Stepfather and twelve-year-old stepson hate each other.
Similar to a question which has already been posed and posted here, I am the mother of a twelve-year-old boy. I am remarried and we have an eleven-month-old baby. My older son got along with my new husband quite well before we were married, especially since we were friends and coworkers before we became romantically involved. The friendship/coworker relationship began when my son was seven, soon after his father and I split up. My son often got involved in our work and learned much from the man who would become my husband.
All that, of course and not unexpectedly, changed when we married. Since then, we have had problems in school, problems with altercations on the school bus, homework problems, and discipline at home problems.
Here is the difference from the already posted question. We sought help, first a year and a half ago, from a child therapist. She saw our son and me, and sometimes my husband, too, for eight weeks, and declared us graduated. That was in the middle of sixth grade. It took from the second report period of seventh grade through to the end of seventh grade to get his grades and his work back up to his potential and his own good standards. He got horrendous grades and citizenship reports until the last two report periods of this past year. Now he should be proud of himself.
In the interim, though, we sought help from another therapist, one in whom initially I had more confidence -- I sought him not through the insurance company, but on my own through referrals. Unfortunately, most of the initial referrals were booked with patients and we were getting pretty far down on the list as we came to this one, but still he inspired initial confidence.
My husband and my son and I (and the baby, who was still nursing every two hours) started going in May (a year plus after the first therapist) and are still going. My son wants to stop going. I want my son to be better adjusted than he is, and don't know how else to accomplish this. His biological father is remarried and about to become a father again. The therapist has been only seeing my son for quite a number of weeks -- generally he kicks me out (although he'll listen to me for a few minutes for an update). My husband quit going months ago because he has no faith in him. My husband wants the therapist to "fix" my son. He has no experience with teenagers or with parenting prior to now. Within the past year or so the following has occurred: husband and I got married; we had baby; son raised his grades and school performance; I got laid off/quit when six months pregnant; my husband quit job at same time; my husband has new job; I became stay-at-home-mom; baby rarely naps and always eats, although this is finally mitigating now; son's stepmother became pregnant; son's father moved houses twice, which was in addition to the house where he'd moved when he moved from the house where we live now; stepfather and I are planning to build a new house soon; stepfather became a new father in all practicality twice; and son essentially became a teenager, at least in attitude if not in chronology. Son swears at me, yells at me, treats both me and husband quite poorly (although he can be nice intermittently) and "hates" it here. He behaves better at his father's house, where he goes only for weekends and "fun." (Wait until their baby comes along!) Son refuses to concentrate enough to do simple things like flush the toilet, wash hands, pick up things that are hazardous to baby, pick up his things period, turn off lights, clean up after himself. He is teenagerly pre-occupied with everything else, I guess. Most of all, the one new rule instituted by my husband is that we take off our shoes in the house, especially with the baby. I am having trouble learning to do this, too, especially since my whole job is now based in the house and it feels like I'm not at work if I have slippers on all day.
Stepfather has trouble containing himself when pushed to the limit (for instance, son yells and tantrums through the house for an hour and a half, as if to tempt us from our avowed calmness in the face of his ranting) and stepfather breaks and grabs son by the shoulders and forces him into a chair, shouting at him. I am in another room nursing baby and shouting "don't touch him, don't touch him." This is the third, I think, time stepfather has grabbed son. He refuses to adjust to the rule that one cannot any longer touch children in disciplining, as his parents did. And he does not understand that this does not do anything but push him further away and endanger us to being accused of "abuse" because son is "afraid" of him and son's father works for Children & Youth Services.
I find myself yelling too often, frustrated, short-tempered, because the least little thing I say sets my son off. He throws things around in the house (and we are planning to sell the house soon and I keep trying to fix it up and he keeps breaking it -- one part of plaster I've fixed twice now and he broke it again by kicking at a door in anger), has tantrums worse than when he was a toddler, exaggerates injuries (stubs his toe and writhes on the floor in pain), and will not talk to us in a civil manner most of the time. He feels we are "bad" parents and his father is "good."
Recently, in light of my shortness of temper due to my constantly seeming to have to choose between my husband and my son when they are both here (son's at his dad's on weekends), my son's therapist has "agreed" with my son that I "need therapy more than he does." I find this so inappropriate for the therapist to have even discussed with him, much less to have agreed with him, that I am furious! (I don't think my son lied about his saying something that meant that, but I didn't hear it from therapist.) My son does not want to keep seeing him because he "bores him with talking" and "puts him to sleep." There are no child therapists left to be seen. In fact, there is a problem in that most of them require you to take the child out of school (the first one we saw did that, and back then the biggest problem was IN school, and he had to miss it to attend). I will be going back to work soon, and will not be able to make these late afternoon appointments, anyway.
The big, overall, major, horrible question is what do we do?
Any and all advice is welcome. Thank you very much.
As you have noted, the problems are not confined only to your son and the relationship yu and your husband have with him. The strains between you and your husband are also part of the equation. At the very least, seek help for yourself and your marriage, and in the process you can obtain help in relation to parenting and how you should respond to the daily stresors.
In relation to your son and his behavior, his involvement with some professional help will be important, but you must have the opportunity to collaborate with the therapist. At your son's age, he does require some private time with the therapist, but a piece of the work should be devoted to planning around how to handle the behavior. It sounds, and this could be presumptuous, that you and your husband need more of a systematic plan to address some of the basic, recurrent problematic behaviors. To establish such a plan would be a sensible goal of therapy.
It also sounds like you were more comfortable, apart from the logistics, with the former therapist. Perhaps you should return to her, or at least consider either making a change or speaking with the current therapist, in a separate meeting, about your concerns. Be careful not to take at face value what a child reports - speak with the therapist yourself. If you don't have confidence in the therapy, it is not going to be helpful.
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