Exhausting weeks with 50% step-son who doesn't listen...Please help...

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by TryingEveryday, Nov 8, 2017.

  1. TryingEveryday

    TryingEveryday New Member

    Hi everyone, I'm new. I've been trying for a long time now to approach this in a way that works, but nothing has worked, and I'm in a bit of an awkward position.

    I'd really appreciate some insight.

    My step-son lives with me and my wife (his biological mother) every other week, and with his biological father the other weeks. I have been in his life since he was 1 year old, so a strange man magically coming into his life is not the issue.

    Step-son = 9 years old
    Daughter = 4 years old

    Generally, the weeks he spends with us are extremely taxing. Here's a quick rundown of what goes on:

    1. He is completely attached to his little sister, good and bad. Even when she doesn't want him messing with her, he doesn't listen. It's like he is incapable of sitting beside her without poking her or trying to egg her on.
    2. When they play together, they cannot seem to play calmly. It is always running all over the sofa and, naturally, someone usually gets hurt, we shout, he gets mad, etc.
    3. He doesn't listen to me or his mother. For example, I tell him no ball in the house, he keeps playing (kicking around like soccer). I have to literally take the ball, and then he laughs or something. Then he finds a balloon and starts doing the same thing.
    4. Complains about homework (though somewhat less the past few weeks, amazingly enough)
    5. Says "no" to nearly everything. I could say "the grass is green" and he would say "no."
    6. Talks back to me and his mother, rude
    7. Talks extremely childishly the majority of the time (cursing, slang, poop and pee, etc)
    8. Seems to have only two volume levels: Loud and Even Louder (his normal speaking is much louder than me, his mother and his sister)
    9. Talks generally negatively when it comes to things he isn't immediately interested in
    10. Everything is a competition
    11. Jealous
    12. Blames others for almost everything
    I don't know his father. From what I understand, he is extremely attached to his father and seems to view him as a best pal. Calling him at random times to ask about his score on an iPhone game, etc. I think he seems to get whatever he wants when he is living there (his father is single), whereas at our house he has to share the house with an additional 2 people. He also sleeps in the same room with his father and same bedtime as his father (late), while we have a bedtime at our house (which he fights tooth and nail).

    Compared to his friends, his movements are very explosive and hyperactive. His friend could be walking normally through the house, but he himself has to run and shout.

    I love him and the times when he is well-behaved are really wonderful. He can be extremely sweet and thoughtful, fun and funny. But the unfortunate thing is that his little sister seems to be a massive trigger for him. If it's just him, he is much more likely to be calm. But as soon as she is in the picture, it's like a hurricane enters the house. In general she is far more calm than he is. She doesn't HAVE to be playing with him, but he MUST be playing with her, if that makes sense.

    The only thing I can think of is to literally write out the rules, be strict, strict, strict and relentless in enforcement. I also feel like he has ADHD, but here it gets very complicated, because we couldn't take him to see anyone without his father's consent, and his father has already vehemently denied the idea. Apparently his father doesn't see the signs we do, he seems to do well and not misbehave in school, but when he's with us and his sister, all bets are off. Family vacations are exhausting and don't really even feel worth it.

    It is so frustrating. I don't want him to get into bad things later in life and I want him to be self-confident (which I think he lacks somewhat, possibly because of the split household). I don't know what to do. I try to be a good role model and tell him things I've learned about life and success, etc, but it's pretty clear that his father is his chosen role model.

    Any ideas or directions, methods, books, etc. would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you.
  2. I would recommend you get a book called Love and Logic. It gives a lot of great ideas on many of the issues your stepson has. Logical consequences are part of the theory. I'm wondering if this is newer behavior for him or something that has been going on for a long time.
  3. TryingEveryday

    TryingEveryday New Member

    Thanks for the book suggestion, I'll check it out. As for the behavior, it's been going on for a few years now, but it's just gotten to the point where it's just almost every week he's here. I really began to notice this stuff over the last 2 years. I was hoping it was going to calm down with him getting older and therefore able to understand things better, but no.
  4. Littleboylost

    Littleboylost On the road unwanted to travel

    Have you considered haveing him evaluated. Ruling out issues such as ADHD or ODD?

