I have a 12 yr old stepson who is disrespectful and is starting to influence my other children HELP!!

User - posted on 11/14/2014 ( 4 moms have responded )

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I have been with my husband for almost 11 years now. When we first met, he already had a son who just turned two and was also going through a divorce. The ex-wife/mom wasn't around, so custody was shared between my husband and "her" parents(which is soooo hard because they spoil him so bad). She came around about 2-3 times a month, but that's all (just long enough to let me know that she stills exists as his ex and baby mama). Still, anytime she came around, I tried to never overstep my boundaries as the stepparent.
Over the years, my husband and I had three more boys and the ex/mom also had three more kids. I don't think she had a very good relationship with my stepson. She never went to any of his activities that his Dad and I put him in. We have done everything with him including baseball, football, soccer, go-kart racing, 4-H projects, and we take him hunting and camping all the time. My husband works alot so it's mostly just me doing these things for him.
Just last year she kind of settled down so to speak and married a very nice respectful man. She started going to my stepson's activities once in a while and even offered to help with the costs. But now that she is in his life more, it seems as if he is spiraling out of control. He is getting truancy reports from school, bad grades, referrals and is just plain out disrespectful. the ex's mom (Nana) is no help either. The truancy letter is because she doesn't make him go to school if he doesn't want to. The ex does work so my stepson goes to his Nana's when she is working. She has been guilty of giving him loads of money, which I think will soon turn into drug money if it doesn't stop. We have voiced our thoughts to the ex and her mom several times but they just go right back to doing what they know best...spoiling him and letting him get away with EVERYTHING. We share week-to-week custody. Wednesday to Wednesday, so we each get a weekend with him 50/50.
When he is not here, my house is pretty quite and content for the most part (as much as you can for 3 boys!) I feel like I have control over my kids, but none over him. As soon as he walks through that door, he is loud, obnoxious, and arguing right off the bat. My boys follow him around and copy everything he does too. It's really sad to say that he spends most of his time in trouble in his room here because I can't control him. I don't know what to do?! He is fine when my husband is home. In fact, my husband has reminded him time and again how much I do for him and I get no "thank you's" or "sorry's" for his behavior. My husband is definitely on my side but I feel so guilty that he should even have to choose a side. I am really hard on myself when it comes to this and I really would like some feedback on things that I can do to keep sane. This weekend, for the FIRST time, I asked his mom if he could stay there until my husband has a day off because I don't want to deal with it. There have been SO many times that I've wanted to do that but I feel like it will hurt my husband's feelings. The last thing I want is to be fighting with my husband over this (AGAIN). Is it normal that I just want to leave sometimes?! I don't think it would be fair to my other children if my husband and I called it quits. It wouldn't be fair to me either, I love him SO much and he is such a good husband/dad. Any advice is welcome, please feel free to ask questions...Did I forget to mention that "she" lives five houses down from me on my street?! UGH!!!

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Chet - posted on 11/15/2014

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I would be cautious about placing full blame on bio mom and her parents. The thing is, lots of twelve year olds take any opportunity to skip school, are rude, and are difficult to control compared to younger siblings. Not because they have a bio mom who suddenly gets involved, or because they have permissive grandparents, but because they are 12 and they're having common 12 year old issues while they go through puberty.

My gut feeling on this is that your son needs to spend more time with his dad. I don't know if that's possible (I know what it's like to have four kids and a husband who works a lot), but it sounds like your stepson responds well to his father. Plus, he's at an age where strong male role models really matter... it's the whole, you're-not-a-kid-any-more-and-are-looking-for-someone-to-show-you-how-to-become-a-man thing.

I think too, that it's really important for kids and teens to be intrinsically motivated. This shouldn't be about you needing to control this child, or about the grandparents not bothering to control him. It should be about figuring out why he isn't doing the best job at managing his own life and his own choices.

The problem is not that your stepson isn't being forced to go to school. The problem is that your stepson is choosing not to go to school when he sees the opportunity. A lot of kids want to go to school. Why isn't your stepson one of them one? What's the problem with school?

Kids don't get involved with drugs because they have extra money and permissive grandparents. Kids get involved with drugs because they are desperately bored, or because they have real problems and use drugs to escape, or any number of reasons that come from inside of the kid. You can't make a secure, confident, well-adjusted, fully-engaged teenage into drug addict by giving them money and limited supervision every second week.

