New to group, seeking help!

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by ohio-step-dad, May 18, 2011.

  1. ohio-step-dad

    ohio-step-dad New Member

    Hello. I have an issue here that I see many of you are familiar with. An unruly kid. My problem is that this unruly kid isn't mine. Mom and I have been together for 6 years, and her 12 year old son is on my last nerve. Worse yet, we have a 4 year old daughter who sees his behavior every day. Because the stepson's father is still in the picture, a terribly lousy deadbeat, unemployed drug dealer, my discipline methods are severely limited. I spanked him once and had daddy sending his friends after me. He talks back, yells at us, failing 6th grade, lazy, defiant, and he knows what pisses us off. I am so close to taking my daughter and moving out. He goes to counseling but puts his coat over his head and acts like a 4 year old. I am afraid if it keeps up I will either land in jail or my kid will be influenced in a negative way. It isn't fair to my child because she gets away with very little. Mom is only now seeing the light and trying to help me. But I am afraid it is too late to fix this kid. At 12, is he set in his ways? Dad won't let us put him on medication, spank him, take his cell phone away, he says I abuse him. Not a chance. I do not know what other methods of discipline there are. Right now I have him doing chores since he was suspended from school. But it's just a punishment. I know he will learn nothing form the experience.
  2. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    At 12 he is not necessarily set in his ways but the inconsistencies in parenting are setting you up for failure.

    It won't be easy, and in the long run you might be better of leaving, it might be the easier way out. But this could set up a bad pattern for your partner, always going from one relationship to the next and having her new partner leave, taking the child(ren) and then ongoing access/custody fights.

    As a step parent, it is a lot more difficult. This is not your child, you need to let his parents be the authority figures. But you also have the right to your rules being followed in your space. However, you need to have consequences you can actually implement, and this is where once again it clashes with parenting.

    It is also a lot more difficult for a bloke. It's not fair, but it's human nature. Men are expected to be (and expect to be) the ones in charge, the authority figures in their own homers. But for some kids, this makes them worse - direct, strong authority can become conflict with no purpose.

    We do recommend a book here (hey, we recommend a lot of books here!) called "The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene. On first reading, this book looks weak and permissive, but it is a different way of approaching a kid like this, a kid for whom the strict authoritarian approach just is no working (for whatever reason). Using these methods are within your capability as a step-parent, but it will take a lot of patience on your part, and biting back your words when you want to snap at him. I don't know if this will work, but I don't know what else will. And if this DOES begin to work, it has the interesting side-effect of also making any inconsistent discipline (or over strict discipline) produce WORSE results. The person who uses these good methods quickly becomes identified in the child's eyes as a supporter instead of an obstacle. Anyone who is not on board then can incur more hostility. Over time, the kid generally learns to understand that people have a range of different responses to them, and to accept that range. But until then, the facilitator parent gets the kudos and the kid tends to improve for them first.

    If you don't think you can handle this or keep it up, then for the sake of your daughter, I think you should walk away. But these methods will also work for her, you can adapt discipline methods to allow her some level of self-determination, even at her age.

    It is very individual - also a good thing. Kids need to see that rules will be different from one person to another.


  3. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    First paragraph will be a short vent: You married her and knew about the son. You should NOT spank him. You are NOT his parent. That method of discipline does not work for these kids and can get you into trouble. Now enough of that.

    Did he live with you from the beginning? Did you call the police when his father sent people after you? Can he live with anyone else, another relative? It sounds like he has had a very rough life and, although I do think he can change, I do not know if he will (nor do you). Sounds like there are some big time psychiatric disorders on his genetic family tree.

    If you feel your daughter is unsafe, by all means take her somewhere else (I'm serious about this), but since she is also your wife's child, she will still see stepson when she visits mother. in my opinion the best solution is family counseling or marital counseling so that you and your wife can make reasonable plans for your own futures and that of stepson and his contact with your daughter. I really don't think the two of you can work it out on your are too emotional in this. Even if you and wife do not stay together, you still need a plan for keeping daughter safe from step son. Has he ever hurt her? I am not trying to scare you, but we had a very disturbed child that we adopted sexually abuse our two younger children. I'm not saying that this stepson would do that, but I'd keep a really close eye on him if he is violent...his life has not been normal and who knows if he was abused himself along the way...I am always very protective of younger kids around older violent kids who acted out, especially if they had seedy backgrounds. They do what is familiar to them, even if they know it's wrong...

    Keep us posted!
  4. jennd23

    jennd23 New Member

    I agree with the family counseling suggestion.

    What does the mom say? How does she want to discipline? If the two of you are sending mixed signals that's going to make it even worse for you. Y'all have to be on the same page and as the step parent I'd say you really have to be mostly on her page. But family counseling (someone who specializes in this kind of thing) would be great to help you agree to rules, boundaries, consequenes, parenting styles you want to work on together.