    It is so challenging when they are half time and steps. You clearly liven and care for him. It really shows in your post.
    You are not alone and will fined great guidance and support here.
  5. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I think he addressed the challenges with having him evaluated. The father won't agree with having him evaluated and the father has equal custody. So the father's agreement is required. This means that the child cannot legally ever be evaluated. Any professional who evaluated the child without the father's consent could lose his or her license, I believe. I have a friend who ended up in that horrible horrible limbo.

    Does your wife ever spend time with just her son? I am talking about time focused solely on him and what he wants to do, not running errands or watching tv while she does something else? Or do you and your wife do this? It may be that this won't help, but it also might really help. He could be quite jealous of his sister because she gets time with each of you alone but never any time with either of you without her.

    As for some of the other things, some of them are 9 year old boy things. He may have some quiet friends among whom he is the rowdy one. Normal is a spectrum, of course. Overall, at age 9, boys are still very engrossed in poop, pee and gross things. I can still remember eating dinner while my husband read Zombie Butts From Uranus while the kids (and I) laughed hilariously. I also remember doing Mad Libs over dinner with the kids when my son was 9. Almost every word the boy came up with was gross or disgusting or referenced some body part or function. Boys are like this. Moms and sisters civilize some of it out of them, but only some.

    I think the not listening when you tell him to do something means that you don't have his attention. He simply has no idea that you are speaking to him. His attention is so focused on what he is doing that he completely unaware of everything else around him. You have to figure out what gets his attention right away every time and then use that. I had this problem with my children, especially my oldest. I could tel him to do something ten times, from two inches in front of his face and he would not have a clue that I wanted him to do something. Then he would have an absolute rage when I turned off his game or movie even after warning him several times. I used timers, I did everything the therapists suggested. NOTHING worked. Until chocolate chip cookie dough and chocolate pudding occurred to me.

    We didn't do dessert every day. My kids could hear me talking about chocolate from down the block even if I was only whispering. They would drop everything and instantly appear beside me no matter what they were doing. Not even the most fascinating video game kept them away if they thought I mentioned something about making chocolate chip cookie dough or eating chocolate pudding. I took psychology classes and marketing classes. I understand behavioral modeling. I figured I could work with that. I went to the store and got the stuff to make a triple batch of cookie dough and multiple batches of pudding. I even got several bags of chocolate and hid them for emergencies when I needed to reinforce behavior and ran out of cookie dough or an ingredient.

    Then when I was ready to start, I said "chocolate chip cookie" when they were in the middle of something. It got their attention and I gave each child a cookie. Over the next week I gave them a cookie or a chocolate when I needed to get them to stop an activity or do something. I always said the item I was giving them rather than saying names or what I needed them to do. The next week I still said the name of a treat that was chocolate, but I only gave them something chocolate about half the time. Not every other time, just about half the time. After that, I gave them the dessert item on an irregular schedule. If they were not responding to the name of the item, I gave them the actual reward more frequently (still not each time) until they responded more.

    When my mother came to visit and wanted to get the kids ready to go somewhere, they were not cooperative. Then I said "chocolate pudding" and all
  6. Littleboylost

    Littleboylost On the road unwanted to travel

    he book shake done is a tiny read but and excellent resource to reinforce this type of behavioural conditioning. It taught me how to condition positive responses and catch my son doing things right.
  7. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Sorry, it cut off a bit of what I was saying. I was getting kicked out of the forum and told I could not post, that I did not have permission, so I posted what I could.

    Anyway, with my mom, she was shocked when "chocolate pudding" got my kids to all cooperate in a hurry even though I didn't give them any. Later I explained what I had done. I used that plan for well over a decade with my family. My husband doesn't even really like sweets and it even worked on him after a short while!

    The trick is to find what motivates your son. It might be toy cars or dinosaurs or chocolate or caramel or dirt or books or something else. Once you figure out what his favorite things are, you start using them. I felt food was the easiest thing to use for us. Luckily all of my kids were incredibly fond of it. Plus they were a bit jealous because I had the idea that some things were just for grownups, like hte ability to have chocolate whenever you want. Hey, there have to be SOME perks for dealing with the hassles of being a grownup. So my kids knew that adults got some words that were just for them, some drinks, and unlimited access to chocolate and many other junk food that kids only got once in a while. I thought I could use that jealousy in my bid for their attention.
  8. Littleboylost

    Littleboylost On the road unwanted to travel

    Try my post again. New phone small screen. Ugh. The book is called Whale Done.
  9. Crayola13

    Crayola13 Active Member

    He needs activities. Have you tried swimming, etc.?
  10. TryingEveryday

    TryingEveryday New Member

    Thanks everyone for your replies.

