Scared to death


New Member
My stepson has been diagnosed with Disruptive Behavior Disorder. I was searching online for different characteristics, coping techniques, and parenting suggestions and I stumbled across this website. My stepson does not live with his father and I currently because his father is in jail. He doesn't live with his mother either because years ago she found she couldn't handle him. He just barely turned 8 and his behavior has progressively gotten worse over the years. Here are few examples:
1) He is setting fires inside the house. His great grandmother is his primary caregiver right now and she is coming up on 80 years old. She has a gas stove that he was setting the fires near.
2) He has hit his great grandmother and frequently balls his fists up like he is going to hit her again. She made him mad one time and he jumped on her. She had just gotten home from the hospital where she was recovering from a fall during which she broke her sternum.
3) He has pooped on the bathroom rug
4) He hit my daughter on the head when she was 4 or 5 months old
5) He bullies other children at school, boys and girls alike
6) He has caught a toad and let the dogs bite the toad while he sat there laughing at it. If the dogs got too aggressive, he would back them off so they wouldn't kill it, but it was obviously suffering. I don't know how long this was going on before I caught him.
7) He has gone to school saying that he wants to kill himself and has held a knife to his throat threatening to kill himself.
The list goes on and on. His father, like any parent, wants to be with his son when he comes home but I am scared to death for myself and our two babies. He resents me and the two children I have with his father and does annoying things all the time in his endless quest for attention. As he gets older, he gets more violent and I am fearful for the health and safety of my babies when we are all together under the same roof. I know when you marry someone that their children are a package deal and you are supposed to love those children as though they were your own but, as awful as it sounds, I don't. I'm scared of what he could do to my babies. Right now, I am staying at my grandmother's until my husband gets out of jail. When he gets out, his son can't stay here and he told me in a letter today that since his son can't stay here, we will move in with his grandmother until we get on our feet so he can be with his son. Yet again, I have to uproot my babies and myself two more times. Once when we move to his grandmother's and once when we get our house situated. I don't know what other option I have. I love my husband and he's convinced his son will change once he gets the attention from his dad that he's seeking. I'm not convinced he will. I think he will wind up hurting one of my children and that sounds like a pretty high price to pay if my husband is wrong.
My stepson has had more challenges in his life than most 8 year olds. Both of his parents have been in and out of jail, but his grandparents are stable and have been there to care for him while his parents are gone.
My husband has full custody of him so he will be living with us full time when my husband gets home. Can someone please talk with me about this? I am agonizing over this. God bless!


Well-Known Member
Wow. I'm sorry. Any chance that he had a very disruptive time in his early years? Birthmother drink or do drugs during pregnancy? This behavior is serious.

I had a very dangerous child in my house who we adopted and his early life had been very chaotic and he had reactive attachment disorder. Is this child sexual? All I can say is, the child ended up killing two dogs, sexually abusing our younger kids and being tried in court at age thirteen for abusing a minor (six years younger than him). Wasn't our idea. We just wanted him gone and he has been gone for ten years.

I'm thinking your son may have attachment disorder, something professionals often miss. Here is a link about it. SEe what you think and then talk to hub.

People who have not lived with a child as dangerous as this may not even be able to relate to the stuff we go through.There are three big red flags for a child who may be heading towards antisocial personality disorder: 1/peeing and pooping inappropriately and in odd places 2/setting fires or fascination with fire 3/ cruelty to animals (which they often hide it and act like they like the animals in front of the parents, but abuse them in private. That is what our kid did).

Also the other kids were much younger and so afraid of the things he made them do that he believed that he would kill all of us if they told on him so they didn't, until he was gone. I hope you have no younger kids or pets. I had to scan your post so if I exaggerated, I apologize. I have to go, but will be back later if you want to talk more. Or else, others will come along too.

Anyhow, here's the link. Trust your instincts. If it were me, knowing what I know now, I would NOT take custody of that child no matter what. He has behaviors that are far beyond just a regularly difficult or disturbed child. Good luck and poor grandma.


Well-Known Member
Ok, I read the whole thing.

This child has obviously had a very hard time in his early years and I believe in my gut he has attachment disorder. Letting the dogs eat the toad alive then letting it live is very typical. The fires by grandma's stove. The pooping. All three symptoms. Very frightening kid. Has he ever been caught showing anyone his male parts? Touching girls at school inappropriately? He may have seen birthmother doing some stuff...or maybe her boyfriends abused him. That can make a little child really a mess and it's not an easy fix. Love is not enough. Oh, boy, but your husband is wrong if he thinks the boy just needs to live with him in order to get his head straight. It will take years and years of specific therapy and I'm guessing he will not respond to discipline and may even strike you, dad and the little ones. I wouldn't let him near the little ones without supervision.

