My Intro


New Member
I am a working mother of 3 girls. The oldest is our difficult child, and also my step-daughter. She is 12 years old and only recently came to live with us. My husband and his DEX did parted on bad terms, he didn't get to spend any time with her up until recently. difficult child was in horrible home situation prior to us getting custody, which only stemmed from bio mother being imprisoned on drug charges for the second time. difficult child was exposed to all forms of abuse and neglect, among other things. CPS removed her from her bio mother's home and placed her in foster care pending an investigation of our home to ensure that we could provide a secure, stable, positive environment for difficult child. *This evaluation was similar to that of what a foster parent goes through before they are approved to take in children.* Once we all checked out, she was placed in our care, within limitation, that CPS maintains guardianship of her for her first six months with us. CPS has appointed her a PDR that has her taking medication that we are concerned about. Her "diagnosis" include all these labels such as ODD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Borderline (BPD), PSTD (including night terrors), and ADHD. It seems to my husband and I that the medications are contradicting each other, and just fueling her symptoms. They have her taking Concerta, 54mg, which has several adverse side effects, such as agressive behavior, fits of rage, etc. These are problems she already has WITHOUT the medications (see the ODD descript if you are not familiar). She used to take Seroquel to combat this behavior and help with the added stress of the side effects of concerta, but CPS would not allow her to continue taking this medication while she was in their care.

She has recently started acting out with more violence, than passive agression, and this makes the concern greater. She also recently experimented with cutting herself, which she says was "not impressed with" and that she will not do it again.

My question is this. Everything I read on ODD mentions that so many of these children also have ADHD, so surely most PDR's are familiar with ways to treat the ADHD without making the symptoms of the ODD worse. Unfortunately, this is not a concept that her PDR understands, or else just refuses to consider. Her PDR is appointed by CPS, and with much fight, we were able to convince them to allow us to take her to someone else. But she doesn't get to see the new PDR for another month!!

I come to this forum for several reasons. Number one, this is not a child that we raised from birth that we have been able to adapt our techniques as she grows,so we are coming into the middle of this without a clue as to how to handle it. I would like to get some suggestions from other parents dealing with agressive, violent pre-teen/teenaged children on ways to enforce positive behavior. I am having a difficult time with the whole "pick your battles" thing, because I am still not sure which battles are the more important ones, and we have to be even pickier, because every battle turns into a REAL battle . . .if that makes any sense. Another reason I am here is, working with a PDR on a monthly basis, a PsychoTherapist on a weekly basis, and a Crisis Intervention worker on a weekly (sometimes twice a week basis) we have been given loads and loads of information and tips that we may be able to pass along to help someone else. The other concern that we have at this point is, being the mother of two easy child's ages three and five (who are sometimes not so P, but there are no major behavioral concerns at this time). We are spending so much time with our difficult child that sometimes I feel that they are not getting the amount of attention that they need at such a tender age. They are not neglected by any means, but sometimes they are craving attention and our attention is directed elsewhere, which causes them to act out in negative ways to command that attention. Also, they are seeing the behavior that our difficult child displays, and picking up on some of those things, thinking that it must be okay since their big sis does it.

All of this combined with the fact that our difficult child also causes a need for concern as far as being allowed to be left unattended. She is self-destructive and she has threatened to commit suicide, so when she is upset or acting out, we aren't even allowed to send her to her room alone. Not only does this knock out the option of us sending her there for a cooldown period while we attend to the little ones, but also doesn't allow us to remove ourselves from the situation to calm OURSELVES down, becuase she has gotten very good at learning exactly how to push our buttons.

If anyone has any advice on some different techniques we can try to deal with these behaviors, please respond!!! And I will keep an eye on everyone else's posts as well, and if there is anything that I feel I may be of help on, I will certainly try to!!

Thank you all so much for being here and hopefully we can develop a great helpful working relationship and all work together to raise our difficult child's. They may not be easy child's, but with the right amount of love and care, they can certainly turn into PA's (perfect adults)!!!!!!


Welcome. Sorry you had to find us, but glad you're here. This is a wonderful commnity, even if the common thread isn't such a positive one.

Ross Green's Explosive Child, which you may have read, really helped us. At first, our only goal was to avoid confrontation with difficult child 2 at all costs (except life threatening, like running in the street, etc). It sucked, it took a few weeks, and we all hated it cause he got away with murder, but it also opened the door for us to start working on some other behaviors. He had become so conditioned to just fighting at everything that it didn't even matter what it was to start with. We had to "recondition" him, so to speak, before we could move forward.