    Re: needing an activity - he plays soccer on a team 2-3 times per week (it goes almost all-year-round). He loves it. Plus he plays with friends a lot too.

    I read about ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) and a lot of that rings true. So I read up on it and methods to approach defiance and diffuse it, how to react to defiant children, etc. The first week after I read it and we implemented new tactics, things mostly went better. Played video games more with him, read to him at night, involved him more in things like cooking and decisions, etc.

    However, the next week, Whoa. It was great the first few days. But then the last couple of days he seemed almost bipolar. For example, today he had a meltdown because of some music I put on (soft xmas music), saying how awful it was and ran to his room, refusing to be in the same room as the music because it wasn’t what he wanted to listen to, cursing about it and calling it sh*t. Then about 15 minutes later he came back completely normal like nothing happened. He later (about an hour later) got really mad at his mother about something, and was crying and shouting at her, but then about 10 minutes later came and told her she was the greatest person ever. It’s like 180 degree turns within minutes.

    I’m at the point where I’m just going to say screw it, we have to see a psychiatrist, because this isn’t normal. Regardless of what his father thinks. He doesn’t live here.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2017
  11. Kalahou

    Kalahou Active Member

    I know how draining this can be. But don't screw it yet. It's sounds like he is seeking attention, and getting it the only way he knows he will work.

    It's encouraging that you saw changes almost immediately after applying some new tactics. It sounds like some of the things you tried - with giving him more of your time and personal attention etc helped things go better. It could be that towards the end of his stay with you last time, he may have tried to test you by pulling some old tricks, or maybe he was specifically upset about something or tired out that particular day. I also see it as a good sign that he quickly got over his "tantrum" blow ups and wanted to again join the family peaceably.

    You might take a time to talk to him alone when he is peaceable, like if you are out in the yard or something and then just casually bring up the situations to discuss, for example... " hey bud - remember the time when the Christmas music was playing and you got mad because you didn't like it.... I'm really sorry you felt that way and that you acted mad. I understand when we don't like something - that happens to me too. But that's the time to come and talk to me or mom to explain nicely what's bothering you, and tell people what you feel and why, and ask them how to make it better. Now that you are such a big boy, you can talk to us like a big boy. We don't have to yell and say bad words and run to our room and everyone feels bad. We want to work together to help each other in the family and enjoy our home together... etc etc." These are just social life skills people / children need to learn, and he may feel special that you are sharing with him and showing your own rational approach to talking about things. Maybe give it a try (?)

    Plan time to fit in something personally attentive to him (without the sister). Set a time limit if needed. Play a few card games ( for ex - tell him "right now we can only play 1 or 3 games" or "right now we can play for 20 minutes - let's set a timer." ) - teach a new card game or he shows you one he knows - Crazy 8s? or something, and then when he wins, "high 5" him and show excitement for "re-match". Show you really think he's fun when he is behaving. And you can talk about making a plan with him to continue the games when he comes again, or make a plan for what you will do with him next time.

    Since you did see some change when new methods and approaches were used, keep trying the new techniques, spending more attention and perhaps offer a good positive comment / reinforcement when warranted. With him seeing the change in you, and that you are sticking with the changes, he may want to cooperate with it for his own benefit, if he is getting more attention and strokes from you folks.
    Take care and hang in there.
  12. TryingEveryday

    TryingEveryday New Member

    By screw it I meant screw it in terms of what his father thinks (because he doesn’t live here and has absolutely no idea the troubles we have), not that I’m giving up.

    I’m willing to do whatever I can but I think it has come time to speak with an outside source, an unaffiliated third-party person who may have more insight. These books have been great but there are so many conditions which have symptoms that all intertwine, and after years of guesswork I would really just like an analysis if I can figure out a way (maybe a private doctor doesn’t need fathers consent, or maybe I’m wrong about the consent, I don’t know). What if there is something more than just behavioral?

    I’m going to keep implementing things suggested here as well as from the books I’ve read though, because it’s certainly better than before. I hope over time there will be more positive changes.

    As for the thing about the music, his mother went and spoke to him while he was in his room, and he told her he didn’t understand why he was so upset or why that happened, that he felt "strange" but couldn’t explain it. That description worries me a bit. I don’t want him to feel that way!
  13. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    I think I would risk overriding fathers consent and have him evaluated. What would happen ? Jail? I don't think so.

