Seeking advice/agreement about 9 yo step-daughter

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by CRob, Sep 17, 2011.

  1. CRob

    CRob New Member

    Good morning everyone!

    I am hoping someone from this forum, with more experience or knowledge than I, may be able to help my wife and I. Just to give a little background on the situation. We have been together for about 6 years and she has two children (9 and 7) and we have a 1 year old together. Our daughter has been quite defiant and--I'm ashamed to say, extremely self-centered. While we have known for several years now that there was something wrong we always just attributed it to the fact that her biological father was abusive and has decided to not come around her even though he was granted 50/50 custody.

    I am currently a student in a local university (even though I am 28) and recently used the library to use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association to try and find out what may be the cause. From what I have come to think, along with her mother, is that she is suffering from ODD (if not some other things that can be co-disorders). Trust me when I say that I have used the most objective ratings I could possibly muster when I was working through the common symptoms list. They are all there, from the frequent temper tantrums (that are continually getting worse) to the spiteful attitude. Since she is in school her vocabulary for swear words has dramatically increased and we are the target of those insults.

    My wife and I strongly agree that much of this can be attributed to the difficult family life before as well as the way the child's grandmother treats her. The grandmother states she acts like this because she is not given enough attention, although no matter how much attention, praise, love, etc once we ask her to do something she doesn't want to do, things blow up. By accepting these temper tantrums early I feel we have only cemented this type of behavior within the child and I feel that no matter what we try and do now, it won't get better any time soon.

    So, since I have taken the long winded approach to my question, here goes. With a grandmother who consistently over-steps her bounds and yields to the child's EVERY demand, who doesn't think there is a problem with our daughter, how do we or should we even, schedule a meeting with a pediatric psychiatrist as a whole family (to include the grandmother who whole-heartedly disagrees with our findings/opinions)? Are we over analyzing this and just frustrated with a spoiled child or does she actually suffer from ODD (or even something else)?

    Please help.

  2. TeDo

    TeDo Guest

    You have come to the right place. I think you need to put away the DSM and replace it with The Explosive Child as well as What The Explosive Child Is Trying To Tell You. I would also have her evaluated (without grandma) by a neuropsychologist. If that isn't feasible, or at least in the meantime, get her to a Child Psychiatrist. Get the ball moving in the right directlion before it gets out of control.

    Now, the dreaded questions (sorry). Do you notice any patterns in what happens RIGHT BEFORE the behavior? How does she do with changes in routine or last minute changes in plans? Is she in school? Does she have any difficulties there? Does the word "no" in itself trigger behaviors? Did she meet all her developmental milestones ON TIME? Does anyone on either side of her family tree have diagnosed or suspected but undiagnosed mental health issues?

    As for grandma, IGNORE her. I have lived with my mother telling me that there is nothing wrong with my son except that I baby him so that's why he is the way he is. When I told her about the diagnosis, she told me I was lying and she wanted to hear it from difficult child's psychiatrist. But, when I was in therapy because of her, she called my psychiatrist and therapist quacks when they began questioning HER about her behavior. I drew the line when she undermined me by disciplining my difficult child in an unproductive manner right in front of me. I avoid her as much as I can (1x month) even though she is their only grandparent and we live in the same small town. I am the parent of MY children and I will raise them as I see fit and her opinions are only her opinions. I have nothing to prove to her.

    Welcome to our "family". You will learn a lot and get lots of advice ad support here.
  3. CRob

    CRob New Member

    TeDo, thanks for the reply. I was reading through various threads here and was working on giving some example scenarios (which have recently happened) to demonstrate the various issues we are experiencing. But before I do that, on to your questions:

    Do you notice any patterns in what happens RIGHT BEFORE the behavior?
    There really is not a pattern, or indication that an outburst is about to occur. The outbursts-temper tantrums-normally occur when she is told to do something (from picking up her room, doing her homework, brushing her hair, etc) if she does not want to. It all boils down to one simple thing, she doesn't feel responsible for anything and doesn't want to be held accountable for her actions. When told to do something she doesn't want to do, she blows up and results to name calling.