The other posters have suggested counselling, and counselling would very likely help a great deal in sorting this out, but until you can get that arranged, I would take a different tact with your stepson. It doesn't sound like the punishments are working, and I suspect that they won't work because his behaviour is just a symptom of issues he's dealing with.

You haven't given specific examples of behaviours or incidents that landed your stepson in his room, and I'll admit that I'm wondering how "bad" his behaviour really is. Out of control kids get kicked off of sports teams. The soccer or football coach can't deal with them. Out of control kids haven't got the focus for 4H projects. They're banned from the go-kart facility. They refuse to go hunting and camping with family. I feel like your stepson is probably a good kid with an especially bad case of 12 year old angst.

I would try less punishment, and more discussion, understanding and responsibility.

Try approaching your stepson with higher expectations. Rather than sending him to his room for indiscretions, ask what he thinks should happen. Not in an angry, snarky way, in a calm, I'm speaking to you on an equal level kind of way... "we have this situation, when you do this thing, it causes this problem, what do you think we can do about it?".

Try treating your stepson less like a child you need to control and more like a person who has to take control of his own life. This may be more effective coming from his father, or being introduced by his father, I'm not sure. But it's a strategy to consider.

What kinds of things is your stepson good at? What responsibilities can he step up to and feel confident taking on? Not chores you assign to him, but household roles he can step into. Instead of blaming him tor poor behaviour in the younger children what would happen if you elicited his help in improving the behaviour of the younger children? Again, approaching him not as a child, but as a person with something to offer the household.

All of the behaviours your stepson exhibits are clues to how he thinks and how he feels. Manipulative behaviours are often the result of children (or adults) feeling that they lack power. My sense on this is that any kind of power struggle is going to produce more behaviour you don't want. You can have control, but it's going require a lot more diplomacy. You need to handle things such that your stepson doesn't feel like he's being treated like a little kid.

Dove - posted on 11/14/2014

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My oldest is a 13 year old girl and sometimes 'I' want to run away... and she's all mine. lol

A lot of the attitude is probably the age and hormones. Not that it makes it OK, but it can help to understand a little... cuz your boys could end up going through the same thing. If mom doesn't make him go to school... that's not really HIS fault. Most preteen/teenagers do NOT want to go to school and given the option... wouldn't. Has your husband brought it up in court that bio-mom does not make him attend?

My best advice is to seek counseling... for him AND all of you as a family. I put my youngest in counseling for some issues and the counselor was amazingly helpful to our entire family. They make good sounding boards, offer tips, and back up parenting support... in addition to talking to and working w/ the child/children on whatever needs dealt with.

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Michelle - posted on 11/15/2014

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Not all 13yo boys are like that. My oldest is 13 and I do 50/50 shared care (have for 9 years not) and he wouldn't dare do any of what your SS does.
I would try the counselling for sure but maybe draw up a "contract" that states what the expectations are at your house. Let him know what the consequences are if he doesn't hold up his end of the agreement as well. Do it when his Dad is around so he knows that it's serious.
Maybe even get the school to phone his Dad when he doesn't turn up (even if he's with his Mother), that way Dad can ring and find out why he's not in school. I understand your husband works a lot but he needs to get involved in things while his son is at the other house. He needs to show his son that he won't get away with things.

User - posted on 11/14/2014

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Thank you for your advice. The counseling is a good idea! As far as the court goes, I can't seem to get my husband to go back to court (even though they are supposed to go every 5 years to mediation). They divorced and came to a custody agreement when he was 3. So it has been a while and he is in school now so our lives are completely different now. In the agreement, we are only supposed to have him on weekends. Currently, for the last 3 years, there has been a verbal agreement of Wednesday to Wednesday custody time. I think he is afraid that she is going to do something bad like take time away from him (which she can if you look at the court docs). She is the type that will say she is going to do something and then do another. She is a good manipulator,I'll give her that. It's really scary because my stepson acts just like her most of the time. He lies, and tries to manipulate all the time. I am still feeling really guilty about saying that he doesn't need to be here if his dad is not here. I am not worried about hurting my stepsons feelings (because I think he could care less), I'm worried about hurting my husband's feelings.
I have even tried talking them both into going back to mediation because he started using the "I want to live with my mom" card or "I want to live with my dad card". My other boys (his brothers) love him though. My 10 year old and him are so close but that scares me sometimes. Because I don't want my 10 yr old acting like him or doing things that he is doing or has done in the past.

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