    This little guy needs help for whatever is wrong with him. And you do need to rule out physical causes.

    I am glad your new approach temporarily helped. But it seems he was unable to maintain. I don't personally think this is simply a cry for attention. He needs professional help in my opinion and early intervention beats waiting. It saved my autistic son's quality of life.

    Lots of luck! Love and hugs too!
  14. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I think having an evaluation is wonderful. Many of us went through the great first week and falling apart second week with any new method or program we tried to help with our kid's problems. It sure was the way things worked for my kids.

    With the reactions to music and other things, please include an Occupational Therapy evaluation for Sensory Integration Disorder. This is when your brain doesn't process the input from your senses the way it does in normal people. You end up feeling like the entire world is attacking you much of the time. I have had this all of my life and it can be very difficult to juggle it. I am extremely sensitive to smells, textures, sounds and certain types of lighting. I don't touch cotton balls unless it is a dire emergency. No one in my house wears scented anything or any type of perfume unless it is an essential oil that I can tolerate. I cannot walk down the candle aisle in any store unless I hold my breathe. The scent things are an instant migraine along with making me gag and sometimes actually vomit. It really is that bad for me. The new sports fabrics that so many shirts are made out of? Like the Under Armour shirts or whatever they are called? I cannot even touch them when I fold laundry. They feel that awful to me. If I wear a shirt or dress that itches, I literally cannot focus on anything else until I get the itchy item off of me. The sensation of itching is so overpowering for me that it takes over and I cannot ignore it.

    There are other sensations I seek out because they are very comforting. Certain blanket textures against my skin help me have a better night's sleep. The feel of a book in my hand is one of my favorite things to feel. I do read books on my computer, but it will never replace printed books for me because of how they feel and how they smell when they are new. Sadly it isn't a scent you could bottle.

    Some people with Sensory Integration Disorder (SID) seek out certain sensations. They need movement or certain body positions or pressure on certain parts of their body. My youngest son spent a good portion of his life until about age 8 sitting on his head on the couch as he read or watched tv. As long as he kept his feet out of other people's space, I could have cared less. He was the 3rd kid so he got away with a lot more without parental interference. Plus I always figured if they were not bugging me or hurting anyone, I didn't much care if they were doing something odd. When he was 6 we learned it was because of Sensory Integration Disorder (SID) that he did this. And that it actually was good for him to do it. The pressure filled a need and helped him.

    You can learn more about this by reading a book called The Out of Sync Child by Kranowitz. I realize you are sure your son has ODD. I am not saying he does not have ODD. Often treating ODD involves approaching the problem from several different directions. Sensory problems can be a major underlying issue for ODD for many kids. If you help them with the sensory problems, they are much easier to be around and they cope with the world better. They don't feel so attacked by the world because their brain has learned how to cope with the sensory input more effectively.

    Just so you know, the treatments the Occupational Therapist will give you to help your son will be some of the best for you (the parent). Generally your son will like them, so you can say YES instead of NO to him. You won't have to force him to do therapy, which is a nice thing. Lots of the stuff is actually a lot of fun for everyone in the family. It is a great way to help build your relationship with your child and help build a strong family when you get the whole family involved with some of the activities. Plus there is one specific therapy called brushing therapy with joint compressions. It does some amazing things in the brain to create new pathways for the brain to handle input from the senses. It does this with absolutely NO medication. This is a therapy that is proven to help create lasting changes for your child while not requiring you to force pills on him and you don't have to worry about medication side effects. I was really skeptical about this when I first heard this, but it is true. Most kids even seem to find the brushing rather pleasant.

    This is just something to think about. You mentioned the volume levels and some other things like the son always having to run around wildly, etc... that made me think he might have sensory issues. An Occupational Therapy evaluation for Sensory Integration Disorder (SID) would be able to give you a lot of great information. I would get a private evaluation done and would not rely on the school district. You truly get what you pay for. Plus the school occupational therapist would only look at how his issues would impact his time at school, not his whole life. You would not get the information that you truly need.

    Once you have the info from the private evaluation, you can get sensory breaks build into his day at school if this is needed. This would be time for him to do some activities to help deal with however these issues are impacting his education. Part of his problems at home could be because he spends so much effort working so hard to sit still and pay attention at school. he just has nothing left to use to control himself when he gets home.

    Again, these are just my thoughts, and what I would do if I had this sort of problem. Whatever you can do, you have my support!