod at home and explain that since we have no authority at his father’s house we can’t enforce our punishment there and it is up to him to do the right thing.

So here’s the question, is it unreasonable of us to expect my ex-husband to enforce our punishment? Should he back us up for the good of teaching the boy a very important lesson or should we leave our punishments at the door when he heads to his dad’s? What is your opinion?

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21 Answers

MrItty's avatar

If you expect the other parent to enforce your punishments, I think it’s only reasonable that the other parent be involved in deciding upon the punishment, before it’s announced to the child, just as if you were all living together.

saint's avatar

See above. If it is not a mutually agreed-to parental decision, you can’t expect mutual parental cooperation.
FYI, there are 100 reasons why I got divorced. Reason number 22 was my ex wife refused to make child discipline a joint responsibility.

SuperMouse's avatar

@MrItty and @saint therein lies the problem, my ex is so angry he wouldn’t agree with me to stop at a red light. I have to say I agree with your points; I suppose it is just wishful thinking that he would put the good of the boy first and assist in teaching him an important lesson. That isn’t meant to sound snotty about your responses, it is just the reality of the situation.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

When my ex-wife plans on disciplining the kids, but it is my turn for custody coming up, she restricts them from bringing items they like to my house, for example, their video games. I have no problem with it. Can you do something like that? Like the ipod, is the standing punishment, and just mention no tv.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought we did that with the one thing he brings back and forth – his ipod.

saint's avatar

@SuperMouse Sounds familiar. Do your best.

jca's avatar

What you could do is, say his punishment is no TV for 5 days. The time he leaves to go to dad’s halts the punishnent, and when he returns, the punishment continues to complete the 5 days. So time at the dad’s is like “time out” and then punishment starts up again when he comes back home. Get it?

Ela's avatar

I agree with @jca : )
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect he enforce the punishment but I’d let go of the fact that he probably wouldn’t. (It would just bother me and personally, I don’t like spending that much energy on my ex.) If you don’t think your son will abide by it while he is at his father’s then tack whatever time he is there on to the week (ei. if he is grounded for a week and spends 2 days at his dad’s then it bumps up from 7 days to 9).
I’m going through some stuff with my oldest where he is grounded from everything. What I do is tell my ex what’s going on, why and I leave it at that. If he enforces it fine, if not I don’t really care because I do and will. I think my son will usually follow my rules when he is at his father’s, though (maybe because his dad, to my knowledge, has ever set up a punishment for anything).
One of the reasons we got divorced was because we did not communicate. I could ask him before I set up a punishment and get his take on it, but that ship sailed long ago.

SuperMouse's avatar

@EnchantingEla do you and your ex have a good relationship now? Whenever I communicate with mine in almost any way, he gets belligerent with me so now I only tell him what I am required to tell him and use the fewest words possible. I am not sure how to even get past that part of communication! He is fairly well convinced that every move I make is designed to hurt him. The reality is that I give the man very little thought, unless of course I am sending my youngest over there with a big punishment hanging over his head!

@jca when we doled out the punishment we did so figuring he would probably not abide by it during his time at his dad’s house. We kind of picked the amount of time with that in mind. We didn’t tell him one way or another whether it was in force there or not, just left it with the ambiguous “do what you think is right.”

I am really looking forward to talking to him when he gets home to find out how he handled it. Hopefully our punishment worked and his conscience won’t let him lie, but if not his big brothers will rat him out!

Ela's avatar

@SuperMouse I will pm you : )
It’s difficult to explain.

MrItty's avatar

@jca that will quickly turn the child against the mother and in favor of the father. It pits them against each other. Mom becomes the bad guy, Dad is the happy fun-time. That is completely unfair to the mother.

Ela's avatar

That may be the way it goes @MrItty, but in divorces when the parents don’t communicate or get along well someone has to be heavy. I’m usually the “bad-guy”. It is unfair but it is also just the way it is.

Bellatrix's avatar

In an ideal world it would happen. In that ideal world though, you would be able to call up your ex and say “This is happening, what do you think we should do in terms of a fair punishment? I was thinking of this….” Then you would both follow through.

Sadly @SuperMouse we do not live in an ideal world. So, find a suitable punishment you can manage when the child is with you.

SpatzieLover's avatar

This is the evening he spends with his dad. The most we could do was make him leave is ipod at home and explain that since we have no authority at his father’s house we can’t enforce our punishment there and it is up to him to do the right thing.

First, I would try to have discipline be shared, I would involve the ex via email or a phone call prior to the visit. I’m big on keeping up with paper trails, so I’d personally email regularly. That way I’d know precisely what the ex knows/doesn’t know about what’s going on.

I’d want an answer as to whether he feels he’d keep up with the discipline at his house or not.

Second, I would let son know that the punishment will continue when he gets home.

No, I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all for two adults that created a child to set aside differences to raise a child. I agree with @MrItty in regards to setting yourself up as the bad guys while your husband will be the party, fun dad.

Ela's avatar

I think you are assuming the parents still get along well after the divorce in which case it may be fine to discuss punishments just like you were still married, but if punishments are to be enforced, someone has to be the bad guy and do it. My kids can think I’m the bad guy and their dad is nothing but bubbles and rainbows but I am also the stable, constant in their lives. I’m the one they can and do depend on.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Nope. In all of my experience, the parents (including my own) rarely got along. However, the parents are still to be parents, not friends to their children @EnchantingEla.

I’ve been on the other side of divorce more than once (as the kid/teen). Even my dead beat dad could handle follow through with discipline, medicine or school work.

Ela's avatar

Some ex spouses would see it as an open invitation to argue. Or use it as a small lever to activate their control issues. Not all divorced parents are very cooperative.

SpatzieLover's avatar

I know @EnchantingEla, I come from a dysfunctional family…yet I was still parented by both parents. I also had a step-brother. His parents didn’t get along at all. However, if he came to our house ‘grounded’ he remained ‘grounded’ for his duration with his non-custodial dad & my mom. It is possible for parents to remain parents while arguing and manipulating their ex-spouse

Ela's avatar

I understand that @SpatzieLover, but in situations where both parents are not parenting, someone has to and that one will come across as the bad guy for enforcing the punishment. I’d rather be a bad guy then argue with my ex about parenting, have him be manipulative or not having the punishment followed through.

JLeslie's avatar

Since you two don’t get along well, probably you can’t expect your ex to enforce the punishment. It would be nice if he did though, so he is not the punishment free house. If he has very limited time with his children, not equal custody, then I think he is going to probably not want to use up his time with his child under punishment rules. I guess it depends on how much your ex buys into the need for your son to be punished.

I do think it is a great idea to include him in a punishment decision. Tell your son you are going to call his father to discuss the punishment, then your ex has some stake in it. Bit, I get the feeling that might not be a realistic solution in your situation.

Sucks. Unfair. All those crappy things.

SuperMouse's avatar

@spatzielover, I know that in a better (if not perfect) world my ex would put parenting our children before his bitterness and would step up and actually parent our kids. The reality is that his is either unwilling or incapable of doing so. IMO the kids suffer for it. @enchantingela hit the nail on the head.

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