    I went through something similar, only I was in your wife's shoes. My husband's behavior and lack of acceptance of my son's "letters", and his constant need to discipline the bad behaviors away lead to us separating. I wasn't willing to put up with it. If you can not accept it and help fix the problem (of course she needs to be on board and I think you are willing since you are here), I think leaving is best, if its anything like my house, a constant state of stress, tension and anger isn't good for anyone. I'm assuming you and your wife fight all the time over his behavior, over your differing parenting styles, over everything because you're so on edge from step-son's behavior. Its hard for everyone. I'm curious how you parent your daughter? Do you agree on how to discipline her?
  5. ohio-step-dad

    ohio-step-dad New Member

    He hasn't hurt my daughter but i can't say I haven't worried about it. And when we got together he was 6. I knew he had issues but figured by now we could get him straightened out together. I have known him since he was a baby. Mom and I were high school sweethearts and saw each other from time to time. I'm sure someone will say that has something to do with it also. I have only ever spanked him twice. And believe me, he has deserved it a lot more often than that. I was spanked. I was afraid to get spanked. So I didn't mouth off. I didn't skip school. I did my homework. I have done pretty well for myself the past 10 years and believe I owe everything to the way I was raised. Kids have all the cards these days. Everything I do, his father "disagrees" with. I make the kid get a haircut at 11 because he looked like a street hoodlum. Dad got angry. I take his cell phone. Dad gets angry. And to answer your question, I did not call the police after the threats because i honestly hoped he would show up. I sit down and do homework every night with him. If I don't understand it, I get online and figure it out so I can help him. I fix his bike. I play catch with him. I do everything his bum father is supposed to do and get crapped on every time I turn around. Kid says he wishes I didn't care so much so he wouldn't have to do well in school. He hates me for loving him and tells us quite often that he hates us. He has told his mom he wished she were dead several times. I swear, one or two good butt whoopin's would have him think twice before he opens his mouth. Unfortunately, society disagrees with me. So my hands are tied. I feel like I either give in or he is just going to make us all miserable for the next 6 years.
    I refuse to let him be a bum like his dad. I refuse to let him turn 16 and drop out. I refuse to let him lay on my couch, watch my tv and eat my food then tell me he hates me, my house and my rules. Today he had me so angry, for a split second my mind told me going to jail was worth it. Go over and crack that kid a good one. I refrained and tried my hardest to stay calm and eventually it blew over. I know it isn't worth it. I know I am better than beating up a 12 year old. But what do we do when we get to that point? He knows i won't hurt him. He trusts I won't hit him. He pushes my buttons and says things like "what are you gonna do? Ground me?" Or my favorite, "You can't touch me, you'll go right to jail". His dad reported me for being abusive. Family services and the Sheriff both told me that I am within my rights to spank him on his butt. I still don't other than those two times. I feel like I am doing everything the way it should be done. I know I am a positive role model for him and I know in the future he will look up to me. But I don't think I can make it.
  6. ohio-step-dad

    ohio-step-dad New Member

    I am pretty much the disciplinarian with our daughter. Mom agrees with my parenting style for her. My daughter is courteous, beyond her years intellectually and very polite. I admit, I am no pushover. I raise my daughter with a lot of discipline and a lot more love. We are best friends. To answer your other question, yes we do fight over his behavior. We fight just because he puts us both into bad moods. But mom will say what needs to be done, understand what needs to be done, and then doesn't follow through. Because it's just too hard to fight with the kid. So she fights with me.
  7. jennd23

    jennd23 New Member

    I think a hard thing for dad's to accept is that its NOT always just a discipline issue. Aside from just being a normal pre-teenage boy does he have any official diagnoses? The thing is, at least with my son, the logical parenting styles just don't work. Its not a matter of him holding the cards, its about finding what works best for your family and to help him be sucessful. Knocking some sense into him won't change anything, if there's something else going on in his head you have to figure that out and learn how to work with it.

    If you have been doing the same things for the past 6 years and they're not working to straighten him out, its probably time to try something else :)

    As for the medication, I have a friend who has a daughter with ADHD, she needed medications for school and home behavior issues. The friend's ex said no so she got medical documentation and went back to court with it. I won't pretend to understand all of the legal things that went on but bottom line is the daughter is on medication now. If he really NEEDs medication, there are ways to get it for him with or without dad's support.
  8. jennd23

    jennd23 New Member

    Oh, and I completely understand the fighting. Everyone is already on edge and then you just lose it on each other instead of the kid, family counseling will really help y'all learn how to work together as long as you are both willing.
  9. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Welcome to the board :D

    You mentioned your stepson goes to therapy. Does he have a diagnosis?

