New and Frustrated

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by HopeRemains, Mar 6, 2012.

  1. HopeRemains

    HopeRemains New Member

    Hi there. I have browsed this site a couple of times, and now think it's way past time I joined. I am the stepmom to difficult child (what does that mean?), boy, 8, bipolar (on abilify) and ODD (my own diagnosis). Also Mom to DS who just turned 3 (who is picking up on his big brother's cues on how he should act). I have been a stay at home mom to this child and raised him since he was 2.5 yrs old. husband has changed jobs since, so it's better now, but he used to be gone most of the time, leaving me to deal with L on my own, no previous parenting experience. Oiy! I often think... "WHAT have I gotten myself into???".

    L has always been angry. He has a biomom who has only started taking her every other weekend visits regularly for the past couple of years. She is a *recovering* meth addict and it isn't hard to see where L gets alot of his violent behaviors. She makes him lie for her, lies about him to husband, and has him thinking we are "grilling" him so that he will not answer even the simplest inquiry about his weekend. She has filed false child abuse charges on ME, and neglect on my husband, which makes things SO much harder here. Now I am still alone with him very often, and I am scared to touch him or reprimand him some days. Last night he made sure to yell at us that he was going to tell his Mom on us because he was in trouble. This happens often.

    L can be very violent and aggressive. He tries to bully us at home, but is a perfect angel in school. He has attacked me more than once physically and constantly hurts my younger son (especially when he thinks no one is looking). Ex: Stabbed E in the hand with a fork because he wouldn't give L one of his chicken nuggets when he was 1 yr old, Pushed E into the coffeetable and chipped his two front teeth when E was just learning to walk, Constantly pushed E down everytime he walked anywhere near him, Kicks him, Punches him, etc, not to mention the overall bullying additude he has towards him everyday. Either L is being very mean to him or trying to win E over when he is in trouble by playing the victim and telling him how horrible we are. He tries to Now my youngest says he hates me and mean things, although he is a very good natured child- he is copying his brother's behaviors. Last night E came at me swinging and saying he hated me after I had to escort L to his room for a timeout.

    This breaks my heart. I don't know how to make a 3 yr old understand. He is the only light in my life somedays and L is very intentionally trying to turn him against me. It's also hard to see him treated so badly by someone he loves very much, L rejects him the majority of the time.

    L has taken to following me around the house (when he supposed to be in timeout and stalks out of there just to tell me off). This is scary. There is no control when this happens. I am completely at a loss!!! What do you do when the child will NOT back off or down? I try to ignore him and this is what happens when he is at his most defiant. He stalks me around the house, standing in my way, talking horribly, eyes ablaze with hatred, CHALLENGING ME. What do I do at times like these?

    The only thing I can do at these times is call my husband, who may or may not be able to get off of work, but it's still an hour drivetime before he gets home. I am a prisoner in my own home and I can't handle it anymore. I feel like I've tried everything in my power. husband doesn't always agree with me on discipline, is much softer, so this is a huge problem at times and makes me, as a step parent, feel so helpless! I've told him many times that I don't want to be alone with L, but husband makes me feel like dirt for even suggesting childcare for him until husband gets home.

    The good news is that I've set up a new therapist for us, as in home family therapy this time. I really hope this is better than the hour of battleship we've been paying for for the past 9 months with his current therapist who provides NO feedback.
  2. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    (((Hugs))) Parenting a difficult child is always difficult and being a step-parent just makes it worse.

    Has he ever been hospitalized? or had a full evaluation?
  3. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Welcome aboard. Glad you found us. Sorry you needed to search us out. Boy, I sure wish I had an outstanding answer to give you for the problems. I've been around for over a decade and I assure you that many stepmoms have posted with similar, if not identifcal, problems at home. Most of the time there is one or more difficult child's from the husband's first marriage and then one or two added biokids.

    Based on their shared experiences often the much loved husband has passed off the parental responsibilities, steps in during times of crisis if the work schedule allows and perceives that the Mom should be able to handle it all. Most often they have backed off parenting responsibilities in their first marriages due to the mental health/drug issues that were displayed or present with wife #1. It doesn't mean they are bad men. It means they don't understand or accept that it takes the combined in sync skills of both parents to have a healthy family.

