M.B. asks from Simi Valley, CA on August 02, 2009
12 Year Old Behavior Problems
I am having problems with my 12 year old step son. Last school year he got 3 Fs, 2 Ds and a C. He always lied about having homework. At home, he wont do his chores. There is always a long fight. He says he's too tired, constipated, whatever, and refuses to do it. We have taken priveleges away, grounded him from friends, rewarded him when he does them--nothing seems to work. We've talked to his principal and counselor and teachers at school (I even went to his classes with him and sat at the back to watch his behavior and talk to the teachers). We took him to a phsycologist and a phsychiatrist (he's on lexapro for anxiety). He charms the counselors with "Im gonna do it" talk, then doesnt change.
When I tell him to do something, he refuses, then when his dad tells him, he does it. He doesnt respect me. He doesnt respect his bio mom either.
We get on each other's nerves...he knows how to get to me, and I try to be calm and not let it affect me at all, but it is a struggle.
My husband is also so frustrated with him. He talks to him about his behavior but it doesnt seem to work. He talked with him yesturday afternoon, then last night he started complaining again.
I know this might just be the age he is right now, but I need help with how to deal with it. I get so angry that I want to send him back with his mom, but that is not an option (long story).
2 moms found this helpful
V.M. answers from Los Angeles on August 04, 2009
go to classical homeopath with CCH credentials. correctly seslected homeopathic remedy should change his behavior 30% after the first visit.
1 mom found this helpful
E.B. answers from Los Angeles on August 03, 2009
I would let the Dad handle all discipline issues, especially since he responds to the Dad. You are not his Mom so don't try to act like one. Respect has to be two-ways and earned. You do not automatically receive it. I liked what another said that you are his "bonus" Mom and do nice things for him. He doesn't need another person telling him what to do all the time.
T.F. answers from Los Angeles on August 03, 2009
I'm a step mom of an 18 yr old boy. He came to us older and most of the time we did not have direct problems or confrontations (but he has many issues). I did yell at him once (lost my temper) and boy did I regret that. He's been through enough trauma. I could have handled it better.
What I did was not pretend to be his mom. I am a mother figure to him (good and necessary) because we have 2 younger children, but if I saw something that he wasn't doing it and it ticked me off (like leaving a wet towel on the floor) I ignored it and let DH handle it. I didn't need to start world war III at every turn. If I got that angry, I knew it was best for me to take a deep breath and give myself a time out (take a walk around the block).
You are so angry because you feel disrespected. I understand that. Now you are locked in a power struggle with this child and now you (out of frustration) want to shove him out the door too, like his mom did.
This poor kid has been pushed away for what? half his life? No wonder he is angry, acting out, unmotivated, uncooperative, etc...
Gary Neuman is a psychologist that wrote an excellent book on divorce: HELPING KIDS COPE WITH DIVORCE THE SANDCASTLE WAY. Please read it. It is full of insight. Each chapter focuses (among other things) how each age reacts and deals with the divorce, really eye opening stuff.
Please see this from the children's perspective, so you gain some insight onto WHY he's acting like this.
His parents fight. His parents separate. They divorce. Dad moves out. (Kids don't care why this happens, or any legitimate reasons for the divorce, they just feel all the pain of the separation.) Kids rarely see dad who is working. Mom has them most of the time and is stressed out and now acting out her frustration and yelling more than she needs to. Then they hear dad is dating. Then dad gets remarried. How do they feel? Even more rejected. This is extremely painful. There IS going to be some acting out. Now the dad they see infrequently has to be shared with another person. Does he love her more than he loves them???
Finally, mom has had it with all the stress and fighting (lacks parenting help and resources) and dumps them on dad. OUCH. The kids have been "abandoned" twice. I know dad didn't abandon them. I know the father didn't "divorce" his kids. (I'm making huge, sweeping generalizations to prove a point, forgive me.) But when he remarries, he is communicating strongly he is starting ANOTHER family. They are left in the dust.
I'm not saying dad remarrying was wrong. Or you were wrong to marry him. I'm not passing judgement on anyone. I'm just saying there are little people here with MAJOR sadness over what has happened (even the ones not acting out, bless them) and they are helpless to do anything about it. (Some step parents are nightmares. You sound very nice and they are lucky b/c not all children are so lucky.)
So what can this boy control? He can control how much work he does or doesn't do. He might be folding his arms in defiance and refusing to do anything. Why should he? What's the point? What is there left to feel good about? All adults around him seem to do be disappointed by him... so now he's going to live up to their expectations. (!!!!)
