New here - have a stepson with issues... Need help! (LONG!)

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Opus, Dec 2, 2009.

  1. Opus

    Opus New Member

    Hi there everyone!

    I am so glad I found this place. I feel we have a problem!

    I am the stepmom to two children, a girl, aged 8, who is pretty normal but who does have a few insecurity issues (which, thankfully are resolving themselves over time) and a boy aged six who...has a few problems.

    A little background. The children are not the product of good circumstances, to say the least. I've known them since they were 2 and 4. Their mother abandoned them completely 2.5 years ago. The daughter does get sad sometimes thinking about her mom, especially now that I am pregnant with their little sister, and she sees how much I care about this baby - and feels sad that her mom took off on her. It's totally understandable and totally copable-with. I can completely deal with that - it makes perfect sense.

    The little boy, however, has always been a little unusual. I do certainly attribute this in part to care, since when his mother was around, she really didn't take care of her children at all. He was left in car seats constantly, or in a playpen with no diaper on - poop would run down his leg. Hi father at the time was away at work a lot, and after his mother left he was left in the care of the paternal grandmother who...well, didn't have any discipline at all for either child because she felt so sorry for them.

    When I came into the picture as the stepmom, he was four, and regularly pooping his pants in public - stores even. Regularly. He didn't talk much - though by that time the situation had improved. Eventually he began to talk, and the poop incidences became fewer and farther between.

    Fast forward to kindergarten - he was a little slower than other kids but altogether, just about hung on. Didn't really want to learn. Now that we're in 1st grade however, all hell has broken loose.

    I'm 35 weeks pregnant, and do most of the parenting as Dad is still at work a lot. So here we go...

    For...oh gosh about seven months I suppose, he's been increasingly mean to people. Everyone, actually. Now at first, I assumed it was an attention thing - so gave him more attention. But it quickly became apparent that unless he was the center of attention ALL the time, he would act badly toward others. I mean ALL the time. Obviously with a little sister and another baby on the way, this isn't possible.

    So things got steadily worse and worse. The things he'd throw would become larger and more hurtful. At this stage he still gets told off at school for throwing rocks - and now, at people. Just the other day he actually hit another little boy in the face with a rock.

    So yes, he likes to throw things now - when he has a tantrum, he goes to the top of the stairs and plays target practice with the front door at the bottom, throwing things down the stairs until the floor is coated! He'll throw over chairs, throw shoes - you name it. When he's mad he will actually come into the kitchen while I'm cooking and throw something at me!

    Now let me tell you: I'm firm, I always follow through with consequences in a timely manner and I put my foot down quickly if there is violence or bad behavior happening. I don't shout unless there's a very loud argument going on between him and his sister: then it's a question of being heard before they come to blows. I never spank - never have - BUT I have had to restrain him from throwing things before: about a week ago, it came to a crux, you see:

    He'd become mad at me because I'd told him to replace the cushions on the sofa, which he'd thrown everywhere. In his typical "pushing" way - which is he does every time you try to tell him he needs to get something done (homework, hanging coat up - you name it) he chose instead to ignore me completely and play with the cat. I told him a couple more times in a nice voice, and told him that if he chose to continue ignoring me, it'd be time out. Sure enough, he chose to continue to ignore, and I told him to go stand in the corner. He then got angry and started replacing the pillows, saying he didn't want to go into the corner. I told him that he would have to stand there for five minutes, as I'd said, because he chose to ignore what I was saying to him, and now was too late to be doing what he'd been told to do in the first place...

    Well, so of course a tantrum happened. First of all, chairs were thrown over, then a stool. Then toys got thrown out of boxes. Then, the snowboots in the hall were thrown into the living room. Then he saw me standing there and started hurling them at my (then) 33 week stomach...

    I took several pairs in the stomach before intervening in that. I walked over and took him by the back of the arms to stop him throwing anything else - not violently - but, I had to stop him. Well by that point he was completely enraged, and twisted free, throwing a can of garbage at me, and then turned and punched me in the belly!

