8 yr old stepson - Sorry this is LONG


New Member
Hi everyone, I am new to this forum. I found this forum a few days ago and have sort of been "hooked" ever since! It's absolutely incredible what some of you have been through with your children and even more incredible how you all handle it and support each other, it's great! Anyway, I have a stepson difficult child, 8 yrs old, diagnosed with ADHD and ODD. I started dating his father when he was 4 and I could tell right off the bat that he was a difficult child. But, I had no kids of my own at the time and had never really been around boys a lot, I grew up with all sisters. I thought something about him was off but I also chalked it up to not knowing much about boys. My husband and his parents, everyone around him sort of walked on eggshells around my step-difficult child and sort of seemed to blame a lot of things on other people or the fact that he was tired, the fact that his parents split up, etc. there always seemed to be some excuse for his behavior. Not to say these aren't valid excuses but they sort of had their heads in the sand for awhile. I know he was not disciplined like AT ALL in those early years so I don't think that helped matters much. His bio-Mom was the same way, sort of didn't want to admit there was a problem. He was in a private preschool at the time I came around and he often had issues there. So much so that sometimes my husband had to go pick him up from school because they just couldn't handle him. Anyway, when they went to enroll him back for Kindergarten, the school actually said they would not accept him back there unless he was put in therapy / put on medication. Well, my husband and the Bio-Mom got upset, blamed the school, thought they were crazy, etc and put him in public school. I just kept my mouth shut in those early days, I didn't want my husband to think I was "picking on his child" or being an evil Step-Mom. He clearly didn't seem to see things the same way I did so I thought maybe I was being unusally harsh on the child in my own mind. This is why being a step-parent is soooo difficult!! Anyway, my step-difficult child did do better in public school because I don't think it was as strict as the private school. But he still struggled in school, often had behavior problems, not concentrating, etc. He would get aggressive with- our dog and kick him and actually threaten to kill him and he would go so far as to grab a knife. He would never do anything with the knife but still, that is scary! I got pregnant with- my first child when step-difficult child was about 6 and I was very apprehensive and worried. I have always had a fairly good relationship with Step-difficult child, I still do but the reason I am posting is because I'm starting to find myself at my wit's end with Step-difficult child and finding myself just not wanting to deal with him at all. Long story short, his parents finally saw the light same as the rest of the family and they agreed to take him to the Dr. and start him with- some medication and therapy. He started having huge blow-ups with- his Mom and he seems to take out most of his aggression/anger on her yet he often acts like his Mom is his favorite person and he would rather be with her so it's very strange. I guess because he feels more comfortable with her, that's where he lets out most of his rage/aggression? His custody situation is shared, he is with- us 2 weekdays and every other weekend and with- his Mom 2 weekdays and every other weekend. We are all pretty close, I communicate with his Mom daily, we email each other to keep each other up to date on his behavior / effects of medications, etc. She and I have a great relationship. My son is now 2, he is a beautiful, bright happy little boy. He has his "terrible 2" moments but ultimately he is a joy in our household. I worry about the effects his brother will have on him. My step-difficult child still throws full-blown tantrums when he doesn't get his way. He can be mean/aggressive with his brother at times. He can be VERY hyper-active, jumping from one activity to the next, has trouble concentrating/remembering things. He is also very defiant, doesn't listen to hardly anyone except for his father and even still, he talks back and says awful things to his father. He was on Intuniv and we saw GREAT results with that medication in the beginning. But, ultimately the effects of the medication would wear off, they would up his dose, he would be ok for about a month and then we would be back to square 1. He eventually got to the max dosage of Intuniv for his weight/age and that stopped working so now he is being weaned off Intuniv and the doctor is starting Straterra but said that takes some time to get into his system. They don't want to put him on a stimulant because they think he may have Tourette's. It runs in my husband's family (his bro has it). My step-difficult child has had several tics in the time I have known him. They will last several months, go away but then a new tic will start. Right now he is squealing at the top of his lungs out of nowhere and it is very irritating. He only does the squealing at home though, never in school or other social settings, just at our house and his Mom's house. At home it is pretty much constant right now. Also his anger seems really bad right now. He constantly irritates his brother and won't stop no matter how many times he is told. He is often punished to his room a lot but comes right back out and does the same things over and over again. It