Then, we picked one behavior and one behavior only, and worked it one at a time, with lots of rewards for success. Its slow, it still stinks, and we have a LONG way to go, but we see progress.

Do you receive any respite? You sure could use it! Since she's placed thru CPS, I'm wondering if they might provide it, you might check into that. But do try to find time for yourself (listen to me, of all people, saying that...HA!) and one on one time for your little ones. This is a huge adjustment for them, too, and kudos, mom, for thinking of them before there's a problem. In fact, establishing a relationship with a therapist now might be something to think about for them. Inevitably, they're going to have emotions to work thru that kids without troubled siblings don't have.

I'm up cause I can't sleep, so I hope I'm not just rambling. lol Good luck. Welcome aboard.


Active Member
Being a stepmom has the advantages that you can become her confidant and friend , work with her , without the emotional baggage that goes with a normal parent-child relationships.
The message in my humble opinion we should give the child is in the words of Eli Newberger .The method of time outs ,withdrawing privileges is essentially negative: I can't communicate with you, and so I'll hurt you if you don't mind me. The positive counterpoint is: We all make mistakes, and you can trust me to help you do better in the future.
If you are thinking of using traditional discipline , consequences etc , she will resist and of course you are not her mother. She needs positive older teenagers or young adults in her life. in my humble opinion you have to fist reach out to her , use dialog questions, get her to speak , use listen , reach understandings, discuss concerns and then look for solutions, the best way to set limits is by reaching mutually satisfying solutions.

Here is a piece I wrote on problem solving
I think problem solving issues between parent and child is on one hand jumping into the deep end and you cannot swim and on the other hand it is also very much on the job training. Dr Greene says a kid needs if i remember correctly at least 30-40 problem solving experiences to develop the skill and belief/confidence that problem solving serves his interests. Part of learning these skills, is becoming as the title of Myrna Shure's book suggests - Thinking parent, Thinking child. With regard to problem solving Myrna Shure says ' Problem solving is the only technique that truly involves the participation of the child to make a decision, decide whether or not it’s a good one , the consequences of this decision on others , not just a what's in it for me perspective and then, if needed, think of a new solution. It’s also the only way children are truly guided toward empathy, that is, to make decisions based on how the other will feel. But first, the child comes to care about his own feelings, because that matters as part of the decision-making process, and also, no one can truly care about others if he dosen’t care about himself.
We also want parallel learning , thinking together for eg using De Bono's PMI tool - lets look together at the positives , pluses of the idea , then together the minuses , then any Interesting Ideas that may come from the suggestion. The best is to use non-emotive issues or better discuss social stories, TV program , news item, etc and express empathy, take perspectives , this is what you think that the boy feels , this is how I perceive the problem , this is how I think you perceive the problem , how do you perceive the problem ,also see the problem or the issue as one also facing a group, family, class, school etc. As Alfie Kohn says , try to talk in the plural. Greene says Try to focus on ' Concerns ' , rather than solutions - a boy wanting a ball is really a solution for him , the concern maybe he is bored so a ball is only one solution. We try to find many alternative solutions. A kid who is able to come up with various alternative solutions is less likely to become frustrated. By using the word ' we ' , we help the kid's thinking to be more exploratory , beyond himself , thinking for the benefit of the group, seeing himself as part of a family, seeing the consequences of his actions, not only on himself but on others ,finding solutions that are mutually satisfying , being proactively prosocial with other kids, learning to give and take, seek further help to solve problems. Another important tool for kids is the language of problem solving. Problems and their solutions are often due to the Time constraint and finding a more appropriate time , delaying gratification etc . So building a schedule with a kid over the week , gives him a wider sense of time , he can see the tomorrow , that his needs will be met . So words like a can you think of a different time or a better time , not now later , for sequential or consequential thing , before or after . Part of problem solving is dealing with your own feelings , being aware of them , dealing with them. You also have to be aware of your feelings to be able to relate to and consider others feelings. Defining your feelings moves your brain from the limbic -emotional rush fight/flight mode to the prefontal lobe thinking mode which helps you deal with feelings. These feelings can be then translated into needs and concerns. Myrna Shure has a book for younger kids which helps us give young kids the language of problem solving. Problem solving involves also understanding the motives of other people , understanding that things not always what they seem to be, consequential thinking and planning, sequential planning , always reflecting using hindsight and foresight .Problem solving means sometimes learning to live with situations , developing coping skills to handle disappointment and frustration. So we use stories and words - I am very disappointed but at least .... , no big deal , tomorrow ... etc. We can talk about resilience , bouncing back , the failure is not in falling but not getting up , as Proverbs says - 7 times a rightious man will fall and then rise. To summarize try and generalize the one on one time dynamic of dialog , dialog questions , getting your kid to speak and you listening directing him with your questions and make your interactions a learning experience , a parallel learning experience where you focus beyond the self , talk in the plural, talk about other people , being prosocial , a contributor, so when it comes to your own problems , you have the skills and the tools.
It is not easy , it is a process , education is a long process.