If it were me, and I know it isn't and I k now others who have not lived with such a child may disagree, but there is no way I'd allow him to come to live with you and be near your two babies. God knows what he would do to them. It is your decision, of course, but I'd actually divorce the man before I'd allow the son to live in the same house as my two kids. But that's jumping ahead. He hasn't asked for Son to live there yet. He has two other children to think about. Remind him of that. And all the time? No mom? No break at all? Think logically and decide. Leave your heart out of it when it involves your other two kids. I thought with my heart and I'm so sorry I did.

Son will likely end up in a residential treatment center one day and it is probably best for all, including the son, to get that level of help. Is social services involved at all? Why wont' they help grandma find a placement for this child?

You have every reason to be afraid. You will be sorry if you bring him to your house. He is very much like our child was and cleaning up the damage after he was gone was not fun or easy to do. We were lucky that the state was so sympathetic to us and that the kid, for whatever reason, admitted all that he had done instead of saying, "I didn't do it. Dad and Mom did it." That would have put us on the hot seat. These types of kids can end you up in jail.

Be careful. I'm so sorry.
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New Member
Thank you for your response. He hasn’t ever gotten caught showing his male parts to any girls or anything but he doesn’t seem to have any problem at all with adults seeing him naked because he will streak across the hall after he’s taken a bath. I have told him countless times to bring his clothes and a towel with him when he goes to take a bath and he always “forgets”. As for sexual abuse, there hasn’t ever been any that he has told anyone about. His mother has been with some unsavory characters though, so it is possible. He lies all the time and his behavior in school has gotten so bad that the school has already told the grandparents who have him now that if his behavior doesn’t improve, he will be kicked out of school. He’s gotten kicked off the bus numerous times too. He is very violent towards himself and others. He has acted like he was going to hit me before and he has hit his dad. He knows he can pick on his great grandmother and that when no one else is there, he can get away with it. He doesn’t normally hit adults who are more capable of fighting back like myself or his dad. You are right about him not responding to discipline. If he gets put in time out, he will keep screaming and screaming. He has told his grandparents before that his dad and I were not feeding him and all kinds of stuff that just wasn’t true. I am glad that I’m not the only one who feels that this kid is a danger to my two babies. There is no telling what he would do to them and as a mother, I am not willing to put my babies in that situation. His dad, however, doesn’t see the problems in this boy that I do. He knows that he has problems but his exact words were “he can change, he just needs to be with me”. He wants his son with him and I can understand that. Social Services isn’t involved yet but I’m sure that’s just a matter of time. The grandmother that he’s staying with doesn’t want him going anywhere…or didn’t until recently because she didn’t want to live alone. Lately though, his behavior has gotten to the point that she can’t handle him. All this time, I have been feeling like this awful person because I can’t hardly stand to be around him and I don’t trust him around my babies, but I can see now that my fears were justified. I will definitely think about what you had to say and I am going to find the least confrontational way I can to bring this up to my husband. Thank you so much


Well-Known Member
After what happened to us, when I see somebody post with a child who seems not just "differently wired" but dangerous, I try to warn them to heed what they see. Most certainly this child is like he is because of all the garbage in his life, same as the child we adopted. However, that doesn't make him any less dangerous. Since he is willing to pick on vulnerable adults, like his grandmother, and maybe even hurt her?? he would not have much trouble transitioning to your children and even children in the neighborhood.

I decided to post the Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) article so that anyone can read it without going to a link. Maybe it will enlighten a parent who is living with a dangerous minor child.

Check the symptoms below.

You have very hard decisions to make and I wish you all the luck in the world.

Gentle hugs to you, a sane and rational person in a very insane situation. Been there, have the tee-shirt!

Reactive Attachment Disorder
Attachment is defined as the affectional tie between two people. It begins with the bond between the infant and mother. This bond becomes internally representative of how the child will form relationships with the world. Bowlby stated “the initial relationship between self and others serves as blueprints for all future relationships.” (Bowlby, 1975)

