Overwhelmed - please advise!

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Desdamona, May 6, 2009.

  1. Desdamona

    Desdamona New Member

    I'm writing concerning my 8 year old step-son. For 3 years, he has been stealing from all in the house but Dad, lying (about everything - from what his Mom is going to buy him next to what he ate for snack), destroying my 2 daughter's toys, "losing" my baby's toys, physically hurting the other kids in the house (even ran over his baby brother with his bike, giving him a concussion; and then showing no emotion), soiling himself occasionally (both pee & poop), doing weird things (eating toothpaste, drawing on walls with marker)... the list goes on.
    I'm at the end of my rope! HELP!
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hi there.

    Well, as you obviously know, there is something very wrong with your stepson. I have some questions that will help us help you.

    1/Tell us more about bio. Mom. Do you have custody or does she? Was there any abuse or neglect in her house? Does she abuse substances or have a mental illness? Did she drink while she was pregnant with stepson?

    2/You may need to ask husband this question. Did he develop on time? Did he talk on time, socialize normally, make good eye contact both with him and with strangers? Did he learn to potty on time? Is he sensitive to loud noise or certain foods or textures? Does he transition from one activity to the next without a problem? Does he know how to socialize now with his same age peers? Does he have friends? Is he on medications? Which medications? He has SOME symptoms of high functioning autistic spectrum disorder. We can't diagnose, but I have a son on the spectrum. They do very strange things, but it isn't their faults.

    3/Are there ANY psychiatric or substance abuse issues on EITHER side of his genetic family tree? Many times mental illness is inherited, and substance abuse is a big red flag that somebody is self-medicating a mental illness.

    4/Has he ever been to a neuropsychologist for a complete 6-10 hour total evaluation? If not, I strongly suggest one. They are the best, most comprehensive evaluations a child can get and they often catch what other professionals miss.

    Good people come here. We want to help you. Please give us more information so that we know how. You may want to do a signature like I did below.
  3. Desdamona

    Desdamona New Member

    1. Mom & Dad split custody 50/50 - 2 days here, 2 days there. Dad & I both suspect something is "off" with mom, but she refuses to seek help. She is fine one day, raging the next, and has even showed up on our porch crying hysterically because her kid had a toy that got broken. She behaves like a sensitive 2 year old & we are always walking on egg shells, not knowing what will set her off.
    2. Neither Mom nor Dad will admit there's a problem with the kid, but I did learn at a therapy session that they had him tested for delay issues once as they had concerns over being late to talk, late to potty train. Don't think he's sesitive to food textures, although he will pretend to gag on food if he knows I cooked it. His dad mentions that as a young child, he would play for hours quietly by himself, which I think is odd. Most kids do for a bit, then want you to play with them. No medications that I know of. No real friends that I know of, although he does sometimes get invited to parties, but no overnights or over after school to play invites.
    3. Substance abuse issues on both sides of tree. Not immediate family, but uncles on both sides. Also, don't know about Mom.
    4. We took him for an evaluation. once. I felt it was flawed because (1)Mom & Dad filled out the questionaires, and neither feels there's anything wrong, or they don't see/aren't around when he does something (such as trying to smack my daughter in the head with the shovel...) (2)He can be sweet as pie when it matters, & Mom told him to be and it was only a 40 min evaluation. (3) It was a college girl doing the evaluation.

    One other odd trait (don't know - does this mean anything?), whenever he "pretend plays" , he always wants to be the villain, or "bad guy". I have never seen this in a child, before. He wants to be the bad guy and kill everybody, or shoot them. This greatly disturbs me, Dad thinks he's just being a boy.
  4. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I have NO idea if Dad will go for it, but I'd have this kid tested by a neuropsychologist. Since he had some early delays and has no real friends, I'd be thinking maybe high functioning autistic spectrum disorder. These kids desperately need interventions and, if they don't get them, they can really just continue to stagnate and fall behind in both life skills and social skills. They can get frustrated into violence. It's better to be safe than sorry. Maybe it's something else, but a neuropsychologist in my opinion is the best diagnostician. I would go there, if you can get your hub to consider that something is obviously not right with his child. A few questions: Does he recite any television shows or commercials? Does he know how to have a give-and-take conversation or does he sort of monologue at you? Does he have any overly obessive interests, even if it's in a videogame character? Is it over-the-top? Does he make good eye contact with you and strangers? Does he seem younger than his age? Does he still prefer solitude?