Welcome to the board. I'm glad you've found us. You've been given some great advice so far.

I have a question. You have Borderline (BPD) listed as one of your difficult child's dxs. Normally, that's Borderline Personality Disorder which isn't generally diagnosis'd until adulthood. Did you mean Bipolar (BiPolar (BP)) instead? If that's the case and your difficult child is on a stimulant without a mood stabilizer, I would imagine you are seeing a lot of aggression.

My difficult child is 12, also, and lacks emotional regulation. I have found that picking my battles is an absolute necessity. In fact, we only work on one thing at a time. Otherwise, my difficult child becomes too overwhelmed and meltdown/rage ensues.

From what you've said, your difficult child has had a traumatic childhood and is now having to adjust to a new home with a new family. That has to be incredibly rough for her.


New Member
hi, CJ, & welcome to the board.

i think since CPS is still in your lives now is the time to ask for respite care. it would give you, husband & the littles a break from what sounds like unrelenting stress.

what happens when she threatens suicide? do you call the crisis team or do you transport her to the ER for evaluation? how frequently does she express suicidal ideation? is there ever any gestures that go with-the ideation? when you contact the crisis team what do they do/suggest?

since psychiatrist is suggesting a mood stabilizer i'm going to guess Borderline (BPD) means bipolar rather than borderline personality disorder. if that's what he suspects then hopefully a mood stabilizer will help her. unfortunately medicating our kids is more art than science. psychotropic medications act differeently in each person so it can take a few medication trials before finding the one that works for your child. be patient with-this process. also if he suspects bipolar it could be the stimulant is exacerbating her aggression rather then helping.

i found The Expolsive Child by ross greene to be very helpful. first behaviors you choose are those of safety. no violence against others & certainly no violence against herself. if you look on the homepage you can find a section that lists books. search through them & see if you find any you might find helpful. you might also want to check out some of the links on bipolar that we have.

is the therapist addressing issues of PTSD?? given her previous homelife it would be a logical thing to do i would think.


timer lady

Queen of Hearts
Hi & welcome. A few things come to mind from your post.

If you would hazard a guess what developmental age do you think your difficult child is displaying?

I ask this because I adopted older twins (almost 7) & have learned the hard way that both of them lost so much in their unhealthy bio environment.

We have had to go back & basically "redo" or teach the tweedles skills they hadn't learned (for whatever reason) from day one. wm is testing emotionally/developmentally at around 3.2 years of age; kt coming in at almost 6 years of age.

So while I have 12 going on 13 y/o children, I'm parenting & teaching skills at entirely different age level. Filling in the blanks, if you will.

My tweedles are just now learning self calming skills, boundary recognition, a bit of impulse control, trusting primary caregivers, cause & effect, etc. Things most children learn in a healthy caring environment.

Just something to consider.

Again welcome.


Well-Known Member
Hi and welcome. Your stepdaughter will probably have many of the problems, if not all, that anyone gets when adopting an older child.Why won't CPS let your hub be in charge of her psychiatric care? Your hands are sort of tied with CPS making all her decisions, even with medications. My guess is that this kid may have some attachment issues, psychiatric problems beyond just ADHD/ODD, and was she possibly exposed to drugs or alcohol while hubs's ex was pregnant? All of this can come into play. I'd be angry if I had to relay on CPS for treatment of a child in my home. Big hugs and a welcome. Good folks here.

house of cards

New Member
What a difficult situation to step into, I think you are a great warrior mom to accept it. CPS will always cover their backside so they won't allow you to change medications as long as they are would increase their liability, but you have already figured out the way around that. They won't go against a doctors decision(almost never), so hopefully your new psychiatrist will be receptive and helpful. I agree I would follow the advice in The Explosive Child and consider your difficult child unstable at this time. I would only enforce the most basic safety issues and try to conpromise on a few others until I had a chance to see the new psychiatrist. Remember to take care of yourself and the rest of the family, good luck and vent away here...this is a very good place


difficult child was exposed to all forms of abuse and neglect, among other things.