Attachment Disorder is defined as the condition in which individuals have difficulty forming lasting relationships. They often show nearly a complete lack of ability to be genuinely affectionate with others. They typically fail to develop a conscience and do not learn to trust. They do not allow people to be in control of them due to this trust issue. This damage is done by being abused or physically or emotionally separated from one primary caregiver during the first 3 years of life. “If a child is not attached–does not form a loving bond with the mother–he does not develop an attachment to the rest of mankind. The unattached child literally does not have a stake in humanity” (Magid & McKelvey 1988). They do not think and feel like a normal person. “At the core of the unattached is a deep-seated rage, far beyond normal anger. This rage is suppressed in their psyche. Now we all have some degree of rage, but the rage of psychopaths is that born of unfulfilled needs as infants. Incomprehensible pain is forever locked in their souls, because of the abandonment they felt as infants.” (Magid & McKelvey 1988) “There is an inability to love or feel guilty. There is no conscience. Their inability to enter into any relationship makes treatment or even education impossible.” (Bowlby 1955). Some infamous people with Attachment Disorder that did not get help in time: Saddam Hussein, Edgar Allen Poe, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Ted Bundy. One famous person with Attachment Disorder who did get help in time (in 1887!) and became one of the greatest humanitarians the US has ever produced is Helen Keller.

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
  • Lying about the obvious (‘crazy’ lying)
  • Stealing
  • 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
  • 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

Any of the following conditions occurring to a child during the first 36 months of life puts them at risk:

  • Unwanted pregnancy
  • Pre-birth exposure to trauma, drugs or alcohol
  • Abuse (physical, emotional, sexual)
  • Neglect (not answering the baby’s cries for help)
  • Separation from primary caregiver (i.e. illness or death of mother, or severe illness or hospitalization of the baby, or adoption)
  • On-going pain such as colic, hernia or many ear infections
  • Changing day cares or using providers who don’t do bonding
  • Moms with chronic depression
  • Several moves or placements (foster care, failed adoptions)
  • Caring for baby on a timed schedule or other self-centered parenting

I would read books by Nancy Thomas. She is GREAT and offers hope and potential healing.



New Member
So many of those symptoms describe my stepson to a T. That really is frightening and clearly I have some hard decisions to make. Thank you for the information!


Well-Known Member
You have my love, support and empathy. Few parents have to deal with this sort of behavior. No matter what the core cause is, it doesn't really matter. He is a "dangerous child." You have other kids. That is the difference between a regular difficult child who is problematic and difficult and a child who is dangerous. Dangerous children hurt others and can be a threat to the entire family.

Nobody, even me, likes to talk about kids who are too dangerous to live at home or who are doomed from an early age. Everyone wants to think all children have hope. That was the spirit of my husband and me when we decided to deliberately adopt a child who was probably not going to ever get a home because of things beyond his control...mainly boys of color, who linger in foster care in a heartbreaking way. All of my kids are different races...that was no issue to us. And we had been experienced adoptive parents and knew that boys have a harder time getting adopted than girls. And the older you are, the harder it is. We just wanted to show him love and we did. It was not enough to even put a dent in his early wiring...and didn't help that his birthmother used drugs and alcohol while pregnant.

Although it was easy to love this boy, because he was so sweet to every adult he met and he really poured it on to us, we had no trouble calling CPS and asking them to take him away when we found out he had been sexual to our two youngest children. That was a line we drew in the sand...even a biological or child adopted at birth would have had to live elsewhere if he had done that to our other children. And he never spoke of sex to us or even acted like he thought about sex. We thought of him as sort of asexual or sexually immature. All the time he was holding a knife to my other kids making them have sex. And, yes, they were about four and six years old. At the time we also had a seven year old foster boy who was a lovebug and he was made to act out sexually as well. He is now happily adopted, thank goodness.

There are times when a child's behavior is a threat to the rest of the family. That's when the parents have to choose between trying to help the dangerous child (as I call them) and the rest. We made a decision that some would probably think was very mean. We threw the offender out, feeling that he was doing so many dangerous and horrible things that it was not worth it to risk our other children any further. After hearing about the sexual abuse, neither hubby nor I were in the frame of mind to be able to be a decent parent to him, even if he lived away from us, so we relinquished our rights. Legally, it took a while for that to happen and we had to pay child support until he was tried in court and found guilty of sexual assault.

He is on the streets today at age twenty-two. He has married and has two little girls. I saw it on FB. Have no idea why I even checked. Curiousity, I guess and was shocked to see he even had an account. I think about those two little girls all the time and know what is in store for them, but this young man is so dangerous that establishing contact, if he'd even allow it, would be a risk to all of us, even though I'd love to help the babies and tell the wife everything. I doubt she knows. But it's too risky. I would not be surprised if he were on the news for murder one day. I never want to see him again.

He still has our last nane. I'm surprised he didn't change it back. He was not attached to us. In residential treatment, when asked if he missed us, he said, "I miss the money and the toys. That's all."

I hope he has changed, but in my heart...well, without intensive help, he can't be ok.

My prayers are with you. Support is there whatever you decide to do.