    Naturally I said to him "okay, go upstairs and be in your room now" - to which he retorted that he wasn't going anywhere. Well, I told him indeed, he was and that I would not let him act this way around his sister, and that punching was not okay. I was also by this time exhausted - Dad was still at work for another 1/2 hour. So off he stomped, and then proceeded to destroy his room and throw a bunch of stuff down the stairs...

    I mean seriously, I am exhausted with this type of thing happening. I'm not physically violent with him at all - never have been. I've never even sworn in his presence. He regards me as "mom" - tells all his friends.

    Now anyway, there's

    He destroys people's things. Went through a stage recently where he had to fill EVERYTHING with water. My makeup, his sister's hair things, every bottle, every container, everything. He'd get into trouble at school with throwing water everywhere in the bathroom. Tried to solve that with baths, and allowing him to play with bottles in the bath. But, no change...*sigh* - he just stopped doing that when he felt like it.

    Then came the "putting things in the toilet" thing. He'd flush people's stuff down the toilet when he was angry with them. Again, hair things, makeup, expensive stuff - once, an entire bottle of my Burts Bees body oil... He actually managed to completely mess up the downstairs toilet by flushing a set of plastic wrenches down there. We had to take the toilet off it's pedestal completely and turn the entire thing upside down, and extract the plastic stuff from the back of the U-bend...

    Additionally now, lying is SO common it's actually compulsive. He lies about everything - I mean everything from what he ate for breakfast, to whether he has homework. You literally cannot ask him anything without getting a lie in return. It's really quite extreme.

    He's rude to people all the time - mostly those he knows well, and always his family. When something isn't to his liking at the dinner table, he'll call it "gross" or "disgusting"...

    He told me a few months ago that he hoped the new baby would die. I don't know why...he even laughed afterward. He also laughs at people who are hurt, or sad. Often he'll throw something at his sister, or punch her, or deliberately ruin something of hers, and then he will laugh when she gets upset or even cries. I've tried time outs for that, and the result I get is a full blown tantrum and awful things said. I've tried talking to him - which makes no difference whatsoever. I've tried making him make up for his actions, which he does, but which does nothing to prevent repeat occurrences...

    Now his latest "thing" - after several months of not wanting to learn to read or write, is using his new found writing skills to write very mean notes to people. He will write these notes, and come and quietly leave them next to a person while they're doing the washing up, or working, or watching TV, or anything really. They're quite creative: he's called his Dad a "stinky man" and said he doesn;t like him any more. He's written a joint note for me and his sister in which he's said he doesn't like either one of us. He tried to get his sister and I to tell him how to spell "hate" - but we knew what he was up to. I asked his sister not to tell him how to spell mean words, and also would not tell him. So, he cleverly made a horrible note out of nice words and got her to tell him how to spell them all - then delivered the awful note to her!

    Just the other day his uncle, who didn't know what was going on, finally taught him how to spell "hate"...a word he immediately took and wrote a horrible note to his paternal grandmother. He wrote that he hated her, and quietly left the note by her side as she watched television... She'd just given him a donut five minutes earlier...

    Between the notes, hitting, revengeful behavior, back talking, anger and constant drama, I am quite exhausted. I've tried everything I can think of to remedy this situation. Nothing has worked. His Dad has tried everything he can think of as well. I just don't know.

    I am now worried about the baby... At this stage I fully believe he's going to try something with the baby when she comes in four or five weeks at the most, from now. This is way beyond normal jealousy, methinks... It's really uncontrollable. Nothing seems to help him make progress. It's just getting worse and worse... I'm very pregnant and very tired - also very emotional because of all the lovely bonding hormones and honestly sometimes, I just want to shut myself away in a room and put pillows over my head...

    I've read a bit about ODD and wonder if this could be it. The behaviors - especially the revengeful behaviors - are just really extreme and vindictive. They don't get him anything he really wants, and though he says he wants to be liked, and that he knows this way of acting is not getting him any friends, he chooses to defend the way he's acting whenever he's challenged about it (e.g. "THIS i why I write those notes!" when we say "no" to anything at all).

