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Old February 7th, 2014, 08:55 AM
WisconsinMama WisconsinMama is offline
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How do I help my stepson with his attitude?

Hi everyone! Newbie here. Sorry if I ramble, I'll try and keep it as to the point as I can.

My husband and I met two and a half years ago, were married a year and a half ago. He had two sons when we met who were 4 and 6 at the time (so now they are 6 and 8). We also had a son together who is now 1.

My stepsons and I got along great at first. But I was also just dad's fun girlfriend at the time. I eased into their family and played games with them and was fun. I still do things with them but it definatley changed the more involved I got. Their bio mom acts very nice to my face but she doesn't like how close they got to me right away. They've told me that anytime they say something nice about me, she'll say something mean. She told them to not like me and only love her. And not to mention she's been telling them lies about their dad and why they broke up. (Which I find just horrible. Why confuse and mess up your 6 and 8 year old sons? My husband has a lot of horrible things he could say about her, but he has never once said a bad word about her. Infact he and I work to make sure we talk good about her and teach the boys to respect her and all people.)

Anyways, I've mainly had issues with my older stepson. The younger one acts up sometimes too, but the older one definiately has some issues. I was aware of them at the start, but they weren't really bad then. He has issues with lieing and being sneaky and being really emotional and having a temper, but I just thought that all kids had their things.

Then the first summer hit. I was at home with them all day every day we had them (which is every other week) and with my new son. My husband and I wanted the boys to play outside at least an hour every day and then they could come in and play video games and what not. They acted out like crazy about this and this is where my older stepsons issues really started to come out. He would scream at me, throw himself on the ground and even try and choke himself. Once he threatened to run down our long driveway into the traffic and he even took off and I had to chase him so he wouldn't. He told me he's not an outdoor kid and that at his moms he can do what he wants and eat what he wants and watch what he wants. He really started to pull away from me. He called me swear words (B being his favorite one). He shoved me. He said he wanted me dead. He acted our against my son. He knocked a small table down on him once and said he didn't care if he got hurt.

I try to be understanding because I know he has had a lot happen in his life. He was 4 when his parents split up so he remembers it. He was 6 when I Came into his life. His grandma died recently and she was a huge part of his life. He has a new baby brother who is taking up his dad's time...the poor kid has had ALOT happen in his life. And its totally understandable he'd be acting out. I expect it. But to this extent is kind of scary. I'm afraid he could grow up and get violent someday. He's already pushed me down the stairs once and when my arm got skinned up on the wall because of it, he didn't care. He said he was glad I was bleeding.

I tried everything I could. I tried spending time with him alone and focussing on just him. I tried encouraging my husband to spend more time with him alone. I tried to do more family things together. I started up family game night and family popcorn and movie night. I was a stepchild myself growing up and the main things I got frustrated with were I wanted more time with my mom and I wanted more family time. So I've tried hard to establish these things, but my stepson just has a nasty attitude.

And part of it is his mom. I guess she has a bad temper too and has been filling his head with all kinds of things. He also has been lieing to us a lot more. Stealing things around the house and taking them to school. Stealing money. When school started up he got a lot better, having that time away each day, but still has his issues. And my husband and I both are having a hard time bonding with him because he is very fake like his mom. He says, "I love you Daddy" and "I love you" to me about a hundred times a day. He is constantly saying it in this really sweet fake voice. We of course say it back and do everything we can to encourage good behavior, but then as soon as something doesnt go his way like we tell him its time to get off the xbox he will flip out and glare at us and say he hates us and all kinds of crap.

I guess he's been acting up for his mom too because his younger brother says he slams doors at her house and even broke a door and makes her cry and calls her the B word sometimes too. He just has no respect for anyone and its really hard for me to feel close to him. I really do want him to be happy at our house but I am afraid of the person he's becoming and I dont want my son growing up seeing how he acts. His bio mom suggested he stay with her more and we only get him on weekends for awhile, and while that would be the easy way out, we really do love him and want him to be a good person so we are not giving up on him.

I'm just wondering if anyone has any tips or advice? I know that ultimately it's going to be his decision what kind of person he's going to be. If he wants to grow up and be horrible, we can't change that. But I still want to do everything I can to help him if I can.

Last edited by WisconsinMama; February 7th, 2014 at 08:59 AM.
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Old February 7th, 2014, 10:40 AM
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Re: How do I help my stepson with his attitude?

He's 6. As you have very astutely observed, there are a lot of things going on in his life. I wouldn't worry too much that his bad behavior at the moment is necessarily shaping his future.

For the record, I think you sound like an awesome stepmom and I applaud you for caring so much.

The first thing that jumps out at me is that it seems like there is not as much cooperation between the ex-wife and you/your husband as there needs to be. I would really encourage y'all to meet with her - primarily let your husband do the talking - and discuss issues related to your stepson. For example, explain to her how bad-mouthing your husband negatively affects her son. Work out consistent rules between your two households, so the boy will not be able to play his parents against each other and both homes will have the same expectations of him. And... ... try not to have the "like his mom" attitude when it comes to things like him being fake sweet and having a bad temper. I know kids can be just like their parents (my daughter is a mini version of my husband) but remember that in his mind, his parents don't love each other anymore. I also know you probably don't say anything like that out loud to him, but I worry that one day you may slip and use the "Just Like Your Mother" line. Remember that his dad no longer loves his mother; he might be scared that his dad will stop loving him too. His mother is bad-mouthing his dad, so he is probably worried about losing her love.

Is there anything about his grandmother that you can embrace to comfort him concerning her death? Does he have favorite memories of her - cookies she always had or an activity they always did - that you can offer to him "to remember" her?

Is there a school counselor he can talk to? Maybe having an adult outside of the situation to help guide him would be beneficial.

