Lucky Seven Family

Tag Archives: Discipline

Tuesday Tip #24: “Harmless” Teasing

Earlier this year I chaperoned one night of my son’s 7th grade class week-long field trip.  It was a trip filled with all types of learning experiences:  dissections and field observations were a few of the activities.  On the evening I attended, the kids participated in a simulation experiment that involved the Underground Railroad.  Parents and students participated together – we started with the  students being treated as if they were slaves working in a cotton field.  The counselors were trained to be the slave owners.  The “slaves” were yelled at, ugly words were thrown at them, and they could not make eye contact with their “owners”.  They were then rescued by an “abolitionist” and taken through the forest on a trek through Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont and ultimately into the safety of Canada.  Throughout the trip we were yelled at by “farmers” and had to pay to be on their land and we were hidden in a “safe house” from a sheriff.  This experience culminated in a sit down of all the kids with the counselors to discuss the experience.  They talked about differences in people (skin color, hair color, eye color, clothing choices, activities they enjoy) and how and why the slave owners decided they were superior to the slaves.

The counselors used this experience to tie the lesson to bullying, discussing the reasons people bully and the harm it can cause.  One of the points raised was that putting other people down is usually a way to try to make yourself feel bigger or better.  The other important point I took away from the evening was even “harmless” teasing or “joking” can really hurt.

When our blended family is together we try not to tolerate even the “joking” and “harmless” teasing.  I’ve see this behavior from all of the kids at some point and, even as parents, we are not perfect .  When I hear it coming from one of the kids (or several!) I try to explain to all of them the age-old adage:  “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!”.  As they’ve gotten older, I do take severe criticisms seriously and usually take the offending child separately for a conversation about their words.  Teaching children that words do hurt and can have deleterious effects on self-esteem is important.  Respect for others, even brothers and sisters, is truly necessary.  The other lesson I focus on is the offending child’s self-esteem.  What is going on that they feel the need to put someone else down?  Perhaps this is the most crucial discussion point.

Listen to your family, watch their behavior, take the opportunity to teach them…

Discipline: Starting the conversation…

Applying discipline in any family, blended family or not, can be difficult.  We all come into parent-hood with concepts about discipline based upon how we were raised and other experiences we had along the path to becoming a parent.  In addition to our beliefs about discipline, in a blended family, we may also bring other issues that affect our ability to discipline such as feelings of guilt or concerns that our children will “choose” the other parent if we expect certain behaviors from them.  Major issues can certainly arise when trying to blend a family where the parents and/or the children have different expectations of how discipline will occur.

Once you and your significant other have made the decision to introduce your respective families to one another (however that combination of parents and children may look – one parent with children, the other without or both parents with children) – And, may I just note, this is an entirely different conversation – when is your adult relationship strong enough to introduce the children involved?! – I’ll address this topic in another post!  Back to the topic at hand… discipline.

Prior to the introduction of your families to one another, it is ideal to have a brief conversation about discipline just to start the dialogue between the two adults in your blended family.  This dialogue will help you begin to understand one another’s beliefs about behavioral expectations and discipline techniques.  Keep the conversation light and work to learn about one another.  Ultimately, the goal here will be to learn from one another; but, initially you must start by understanding one another’s views on discipline.  Here are a few questions to start the conversation:


  • How were you disciplined as a child?
  • Do you consider yourself a strict disciplinarian? Or not so strict?
  • How do you correct behavior that is not acceptable?
  • Do you have any discipline techniques that work really well with your children?

What other questions would you add to this list?

Do you have suggestions on how to start this important conversation about discipline?

Next post, I’ll discuss dealing with discipline discrepancies and setting expectations for discipline in your blended family.