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Frustrated Stepmom to an 11 year old boy
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Frustrated Stepmom to an 11 year old boy

I have an 11 year old stepson. He does well academically and in the classroom, but home is a whole other ball game. We are experiencing screaming, crying, throwing himself down kind of tantrums. These occur when he doesn't get his way or if we make a suggestion that he doesn't care for. We have always had some behavior problems with him and have tried reward systems and I pushed to have him tested. We received a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder with recommendations for counseling and medicaton. Neither bio parent has done anything! He cannot distinguish between reality and fantasy, is horribly rude to me and his sister (4 years old), and is socially delayed. He does not express gratitude towards anyone and often thinks its not enough. I am a special education teacher and deal with similar kiddos daily. His parents have told me that I know nothing about kids. I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. I feel like I am the only one fighting for this kid. Our job as parents is to make them well rounded and I feel that this is not happening for him. I have suggested counseling so he would at least get coping skills, but my husband thinks it's a waste of time. The mother doesn't want to fight with him, so she just allows the bad behavior. Maybe, my expectations are too high, but if you are living with me the majority of the time, rules have to be followed and consequences enforced, right? We don't ask much from this child, but I am truly over it. I want a happy, cohesive household! Any advice is truly appreciated!
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This is not your son. He is your husband's responsibility. As a stepmother you are not in a good position to help. You can advise the father - but that's about the best you can do.

(You don't mention for how long he has been your stepson.)
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I agree with PassinThru.  It is a minefield for a stepparent to set rules and enforce consequences.  The only source of power a stepparent has is not authoritative power or even coercive power but reverent power, in other words, making the kid like you so much that he is glad to do things you ask, and only worries about disappointing you.  It takes a lot of supportive work to get to a reverent-power position with someone, and it doesn't sound like you're there; I'm sorry.
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I guess what I find really interesting is that the boy's father---  YOUR husband---  also is not doing his job as a parent and yet is married to a special education teacher that is trying to help this child.  This would make me VERY concerned about the man I married if i were in your shoes.  The very last part is your getting to the end of the rope but up until that point, you speak of neglectful and yes, I said neglectful parents.  This would not give me the warm and fuzzies toward my spouse and if you didn't have a child with him, I'd tell you not to have kids with him as he gets a fail as a parent thus far in my opinion.  

Typically, I would say that a step parent who has the right intentions in mind such as helping a child---  not just being irritated with someone but rather trying to help them--  they should work behind the scenes with the bio parent to come up with ways to address things especially when someone is trained to deal with various issues that kids have.  It is most unfortunate that your husband will not work with you for the benefit of his child.  

I would encourage you to see this as much of a marital issue as anything else.  

One other thought is that my son has sensory integration disorder and has overlapping anxiety.  he can be very extreme with his reactions to things as the nervou system/sensory system is not regulated.  It's a real thing and calming himself down once upset is very difficult for him.  We have strategies in place.  Predicting what triggers there are is important.  Then have a game plan ahead of time.  A cool down spot is important always to have for a volatile child.  this way they can get away from the crowd and it helps them socially to do this.  Then I'd have things like bubble gum to quickly start chewing, deep pressure such as giving hmself a hug/squeeze and then something to give calming input such as wall push ups.  If he can be trained to do these things to calm himself, it will help.  Also a 'walk but don't talk' rule can be put in place where no one talks to him and he talks to no one while he walks when upset.  

I really believe that most kids do not want to lose control.

obvioulsy the idea of giving choices is helpful.  Lots and lots of little choices all day long helps with compliance and agreeableness.  Then when there can be no choice----  it is less of a big deal because in so many ways all day long, the boy will get his way (oj or apple juice?, bed time now or in 5 minutes?)  

If you've never heard of the mood thermometer, I'd be happy to tell you about it----  just let me know.  We've had success with this.

I think overall, keeping the nervous system calm be it from anything --  add, sensory, anxiety, etc.--  it is very helpful to regulate it with physical activity.  Swimming is the perfect combo of deep pressure and heavy muscle work.  Other things you can do at home are to have him lay face first and run a big exercise ball up and down him with pressure.  This is VERY calming to the nervous system.

Anyway, just some ideas to work around his cruddy parents.  good luck
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I do think you have some right to regulate his behavior and enforce rules if he is in your house. You are an adult and therefore have some level of authority. No, you cannot make the decision to send him to counseling or other major decisions, but you do have a say in how he acts in your house. Just like if my daughter has a friend over I have certain expectations out of them.

