Do you think this would be a wise move?

Hi, Mark

Thanks so much for your online resource for us parents. I'm grateful to be a member of your site! My husband and I have appreciated the e-book and have been working hard to apply it. We have posted a list of house rules that clearly outline the consequences and privileges for each one. We sat down with all the kids and explained these rules and asked for their input. Everyone agreed to the rules and had no questions. The three-day rule for consequences has really been helpful. My stepsons, ages 10 and 12, are showing positive responses and we're encouraged.

Our problem lies with my 15 year old stepdaughter, Emily. She refuses to stick to anything. She constantly demands (never asks) to change schedules and demands to do things like go over to her friends' houses ("Dad, take me over to so-and-so's house", things like that). Every time, we explain to her that we need to hear a request, not a demand. We tell her that if she asks us, we will consider the request, but if she demands instead of asking, then it will be an automatic "no." When she then requests, we emphasize that she needs to earn the privilege - i.e., you may go to so-and-so's house only after you've finished chores, etc. She balks at this and says we're unreasonable. The poker face technique has helped so much with this. Our new mantra is "I'm not going to discuss it."

We have had the suspicion that she has been smoking at our house and has been using drugs. We searched her room one day while she was not here and found cigarettes and marijuana. When she came home that afternoon, we confronted her with it - calmly and rationally, no yelling. We told her that it was against the rules and that she was being grounded, per our posted list of rules. The next day, she went to her mother's after school instead of here.

Her mother, unfortunately, does not agree with our house rules. We told her what we had found in Emily's room. How did she handle it? She told Emily not to do it again, and that was it. No grounding, no consequences. She believes that we should give the children free reign and the room to make all their own decisions. There is no structure and no routine at her house. There is no set dinnertime. When the kids get hungry, they're free to just go to the fridge and heat up a hot dog in the microwave. She thinks we're unreasonable because we have a set dinnertime where we all sit down to dinner together and eat what has been prepared. She thinks we ought to just fix the kids whatever they want to eat, no matter what. (She calls this, "offering them choices." If we're having meatloaf for dinner and they don't like it, then we are supposed to just jump right up and make them something else that they WILL like - she has told us this.) Her husband has been in and out of rehab for abusing pills and stealing prescriptions for Oxycontin. Her phone is constantly being cut off because she won't pay her bills, so we're often left with no way to get in touch with her in case of emergencies. She has no set rules, no consistent consequences, no routine. When we have grounded kids for things and let her know about it, she at first agreed to enforce the remainder of the grounding period, but then she has given in to the kids because she doesn't want to deal with them throwing a temper tantrum. She is not consistent.

Anyway, here is our dilemma. The kids spend the majority of their time at their mother's house. We are concerned, especially now with Emily's behavior and drug use, that the lack of structure is seriously detrimental to their development into healthy and responsible young adults. We would like to have them full-time and have it where they visit their mother every other weekend instead of them living with their mother full time and visiting us every other weekend.

Do you think this would be a wise move? Of course, we realize that this will probably not set well with the kids at first. I mean, nobody would want to move from a place where you're free to do whatever you want, whenever you want, into a place with more structure and definite boundaries. But we really believe they need the structure. We're afraid that Emily is going to go past the point of no return, and very soon, and we're afraid that the other kids will follow suit.

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