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8 year old step son extremely sensitive

My step son is 8 years old and he is the most sensitive child I have ever met. ( I have 3 other boys, so raising boys is nothing new) Whenever he is spoken to with any disipline, he cries. Whenever he doesn't get his way, he cries. When the other boys play with him, he says "it's too rough" and he cries. He feels the world and everyone in it is out   to get him.  He acts as if every time he is mistreated (intentional or not) it is bullying. The other boys are very tough and like to do boyish things, like wrestle or play tag, while he would be content with playing with dolls or dressing like a girl. We have talked to him about these differences, and he claims that he does not want to be a girl, he just feels beautiful wearing pink and dresses. I have no idea how to handle this situation. It is not something we encouraged, nor punish for. He has no control over his emotions, and never takes blame for anything, even when he is so clearly caught in the act. He portrays himself as a female both physically and emotionally. It is like always walking on egg shells with him. Please, some advise on how to toughen him up and help him to understand that not everything is aweful. Or ways to help us as parents deal with this type of situation
5 Responses
189897 tn?1441126518
COMMUNITY LEADER
You do not want to make an 8 year old tougher.  You do want him to be able to express his emotions without crying.  Crying is a learned response that he was able to use when he was younger and since he has not learned a better way - he still does it.  One way to deal with that is to not listen to him when he is crying.  Have him go to a quiet place where he can gather his thoughts and when he is able to talk without crying - then you not only listen to him, but help him with his problem.  You might also look into books that can help him express his emotions .... like "don't rant and rave on Wed.:the childrens anger control book."  It and others like it can be found here.  https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Rant-Rave-Wednesdays-Anger-Control/dp/0933849540/ref=pd_cp_14_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=MRQ3KJCKHAZS6QHRK37A

One problem is certainly that he is being bullied by his brothers.  He is only 8!  His brothers are what 10 and up?   If this were going on in the playground of my school, the brothers would be in deep trouble.  You do NOT allow this to go on.  There is a huge difference between what an 8 year old can put up with and what a 12 can.  I might even guess that the next youngest is one of the worse because he is paying back what his older brothers did to him.

I would talk to his school teachers and see if he has the same problems at school.  If he does not - then the problem lies at home and that is where the solution lies.

Not that it matters, but I am curious as to when you have a family of all boys, he has access to dolls and dresses?

It is also possible that acting girl like is his only defense against his brothers?  Point being that unless you are willing to arm him against them, they are the ones who need to back off.

As to the possibility of his sexual orientation which you seem to be much more worried about them being a punching bag...it will be what it will be.  Kids of this age go through all kinds of identity things.  It may pass or it may not.  It really doesn't matter, what does matter is that from your description - he seems to be in pain.  Once again, talking to his school teacher is very important.  If he does not show these problems at school, then you know where to work to help him.
1 Comments
Whoa, just reread the title.  This is your stepson?  And the other 3 boys are your own kids?   So this little guy is the newbie in the family?
973741 tn?1342342773
Argh, I feel for this little boy.  All kids are different and before he came to your house, he had a whole life that was perfectly fine for him. :)  

I agree that making him tougher to the extent he can tolerate his step brothers trying to wrestle him or put up with whatever other abuse (said with a grain of salt, but it probably DOES feel like abuse to him) they dole out is inappropriate.  How about some rules for your older boys?  That would be the route I take. It's socially unacceptable to do things to other kids that aren't open to it from touching them, their things, etc.  That is ill mannered of your older kids.  I'm raising two sons myself.  One doesn't like kids touching him.  That's just his personality.  He didn't want to wrestle or play around in a rough way.  So?  Just who he is so he set boundaries telling others to knock it off if they did that to him.  This kid has a right to NOT like what your sons are doing to him.  And you should see your sons as out of line for continuing it.  The phrase 'boys will be boys' is one that I find super annoying because ya, they will if no one steps in and teaches them appropriate behavior.  