causes a lot of stress in our home and honestly, I find myself counting down the clock until he goes to his Mom's for a few days because I honestly need the break! His therapist has also mentioned possible bipolar disorder but said it's too soon to diagnose him with that. I feel bad about the way I feel about him. But I sometimes feel like he does things to bother people on purpose, the squealing sometimes seems to be on purpose, I caught him recording himself squealing so I wonder how much of this he can / can't control. He tries to teach his younger brother to say bad words, not really cuss words but general "potty" words that I don't want my 2 yr old saying. He is always taking toys away from his brother, tripping him, shoving him, pinning him down, etc. I have to keep a constant eye on him and I don't trust him. He has a horrible attitude and acts like he doesn't care, whenever he is talked to about his behavior and the effect it has on others, it's always I don't care, I don't care. It is like dealing with a moody hormonal teenager at times. This really makes me fear what he will be like as a teen! He has really wreaked havoc at his Mom's house, he has completely cussed her out (never cusses in our house), he has kicked holes in the walls at her house (again doesn't do this in our house), hit her, spit in her face, etc. Again, never has he done these things to husband and myself. He mainly just throws tantrums, doesn't listen, etc at our house but never to THAT extreme. He also has cussed out and kicked/hit his Mom's boyfriend who has been around him for 3-4 yrs as well and his Mom's boyfriend treats him really well as far as we can tell. He also has a new baby brother at his Mom's house and he has been aggressive towards the baby at times as well, but nothing extreme. I have also found drawings in his room where he has drawn a picture of himself shooting his father. Like little stick figures where one has a gun and he wrote "Me" and another stick figure being shot and he wrote "Dad." I showed these pictures to my husband and told him to take them to the therapist but I don't know if that happened. I don't go to the therapy appts, my husband goes with Step-difficult child's bio-Mom and I actually get more info from Bio-Mom about these appts than my husband because he sort of clams up about this stuff at times. My husband has come a long way though, he has definitely admitted there are problems and he has taken the steps to get Step-difficult child on medications and takes him to therapy weekly, etc. But still, I think he downplays things sometimes. Now, I realize I am focusing on a lot of negatives. My step-difficult child can be sweet and he can be very loveable. He does seem to love my son and for awhile there when his medication was working well, he was SUCH a good big bro, very protective and actually very helpful with his brother and I really was so pleased with that progress, I was building so much trust in him. It's very sad that now that the medications aren't working, he is not this way anymore and I don't trust him at all. Overall he seems to not be in control of his own emotions and sometimes seems confused about how he is supposed to feel about things and will often ask us how he should feel? It's very odd, I can't describe it but he is definitely not in control of himself it seems. He also seems to have this "blank look" in his eyes. I don't talk about this with his Mom or even my husband because I don't know how to say this with-out sounding bad but that's just how I have felt about him since I met him! He just doesn't always seem all there. He often says he is going to kill people when he gets angry but I don't know if he says it because he is looking for a reaction. He just generally seems unhappy and seems like he thrives when things are in turmoil. He rarely shows appreciation for things that we do for him, he is selfish (I realize he is only 8 and will have some degree of selfishness...lol), he doesn't really seem remorseful, he is laugh in your face defiant at times. It is just a daily struggle. I worry what effect he will have mainly on my son but also on my marriage. My husband and I have a great relationship and we are both family people, we love being home with our family and we love doing things with the boys when step-difficult child is being good. When step-difficult child is not around, things in our house are lighter, we are more relaxed, the atmosphere is better. When he is there, we are all more stressed and feel like we are walking on eggshells waiting for the next outburst. I just find myself resenting him more and more and like I said, I don't like feeling this way. I can tell it is affecting my relationship with step-difficult child, I sometimes plan to do things on nights he is at our house because I just can't handle it. I never used to do that before, I always made sure I was home when he was there. I just worry step-difficult child may have deeper problems and he will just get worse as he gets older. Anyway, I have written enough, hopefully I have given all of you enough info / background info so maybe you can give insights. For those that are familiar with bipolar disorder in children, does anyone think this could be his issue? Could there be what I fear to be some anti-social things going on with him? My Mother has bipolar disorder so I am very familiar with it but she wasn't diagnosed until she was 35, I'm not familiar with this in children though I have read up on it some. I appreciate any feedback!