Well-Known Member
Certainly this boy is dangerous and you are completely right to keep your little ones away. Dad should take over raising his child, but he needs to get him help. This child seems damaged beyond what a traditional household can handle. I think residential treatment centers will be the o lyrics way to raise him.

sent from mobile phone


New Member
I wrote my husband a letter that will go out today about my concerns. Thank you for all your input. Hopefully I can get my husband on board with putting him in an Residential Treatment Center (RTC) for awhile. If not, I will probably be back here making another post asking advice on coping techniques. I talked to his grandmother yesterday and his cruelty to animals has escalated, as well as his unusual bathroom habits. I hope something can be done to improve his behavior before my husband comes home in December. He has pretty much said that an Residential Treatment Center (RTC) is out of the question. I am at a loss here. I know he wants to be with his son but he doesn't seem to realize what a danger this child is to our other children. I would hate to have something tragic to happen to make him realize that this child has issues beyond what he and I can handle at home. I guess only time will tell but if it is offered for him to be in an Residential Treatment Center (RTC) I hope the grandparents allow him to go. Thank you guys for your input :)


Well-Known Member
I have not walked in your shoes and you have my deepest sympathy. Although I don't have personal experience I am going to offer some advice based on over fifty years of parenting, grandparenting AND actively working with families in crisis via the GAL system. Does that mean that I am always 100% right? Heck, no! My intentions are totally caring and pure in nature.

I have no doubt that your husband has some fine characteristics and you envision spending your life with him and your two children as a family unit. My input to you is this. Your husband can not control his child as the issues involved are very serious and long established. It would be foolhardy AND dangerous to have your SS in your home with vulnerable youngsters.

Chances are that your husband really wants "another chance" at parenting his son. Based on his Mother's tolerance for truly dangerous and abnormal behavior, I doubt your husband has a reality based concept of how bad things can get. He wants to change things for the better. Statistics strongly suggest that is not possible.

Sadly, and with caring regret, I believe you need to draw a line in the sand before your husband comes home. You have to protect your little children...period. They will have a chance for happiness without their Daddy in their home. You have to make a choice that is painful but I believe clear. Don't entertain the idea that your husband will be able to accomplish the impossible. If your SS is even a visitor in your home...your children will be in danger. It is not worth taking that chance. There are families who live in separate homes for the protection of younger children. It is not what anyone dreams of for their future but it is possible IF there are set in stone agreed upon rules.

I'm sorry and will keep you in my prayers. Hugs DDD


Well-Known Member
I agree with DDD. His behavior will not change. He will be a danger to your little ones. Could even end up like it did with us and, trust me, he will be good at hiding it and scaring them into silence.

I would take the younger kids and leave before I'd let this child live with them. Sadly, this will be a choice between your husband's guilt and denial and your children's safety. If he does something really dangerous in your custody, to your own younger kids or to a child even in the neighborhood or in school, CPS could step in and threaten to take your other children away from you because of him or even because of lies he tells about you abusing him.

Maybe if you leave with the litltle ones, husband will come to his senses. If not, at least you saved your younger ones from whatever he may do. Cruelty to animals is a huge danger signal for psychopathy. And, yes, children can exhibit it. And they like to pick on the vulnerable...the elderly and the very young and animals. Your husband can not change him. And your little ones will be terrified of him. You can not discipline or control a child who is as big and old as he is and who obviously has no conscience. He will control your entire family. You won't be able to change his behavior. He will change yours. And the older and bigger he gets, the more of a danger he will be to all of you. I beg you not to do this.

I told you my story. I also know of a well meaning family who fostered an eight year old who exhibited the same sort of symptoms as our kids. He burned their house down. While it was burning, he turned to her and said, "Hey, can we go to McDonalds?" He had no idea at the severity at what he had done and she actually had to be pulled off of him as she tried to choke him. That's what living with that kind of insanity can do to a normal, loving human being. She heard about him when he was sixteen...still the same. When he talks about how he burned their house down, he thinks it's very funny and does not "get" how serious it was.

They had to live in a hotel for several months. Obviously, they told the agency to take the child somewhere else. He killed a few animals in that fire and she was lucky she had been able to save her grandchildren.

They don't know how he got ahold of a lighter as they hid them all from him. When asked, he was vague, but appears he stole it from a store. BEWARE!

There is no sane way to cope with this behavior, living with this sort of craziness. You will have to turn your house into your own Residential Treatment Center (RTC) with monitors in every room and alarms on doors so he can't wander at night and that may not be enough. You need to make 100% sure he is never alone with either child, even in the dead of night. You will be living like a prisoner in your home. If you have any animals, even just a hamster, rehome it. He will probably harm or kill it. Make sure your fire alarms work well and have a fire plan. What he is doing in grandma's home he will do in yours. If he needs to, he will sneak, but he will do it and as he gets older, he will escalate.