Sounds oh, so familiar. My son comes from a similar background. He was 5 yrs old when we obtained custody of him via CPS.

Parenting a child with neurological disorder(s) is challenging. Abuse and neglect baggage further complicates the situation.

I noticed in your signature that psychiatrist is considering adding a mood stabilizer.

Because stimulant medications may exacerbate a bipolar disorder and induce an episode or negatively influence the cycling pattern of a bipolar disorder, bipolar disorder should be ruled out first, before a stimulant is prescribed.

Glad you found us. Welcome!


Well-Known Member

As I understand it stimulants can cause Bipolar kids to become more aggressive. I believe most Bipolar kids are stabilized on mood stabilizers before introducing a stimulant.

You may even want to contact your new psychiatrist and see if he/she agrees - if so that you can begin to remove the stimulants now so she is clear of them when she gets to see psychiatrist in a month. Perhaps he will be able to introduce a new medication at that time that addresses moods.


New Member
Hi - I am a newbie like you but.. Just some thoughts....

First VERY sorry you are going through this.

Second, My difficult child was becoming EXTREAMLY violent, and there was a concern that my SO would not be able to physically restrain him when he would attempt to hurt her or act in rash unsafe ways.. We took a rather unconventional approach that helps to keep our home for the most part non-physical...

We turned his room into a safe room... We have literally taken EVERYTHING out of his room that he can use as a weapon or hurt himself with. We also installed a lock on his door (I hollowed out one of the legs on his bed and put a spare key in there in case he gets cleaver...) Also put an outside lock on his window... Extreme? YES.. In the 6 months this has been in place SO has only had to use it twice – for no more then a ½ hour each time... The procedure is to Put difficult child in room go outside to the window latch and return to hall way outside of his room – wait and listen, as soon as he is calm enough or SO is strong enough to hold him if necessary the door is unlocked and reopened. All toys books etc are kept in the office and family room... I even went so far as to :censored2: down the vents and put screws in the back of his dresser drawers to keep him from using them as weapons... Again this is NOT a normal method or one I would consider except in EXTREAME safety situations... He beat my SO up with a chair, tossed it through a window, pelted her with apples and took off running down the street, the day before I decided to do this (The Chair was for is desk in his room). BIG points here are that he is not left "ALONE" as SO is in the hall - difficult child just does not know it - so he does not get the satisfaction of continuing to engage, giving him the chance to calm down... This is NOT used as a punishment, but a safety precaution.. This is also ILLEAGAL in many states ( a lock on the outside of a Childs door... ) We actually got the OK from our adoption worker to do this, knowing it would not be abused.

Like I said unconventional and could be abused (which is why many stated have laws against it) But a thought from my world. difficult child also FULLY understands the purpose of it, and does not hold any fears of the door getting locked – he knows it has and will only happen to keep him safe for as long as necessary – how long is his choice.

Again these are my thoughts and my experiances.. but as you know I too am a newbie, this has helped in some ways for us - but gosh we have along way to go yet...

Take care and be SAFE!


New Member
Sorry for the censor - the word was the act of putting a specific peice of hardware in the ground using a drill....


New Member
Thank you, all, very much for the warm welcome. Yes, as a few of you pinpointed, I DID mean Bipolar. I guess I was just thinking Borderline (BPD) BiPolarDisorder...sorry for this misunderstanding. The first question to address is the stims for a child with mood are asking the EXACT question that her current PDR refuses to discuss with me!! I know WHY she prescribed the stims to help with ADHD, but much like another parent asking this exact same question last night on the forums . . . with all these other problems at surface, WHY do they consider controlling the ADHD the most important??? ESPECIALLY when it makes the symptoms of her BiPolar (BP) and ODD much more severe??

Second thing, someone mentioned PTSD, which her PDR has told us she has, but has not offered any information or advice on this. I am getting more familiar with the others, like ADHD, BiPolar (BP), and ODD, but the PTSD is the only one that I have not researched yet. I know that she has "night terrors" but she is making progress, because since she has been living with us, she has been terror free. I feel in a sense lucky that with everything else going on, we have not had to add that to the mix. For her and for us as well. The biggest reason is, because as difficult as our days are, at least right now, everyone is still getting their sleep. Including our difficult child, who is taking a very small dose 5mg of Clonodine to help fight off those pesky bad dreams. We believe the "night terrors" were probably a symptom of the PTSD, but cannot really be sure until we learn more about it. We have been so consumed with trying to learn and remember everything they are telling us as it is, and the more they label her, the more difficult it gets.