    Phew. Sorry - long first post! Any advice? I've never dealt with this kind of extreme stuff in a 6 yr old my life!
  2. pepperidge

    pepperidge New Member

    Wow. What you describe is pretty awful. Have you sought any professional advice? This is definitely in the category that I would want a very experienced child psychiatrist.

    What you describe makes me think of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). I don't have exprerience with that, but there are some people on the board who do who hopefully will read your post.

    I would be very very worried about the new baby. I would never leave him/her alone with your son.

    I am sorry I don't have any thing useful to say other than I think your instincts about this child are spot on and that your parenting is not the problem here.

  3. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I'm glad you're in touch here. Things do sound messy.

    a few thoughts -

    1) He is the younger one, right? You seemed to indicate this, then it confused me when you said he had a younger sister plus the baby that's on the way. So, just confirming... I'll continue with that assumption.

    2) I've known people who let their toddlers run around with no nappies on. A lot of those, the kids were neglected in other ways, allowed to run wild and not really paid attention to. Most of them turned out to be fairly normal. In some areas, leaving your kid to run around naked is the way they manage toilet training. Let the ground catch it then eventually (after a year or so of this) the kid works out that everyone else uses a toilet. It's not what I would do, but it is done this way so often and they don't all turn out like your stepson. And your stepdaughter isn't like this, so why him?

    My conclusion - the upbringing may be a factor, but I don't think it's the main factor.

    Example - difficult child 1 was a horror when it came to toilet training. He would refuse to dirty his nappy, but he would also refuse to sit on the potty, even fully clothed (for practice). I had to bribe him to sit on the potty fdully clothed and even then it took weeks of coaxing plus bribes before he would even sit on the potty fleetingly. Similarly, he hated having his head wet. We literally went years without us being able to wash his hair.
    Now, it would be really easy for people to say that this was because he had been traumatised in some way. But he hadn't.
    The logic of it all is - we observe problems. So let us look for an e asy answer as to the cause of these problems. Once a possibly culprit is found, mostpeople stop looking. And sometimes there are multiple causes.

    I think your stepson's problems are probably multiple in origin.

    Let's have another think - what could the boy have inherited?
    Now let's look at this from a different angle - why was his biomom such a rotten mother? is there someting in her makeup, something she inherited, something which made it harder for her to be a responsible mother, which she could have passed on to her son?

    A lot of what you describe could be explained as Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). Except for the lying. These kids don't lie, although they often try to lie. But they tend to be very bad at lying, and their lies tend to be simple, along the lines of "I didn't do it" even when caught red-handed.

    Of what you describe, what Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) could explain - the toileting problems. The tantrums, the throwing things. Leaving notes, including ones expressing anger. Maybe especially ones expressing anger. Saying mean things. Determination to do things exactly as HE wants to do them and apparent oppositionality. Impulse control problems. Arguing. Refusing to go to time out on demand. So many other things - yes, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) could explain it all.

    So could a number of other disorders.

    But you are the one living with this, you are the one on the spot listening to your parental instinct. And yes, you can't allow this to continue, especially with your concerns about the baby.

    If it's Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) then chances are, the baby is in less danger than you fear. However, you don't need any more fear at all in your world, this is YOUR baby and you need to feel safe.

    One thing really worries me - he wrote to his grandmother that he hated her, just fter she gave him a donut. Now, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) kids tend to be very immediate, they don't usually hold grudges like that. Yes, they can be angry but not while someone is being nice to them. If that were difficult child 3, for example, and I had just given him a donut and then he handed me a note like that, he would only hve done it if I had badly upset him after giving him the donut. Otherwise he never would have accepted the donut from me.

    So while I say that this sounds a lot like Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), I do think you need to get him assessed with a wider range of possibilities.

    Forget about the ODD angle for now - it generally doesn't happen on its own, it's usually in response to some other underlying problem. Treat the underlying problem and it tends to resolve.

    His sister seems OK but he is not. It could also be another indication that this is something especially wrong with him that she doesn't have. However, all kids are different and respond to situations in different ways. It still could be just environment.