    How does she do with changes in routine or last minute changes in plans?
    It really all depends on what we were planning on doing, or what the changes result in. If we are going somewhere for her (a birthday gift pick-up, a park, etc) and something comes up, she feels as though we are being "mean" to her and begins to become aggressive (both verbally and physically).

    Now, if we are out doing errands, or something that is not "benefiting" her, then changes in routine, or schedule doesn't really matter.

    Is she in school? Does she have any difficulties there?
    She is in school, third grade. She has the capacity and intelligence to get straight A's. She is super bright (when she wants to be). Reads at a 5th grade level, and is just extremely smart. Now the negative, it all boils down to when she wants to. We just had a parent teacher conference and the only thing that the teacher brought up was her not applying herself to her studies. She knows the math, but since it is challenging, she just doodles in class. Sometimes she'll "mozy" around and take her time to get a task accomplished, the teacher mentioned that sometimes she just does things at her own pace. But compared to other children her own age, at school, aside from math, she is not much different than her peers.

    Does the word "no" in itself trigger behaviors?
    This is exactly it. You cannot tell her no. I firmly believe that because of the divorce at her young age, we use to give in to her tantrums just to appease her because we understood that the divorce hurt her, she was too young to understand what was going on. But, it has now come to the level of being self-centered. Everything revolves around her! If her brother's teacher gives him a candy for being good in school, she feels as though WE should get HER something. When she is told, for whatever reason, her immediate response is "you're stupid" among other expletives that she has learned in school. When told she is being punished for something it is we're being mean to her. I tell her to go to her room, as a time out, and now I'm hurting her. Asked how I'm hurting her, she is saying it is because I'm punishing her. She'll jump on the ground and beg and plead "just one more chance, I'm sorry..." Which, when greeted with a no, and an instruction that the punishment doesn't begin until she stops acting like that, it instantly becomes WAR.

    Did she meet all her developmental milestones ON TIME?


    Does anyone on either side of her family tree have diagnosed or suspected but undiagnosed mental health issues?
    Her mother suffers from depression and PTSD from a major car accident just before our daughter was born. While I think we've worked on it together, and gotten her some improvement, there are still signs. I know that on her mother's side of the family there is some dementia and alzheimers, but nothing else mentally. Father's side of the family, well...I can not objectively make some assumptions, I truly think that you have to have MAJOR mental issues to turn your back on your children. Even though what we are dealing with with our daughter, and her not even being my biological daughter - which has resulted in a major division between my wife and I - I could not even begin to think about leaving muchless not ever seeing them again.

    The grandmother is a major issue. Because we have been working on sticking to discipline, setting clear and understandable expectations, the argumentative initially was getting better, until she realized grandma wouldn't even listen to the "actual" account of the incident and immediately explodes on us for "mistreating" her. For example, last night our daughter would not come inside from playing after being repeatedly told to come inside for dinner. An explosive episode ensued and as a result of her defiant behavior and abusive languages, she lost her television for the night. When grandma called and she spoke with our daughter, a huge argument ensued and the defiant behavior just exploded. Nothing we told tell her to do. She just had such a vindictive look in her eyes, as though she knew she held the trump card. The grandmother informed us that "bad things happen to people who do what we did" and that taking the television away was quite extreme.

    I come from a family where my father left when I was 5, I still remember him leaving and the hurt my mother went through. Although they got back together a couple years later, our relationship was forever ruined. I have not spoken to my parents in over a year. I understand she is hurting, I understand that children have a difficult time with understanding their emotions, and I (as well as my wife) understand that some of our missteps have only enhanced the defiance. Yes I have looked into the DSM but I am the type of person who will not stop researching something until I find out all about it. I am about to leave and pick up The Explosive Child as our local Books-A-Million has it on hold for me. We are just looking for agreement from others prior to undertaking a course of action especially when the grandmother has informed us that we are completely off base and that all we want to do is "dope" the child up. We DON'T is the thing. I rarely, if ever, take any sort of medicine, for any reason. That is just how I was raised. We truly believe that we need to develop an action plan in order to combat the issues at hand and we feel that it may have worsened to a degree that requires additional outside help.
  4. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    You are wise to seek outside help.
    While you're in the process... the book is a good one, too. It will help you wrap your head around an alternative view-point, one that many of us have found helpful.