Some kids do like dolls and what not.  My son . . . with a very macho dad . . .went to a toy store and picked out a Barbie (ballerina Barbie no less). My husband's eyes were wide but he kept his mouth shut.  My son took ballerina Barbie to the hardware store, to the family picnic, everywhere for a while.  He'd hold it and make her spin and dance.  We kept quiet.  So, he was into it.  lol  At 14, he's a guy in sports, with guy friends and no dolls or barbies around.  But if he did, it would just be who he is.  

It's difficult to blend families.  And this boy has had some trauma in his life of his parents breaking up.  He may cling to certain things or have trouble adjusting to this new arrangement.  I'd show him as much empathy as you can muster!  And watch your sons and keep them in line.  Your step son has entered territory as an outsider and your kids are the insiders.  that could be intimidating for an 8 year old.  

Agree that working on his responses to eliminate the over emotion of crying to express himself is a good idea.  It does work to say "I want to hear what you are upset about but you have to stop crying for me to understand and listen".  

Anyway, I hope it all goes peacefully and this boys dad is an advocate for him!  good luck
2 Comments
CThresher
yes, he is new... kind of. He has been with us for a year now. His mother did not want him (literally had us drive 1900 miles to pick him up) because of his many issues. my Boyfriend and I live in a different state, and finally got him a year ago to help him flourish and live a better life, but he is fighting it. I feel for him, I honestly do. My twins, who by the way are the same age as him, are having a difficult time accepting him into their new home, are still adjusting.  I also have a 3 year old son. They are in no way bullying him, and when they start playing "rough" games with him, we stop it. The only reason i used the term "toughen him up" is because even when the 3 year old goes up to him and "tags" him on the arm with is finger while they are playing, the new child will run up to me crying and "tattle" (for lack of better words) for being hit too hard, and then start crying, when in fact both adults were right there and saw that it was a mere tap. He seems to be consesently trying to get the other children in trouble, and he is doing this in school also. This was one of the issues he had while he was in the other school, which is the reason he was kicked out of 2 other schools before he came into our house. And while i seem to never stop disciplining my children for what they are "doing" to this child, my children are coming to me now saying "mom, why are we getting in trouble for things that we should not be getting in trouble for?" Such as they will play tag, and if they do not play by his rules (he never wants to be tagged, and they are running too fast for him) I understand these are such arguments of children, but when my children are now getting spoken to about EVERYTHING they do (even when they are trying to get him to play with them, because he claims he has no friends, so they are trying to include him in things they do) then that is not fair. I feel i have tried everything from disciplining (all of them) to letting it go. The non stop tattling is what is getting me. It seems he is trying to get everyone is trouble all the time, even in school, and i am so afraid that this little boy that i am now trying to raise, will be all alone when he grows up. I meant no disrespect when I said 'toughen him up". I just want all of our kids to get along. And the constant "he was looking at me funny" (while crying) is just getting overwhelming. There are comments on here stating my children are bullying him. how is making a silly face at this little boy bullying, when they are playing a game to see who can make the silliest face and just trying to include him? Please no negative comments, i am trying to help this boy make friends, and understand that not everyone is doing something to upset him, that sometimes goofing around, is just that.. goofing around. The only other thing i can think of is to seperate them, but isolating the children from him to appease him just seems the wrong way to go. Disciplining my children for behavior that does not warrant discipline, seems the wrong way to go
Hello again.  So, I do think you are trying to help.  I do.  

I'm just trying to think of things from this boys point of view.  Oh my gosh, can you imagine the pain of rejection by his own mother?  That's truly traumatic and emotionally devastating to a child.  And the instability he must feel with that. His world has had dramatic changes from his parents splitting, to being alone with mom (who, wow, to do that to her own child . . .painful to read), to moving to a new place and then trying to get used to a totally new environment with a completely different sense of normal that what he's known.  That's a lot for a little guy of 8!