Then WHO goes to therapy? The adults (mom & dad) who messed everything up? No - he does. What an insult. It's almost laughable. Poor kid has anxiety (not a surprise - so sad) and now on meds for it.
I think the anxiety in his life needs to be removed. Not medicated, but that is just my opinion. (I think one of the 12 yr olds issue is that mom essentially abandoned him. This is major.)
So what he is anxious about? Being uprooted again? Being left again?
Jane Nelson - POSITIVE DISCIPLINE
She has written some great books on discipline without punishments and rewards (they don't work, as you are seeing, as many people do, over and over) and she has a LOT of tips on how to help families function smoothly. Read her books for the BEST advice.
She is a big proponent of FAMILY MEETINGS. Read the book for how to do them properly. Identify a problem, come up with a solution collectively, work towards the goal.
Try to avoid blaming this boy, making him feel bad (he already does, big time, don't add to it). Ignore all the stuff he is not doing or doing wrong.
This boy needs to feel loved no matter what.
Alfie Kohn: UNCONDITIONAL PARENTING
You have to help BUILD THIS BOY UP!
Lawrence Cohen wrote PLAYFUL PARENTING
He is a therapist who has worked with hundreds of families. You know what his remedy is: staying connected with your children, spending time with them. Does the father spend one-on-one time with each child? Or just take them out, without you? He should. Just like he spends alone time with you, he needs to do that with them. EVERY parent needs to do this, regardless if they are married or divorced.
Gordon Neufeld wrote HOLD ON TO YOUR KIDS
He's got some great lecture videos on youtube.
He is a big proponent and maintaining parenting attachment. If one parent is unable to do it, there needs to be someone else who does. Hopefully dad is up for the job. You too. :)
DISCOVER YOUR CHILDs LEARNING STYLE
That book is essential to every single parent. You should read it so you can understand human motivations (learning styles) and you can help support each child (and yourself in the process). I had my 9 yr old son take the online learning style assessment and it really helped me to hone in on his interests (which is a doorway to leading a passionate life - a life where you are happy because you are following a passion). That would help this little boy a lot. The rest of the kids too.
Is there a parent education place in the area? A place you can take affordable classes? Some Adult Schools have them. Sign up for classes.
3 moms found this helpful
J.C. answers from San Diego on August 02, 2009
Let me say that I can identify with what you are going through. I too am a stepmom in a very similar situation to yours (had to raise the child because mom was unable to). Twelve is a hard age to begin with, all the teen years are. I think that something that really helped my sanity and might help yours is just talking 1:1 with your husband about this. You and your husband both know that you are not these kids real mom, but the kids may feel some abandonment by her. As far as discipline goes, you have to back off and let your husband decide about their discipline and your role is just to reinforce whatever is decided. Doing that really helped in our household. Try your best to be cordial to all the kids and make sure that your husband is spending 1:1 time with each of them but especially the 12 year old. Boys need male bonding and guidance probably more than girls do. There are things that dad can do for these boys that you can't do.
Best of luck.
2 moms found this helpful
C.K. answers from Los Angeles on August 03, 2009
Jessica M. is right on! I did not have either parents & my grades where the same as his...I just did not care. Young people should not have to worry about such things as their families breaking up. 1st I lost my dad (divorce) when i was 6 then my mom passed away when I was 13. There was nothing anyone could have said or done to change me. My mind could not be carefree to focus on schoolwork & I lived with a sister who had her own issues. I think it best that you show that stepson as much unconditional love as you can, even if you don't feel like it or mean it...fake it for his sake & your husbands sake as well. I found love elsewhere (so I thought) & became a teenage mom at 17. I swore I would never let these things happen to my kids but did not have the knowledge to stop the cycle & ended up divorced & with two sons at 25. I remarried but my kids & new husband hated each other. They too acted out in a similar way. Bad grades, ditching, drinking! It was a horrible time!!!
now...on the upside. I am alsmost 50 & I think I turned out pretty good! I have a great job (even though I never graduated highschool), a lovely grandaughter & I met a great man when I was 46 & finally found out what love is. I dont do drugs & rarely drink. My sons are both married to nice girls & have jobs & one has a child. Hopefully one day your stepson will look back & be thankful you stuck it out with him...lovingly! Time will tell how well he turns out but don't give up. It is tough raising teens, even if you gave birth to them! good luck, C.