Roll With It
welcome! I am glad you found us (and sorry you need us, Know what I mean??)!! This truly is a wonderful place for parents of kids with problems.

Could I ask you to do a favor for us? Can you write more in paragraphs in the future? It can be hard to read such a long, unbroken post. NOT that your should shroten your post by any means. You gave us awesome info and a good picture of what is going on. But many of us have problems with our eyes or with being constantly interrupted and it is just easier if there are some paragraph breaks,. Thanks so much.

What kind of evaluations has difficult child had? Does he see a psychiatrist and therapist both? Do you and your husband and difficult child's mom all see tdocs also? Family therapy can be very helpful, NOT because you are doing anything wrong, but to help you all help him the best way possible. Indiv therapy is also a HUGE help for each adult because the stress of life with a difficult child is enormous. Many of us have needed medication ourselves at times as we raise difficult children.

I really do not think that he has only adhd and odd. First off many of us think that ODD is a pretty worthless diagnosis. It describes behaviors but gives NO help in figuring out WHY they happen and how to treat them. Most diagnosis's help you know the cause and give you directions to go to find the best help for the problem. ODD just adds letter to the alphabet string of diagnosis's and boxes to check on insurance forms. It CAN be helpful in getting an insurance co to approve therapy, but even that isn't always true. Second, while his behaviors do show adhd, it does NOT fully explain his symptoms. Many, if not most of us started with an adhd and/or ODD diagnosis for our kids. After years of doing all we could to help our kids we learned that more was going on and our kids then got their other diagnosis's. A few years ago I read a statistic that it takes an average of 7 YEARS to get the best diagnosis for your child's problems. Now this isn't hard and fast, of course, but it dose let you know to not stop looking until you find the answer that best fits what is going on.

It is pretty awesome that you, your husband, and difficult child's mom all work together so well for him. I hope you know how rare this is and really appreciate what a wonderful family and support system that your difficult child has (and your younger has because they are in his life also). Don't let yourself forget how wonderful and rare this is - and be sure to keep supporting each other. You will NEED each other as puberty and the teen years happen.

One thing that you MUST do is to trust your instincts and to help your husband and difficult child's mom to trust theirs. The really big, bad mistakes I made while my difficult child were ALL done because I didn't follow my instincts. You can call it instinct, intuition, your gut, or whatever, but it is that voice that can scream in your head that something is seriously WRONG. Always remember that the parents are the experts in the child. docs, therapists, teachers, etc... are all experts in a job, a field of study. THey spend little time iwth your difficult child and do NOT always know what is best. YOU (the parents) spend enormous amounts of time with your child and you know him (and how he will act/react) far better than any doctor/expert ever could.

If you haven't explored the archives, they are a real treasure chest packed with information. They can be really helpful as you deal with school, docs, difficult children, etc... There is a link in my signature that will take you to a thread in the General forum archives that talks about parent reports. This is a document that you create to keep ALL the info on difficult child in one binder. It is invaluable as you work to help your son get what he needs and to protect him and his rights. It will be one of the most powerful tools you have in your fight to help difficult child. It also will save time in the long run because everything is organized and easily accessible.

One of the issues that is often overlooked or simply not heard of is sensory integration disorder. This is when the brain does not handle info from the senses in the typical way. It is very very common and the right treatment can be hugely helpful. It is possible to have sensory problems and not have full blown Sensory Integration Disorder (SID), just as other diseases are a spectrum also. The evaluation for this is done by an Occupational Therapist. ir ecommend using a private Occupational Therapist (OT) as they will look for problems in his entire life and the OTs that work for the school mainly look at how it causes problems in school/academics. Sensory Integration Disorder (SID) is one of the "better" disorders to have because the treatment does not require medication and is often fun for the child. You can learn more about this in the book, "The Out of Sync Child" by Kranowitz.