    I'm going to venture to say that at this stage of the game, spanking isn't going to get you very far. However, having consistent consequences to rule breaking with both parents on the same page, and using some creativity over time may work to rein him in a bit. Biodad is not going to make it easy, obviously.

    Which is my next question. Who gave biodad all the power? Do you and your wife have custody or is it a half/half shared custody arrangement? If your wife has custody, biodad has no say so in step son's treatment program. She is the custodial parent. He can have input, but decisions are up to her, unless they've drastically changed the laws when I wasn't looking.

    What I see, based on what you've posted is that somehow biodad has been handed all the power concerning stepson......and has basically told stepson to do as he pleases to make your lives miserable. Speaking as a fellow step parent, I think that power play situation is going to have to be handled as well as seeking proper help for the child, even if it means going to court to have visitations supervised or restricted or even evoked.

    The book The Defiant Child by Ross Greene many parents here have found very helpful.......I believe he has other books as well. He offers some sound advice for coping skills ect.

    It good that wife is starting to see there is a problem. Because it's hard enough raising a difficult child to adulthood with both parents (step or bio) on the same page........when they aren't it can be a nightmare.

  10. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Ohiodad, you say spanking worked for you. It may well have. Your daughter is also well-behaved and you are in charge of her discipline. But please believe me, even if society fully endorsed your methods (and I am not saying there is anything wrong with them at all) they may be a bad fit for this boy, especially under the circumstances (conflicting messages).

    I have spanked my kids. I actually stopped spanking the older three very early, because I was given other strategies. Those strategies did not work on difficult child 3 (the youngest) so I went back to spanking. Then I realised that in his case, spanking him was actually teaching him to use violence on others to get what he wanted. Again, this was not something that happened with easy child. Looking back, I do see it was beginning to happen with her younger sister until we stopped because we didn't need it.

    When we on this site warn you against spanking, we're not doing it to tell you to go soft. Far from it. I have heard kids say, "I just wish my parent would spank me and get it over with. But no, I have to get a lecture and get grounded!"

    When it comes to you (or your wife) spanking this boy, you have a number of obstacles to this method:

    1) His father, who in his disapproval is undermining this as a viable discipline method.

    2) The attitude of onlookers whose finger is so often on the speed-dial button to CPS.

    3) His age - at 12, you shouldn't need to spank any more.

    4) It's not working anyway.

    Now, why is it not working? Why are there problems?
    That is where you need to ensure there is no underlying disorder that could explain some or all of the problem you're having. It could simply be a case of confusion plus inconsistent parenting plus a lot of anger that his parents split up and you are on the scene. Or it could be that there is a mental disorder of some kind, either inherited or imposed by the lousy hand the kid got dealt. But if you haven't had this checked out, you could be putting the cart before the horse in trying to discipline a kid who has so many other issues that your discipline just can't work. It can be like punishing the blind kid for failing to copy accurately form the blackboard; if the teacher doesn't realise the kid is blind, they will make assumptions about the kid's ability that are not workable. But once the teacher knows that the child is blind, other supports can be put in place so the student is given an alternative route to getting the education he needs.

    Changing direction on discipline is not a sign of weakness; it is actually strength. Weakness (and insanity) is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.

    I would bet money on there being an underlying disorder; if your discipline is working so well on your daughter but not on this boy, that to me is another warning sign that there is something else wrong that needs to be identified, before you can make effective progress.

    All your work with this boy, all the school supports - he is throwing it back in your face because he is needing constantly to have your love for him affirmed. Again, it's a bad habit emotionally, he is learning to use passive-aggressive arguments to get the wrong kind of attention. it could well be learned behaviour, probably from his father.

    Do not take his remarks personally. Just don't react. The day will come, maybe it could take another ten years, when he will look back and really value what you have done for him. And your reasons for doing this are not to get pats on the back; merely to know you are doing a good job, to know this in your own heart.

    I had to really drive difficult child 1 hard in his schooling. I'd pulled him out of mainstream, he was 17 and failing because they were not able to support his needs. So we enrolled him in correspondence and I had to really push him hard at times. Sometimes I felt he really resented me and my efforts. He grumbled, he complained, he was really difficult at times. But we got him through to graduation. And my reward - a couple of years later I overheard him telling his friend, "You should have had a mother like mine. Without her, I wouldn't have graduated. I hated it at the time but I am now so grateful to her."

    He's 27 now, life is still a struggle and he is determined to do as much for himself as he can, but he is who he is now, because of the efforts we put in when we did.

    So whatever happens, whatever decisions you make, your efforts so far with this boy are making more of an impact than you realise.