    A college girl can not do a competent evaluation. 40 minutes is way too little time. neuropsychologist evaluations are 6-10 hours.
  5. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I also can see the possibility of autistic traits, but there are other possibilities too beyond autism. We can't diagnose here, MWM is correct. However, you can have a peek at www.childbrain.com and look for their informal online Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) questionnaire. Run it on him yourself, see what you get. Print it out, maybe discuss it (or do it with) your husband, see what he says. Denial is more than a river in Egypt!

    But seriously - if neither parent will accept there is a problem, there really isn't much you can do other than reactive, rather than proactive.

    Going over what you describe -

    1) The custody split/arrangements will be unsettling, especially if he has autism in any form. It certainly won't be helping.

    2) If there is any instability in the mother, this could be aggravating things in terms of genetic causes, as well as in terms of challenging behaviours he is exposed to and which are being modelled for him. Substance abuse in other family members can indicate a family history of underlying disordersfor which some people self-medicate with substance abuse.

    3) His early history - language delay can be a sign of autism. So can delays in other areas but they can also be signs of other things, including a disrupted home life. Quiet solitary play can be a sign of a lot of things including within the range of normality.

    4) Gagging on food that he knows you've cooked - this could be coming from bio-mom and her attitude to you. Again, this still could be under the autism umbrella because autistic kids can be intensely loyal, and if his mother is sending him messages that to publicly reject you is to show loyalty to his mother, then this could be where it's coming from. She needn't be telling him to do this, it's just what he has worked out for himself. These kids develop their own rules if none are given to them that they accept. They are VERY law-abiding, just not always the laws we want. Often it's the laws they assess for temselves as being the ones that seem to explain the world in which they live.

    5) The assessment - too short, too brief, the girl probably too inexperienced. But the results still could be a useful starting point for a later, more thorough Auditory Processing Disorders (APD) expert assessment. He needs one.

    6) Always wanting to play the villain - I wouldn't be too concerned. It could be a good sign on a number of levels, because being able to participate in imaginary play is unsual (not impossible though) for someone with autism. And easy child used to always choose to play villains, because she said they were far more interesting, much more fun and she got to indulge in a form of legal naughtiness, being permitted to be evil if it was just a character she was playing. It helped her get her hostility out in a way that was more acceptable. For example in a dance concert of "Lion King" she adored playing Scar. In pantomimes, she insisted on playing the wicked witch.

    In this one, dad could be right - it could just be "boy" stuff. Or it could also be his way of trying to release a lot of confusion and hostility (he sounds like he has a lot, even a easy child would struggle).

    But the other stuff - yep. I tihnk you're right to be concerned.

    Would your husband read posts here? Would it help him do you think? My husband does, he has joined the site with his own ID and even though we have always communnicated well, now we're even more on the same page than we thought possible.

  6. Desdamona

    Desdamona New Member

    I don't really think this is on the autism spectrum. I am very familiar with the autism spectrum, on a personal level. This is something different.
    He can turn his "naughty" behavior on and off. If he is around Mom or Dad, he can be a perfect little angel - a totally different kid. It has been my experience that autism spectrum kids have their behavioral problems no matter where they are, maybe can hold it in check for a bit, but then it comes out.
    This kid is VERY sneaky and is one way with Mom or Dad, different with me or my daughters. I have seen behaviors in him I have not witnessed in other human beings, and I am genuinely scared! We have been to counselors, but since Mom and Dad fill out the information, there doesn't appear to be a problem with the kid. It comes across like a problem he has with me!
    I am honest to goodness scared of this kid. I am scared that he will someday seriously hurt or kill me and/or my children. I don't feel anybody is taking me seriously, except for one counselor. She seemed "on my side" - but all of a sudden, Dad didn't want to go to her because he didn't think she knew what she was talking about. (I think she maybe hit a little too close to home...??)
    Any suggestions on how to get Mom or Dad to help this kid without getting into a major fight?
  7. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    Welcome to the family!

    I keep noticing that he is good for his parents, but where you're concerned there is some serious hostility. How long have Mom & Dad been divorced? AND, how long have you been married to husband?

    The reason I am asking this... I know from first hand experience that when the kids have a new "parent" in their life, they sometimes get very protective of their same-sex bio parent. It's a big blow to the fantasy that Mommy and Daddy will eventually get back together. For instance... "If I make her mad enough, she will go away and Mom & Dad will get married again."