He may not fully trust your crew yet for the method of which they play.  Does that make sense?  He's been shifted around and this is new. And he may feel like is a fish out of water.  (and he kind of is).  I have a little analogy.  I grew up in a quiet, small family.  I married a man that is one of 7 and has a loud, large family.  I semi dread family parties.  Not because I don't like the people but because I feel overwhelmed.  I go and sit in my corner.  People come over and talk to me. lol  You'd never find me in the middle of the action.  I'd never want to join into a family game where everyone seems to be having fun together but they are screaming and carrying on.  Lord no.  I want nothing to do with that.  But I'm a well adjusted, happy adult.  I just created a life that is more to my liking and quieter.  I don't feel like I'm missing out because I am not like them.  And I, again, like them as people.  But if I'm uncomfortable with the loudness, boisterousness of that group, I think I'm entitled to create my distance.  BUT, I have one sister in law that always points it out and says it's the family way and I should join in.  She IRKS me.  I'm like buzz off.  I'm me doing me.  

Could there not be a little more understanding for what this boy has been through and acceptance for who he is?  I just don't want him to now feel like AGAIN after a mom has dumped him that he's not good enough as he is.  He MAY come out of his shell down the road as he gets more trusting and more used to the environment.  I think dialogue with him is good to say, they are just playing. BUT, the other kids need to also be taught to be more sensitive to reading people's signals.  That's a life lesson for them.  

What if you gave this boy a safe phrase he can use and a safe place he can go?  When he is overwhelmed, he can say X (no more, enough, I'm overwhelmed) and he can have a safe place he can go that all the others can not bother him. They MUST respect when he uses that safe word or he goes to his safe place.  This will help build his trust and he may join in more if he feels he has an OUT.  Okay, another weird analogy.  You bring a puppy home. They are interested in the group but afraid. If you continue to force the puppy into the mix of chaos of young kids, they can get bad habits like fear aggression.  BUT, if you have a kennel with the door open and a rule that if doggie goes into the kennel, no one is allowed to bother them, doggie warms up and can play and retreat as they need.  (did this with our dog, lol).  The dog doesn't have to develop the bad habits because the dog can make a safe exit which they will DO (they are cave dwellers and they will go under a bed or table to 'escape' when uncomfortable).

Teaching more sensitivity in your boys is not a bad thing.  Talking to them about being understanding that this boy is adjusting to a new life and this is all new to him.  And ask your kids for your help making him more comfortable. Maybe he wants to do a quiet activity like coloring.  Get out coloring books and have kids all sit and color quietly together.  You may actually help your sons develop more broad personalities and depth by introducing them to things this boy likes.  :>)  

He may be feminine. It may last.  It may not.  But just try to let him be. And help him feel good about WHO he is now rather than who he needs to be.  I agree that understanding how kids function will be helpful to him and being less sensitive overall. But he's not there yet.  It may take a LONG time.  And he may develop a group of good girl friends that he hangs out with instead of boys. Really. I know of two boys that are my sons age that don't really have guy friends, they have a group of female friends.  Perfectly happy.  

