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Step-son's behavior incidents forcing us to consider a custody fight


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  #1  
November 23rd, 2010, 08:10 AM
Ponyo22's Avatar Lindsay
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 140
Warning. Long...

We are having a rough time again with my step-son (12). He has been having behavioral problems ever since the divorce. Last year there were two violent incidents in school. One resulted in suspension and nearly expulsion from elementary school. The second one resulted in police involvement and court-ordered juvenile diversion counseling. This year he is in a new middle school which seemed to be going better but in the last two weeks there have been two incidents with other kids. Last Friday he got in a fight during lunch and wound up with in-school suspension.

We are at a total loss as to what to do. We instill stiff consequences with each of these incidents- grounding from TV, video games, friends, community service hours, research papers, extra required reading. And of course he has been in counseling for almost three years. Huge problem is that his mom, whom he spends every other week with, has no consequences for this stuff. She's all talk and no follow through. She also lets him play mature-rated violent video games and watch R-rated movies, which his therapist says he should absolutely not be exposed to yet because he cannot separate fantasy from reality. My step-son has indicated that he prefers living with her (duh, what kid wouldn't when he's grounded at the other place?) The therapist tells both his parents that the inconsistent household rules are a major source of concern and stress for both of the kids.

It seems like the most logical thing to do is get more control/ parenting time. Because of step-sons troubled history, his mom's documented admissions that she doesn't instill consequences or follow therapist's recommendations, and many many other pieces of evidence proving she is an ineffective parent, our lawyer thinks we have a strong chance of getting an adjustment in parenting time. We just really didn't want to resort to a court fight.

Sorry for the vent. Does anyone else have suggestions for dealing with behavior issues like this? I am so worried about how this bodes for his teenage years. He is respectful with us in our home but I foresee that turning sour as we get tougher with consequences. We think it may be time for a new therapist, since it doesn't seem to be helping. I just don't know.

Thanks for reading.
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  #2  
November 23rd, 2010, 10:28 AM
*~Amanda~*'s Avatar Hostest with the mostest
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I was just lurking and saw your post. I' m not a step-mom, but I can maybe suggest some things for you, as I have a son who is 11. DS has serious issues in his father's home because of things that go on there. When he comes home, he tells me about things and asks me if I can help him with those.

What I would suggest to you is to most definitely have your DH sit down and talk with him about the things that are going on within his mother's home. Maybe there are things going on that you don't know about. He could be taking his frustrations out from home on his peers at school.

I would also talk to the school and find out if he is having trouble with any of the other kids that maybe he has talked to someone about. I would see if you could talk to his teachers and find out how his behavior is during class.

Another thing I would suggest is to get him active in some kind of sport. I know that football is already over, but it allows a child to channel the angry energy into positive energy. Normally, I would suggest doing some kind of martial arts in order to teach him how to harness his strength and when it is appropriate to use it, but if he is fighting already, martial arts doesn't sound like something I would encourage.

I would also say that he is probably seeking attention, whether it be positive or negative. The divorce has more than likely impacted him more than he lets on. That is where it is very important to communicate with him. Another idea would be to have him journal how he is feeling, and if he doesn't want you to read something while he is with you, then have him fold that page.

As for the therapist, I don't believe that it is the therapist that is the problem. To me it sounds like the mother is just not willing to cooperate. This may be because she still has animosity about the divorce and wants the child to act out to get back at your DH.

I hope that some of what I have said can help you a bit. I'm sorry that you are having such a hard time.
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  #3  
November 23rd, 2010, 11:05 AM
Rachel's Avatar Just Rachel
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I swear, this sort of sounds like I could have written this post. My 11 year old step-son has had some of the same problems and his mom will talk his ear off when he does something wrong, but after about 10 minutes of her telling him how wrong he is and how he should know better, he zones out and doesn't hear anything else. She never gives him any real consequences for his behavior and it's left up to me and his dad to punish him for his misdeeds. Fortunately, his mom doesn't see him that often so he's not exposed to her as much.