    It's good that you have home family therapy lined up. Will your husband be there each and every session? I imagine it is going to conflict with his work schedule. The primary way to get the healthiest family unit (true for substance abuse issues as well as mental health/behavioral issues) is for both parents to get on the same page. You really have to be united in order to change the dynamics in your home. This provides a united front for the children and as a result gives them a sense of safety that they really can't get when different responses and methods are used.

    Meanwhile I think your idea of an afterschool program is brilliant. It will benefit the whole family in a number of ways. Your difficult child will be busy in a healthy environment. Your easy child will not be exposed to victimization and chaos. You will not have to hold your breath in fear that things will get out of hand when you are alone. in my humble opinion, it's a win/win. Obviously the end of the day will be far more normal for the everyone as you and your husband will be partners in the nightly rituals. I'd suggest that you present the idea in a positive light as your husband "may" think you're just trying to get rid of difficult child. That is not the goal. The goal is to get a healthy happy family unit that functions in a normal way.

    I very sincerely send caring thoughts of support your way. Things will not change for the better unless you lovingly insist on a united front with your life partner. It's not fair to you, difficult child or easy child to continue on the current road. Hugs DDD
  4. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not


    Hello and welcome!

    Sounds like you have a very difficult situation going on at home....this is NOT YOUR FAULT, but there are a couple of things you need to get a handle on immediately.

    #1 - If he is hurting your younger child in front of you then he is also doing it behind your back. The younger child probably feels that you are not able to protect him. This makes him very vulnerable to difficult child's manipulations. in my opinion you need to get a safety plan in place for the younger one NOW (I don't care if that means the younger one is attached to your hip all day long - you CANNOT leave him alone for even a moment if difficult child has access to him.)

    #2 - "Timeout" is clearly not working. You need to find a different currency with difficult child. (Frankly, I'd be tempted to make the punishment that he "has" to do something with you...then I'll bet he couldn't get away from you fast enough!) But - you need to find a different tactic. One of the things we've done to discipline our difficult child is not to send her to her room - but to lock her OUT of her room. Sorry, you can't get at any of your stuff for xxx amount of time.

    #3 - Afterschool programs sound like a wonderful idea! You and the little one need the break....
  5. buddy

    buddy New Member

    Hi there and welcome. Seems a week of lots of parents who have violent younger kids.... I am sorry for your journey. I'm so glad you came. I can't relate to having an outside person adding to the issues but I have felt the need to cover my butt worrying that my son would say something that would lead to abuse charges etc.

    So, I will have more time later but I will share that I have turned my phone video on him when he gets like that (sometimes I hide it so i it is only audio and he wont stop just for the sake of the camera, though that usually doesn't affect my I have often said, he is an equal opportunity terror, so people on the outside well know what can happen).

    I have also called a mental health crisis line just to have someone on the phone who is witnessing that I am not out of control, I am problem solving with him etc....

    (I get the name and record it in my totally messy but useful notebook)

    OK, I gotta run, but I will for sure come back. Hope you check in often. Hope the new therapist is a good one!
  6. HopeRemains

    HopeRemains New Member

    Thank you. No, he's never been hospitalized. My husband would rather cut off his own hand than send L to the hospital. He says the majority of the behaviors are "normal boy behavior", and that he and his brothers acted the same. He's never had a full evaluation, either. (Not sure what that all entails, but his psychiatrist diagnosed him on the first day we saw her, after she had us fill out a *is he ADHD or Bipolar* questionaire. I was a bit leary then, but so relieved to even HAVE a psychiatrist that I've kinda been just going with it. He was diagnosed 9 months ago, and put on 2mg of Abilify. The Abilify helps stave off the worst of the violence. I just feel like no one is taking this seriously but me.
  7. HopeRemains

