How to discipline a teen who can leave anytime he wants?

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-25-2002
How to discipline a teen who can leave anytime he wants?
6
Thu, 05-12-2011 - 9:22am

My boyfriend and his ex-wife divorced several years ago. They have joint custody of their younger son, who is 15 years old. He is free to stay at whichever house he pleases and often rides his bike between the two (they're only a couple of miles apart).

Because of this arrangement, my boyfriend has difficulty disciplining his 15-year-old son. If his son doesn't like what's happening at my boyfriend's house, he can leave for his mom's house. According to my boyfriend, his ex-wife is not nearly as on top of discipline and making sure school work gets done.

The main problems we've faced lately are that he started smoking, didn't finish a big assignment for one of his classes (that he obviously enjoys), and spends more time at his mom's when he's supposed to spend 5 days a week with his dad (which is a problem when he doesn't eat well and absorbs her irresponsible behavior).

How do we get him back on track and maintain reasonable discipline when he can avoid it so easily?

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999

I think it's a difficult situation where the parents are divorce and won't work together.

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-25-2002

Thank you for your reply. That does seem to be the unfortunate reality of things. I figured I'd fish for ideas in case we missed something. It'd be nice if we could get him to spend more time with us and understand that we really are thinking of his wellfare.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-13-2010
This is a tough one, and I've faced it twice with both of my boys. Their dad lives 1200 miles away, and when they didn't like our home, they packed it up and headed for dads. I hate to say it, but when there are two households you run this risk, of the child playing one household against the other. It happened to us twice, and it was terribly unpleasant both times. My ex husband was never on our side, and we have never been able to co-parent the children. Each time my sons ended up coming back into our home, and the first time it worked out fine with my oldest, the second time, it has been a disaster.
You can try explaining to his ds, rules, expectations etc, try getting the mom on the same page, or it may stay status quo.
I'm sorry I don't have better advice for you, but I have lived this scenario for the past 11 years, and it has never improved.
iVillage Member
Registered: 08-25-2002
Thanks for your input.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-09-2009
I'm stepmom to grown skids (they were 10 and 12 when I came on the scene). I strongly suggest that your boyfriend uses natural consequences with the boy and doesn't worry about the kid running to mom's.

By natural consequences I mean, for example, if the boy doesn't finish his assignment, then let him fail (or get a poor mark). He's 15 and he's got to start being responsible for his own sloppiness and failures.

About the smoking, here's what I'll be doing with my DS when/if it becomes an issue. I've told him (he's 14 right now) that if he ever comes home smelling of cigarettes (whether he's smoked them or he was hanging out with smokers) that he'll have to shower, brush teeth, and launder every stitch of clothes that he was wearing when he walked in the door...and do it right away. Failure to comply will result in bad, bad things (like no screen time and grounding and extra chores and and and...). If it's him that's actually smoking, then smoking (and coming home smelling of it...I'm a former smoker, btw, and have a super-sensitive nose for it) will become VERY inconvenient for him. A total PITA, I'm sure.

Both my skids smoked from time to time, btw, and my DH's rule was that they could not smoke on our property, nor could they smoke within sight of our property. My SD is no longer a smoker, but I think that my SS is still an occasional smoker (he couldn't afford to be a regular one).

As for how much time he spends with which parent, well, he's 15 and IMO and IME he's old enough to be able to decide (though giving an advance head's up to the parents would be polite). Unless there are really compelling reasons why he shouldn't be around his mom, and in that case your boyfriend should change her access to supervised only.

My skids bounced back and forth between their mom's and our house, basically at their will. They would let us know if they were going from school to mom's (they walked to school from our house but could take the school bus to mom's), or would call their mom if they decided NOT to go to mom's on a particular day. Both parents were super-flexible.
iVillage Member
Registered: 08-25-2002
Thanks for your input. We cannot prevent natural consequences, so I suppose he will have to learn that way.