    So after all these considerations here is my advice - sorry to be so long-winded.

    1) Get him assessed, preferably by a neuropsychologist. Not only to thoroughly check out (and probably rule out) Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), but to also try to identify what it perhaps IS.

    2) Get him to a therapist of some sort, this kid has a lot of emotional baggage that needs ongoing therapy.

    3) Get yourself to your own therapist, you need it with the strain you're under. When the baby arrives you are REALLY going to have your hands full and must not neglect your own emotional health.

    4) Get your hands on a copy of "The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene, it presents a different way of handling a child like this, ways that could work better but also be easier for you. Any discipline methods which are not worknig well, even if they work brilliantly for other kids and come with the highest recommendations, should be dropped. It if doesn't work, don't use it.

    The discipline methods you describe using, are really good. Very effective.

    But they're not working on him. That tells me that there is something wrong, something big, and this needs more than just discipline. it is your failure, and your deep concerns, that tell me that this is probably more than just a rough start in life.

    In which case - the sooner you get a good handle on what it is, the sooner more appropriate help can be put in place and the sooner you all feel a lot more in control and a lot safer.

    Let us know how you get on.

  4. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    in my opinion, this little boy has many red flags for autistic spectrum disorder/Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) and should be assesed by a neuropsychologist. A regular therapist or even psychiatrist may miss it because they don't run tests. If he has it, he isn't being defiant, his brain is wired differently and he desperately needs interventions. I don't think this is simply bad parenting either, although Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids HATE change and this poor little guy has been through a lot.

    I would discuss a neuropsychologist evaluation for him with hub and then do it. NeuroPsychs are very good so they often have long waiting lists, but it's worth it. In the meantime, I'd try to get supports for him at school. My son was in Early Education and was getting help even before he was two years old. He was a foster child first and fortunately they recognized that he was different and would need help. He is sixteen now and doing behavioral problems at all. We feel we kind of got rid of them because he received so much help. He is on the autism spectrum, but mainstreamed in school and even has friends (some Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids have no friends...they have social deficits).

    Late potty training and speech are big red flags for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Even when those problems resolve, and they often do, others pop up. You are seeing that.

    If he doesn't have Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), a neuropsychologist is best at pinpointing the problem. in my opinion this is not a problem that will fix itself with the proper discipline. It is deeper than that.

    I wish you luck, whatever you decide to do and welcome to our little home here :D
  5. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    There you go - another recommendation for a neuropsychologist evaluation. They do take time to get organised, the baby will have arrived (almost certainly) before you have some answers.

    If this is Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), then it is definitely a high-functioning case. Which is a good thing, that would be an outcome you could do something positive with, to help turn this kid around.

    MWM, tank you for reinforcing what I was trying to say - this is not bad parenting. Not now, anyway. past problems may well be a factor, but the poor responses you are getting, Opus, make me sure that your best efforts simply won't get through at the momet until you can get some clearer sense of direction as to what is wrong, as well as the best way to handle him.

    It's not just good parenting he needs - you're already doing that and it's just not hitting the mark, no matter what you try. That's what screams at me - he needs an evaluation. And in the meantime - you all need help to cope and to try to work on the past history stuff.

    We're a good team on this site!

  6. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member


    Has he been seen by a doctor?
  7. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not


    Hello, welcome and congratulations on the new baby!!!

    Now, not to scare you, but you are going to have to take measures to protect that new baby at all costs. The behavior you describe sounds very much like my own daughter at that age--and we were given all the typical advice about "O she's just a little jealous of a new baby" and "O she just needs more attention" or "O she just needs to know she's still special"

    Meanwhile--she was actively doing sneaky things to harm the baby

    (Like what? Scratching and pinching him--trying to feed him inappropriate things--putting sharp objects in his bassinet)

    Guard that baby with your life!--even if it means you have to put locked doors in between your stepson and the newborn.

    Yes, it stinks and it shouldn't be that way....

    BUT everyone has to be safe first, and then worry about testing and treatment...