    That said, you and husband will need to provide a united front. You are living with this child too. For an evaluation to be worth while, even a short one (though I agree the neuropsychologist would be a very good idea), all adults who spend time with the child should report. That means biomom and husband, you, grandparents (your parents too if they are involved), teachers, etc.

    If biomom is as unstable as she seems, the shared parenting 2-on-2-off is going to create more problems than it solves. (My husband now has full custody after 6.5 years of "shared parenting", where there were SERIOUS issues including abuse). If husband insists on 50/50, or that's what the court wants, it may be worth it to change to one week/one week. Two days is just not enough time to get used to being at one house or the other.

    Lots of hugs. I've been there done that and though it's settling now, it's hard to live with. Get out your Warrior Mom armor and polish it up!
  8. Desdamona

    Desdamona New Member

    I would think, by now, that he realizes Mom & Dad aren't getting back together. They got divorced when he was 1 - 7 1/2 years ago. He has no memory of them together. Mom got remarried and had another child. Three and 1/2 years ago, Dad and I got together and have since had a baby.
    I DID report to the last counselor. Like I said, it just came across as a problem he has with me. The teacher also reported, but it was only the 2nd week of school, so not an accurate report.
    It has been suggested by myself, and counselors, that they go to week to week instead of 2 days here, 2 days there. But nothing changes...
    I could deal with him just being angry, or having a hard time adjusting, but it's been 3 1/2 years!!! And the lying, stealing, sneakiness, and hurting my kids and the baby NEED TO STOP! Last summer, he hit his baby brother with his bike so hard that the baby bounced twice off the pavement with his head - he could have killed him! He has been sneaking around on his hands and knees, crawling through my girls' room in the middle of the night - what's THAT about?? He has made comments to me that he wants us to "go away" and that "you're only here until you're dead". Chills me to the bone.
    Am I going overboard in thinking this kid is "off"?!?
  9. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    OK. That answered a bunch of questions there... Has he always acted this way toward you or is it a new thing? Is he jealous of the attention the other children receive from you?

    It sounds like he has a problem with you - that said it's pretty obvious that you are trying your best, so it's not your fault.

    Does biomom have an issue with you? It could be projecting...

    ...My difficult children' biomom was polite in the beginning, and then after husband and I got married, suddenly difficult child 1 got hostile. The kid that called me "Mama C" suddenly was stealing things from me, lashing out. Then it got really bad when she was abused by biomom's boyfriend (AKA creep). Since we found out and husband has gotten custody, difficult child 1 has refused to visit biomom and things are much, MUCH better.

    After all that... There's definitely something wrong. You are NOT going overboard. Your # 1 priority is protecting the other children. Something we had to do... Was call the cops. Haven't had to in a while, but for a bit there it was too frequently. And the counseling needs to continue. See if they can push for a full evaluation - they may have more "professional" pull.

    Hugs comin' your way!
  10. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I do think something is "off." Kids don't usually say those things.

    Has he ever been formally evaluated?
  11. tinamarie1

    tinamarie1 Member

    Well, first off, welcome to the board. You have found a great place here with lots of great information and people who are genuine about helping you make it through these hard times.
    He is going to have to be tested as others have said, so that the process can begin in diagnosing him. I will tell you that it was very hard for me to convince my husband in the beginning to have our son tested. He didn't believe in "mental" issues. I did alot of research, kept a diary of events and also did alot of crying along the way and finally he agreed to have him tested. It was a long road for us, each step of the way (even after the testing, the medications and the counseling) I had to convince husband to continue with the process.
    I mean, its either that or for my sanity I would have had to remove myself from the house and let him deal with raising him. I was that far at the end of my rope.
    I hope you can convince him to start this process. I don't want to bring you down, but it will only get worse if its ignored or you don't seek professional help. We can't punish our kids with special needs like other kids can be punished. It just doesn't work, it doesn't get through to them and alot of times it will make their behavior 1,000 times worse.
  12. Desdamona