    ODD "fits" all kinds of kids, but it isn't a useful diagnosis, most of the time. There are SO many other things that can be going on, some of them very subtle. She may be dealing with very real issues that you do not see at this point. Anything from the effects of her past, to hidden learning disabilities, among other things. But, there will likely be one or more things going on that are at the root of the behavior. Finding those will be key to getting the right interventions, accommodations - and yes, if necessary, medications.

  5. TeDo

    TeDo Guest

    Grandma sounds just like my mother. You may need to "limit" contact with grandma for a little while. Either that or tell her that she really needs to keep her opinions to herself and if she can't do that and contact with her continues to cause difficult child to act worse, you will eliminate contact altogether. Right now, Grandma is only going to "undo" everything you do. Since she is narrow-minded and opinionated and verbalizes all this, she is going to confuse your poor daughter. You need an ally, not an adversary and your daughter needs consistency, not an enabler that encourages the behavior. Not contact would be better than that.

    Everything you are describing about your daughter is a lot of the stuff I dealt with from my son. He officially carried the ODD diagnosis for 4 years only to find out he wasn't being oppositional or defiant intentionally. He was actually on the autism spectrum. Everything about the way he was treated when the diagnosis was ODD was extremely counterproductive. I (and the school) ended up causing more harm than good. I have changed the way I "teach" difficult child instead of punishing. I can't teach if I don't know WHY something is happening. I hope you keep an open mind when you read the book. IT WORKS! If it weren't for reading that book, I never would have started digging again for an "explanation" for his behavior. We never would have found the REAL reason for it.
  6. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Just a quick response since I am work. First, welcome to the Board. Glad you found us...sorry you had to. Have you considered having a neuro/psychological examination done? Many of us are advocates for this type of testing because often (not always, of course) the 'true" picture of the child is identified which makes it much easier to know what disorders you are dealing with and the best way to handle them.

    Sorry to be so brief. DDD
  7. keista

    keista New Member

    Welcome to the board!

    I don't think you are over analyzing. in my opinion, and that of many of this board's members, ODD isn't a *real* diagnosis. It's a cluster of behaviors that can be identified. Since humans LOVE labels, they made a label for it. Problem is, that cluster of behaviors called ODD can occur as a result of other disorders. If you find a standard "treatment" for ODD, it will only work if that "treatment" works for whatever is causing the ODD. As you read, there can (usually are) be many co-morbid disorders ranging from ineffective parenting or mild depression to bipolar or schizophrenia.

    Think of ODD as bleeding. You are bleeding. Yeah, OK, you know you have to stop that. But WHY are you bleeding? Paper cut? Scrape on the sidewalk? Sliced your finger with a knife? Stab wound? Gun shot? Ulcers? Each of these bleeds will require a different treatment. So will ODD depending on what is causing it.

    Although the grandmother does not belong in your child rearing program, especially if she over steps her bounds in ways that you and wife do not approve of, I have to say that she IS VERY perceptive. That incessant need for attention, in my opinion is a 'symptom'. DD1 used to be the same way (still sometimes gets into that mode) When expressing my frustrations to ppl about her I would declare that if I did nothing else and gave all my time and attention to her, she would still be needing MORE. There just was not enough time and attention to give to this child.

    Specifically how much grandmother would be involved in any psychiatrist or therapist sessions depends on where she lives and how much contact she has with this child. If she lives with you, that makes her part of the 'family unit' so she needs to be in the loop and ALL adults need to be on the same page. If she lives elsewhere, but babysits often, then she needs to be involved in some therapist session, but not necessarily involved with everything.

    And regarding abusive biodad. Yes, that history and current abandonment may be fueling tantrums and outbursts, but is not necessarily the cause of them. However, those issues alone warrant the children being in therapy so they can sort out those emotions with a neutral party. Although I have told them they can talk to me about their father, they are reluctant to because they know it's emotional (was actually) for ME and they don't want to upset ME. Sweet kids, but that doesn't help THEM.

    Welcome again!