Good luck. You're doing a good thing by trying.
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Old February 7th, 2014, 12:16 PM
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Re: How do I help my stepson with his attitude?

I think his behavior is serious enough to warrant intervention. He's been violent to others and to himself and has threatened suicide. Depression and other mental illnesses do present themselves in children as young as 6.

Your husband has both the authority and the obligation to pursue this even if the XW isn't willing to do anything. DH should make an appointment first with the pediatrician who can rule out some physical causes and make appropriate referrals.

You are a good person to stay with this and want what is best for the child.
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Old February 7th, 2014, 06:41 PM
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Re: How do I help my stepson with his attitude?

I'm with Lucy.


When I got remarried my ex caused some problems (DS would come home saying things like "It's your mom's fault.. I mean my mom's" whenever anything went wrong ... I didn't even have to be in the same room)

He also exploded at school one day - he scared his teacher (and he was in 1st grade ; same age as your older step-son). I got him into counciling ASAP and he joined a school therapy group as well.
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Old February 8th, 2014, 07:47 AM
WisconsinMama WisconsinMama is offline
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Re: How do I help my stepson with his attitude?

I first want to thank you all so much for your replies! I've tried to ask people for advice, but it's hard for anyone to know what to say when they've never been through anything like this.

KayKay, you mentioned working with the ex wife. To give more info, we have met with her before. There was a really bad incident where my stepson (who is 8 by the way, he was 6 when we met. His younger brother is 6 and was 4 when we met) said he wanted my throat slashed. So we met with his mom and he told her on his own what he'd said. She kind of disregarded it like it wasn't a big deal and was holding him and comforting him. And he kept smiling at us like he was playing her and he knew it. We keep her in the loop when something bad happens, but she only seems to think things are a big deal when he acts up against her, not when he does something mean to me or my son or even my younger stepson. He tried to throw him off the deck one day and my younger stepson was really scared.

You also mentioned a counselor, he is seeing one at school.

Very good advice about doing things he did with his grandmother! I made cookies with him one day that she used to make with him and he loved it. And see that's why I am fighting so hard for him. You guys mention I am being a good stepmom, and while I try my best, it's really because at my core I care about these boys. My older stepson isn't bad all the time. He has his moments where he lets his heart show and he has a big heart. I know he does. And he can be loving and funny and kind and sweet. I know thats the true him and that he's just letting his anger get the best of him sometimes. And when he does he can be so cold and unfeeling that it's scary.

I remember being a stepchild and feeling left out and I always swore to myself that I would never let my children feel that way (I didn't expect to ever have stepchildren, but the same rule applies there. As soon as I met my now husband and his kids, I knew I never wanted to ever make them feel unwanted or like outsiders. This is just as much their family as it is mine. If anything I'm the outsider that is joining their team and I try and be aware of that as I approach each situation)

Good point about how I should watch what I say. I try and be as careful as I can, but I agree that I should be more careful. I would hate if I accidently did slip up someday and say "Just like your mom". No matter what my feelings for her are, you are right I should try and keep my thoughts in check so one doesnt slip out.

My mom has suggested he maybe see a counselor outside of the one at school, because the one at school doesn't seem to be making progress with him. But I'm not sure how that all works. Wouldn't a different one be just as good as the one at school?

I dont like the idea of medication, but I do think something might be off balance in him chemically because he gets so extreme with his emotions and anger, but then he can turn around and be so loving and wonderful. I feel so bad for him because it has to be so hard to have all this stress on yourself as a kid and be so confused. He told us that when he gets angry he doesn't know what he's doing. Now I dont know if that just an excuse or if he's lieing because he does like to lie to us, or if it's genuine. But if it is genuine, then he needs some extra help I think. But it's so hard to now how to approach this all.

Last edited by WisconsinMama; February 8th, 2014 at 08:30 AM.
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Old February 8th, 2014, 08:59 AM
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Re: How do I help my stepson with his attitude?

The guidance counselor in school is to a mental health professional as the school nurse is to a brain surgeon.

Your child needs someone better trained with the credentials to diagnose and treat him. Your husband, being the biological father, has the authority and responsibility to pursue this. Help him to do the best thing for his son.
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Old February 8th, 2014, 09:11 AM
WisconsinMama WisconsinMama is offline
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Re: How do I help my stepson with his attitude?

I suppose I didn't even think about it that way. I will for sure talk with my hubby about this then. We want to do everything we can to help.

The only problem is, dont we need his ex wife's approval? She really fought us about him talking to a counselor at school and eventually caved. I'm not sure how she'd feel about one outside of school. Could we make it happen even if she refuses?
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Old February 8th, 2014, 10:10 AM
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Re: How do I help my stepson with his attitude?

What is in your custody agreement? For the sake of the child, it would be best if the xw cooperates with treatment. If she won't cooperate, and if he has joint legal custody, then he should have the authority to seek medical attention and he really should pursue it.

What does the school counselor say? They should provide a referral when a child presents with something beyond their scope. They could be a great advocate for the child with the mother.
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Old February 8th, 2014, 04:32 PM
WisconsinMama WisconsinMama is offline
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Re: How do I help my stepson with his attitude?

They have joint, but there is some stupid thing that says she technically gets them 51 percent of the time. We get them every other week. It's 50 50 but because the year only has so many days in it, someone has to have the 51 percent and that goes to her so she gets more say in things even though we get them just as much.
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Old February 8th, 2014, 05:01 PM
searain searain is offline
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Re: How do I help my stepson with his attitude?

I work with 8 - 10 year olds. I strongly suggest what others have suggested: a pediatrician to rule out underlying causes and a child counselor. Even though you and hubby are happy family counseling could help also. Good luck. Kids can be very scary.
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