    Desdamona New Member

    Okay, to complicate things farther, he HAS been tested (kind of). I say kind of because (1) it was done at a psychiatric department of a local university by a student who was "consulting" with others, (2) I felt it was not an accurate description of the picture since Mom & Dad's info. was most heavily weighted and they either don't see his behavior or don't believe it, (3) the teacher gave input, also, but it was only the 2nd week of school, (4) when they evaluated him, the girl only actually met with him for about 1/2 hour - he can be very charming when he needs to, so she saw a normal little kid.
    They are all making me feel like I'm going nuts! Then I turn around and the baby's new favorite toy has "vanished" and can't be found even by turning the house inside out, or my daughter is laying in her bed at 1:00 a.m. silently crying because she's "scared of the shadows", or I wake up in the morning to this kiddo just standing in my doorway, staring at me while I was sleeping (VERY creepy feeling). I feel like when he's at the house, I am the "bouncer" - I try not to let him out of my sight so he doesn't steal or maim.
    To top things off, Dad now wants to take the boy hunting with him in the fall!!! That's just what we need!-Teach the boy how to work a gun & let him see something die in front of him by his own hand!
    When I suggest we proceed with some kind of counseling for the child, Dad reminds me that we don't have money, or that "he seems to be getting better..." Meanwhile, I live waiting for what will happen or go missing next.
    I feel like a prisoner in my own house. Anything of value gets locked in the girls' room - their stuff, my stuff, the baby's favorite book - all crammed in one room. Then, we have to sit in there so the baby can play with whatever, or I let him bring it out & watch the whatever like a hawk. Why do the innocent parties have to be the ones being punished???
    I will also mention this: Dad has told me that I need to make more of an effort - ask the kid how his day was, talk with him, etc. He wants me to forgive all the child has done and "move on". MOVE ON??? How do I treat the kid the way his dad wants me to? He is currently stealing and lying and hurting - I can't just forgive this behavior until he stops and apologizes and is genuinely sorry! I don't even like him any more. I can't even look him in the eyes, he has lied so much. I have lost all respect for him. I have learned that life is so precious, and we only have so many seconds here, with those we love. I can't believe this is how he chooses to spend so much of his given time. Furthermore, I don't want to spend anymore of my time on somebody who doesn't even care or get it.
    Last edited: May 21, 2009
  13. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip


    For your and the other children's safety if husband insists that it is your problem (which is what is sounds like) you must find a better way to protect yourself. Locking everything up is only a temporary measure. The child standing in your doorway watching you is creeping me out just reading it.

    Counseling can be free or reduced cost. If you really do not have the $ he may qualify for Medicaid. Otherwise there are a lot of programs. They sometimes require a bit of looking but a call to a domestic violence shelter/hotline may help. If the $ is there and husband just doesn't want to spend it - tell him ... a criminal lawyer will cost a LOT MORE than counseling. AND there will be counseling on top of the lawyer if something happens. Best to nip it in the bud.

    I stuck around through the worst but difficult child 1 never acted quite like this. Although I was close to leaving. You may have to leave (even temporarily). husband needs to understand that if you are being threatened (and the other children too) they must be protected at all costs. Can you stay with parents or a friend for a while?

    I'm sending as much support your way as I can. You're in my thoughts & prayers.
  14. Desdamona

    Desdamona New Member

    Yes, I have thought of leaving to protect the others. But that is what the kid wants. So I stay and play "bouncer".
    I have nowhere to go, either. Entire family lives 1,000 miles away and my only friend just moved 800 miles away.
    I keep coming back to : whatever this is, I have never seen anything like it in a human ( I have done oodles of daycare, babysitting, and been a nanny), and I am scared for and of this child.
  15. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Des, there is nothing wrong with giving the child what he wants, if it is also what you need. Don't just stay, to foil the child's desires. Stay if you want to, not because thechild doesn't want you to. If you only stay to foil the child, then you are still being manipulated by the child.

    As for "we can't afford counselling" - it is a lot cheaper to get some counselling now, than to have to get a whole lot more later on. It is an investment in the child's future. Or doesn't husband believe the child has a future?

    Also, if you leave, even for a short while, the message may get through that you really do mean what you say, that you really are concerned. Maybe then husband would take your concerns more seriously.

    This is NOT your problem. Or it shouldn't be. DO not let husband blame you for the child not fitting in. This is a lot bigger than that.

  16. mstang67chic

    mstang67chic Going Green

    First, and I'm coming into this late, welcome. Sorry you had to find us but this is a wealth of information, advice and most of all, support.

    You've definately got your hands full. You have gotten some good advice and I can only think of one or two things to add. Is there anyway you could set up a hidden camcorder and get some of these behaviors on tape? Especially the ones that he doesn't show around his dad. Also, I would make a list of all of the issues that you see, especially the dangerous ones. Maybe presented to your husband in this way, with the video if you can get it, will force him to see there really is a problem. To do this though, you need to be alone and present it to him calmly and with understanding. No one wants to admit there is something "wrong" with their child but this boy needs some major help. The non-threatening behaviors are bad enough but he's already harmed others and is threatening you. (My opinion on him standing there while you sleep) I would tell your husband that while you know he loves his son, there is something going on that needs immediate attention. The other children have been hurt and this isn't just a kid being a boy. Tell him that you fear for the safety of your other kids AND yourself and possibly others outside the home and you are worried for EVERYONE including his son. I would also say that if things aren't addressed, you would be forced to move out with the other kids to protect them. You don't want to but for their safety, you would have no other choice.