    HopeRemains New Member

    DDD- Thank you for the support. I am more than a bit disconcerted to realize that mine is such a common situation among stepmothers. I know you were trying to put it delicately, but I know that husband is dropping the ball here, repeatedly. Most days I really resent it, but I do feel bad for him. He's a very sensitive kind of man, and the usual guilt is there for the way that L's Mom is. He has gotten much better over the years, however, we still have a very long way to go. He will be there every time for the therapy session. He's going to rearrange his work week for it. He is a great Dad is all other ways, patient, kind, very loving... He's just a pushover when it comes to L alot of times. L knows this and absolutely feeds off of it. I fear there will be a time when I have to just leave if husband fails to come to terms with what he needs to do. He has truely put me in the position of wicked stepmother. I don't like it, but he's been doing baby steps, and I am really hoping this new therapist (who has backround with children, ODD and teaching skills to parents) will be the beginning of a new era. I also think it is great that this new therapist is a MAN. Because it seems to me that my husband is lacking in his respect for women department (if his disregard for my opinions says anything) and L tends to try to charm women (probably learned from trying to gain his BM's love). *Fingers Crossed*!

    Daisy... Hello. I know that timeouts are not working. I've tried rewards programs, stickers, marbles, etc. They work for a few days and then he decides they are not worth giving up the control that his tantrums give him. I like the idea of locking him OUT of his room. Right now, in response to him trashing his room yesterday, in a rage, he was made to clean it thouroughly and then I let him know that all toys are off limits to him today. That doesn't phase him unless the TV is off. If the TV is off he gets bored and comes looking for trouble, relentlessly hounding me- usually about food or when what is going to happen when.

    I also know that I need to keep the boys apart, and I do try. It is very hard sometimes, because E doesn't understand why he can't be around his brother alone. And L, I'm sure, will catch on and resent his brother even more! He already gets upset when he sees me hugging E and playing with him, saying that I don't take care of him, only E. The truth is that L only wants to me to play with him when HE initiates it, which is hardly ever, and I've learned not to even try over the years, as he sees it as an opportunity to reject and hurt me when I have tried in the past. Do you have examples of an emergency plan?
  8. HopeRemains

    HopeRemains New Member

    buddy- I also try to catch the episodes on video. For the most part, they aren't great examples of his behavior. By the time I get the sudden situation under control, call my husband and explain it to him, and remember to get the video going, usually the worst of it has passed. I always think it never looks as bad on tape as it feels in the moment, and that no one is going to understand because they didn't see it in context.

    I love the idea of calling a mental health help line! I will have to look it up to see who offers it around here. Thank You!
  9. greenrene

    greenrene Member

    I'm sitting here just... omg... my jaw is on the floor because our situations are so very, very similar.

    I too have raised my difficult child stepdaughter since about age 3. Her biomom is very similar, except in our situation she is pretty much out of the picture. This child was basically handed over to us one day while her father and I had only been dating a few months. husband worked a lot, and I was the main caregiver to a very difficult child who I barely knew...

    I don't have time to post much, but I did want to welcome you.
  10. buddy

    buddy New Member

    Sadly, that made me think how long of a time I have been into this.... I think I would feel naked without my phone ON me at all times. Just in case for many reasons, call the dr., call for help, photo op, and yes, the video. I hope you dont end up a slave to that security measure, sigh.

    I am sorry husband doesn't see how serious this is. It is so so wearing to have a child who (even if they dont fully know why or can control it) is so negative, pushy, puffed up, etc.... I am a better person for parenting my son, but also a very changed person. And as he gets older I have to psychiatric myself to know there may be a time I really do have to say he needs to live in an alternative placement. I pray not. But I have to mentally prep myself to some degree just in case.

    The kind of assessment that can help you figure out more of what may be causing these kinds of symptoms is a neuropsychologist. evaluation. A neuropsychologist is a specialized psychologist who has extra training in how the brain is connected to our behaviors and moods etc. They can help sort thru differential diagnosis both for developmental issues (like autism, tourettes, adhd, etc.) and mental health illnesses like bi-polar etc. If you pair this with an Occupational Therapist (OT) (occupational therapy) evaluation and an Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) (speech/language pathology) evaluation then you can see if there are any subtle motor, sensory or language/communication issues that might be also complicating his view/processing of the world.