What we have done is to continue to enforce our rules and to give him as much consistency as we can, because he really needs it. I think going to court to have his time with his mom limited might end up hurting him in the long run. Honestly I have to say a lot of it sounds like typical middle school syndrome to me. Middle school is so tough for kids, especially boys. They are finding their place in a bigger world and they test the limits and boundaries and sometimes lines are crossed. They don't think about the consequences of their behavior in the moment.

Consistency and follow-through is the key here, I think. Keep trying. ((hugs))
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  #4  
November 23rd, 2010, 12:02 PM
Ponyo22's Avatar Lindsay
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Location: Denver, CO
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Thanks, Amanda and Rachel. It helps to have a new perspective on this. I'm so frustrated and caught up in it.

The two recent incidents since he started middle school do seem typical enough for pre-adolescent boys. Taken in context with what happened last year though, it is a very serious pattern.

We are in contact with his counselor and principal at school and have frequent phone calls with his therapist, all of whom agree with our responses to these incidents. The reason we are considering switching therapists is I think he is uncooperative and just paying her lip service. Also, during a consult with a different expert, it was recommended that he speak with 1) a male and 2) someone who doesn't also work with his little sister. Also, right on the money Amanda thinking that the mom is ignoring or maybe even passively promoting the behavior to get back at dad for the divorce.

We have consistency at our house and both kids seem to thrive here- get along and play well together, well-established daily routine with homework, extra hour of reading and math practice every day, family dinner, limited TV and game time, friends stopping by, and extracurriculars. And they seem happy. It just seems so completely different at their mom's house. She skips their extracurriculars and therapy appointments and seems to have no control over how things are run (she moved in with her boyfriend and his son a few months ago). She actually suggested that we split the kids up, so one is with mom and the other is with dad, then switch the next week, because she can't control their fighting with each other.

In the end, I recognize that a nasty custody battle and less time with his mom are not the best options, and I truly hope we can avoid it. I wish she was a more reasonable person. it's nearly impossible to parent effectively half the time when it feels like your efforts are sabotaged and undone every week.
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  #5  
November 23rd, 2010, 12:43 PM
Rachel's Avatar Just Rachel
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ponyo22 View Post
Thanks, Amanda and Rachel. It helps to have a new perspective on this. I'm so frustrated and caught up in it.

The two recent incidents since he started middle school do seem typical enough for pre-adolescent boys. Taken in context with what happened last year though, it is a very serious pattern.
((hugs)) it is so difficult and frustrating. Part of my problem is that I keep comparing Will with my oldest son, who is totally different and I raised him, so it's really not fair to Will. I'm trying to get better about that. Anyway, Will had three incidents in 5th grade where he was threatening to another student. The first landed him a school bus suspension (he couldn't ride the bus for 3 days), the second landed him an in-school suspension and the third got him an out of school suspension. All three times he told another student that he was going to kill them, and schools take that very seriously these days. And within the first few weeks of school, he got into altercations with students (older kids) at the middle school, so I understand what you're saying. For us, Will is sneaky and defiant. He's not in your face defiant, but he'll do things deliberately that he's been told not to do. And his biggest problem now is not taking responsibility for his school/home work.

It really sounds to me like we're having the same struggles! Stick around the board. If nothing else, we can vent to each other and we'll both know that the other understands.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ponyo22 View Post
I wish she was a more reasonable person. it's nearly impossible to parent effectively half the time when it feels like your efforts are sabotaged and undone every week.
This. I finally figured out that I can't control who she is and what she does, but I can control how I respond to her behavior and how I let her behavior affect me, kwim? I'm much happier when I don't dwell on what she does to annoy me.
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  #6  
November 28th, 2010, 01:00 PM
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Ponyo22,

I can feel how much you care coming out through your words. It sounds as though you and DH have tried so much already from afar. Perhaps you are right, and the only option left is to take him into your home and provide the stability he needs. I caution you not to take one without the other though. The daughter will think he daddy came back for her brother, but didnt care enough to take her too. Good luck to you ponyo, I hope it goes smooth. Maybe the BM is just waiting for you to fight her, so it doesnt look like she gave up. [[[hugs]]]
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