Sorry if I tossed too much info on you all at once, I tend to be quite wordy.

((((((((((hugs)))))))))) Welcome to our little corner of the web!


Well-Known Member
Hi, and welcome...

You might want to set up a signature... it appears at the bottom of your posts, and tells everyone else a brief reminder of your situation...

Meanwhile - the familiar "faces" around here are going to want to know some specific details, like...
- who did the diagnoses (diagnosis) and when
- have medications been tried, if so what effect
- has school done any testing, and if so, results

There may be several things going on at once... If his ADHD is not well managed or well understood (there's lots of variation in needs!), there can be lots of fall-out. Often, ODD is the result of "something else" - which in this case may "just" be the ADHD, or there may be other things not diagnosed yet... from learning disabilities, to other developmental or mental issues (you raised bipolar, for one - there's many others).

You might want to go to site resources... first, there's a good "recommended book" list... second, there's info on starting a "parent report" - worth doing.

Keep an eye out for others jumping in on this post!

Hang in there...!


Warrior Mom since 2007
Welcome! My son sounds VERY similar to yours. He is 9 yrs old and also diagnosis'd with ADHD and ODD when he was in Kindergarten. Like you, I think more is going on but not sure what. I don't have much to add right now but wanted to say welcome - you have found a great place with lots of good support.



New Member
sounds alot like my step-son as well. it is always a struggle with him and he often gets that blank stare like he doesn't know what's going on. he frustrates me to no end. mine tends to become violent when he has melt downs, so you are lucky in that aspect that he hasn't done that at your house yet. i am also fairly sure that he has something else very wrong with him and have considered bi-polar and even maybe sociapathy or something like that, but at his age it is just too early to tell. you are lucky you have the support of his mother and that you have time away from him. that way your baby can experience what it's like to be 'normal' family during that time. my difficult child's birthmother is like him, not all there. from what i know about her from the time i've spent with her, i know she is a pathalogical liar and that she is currently living a double life. i know she steals, hooks and sells drugs for a living. i have been attacked by her on two seperate occasions so i know she also has the violent tendancies. right now all i can hope is that we can somehow stear difficult child in the direction of having a better life than what she has, although i do often wonder if that will even be possible. i wish i had an answer but i'm glad i read your post. we all need to stick together. not very many out there understand what it's like to have a child like the ones we on this site have. alot of people have told me before that they know what it's like cause their child is 'identified' with some problem too but they fail to realize that there are alot of possible problems out there and some are more severe than others.


New Member
My 10 yr old has adhd and odd also.he is alot like your step son but the steals and gets into trouble almloost everyday.cant make or keep friends we walk on eggshells so we dont make him mad.he has major melt downsands,picks up knifes,hits me and is very aggresive.i wish you the best of luck


New Member
We are very new to this site as well. Your post was such a relief in a way, to know that we are not alone. It is so wonderful that you have the relationship with the bio mom that you do. In our situation, the bio father has disappeared. This makes it very difficult. We have felt like we are alone in this situation, until we found this site. I am hoping to make some friends that can offer us some insight on how to deal with these situations. I wish you the best of luck with your case. We too have smaller children that we worry about. It is very hard to not get so frustrated that we take it out on him. I don't want to ever isolate him and/or make him feel like he is a bad person. He is still a baby in my eyes, as he is my first born. He is 6 1/2. We have a lot a similar circumstances. It is very hard to accept the fact that there is something wrong with your child. So I can identify with your husband very well. Again, good luck in your case. Shawn & Amy
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Well-Known Member
So glad you found us ... but sorry you had to.
I am so glad that it seems people are finally on the same page with-your step family, working to help this boy. That is so important.
I would keep working toward a real diagnosis, not just ADHD and ODD, which, as others here have pointed out, are just adjectives.

It is typical that these kids have a love/hate relationship with-their mothers. been there done that. They feel safe with-their mothers, but since they're so close, take out all their anger on them, as well. I still haven't figured it out, except to say that his mom needs to wear a "rhino skin" almost like a politician. ;)