    Hang in there, as you can see, you are certainly not in this alone.
  11. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Glad to read that husband will be involved every time. I'm also glad to realize that you "get" that there really have to be changes for everyone's sake. I'm rooting for you and your family. Hugs DDD
  12. HopeRemains

    HopeRemains New Member

    buddy- I have used my phone, but it is unreliable. If he knows I am taping it, he either plays to an audience, not showing true behavior, or gets enraged that I dare to tape him and even more violent. So now I use my computer, and he doesn't know it.

    He's just getting so big. He's overweight for his age, and built stocky like husband in the first place. He sneaks food and is only really nice when we are in the grocery store or one of us is cooking. Then he can't stop trying to hug and hold hands. In any case, he has so much strength and he's not a "little" boy anymore. I'm afraid someone is going to get hurt. Either him hurting E or I, or me hurting L trying to protect us. It's going to be unavoidable someday unless things get under control. I have also told him, after his last attack on me, that I will call the police if he ever assaults me again, because it is against the law, even for children. I felt like the biggest piece of **** in the world to have to tell him that, but I had no choice. He was getting worse and going further everytime, seeing how far he could go. That last attack came out of nowhere when I was sitting down, calling husband to let him know what was going on. All of a sudden there were blows to head and kicks out of nowhere. It shocked me because that was the first time he had just attacked me while I was sitting down.

    One of his other issues (warning, too much info) that I THANKFULLY finally figured out a week ago... He's had "accidents" in his pants until he was 6. Then I started making him clean up after himself- it magically stopped within the first couple of times. Then, last summer he went to BM's house for his first ever two week vacation time, and came back doing it with a vengance, PLUS urination. He hadn't had that problem for 1.5 years. Well, it's continued here (worse when he comes back from there) until last week. I realized he'd been holding it in for days (hence the largeness of his movements). So now I am making him go to the bathroom directly after school, and viola~! No more accidents, and normal sized movements! (He was not constipated, it takes him only a few seconds to do what he needs to.) Score one for the good guys! =)

    (This was one of the strategies I discussed with husband before implementing it, and he dismissed it as "silly". He got mad at me and said it was inappropriate when I sat L down and discussed his accidents- it made them both a bit uncomfortable. WHAT? I told him it is INAPPROPRIATE that I have to clean up these messes from an 8 yr old who can control it if he chose to!". husband thought that it would be a trigger point to ask L to go to the bathroom everyday, because, well, everything we ask him to do (brush teeth, wash hair) turns into an opportunity for a power struggle. It hasn't so far, yay!)

    Thank all of you ladies for your support. I am so glad I found this place, and hope you all don't get sick of me complaining sometimes, lol!
  13. buddy

    buddy New Member

    It says so much to me that when you use these consistent behavioral strategies that he does well. That need for structure and fair discipline must be in him somewhere. It sounds like you have such a good feel for the real issues going on in this young man. In my learning about attachment etc. One big difference in discipline was not using so much of the negotiating or collaborative problem solving with the child for at least the early time. What I think they told me the main reason is that these kids missed out on that phase /step where they have mom consistently (I say mom because early on it often is mom ) making all the choices that build trust. The choices that keep them feeling well fed, not over tired, healthy, comforted, secure /not afraid and typically happy. You said you feel that attachment could be an issue I think? Seeing how you "get" him I bet your instincts are better than bio parents or any docs/therapists. Not a skill you probably ever wanted to develop but he is lucky you have it. Probably his best chance is whatever programs or therapies are used....if they listen to you. Just seems like that to me. Long way to say you are impressive.
  14. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Welcome! Sorry you had to find us, but glad you did! And you will be glad, too.

    One thing stuck out big time for me. You mentioned wants to know what is going to happen and when. This is part of his disorder and an easy one to help him with. Be sure to let him know what is going to be happening and when. Try not to sway from the plan especially with a punishment. For example, if snack time is 3:00 every day. And he gets sent to his room at 2:50. Call him out at 3:00 for snack and then send him back if necessary (had 20 minutes in his room and has to finish it for example). When you or husband tell him something is going to happen try not to have it change at all. When he calls you on it....'you said snack time was at 3:00 & it is 3:05'. Tell him 'you are right, I missed it let's have snack right away.' You get the idea.