Think very hard and love and luck to you.
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Hi AshleyM.,

Just wanted to add a voice of agreement with what others have already said--you are correct to be concerned. There is misbehavior and then there is danger. The behavior you are talking about requires serious intervention now. Does the school know about the severity of his behavior at home? I would consider calling CPS now so you start making a paper trail at least--and maybe they will be helpful--but you need to document these behaviors. When my difficult child was going through his most violent phase I tired to get CPS involved (they had already been involved once before over his truancy)--it didn't really work--they told me that they could only investigate *me*--but the problem was that *I* was the one who wasn't safe at home. When I tried the domestic violence agency that had helped me with my ex, they said, about my kid, "but he's you're kid!" and dismissed me. This is to say that in my experience it can be difficult for people to understand--don't let their lack of understanding talk you into a situation you know isn't safe. In the end it was the domestic violence cops who were most beneficial. The point is- you may have to look for help in a number of difference places and it's likely that it will be difficult to get the danger across, but I'd start now- *before* your husband gets out. I'd even think of calling adult protective services-- he is putting his grandmother at risk-- fire setting is extremely dangerous. The one thing that you can control is your behavior. I'd start drawing clear lines now. There's no negotiating with danger. When you husband gets out I can imagine the pressure increasing, so if you have already been doing the behaviors of identifying your ss as in need of desperate help, those won't have to be new behavior that you need to start in the midst of other changes and pressures that are sure to be present at his release.

My 2 cents.


New Member
Thank you to everyone for your insight. The thought of living with my stepson again makes me feel like I've been punched in the stomach. I just know something is going to go horribly wrong if we try that again. I didn't think I was overreacting but the validation is helpful. Thanks


Im so sorry your going through this and I couldnt even imagine what your going through. But I also agree you need to protect your kids and you. Your husband means well, and is wonderful to hear he loves him but he has to understand how troubled his son is. Its hard for a parent to admit it, but everyone has to be helped and safe. I am praying for you and your family.


Well-Known Member
Quite apart from the need of other adults and children to be protected from this child, he himself obviously needs help. I cannot believe that an 8 year old cannot be helped, that his whole life is now set in stone, however disturbed. Professionals clearly need to be involved and to know what is happening with him. I am simply not qualified to say anything beyond that but we most not overlook the fact that this child is deeply troubled and expressing a profound suffering. I am not thereby saying that others do not have the right to be protected from his destructive actions.


Well-Known Member
Sure he needs help and, if his parents are very diligent about getting him the best help, maybe he will improve.

But a child can get help without living at home around other kids. And a child can be too dangerous to live with other people. Sadly, it is true that even some children can not live around other people because they are dangerous. It happened to me and other people too.

There is residential treatment, out of home boarding schools, and foster care. The younger two do need protection. First and foremost, in my opinion, they need to be considered. They are options for getting this child help that do not require him to be with other children in a family or where a treatment center can watch him 24/7...and in his anger and rage, he needs to be protected from himself as much as others need to be protected from him. It is hard to imagine a dangerous child unless one has lived with one...I know this as I have had this experience. If our child had not confessed to his sexual abuse and killing of the dogs and other horrors, he could have turned it around and said WE did it. Then CPS could have taken our younger two kids out of the home while WE were investigated.

We were lucky that this kid at least admitted to what he did or the end result could have been the termination of our family.
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New Member
He did get the letter and we have talked about it some more. He understands why I am concerned and he agrees that his son needs to be kept away from our two babies. I don’t think he is fully aware of how out of control his son’s behavior has gotten since he’s been in jail because he’s not there to see it. His son doesn’t act out around him anywhere near as badly as he does other people so he doesn’t see things in the same light that I do. His son would never pick on his great-grandmother if my husband was around but I’ve seen him do it. I know how violent and destructive he can get. We definitely are going to keep discussing the issue until we find a solution that I am comfortable with. My only concern is keeping my two little babies safe and I will do that at all costs. I can’t imagine how my husband is feeling about all this but he seems sympathetic to how I’m feeling right now. I don’t think his son is a lost cause but I know he needs serious, professional help before I feel comfortable even living under the same roof as him. His son isn’t in counseling or anything yet and I hope that when he does, his behavior will improve. He is a very smart boy and he could have a lot of potential with the right tools I think, but until someone finds a way to get through to him, I am not going to allow him to be around my babies at all.


I am praying a great facility will be in his future to get him on the right track. I think that would be best for him, but again, I am not a professional but am praying that everything continues to get better. Im glad your husband is understanding of your concerns :)