    This may very well affect your marriage but this child needs help and the other kids need to be safe, as do you and your husband. If your husband agrees, it will be a long road but you can do it.

    Sending positive vibes and hugs.
  17. Desdamona

    Desdamona New Member

    Thank you for all the advice. I had a long talk with "Dad". I think, now, that a lot of the problem stems from him! He is in such denial. After our talk, he admitted that the boy has some issues, but that he just finds it hard hearing that his boy has issues. He also admitted that, although he sees the child eating his entire calorie count for the day in ONE meal, he is currently unwilling to do anything about it.
    So I don't know if you would call this denial, or waiting it out, or what? I suggested that we go to yet another therapist. Dad really doesn't look forward to starting over with another therapist. But we have to get some kind of help!
    I hear the advice about leaving. I don't think I will, yet. I watch him like a hawk when he's here, he hasn't hurt anybody lately. Also, I just don't think it's right to leave. I don't want to remove my baby from his Dad just because his 1/2 brother has issues. I don't want to sever all the relationships just because of one psycho-kid. To me, that is sending a message that it's okay to throw in the towel when things get tough. I will keep it as an option in the back of my head, but just not ready to do it, yet. I get the feeling that if we left, then came back, it would just add fuel to the boy's fire - he would think that we are ready to call it quits and step up his actions.
    Somehow, I need to get "Dad" to take action. He is starting to realize there are issues. He still doesn't see some things, (or SAYS he doesn't ), like the separation anxiety. I don't think it's normal for an 8 1/2 yr. old to freak so much whenever his Dad is out of sight. I thought it was just a stage he would grow out of, but it's been 3 yrs. and he's showing no signs of letting up.
    I am so thankful for all of you. At least I don't feel all alone/crazy anymore. Thanks for letting me vent and giving advice!
  18. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Fair enough. You've put some good thinking into this.

    The separation anxiety stuff - I bet it makes hid dad feel like a king, to know his son loves him so much that he can't bear to be away from him. Very flattering. It's so easy to put a 'nice' spin on things.

    The poor lad - he really does need someone to go over WHY he does what he does. And therapy is greatly reduced in effectiveness, if there is no follow-through at home.

    A recommendation I made to someone else on another thread - I don't care HOW busy the father is, how much he insists tat as the breadwinner, he needs someone else to "mind" his child - the dad should be attending the therapy sessions with his son and should be actively involved. He can delegate to you (ort someone else) but he MUST be on board. The custodial parent should be the driving force for the child's treatment. If a bloke is too busy with work to do this for his child, then he has given up on his child.

    Because a devoted father WILL find a way. Your kid is your life. Your future. To marry someone purely to provide a replacement mother (and substitute nanny) is not fair to anybody and is ducknig out of responsibility.

    You are entitled to walk away. You choose not to - I respect your having thought this through, you have strong reasons and you're the one on the spot. I agree, you need to get him to step up and take responsibility. To do this, you may need to PARTLY walk away, to tell husband, "I am not doing X any more, because it is YOUR job. If we need a breadwinner - let ME do it. Your son needs you, the time you spend on his needs is a valuable investment in his future and in the future of your family. A small investment now will pay off much bigger than the same size investment in ten years' time. You will never get back the time you don't spend with him now."

    Good luck.

  19. wes

    wes New Member

    Hello and welcome, I am late into the conversation but I am curious as to how you feel toward difficult child. Have you ever been on good terms or ever enjoyed each other? Does difficult child have a relationship with his baby brother or your children. I know how frustrating this is for you and how angry I am sure you can get but it is important to remember he is a child that maybe feeling lost and overwelmed exspecialy if he has any true issues. As for hubby I hope he can see whats really going on, if he can't maybe you can video tape difficult child'S behavior when it is just you home with him. My difficult child is very sneaky and a GREAT actor so I taped him for 2 reasons 1. so my family can see that i am trying and not just a bad mom 2. so the doctor would see what he is really like. Now i have evidence of his actions it's not just my words. Hope you can get some answers or at least some help.~Anna~