So, I'm not trying to judge you, I promise.  And you'd like him to mix right into the fold of your home.  But it just isn't going to be that simple because this little boy has lived a complex life.  And really, there are unique differences in kids that will show through and he may never be a 'man's man' type of guy. And that's okay.  He'll make plenty of friends too because not all guys are like that even though this is probably mostly who you know.  :>)  Hang in there and be patient.  And perhaps a family counselor would be a good idea and at the very least, I'd love this boy to talk to a psychologist to work through what must be some very deep sadness inside.  good luc
13167 tn?1327194124
It's amazing,  and sad,  to me how many stepdads think their stepsons are wimps.  And it's astounding that you think you are "walking on eggshells around him" when in fact,  he is walking on eggshells around you.  
4 Comments
He has been with us for a year now. His mother did not want him (literally had us drive 1900 miles to pick him up) because of his many issues. my Boyfriend and I live in a different state, and finally got him a year ago to help him flourish and live a better life, but he is fighting it. I feel for him, I honestly do. My twins, who by the way are the same age as him, are having a difficult time accepting him into their new home, are still adjusting.  I also have a 3 year old son. They are in no way bullying him, and when they start playing "rough" games with him, we stop it. The only reason i used the term "toughen him up" is because even when the 3 year old goes up to him and "tags" him on the arm with is finger while they are playing, the new child will run up to me crying and "tattle" (for lack of better words) for being hit too hard, and then start crying, when in fact both adults were right there and saw that it was a mere tap. He seems to be consesently trying to get the other children in trouble, and he is doing this in school also. This was one of the issues he had while he was in the other school, which is the reason he was kicked out of 2 other schools before he came into our house. And while i seem to never stop disciplining my children for what they are "doing" to this child, my children are coming to me now saying "mom, why are we getting in trouble for things that we should not be getting in trouble for?" Such as they will play tag, and if they do not play by his rules (he never wants to be tagged, and they are running too fast for him) I understand these are such arguments of children, but when my children are now getting spoken to about EVERYTHING they do (even when they are trying to get him to play with them, because he claims he has no friends, so they are trying to include him in things they do) then that is not fair. I feel i have tried everything from disciplining (all of them) to letting it go. The non stop tattling is what is getting me. It seems he is trying to get everyone is trouble all the time, even in school, and i am so afraid that this little boy that i am now trying to raise, will be all alone when he grows up. I meant no disrespect when I said 'toughen him up". I just want all of our kids to get along. And the constant "he was looking at me funny" (while crying) is just getting overwhelming. There are comments on here stating my children are bullying him. how is making a silly face at this little boy bullying, when they are playing a game to see who can make the silliest face and just trying to include him? Please no negative comments, i am trying to help this boy make friends, and understand that not everyone is doing something to upset him, that sometimes goofing around, is just that.. goofing around. The only other thing i can think of is to seperate them, but isolating the children from him to appease him just seems the wrong way to go. Disciplining my children for behavior that does not warrant discipline, seems the wrong way to go
Thank you for this further information.  I read through Special Mom's reply and agree with what she said.  I also want to add that I've seen boys like this and yes,  they are very trying.  Specifically my kids had 3 friends who "could not lose",  like this boy who screams if he's  not winning the game of tag.  One time I heard this kid bullring in the playroom stop it stop it that's not fair!!!! So I went in there expecting to see them all ganging up on him in the video game - but they weren't.  He just wasn't winning.  And I can tell you many other similar stories.  

All 3 kids grew up okay,  interestingly.  They learned to at least be quiet while they were seething at not winning.  

First,  stop punishing your sons when you know they didn't do anything wrong.  

And I think you need to have a family meeting,  all hands on deck.  Announce ahead of time that the family dynamics are going badly,  and we're looking for solutions,  and so come to the meeting prepared to offer what you can do to help out.  

Open with the rules.  You can start by stating the problem,  that the kids are having a hard time getting along.  Open the meeting with the rules.  Everyone gets 3 minutes to state grievances,  while everyone else sits silently.  No cross talk.  Each of the 3 boys gets to tell their side,  with no one disagreeing.  Then you and your boyfriend tell your side.  "I love all of you and really want us to get along.  I don't want anyone to feel left out,  but the squabbling is really interfering with the peace in the home.  My dream is for all of you to get along and for me not to be continuously called on to run interference.  I know we can do better".  That kind of thing.  THEN,  everyone can suggest what THEY can do to help.  Mom can find a place in the house where the stepson can go and be in peace and not have to interact with anyone.  He can pick out a chair or whatever.  Make it his.  Dad can take an hour a week just with his son to go do something together.  Each kid can ______ whatever they come up with.  Sometimes kids come up with lame ideas,  but it's their idea,  and they're trying to help,  so it's all good.    And have someone writing down the ideas that are mentioned.
You don't think that's ganging up on a hurting little boy?  I'm not a fan of airing grievances in this manner.  It's a school technique often used and has been known to be a contributing factor to depression and suicide by the child on the outside as this boy is.  I wouldn't want to add to his already sure feeling of being different and wrong for how he is different.
I understand what you're saying.  But I wouldn't address the issues of playing with dolls or wanting to dress like a girl at all.  Just the constant tattle taling and making too much of injuries,  and inability to lose at a game.  I think it can be done lovingly,  as in,  we're all a family and we all need to get along,  so how can we accomplish that?