Well, more from me later tonight!! Thanks again everyone for the warm welcome!!!!!!


New Member
Now that I have put some more thought into some of the things that I am hearing from you all, I have a few answers to some of your questions.

First of all, the question about developmental is funny you should mention that, because there have been several occasions the last few months that I have just wondered to myself what she was thinking and why she did things the way she did. There are some of the most basic things that she doesn't seem to know how to do. I did get a bit of insight from her psychotherapist about this behavior though. Our difficult child has moved around alot, and has been in the care of several different people, even WHILE she was supposed to be living with her mother. Her therapist told us that every time a child moves, it will set them back, developmentally, by approx six months. So try to take into account how many places your child had to re-adjust to before you took him in, and do the math, see what you come up with, it seems to be scary how accurate that explanation least in our case. There is of course, too, the fact that our difficult child's bio mother never made her do anything for herself. Up until the last few weeks, she has only been allowed supervised contact with her mother for 1-1/2 hours per week. I had the privelege of being the supervisor for a few of these visits since mom has returned home from prison and noticed a few shocking things. At dinnertime, mom cooked for her and made her a plate, which didn't bother me too much, but then she proceeded to get out bread, butter and a knife, and come over to the table and butter bread for her to eat. Come ON!!!! A 12 year old should be buttering her own bread!!!! And, I guess this could be a bit critical, considering there are so few things that mom gets to do for her now, maybe that was just her way of trying to make up for some of it but totally pampering her in that ninety minutes, but still... a bit too attentive, if you ask me.

As for the respite care, the CPS agency that has custody of her at this time is actually a private agency that works with CPS to help lighten their caseload. There are pros, because these children are given more individual attention, so their experience in "the system" isn't as cold and impersonal as it normally would be with the overworked and underpaid CPS caseworkers. However, the cons are also that they don't deal with nearly as many children, and often don't see the not-so-glamorous side of some of these kids and the effects that their previous situations have had on them. Her caseworker doesnt understand the behavior, and is even HESITATING to allow us to restrain our difficult child when she is being violent so someone doesn't get hurt!! She is afraid we will take advantage of this ability and doesn't trust us to use good judgement and only go to that extreme if necessary. So, I don't really think she will be much interested in taking those steps for us. Besides, I think that much of the back and forth she has been through in the past has contributed to where she is now, and the problems that she has, and I am afraid that passing her off on someone else for periods of time may just make things worse and drag the treatment process out longer than necessary. But don't think we have not considered it, because we certainly have.

And to answer someone else's question, bio mom was doing drugs before, during, and after pregnancy... in fact, my husband and her's relationship didn't work out partly because of this very issue. He didn't want anything to do with drugs and she refused to stop. They split up, BEFORE she found out she was pregnant and then just never told him. My husband didn't even know our difficult child existed until she was almost two!!!! So yes, substance abuse was involved in-utero and has been a part of her life ever since she was born. Finally she is in a stable, secure, and positive home environment where there are no drugs and one of her biggest obstacles right now is that she is fearful that we are hiding some terrible secret that will come out later and will flip her entire world upside down once again if someone found out. I try to tell her there isn't anything like that here, but she doesn't believe me. I am also very careful to let her know that her concerns are definitely valid, considering she has never known anything else, and I try to support her by explaining that I know it will take time for her to trust us, but that after a while, she will understand that we are to be taken at face value, what you see is what you get, and there is nothing else. She agrees that eventually after time, she will feel more comfortable and confident that everything is going to be okay, but she keeps reminding me that she isn't there yet.

And though this may sound bad, sometimes I am happy to see her acting out like she does, because I feel like the more she shows this behavior, the more confident she is that we love her and that we are not going to turn our backs on her, and no matter what she does we will still love her and be here for her. I almost see it as a sign of trust. She would not and DOES NOT act this way with someone/anyone she is unsure of their interest and their level of devotion and commitment to her.

timer lady

Queen of Hearts

Is the CPS agency willing to come in & restrain when your difficult child is presenting self harming or dangerous behaviors toward others? Just something to consider.

Sad to say, it took a couple of years to recognize/accept the fact that kt & wm were so incredibly delayed. I wanted to believe that it was defiance because the alternative haunted me, for some reason.

Having said that, we need to go back & teach the tweedles very basic skills. Using utensils (my children still struggle with knives & forks), eating with-o messing their clothes, dressing themselves appropriately - very basic skills.

I hope you have a calmer, more restful day.