    Just one thing that you can do to help make his life less stressful...and in turn...YOURS, too!
  15. HopeRemains

    HopeRemains New Member

    busywend- Thank you for your suggestions. I have/do create schedules for him and post them on the fridge. They announce what time he can go outside, what time snacks and meals are, what time is TV "off" time, etc. These are especially useful in the summer. He's old enough now that he can read the clock, and you can bet that he watches for the minute to turn so that he can go outside and play! He waits for the minute on EVERYTHING. Which is great, because it saves all the constant (EVERY 5 MINUTES) nagging on when this or that is going to happen. I just refer him to the schedule if he starts, and most of the time he is satisfied with this. During the school year, things get more lax, because he's not home all day. He knows exactly what time homework will be started, and does this on his own. But then begins the issue of not wanting to do his homework. For most of the year he has done fine with it, because if he did his homework nicely on Thursday (homework day), I would reward him with a sack lunch on Friday (his request). It worked until a month ago, when he decided he wanted husband to baby him through it and refuses to even write down the first problem. (Very embarrassing to have to email the teacher and explain why his homework wasn't done that night. He asserted to us that he was going to school the next day to tell his teacher that we wouldn't "help" him.)

    Anyhow, scheduling is one of the most helpful things in my arsenol, and one of the only ones that have maintained through the trial and errors of trying to get his behavior under control.
  16. HopeRemains

    HopeRemains New Member

    buddy- It brought tears to my eyes just to hear someone say that the effort I've put into trying to understand isn't in vain, isn't silly. Thank you.

    I hadn't mentioned attachment problems, but Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is something I looked into very seriously. Because until husband finally got full custody of him legally when he was 2, his BM basically used him as a pawn to try to cause husband grief. Would pick him up because she *missed* him, take him for two hours, drop him back off to husband at his work- forcing him to leave work, or say she wanted him for a short visit, keep him for two weeks and tell husband he would never see L again. She still uses L as a pawn, sadly. I believe so many children who display these behaviors were subject to some trauma like this when a baby or small child. The selfishness is of BM is astounding. She was also hospitalized for psychological problems when she was younger, but we don't know what her diagnosis was. It obviously untreated now and it is very hard to deal with her at any time. I can only imagine what L has to go through there. Her being in the picture is always going to hinder progress here, sadly there isn't much we can do to change that.

    When I brought it up to the psychiatrist, she dismissed this as well, saying that because he didn't torment animals that it couldn't be Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). But so many other things click when reading the symptoms.
  17. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    You need to find a therapist who really, really knows attachment disorders (there's more than just Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)) inside and out. Anybody else... not only doesn't have a clue, but often will end up working directly against what these kids need (not intentionally, but because they don't get it).

    I'll see if I can find Buddy's link full of links and definitions and stuff...
    Should see if the mods can put a sticky on that post, because... we're always trying to find it. <grin>
  18. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

  19. HopeRemains

    HopeRemains New Member

  20. HopeRemains

    HopeRemains New Member

    It's been over a year since I read up attachment disorders... here is a list of symptoms from one site.

    Attachment Disorder Symptoms
    • Superficially engaging & charming
    • Lack of eye contact on parents terms
    • Indiscriminately affectionate with strangers
    • Not affectionate on Parents’ terms (not cuddly)
    • Destructive to self, others and material things (accident prone)
    • Cruelty to animals- NOT THAT I'VE SEEN, BUT WE HAVE NO CATS OR DOGS
    • Lying about the obvious (crazy lying)
    • Stealing- NO
    • No impulse controls (frequently acts hyperactive)
    • Learning Lags
    • Lack of cause and effect thinking
    • Lack of conscience
    • Abnormal eating patterns
    • Poor peer relationships
    • Preoccupation with fire- NO
    • Preoccupation with blood & gore
    • Persistent nonsense questions & chatter
    • Inappropriately demanding & clingy
    • Abnormal speech patterns
    • Triangulation of adults
    • False allegations of abuse
    • Presumptive entitlement issues
    • Parents appear hostile and angry