It's hard,  that's for sure.
189897 tn?1441126518
COMMUNITY LEADER
It is amazing what more information can do to change the whole dynamic.  
I twice asked if he was having the same problem in school - if I had known that he was having similar problems, my answer would have been a lot different.

I do think that getting the book I suggested and helping him to work to express his emotions will be very helpful.  Kids of his age do not know how to express emotions.  It will not work overnight, but it will help.  And it is something that can be done as a family.  I also wonder if having a "help" word would help.  this is basically a word that means "everybody back off and give me some space."  You can pick a word - for some reason I think "uncle" was used in the good old days - and practice it, make it a fun game.   And having a quite, special place for him - or anybody in the family - to go to will also help.   We have done that in the classroom for kids with special needs and it really does help.

But, back to the school thing.  It is unusual for a 7 (?) year old to get kicked out of two schools.  As a retired elementary school principal, I never would have kicked a child out of my school, because how can you help a child if you don't have them with you?  So, I am curious as to their reasons, as that will help us understand him better.

There is definitely something going on with him.  The loss of his mother certainly doesn't help, but he was kicked out of two schools while he was with her.  That is unusual.   And it is something that I would bring up with the school psychologist if one is available.

I do wonder if he has something like Sensory Processing Disorder?  Basically, it causes you to react to outside stimuli.  And your reactions can be extreme.   Kids on the autism spectrum when they go into their defensive mode can also have similar reactions.    If he does have SPD he might over react to things like loud noises, bright lights, movement, fabrics, even food textures.   If this seems possible, an occupational therapist trained in SPD can do an evaluation and give lots of helpful ways to combat this.  More information on SPD can be found here -
    https://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/sensory-processing-disorder-checklist.html

  And, I really, of course, don't know what his problem is based on our rather limited conversations.  But, there is something going on and its more then just the way he plays with your boys.  Yes, you can help him to respond appropriately to things that bother him - but it will take awhile as you have to break years of habit.  But, its what the cause is of his reactions.  Is it the loss of mother and friends, or does it go much deeper.  And since this apparently started when he was with mom - I think it is worth looking into.

And, I apologize for the "bullying" remarks.  My experiences in education have made me kind of protective.  And, I've got to hand it to you.  You have 3 eight year old boys and a three year old boy running around your house.  Wow!  

If you do have any more info on why he got booted out of those two schools (and I realize you were a long ways away), it might be helpful.

I hope this helps more then my last post.  Best wishes.
1 Comments
I also agree that a professional counsel of what may be going on with him either neurologically such as sensory integration disorder (some kids with this do NOT like to be touched as it feels harsh to them.  My son with sensory is like this.  He will cringe if a buddy pats him on the back as guys do.  He says it feels like they slugged him.  He is oversensitive to touch) or mental health issues.  The boy needs some help!
134578 tn?1602101550
Here he is, for reasons of his own personality and/or possibly medically diagnosable reasons, he has been rejected by his mother and sent across the country to live with kids who are strangers to him. The kids see him as an unpleasant addition to their lives. (As they might, with all the whining and tattling.) What happened to him when he lived with his mother? She might have been very hard for him to live with, through reasons of her own impatience with him. What is going on with him mentally (such as Sensory)? Has that ever been diagnosed?

Also, you refer to your boyfriend. How permanent is your household? Is your youngest child from the boyfriend? Are you intending to get married? What happens to the boy if the two of you break up? Is this part of the underlying uncertainty or tension for him?

I'd get to a family counselor right away, and discuss what is going on, and then get him to a counselor (that counselor or a different one) if he will talk to one. Poor kid, he's been thrown into the ocean with only a slender rope to hold onto. Don't treat him as so robust that he can problem-solve in a family council, quite yet. He's clearly not robust; frankly it sounds like he's lucky he's not worse than he is.
1 Comments
I must say I agree with your comments here.
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