Like specialmom I am disturbed over the fact that your husband thinks you know nothing about children even though you have made a career out of it. Doesn't he respect your experience? That would frustrate me. Is it also possible that he is having some trouble adjusting to living between 2 homes? Sometimes children have trouble processing this and do not know how to express their feelings. I say this because he is acting fine at school, but not at home. This seems to indicate that something is wrong at home. Try talking to his parents about his behavior from that approach and see if he can get counseling for how to live in a blended family. Also, I do hope that all discussion or arguments are done when he is not around. I hope you are able to figure something out!
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Just as a doctor should never operate on one of his family, a psychologist should not treat the emotional problems of a family member. Why? He is too close and involved to be objective. As difficult as it is, she should stand back. As to her right to establish rules in her own household, theoretically you are correct. But to enforce those rules is to further estrange her stepson (and her husband?).

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However, passinthru, she is trained to identify situations in which interevention would be helpful.  Actually, if I have a specialty in a particular area, I would certainly utilize my own knowledge with my own children.  A psychologist would teach their child techniques to self soothe if they saw that their own child had difficulty with that.  

I do think that I would address all concerns with the husband as he is at the heart of the problem and not the son in that he is neglecting his duties to help this child get help.  

wishing the poster luck.  
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1006035_tn?1391310794
Sometimes you have to lay down the law even if it makes people angry. Otherwise they will just walk right over you, take advantage of you, and make you miserable. Adults should be authority figures first and friends second to children.

I go to all of my daughter's therapy sessions to add a personal objective. I know my daughter better than anyone and contribute a ton to each session. I also learn from them what I can do at home. It is nice and very important to get an objective opinion, but it's not the main reason people are successful.

It seems like the OR is genuinely concerned and I truly hope she finds an answer to her problem.
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I'm a soon to be stepmother of a 2 year old little boy. The "terrible two's" definitely hit him hard. He screams just to scream, hits, pinches, bites and throws stuff. Granted, yes, his behavior can/will be changed since he's so young. But maybe your stepson has some resentment due to the marriage? I'm a stepchild myself and when my mom remarried, I had my tantrums and whatnot, but I eventually got over it (I was 8 when my mom remarried).

Yes, you have the right to enforce your household rules on him (and anyone else who comes into your house). But what's going to throw your stepson off is the structure at house and the lack of said structure at his mothers house. Try distracting him? I'm a nanny for a 14 year old autistic boy who will have tantrums when he doesn't get his way or if he tries to "trick" me into letting him do something and I catch him in a lie. And to distract him for getting agitated easily and whatnot, we usually play video games or watch movies.

You might be able to try this next time your stepson comes over. After he gets settled in. Sit down with him (with your husband) and tell him that there are new rules that are to be followed (no hitting/pinching/biting, no screaming *calmly say what's wrong/what you need*, etc). Then tell him what would happen if he didn't follow said rules (first a warning, second a time out in an open area *such as a hallway or sitting at the kitchen table* to let them think and calm down, etc).

And to anyone else who has read this, yes I use these rules with children that I babysit. Of course I tell the parents my disciplinary techniques. And all of them have agreed to my techniques and even started using it.
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I appreciate everyone's input on this!! Since posting, I have gone to my husbnad in a calm, seemingly unstressed, friendly manner to discuss my concerns. He is still not as responsive as I would like. I have been a stepmother to this kiddo since age 7 after his parents had been divorced 3+ years. I feel like my hands are tied, but I have started journaling the the behaviors in hopes to see if a pattern arises. There is a definite issue with the transitioning from home to home and he has expressed that. However, he still has an ideation that his parents will get back together. In his mind, it would be great if his mom and dad remarried and his stepfather and I got married and that way he would still have everyone. This, obviously, is NOT going to happen. I believe we tend to raise our children similar to the way we were raised if it was a positive experience, which my upbringing most certainly was. My mom and dad were very clear of their expectations, explained the consequences, and praised for positives. This is how I do things. I love to praise my children! Nothing makes me happier and they get to  feel a sense of pride in themselves. That is what makes me a good mom. Again, I appreciate everyone and needless to say, I will keep fighting for him!!!!
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973741_tn?1342346373
I think one thing you will really need to do is see that this boy is not like your children or you.  He may have more going on as you've seen yourself and expressed here. Therefore, some of your traditional ideas of parenting may not work on him.  I'd encourage you to explore handling things differently.  I listed some suggestions above that have been very helpful for my 'out of the box' and at times difficult child.  I would utilize methods you've learned in dealing with children with disabilities in your home with this boy.  He can't be lumped into the pack of other kids you raise as he's different.  An individual approach to him is critical.  Again, I think his father is neglectful and raising kids with him would greatly concern me.  he's not doing a great job with this kid as he will not seek necessary intervention to help him.  But you can practice intervention techniques at home yourself.  good luck
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One of my children has, in fact, that training. She is marvelous with her little patients, but shows little expertise with her own. They can manipulate her from dawn to dusk.
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973741_tn?1342346373
Let's stick to trying to help the poster.  
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That is exactly my intension. You and I have different experiences. That might well be helpful to the poster.
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