2 moms found this helpful
J.L. answers from Los Angeles on August 03, 2009
I am sure there are many issues behind the emotion and behavior occurring here. It is important to find more treatment than meds- including educational support (with mental health included- possibly an AB3632 assessment- which identifies needs and services available to support him and the family). Family therapy would be key- just based on what you said regarding the mother- and of course treatment to help everyone with the conduct and oppositional defiant behavior. Depending on where you are there are lots of good Programs and services that can be accessed to provide all of you support.
1 mom found this helpful
L.M. answers from Los Angeles on August 03, 2009
Hey M., Good for you taking on this responsibility of 4 kids. I know its hard and demanding yet very rewarding too. I myself have a step-daughter (14) who lives with us full time. She was in the same boat in junior high. It's a TOUGH age plain and simple. The thing that turned it around for mine was that she knew we refused to give up on her. We had meetings with her teachers and counselors and along with their help we had a 'plan' to help instead of simply pointing fingers at her. We had to take responsibility too. Grade sheets are VERY important...most schools have them already made up but I made one myself that included a comments section for each teacher, behavior in class, Attitude towards peers and teacher, participation and grade (most of the school forms just include grade). This helped ALOT...she had to get it signed every Friday. She then began lying about homework and 'testing' the waters. Instead of condeming her we altered our approach. Again we met with her teachers and asked if they would sign off DAILY in her binder reminder. They all agreed and that gave us control over her ability to lie. Of course it's more fun to go outside then do homework so it's normal to lie but there are steps you can take to cut the lies off even before they became lies. Then you reward him or give him consequences accordingly. If my daughter forgot a signature she had a consequence. If she completed the entire week with all signatures she got a gift card. You have to pick the rewards and consequences accordingly and make sure you and your husband as well as your son knows what happens when he does it one way vs. the other way. My daughters school also started an online parent portal that REALLY helped too. We could see homework assigned, grades for each assignment, email teachers, ect. If your children's school doesn't already have this I would speak with them about getting it because it was a God send. We also didn't stop her getting teacher's signatures when they started the parent portal because we still wanted her to be responsible! I'm happy to report we haven't seen a D on a report card in 2 1/2 years. She starts high school in Sept and took a math course over the summer where she earned a much deserved B (math was always her worst subject). It gets better as they mature but it's a tough road. I applaude you for taking it on!!! I hope your husband appreciates all you do. The kids don't see it that way yet but once their in their 20s or 30s they will. Good luck...you can do it! 'This to shall pass'
1 mom found this helpful
M.P. answers from Los Angeles on August 03, 2009
I'm reading a great book that I got as a referral from a question asked here. It's called, "How to Behave So Your Children Do, Too!" by Sal Severe. I borrowed it from the library but I might just buy a copy. His major points are not letting kids press your buttons, being consistent, using gentle punishments consistently. It's a really awesome book and I've been taking notes along the way. I hope it can help you! Best of luck!
1 mom found this helpful
B.H. answers from Los Angeles on August 03, 2009
I gave this answer the other day to a Mama with the same type of question. Hope it halps!
Thing one, congratulations on acknowledging it and asking for help. You have a lot of time to correct what you think you may have done.
Thing two, homework or helping around the house...simple, you continually say,“this is what you do as part of the family." There is no “or else” – whenever you give an “or else” they weigh the consequences to see “what it is worth to them”. Just be matter of fact. He will come around, kids need the structure to make good choices.
I am married and I have a 13 year old and a 10 year old (both girls) and here is our routine.
In our family we have “responsibilities” we don’t have chores. As a family it is our “responsibility” to ensure our home is clean and safe. That means EVERYONE does everything. We prepare meals together, we do dishes together, we clean house together. DAILY we do a 10 minute tidy every day – we put on 3 - 4 really fun fast songs, we set the time and we each pick a space to “clean” – cupboards, walls, floors, sweeping, dusting, clean out the fridge – whatever – then we just do it – but only for 10 mins. It is fun, fast and every day we get 40 mins of house work in (I have a family of 4). No more struggling to keep the house clean.
On the first of the month the 13 year old receives $200 and the 10 year old gets $100. 25% goes to rent, yes, they both pay rent
25% is kept in cash for necessities – toothpaste, deodorant, clothing, stuff they “need” – I pay for their food (unless they are going out with a group of friends – that comes from them)
10% goes to pay me for their sponsored sister (through World Vision)
10% goes toward education – books, school trips etc.
10% for Long Term Savings – for example my older daughter was saving for a trip with her Teen Group – she saved $800!
10% for Financial Freedom – every month they give me 10% of their income to invest.
10% Play – they can spend it on whatever they want – I can say NOTHING about it.
This teaches them responsibility for their actions and their own money. My 10 year old came home from “hanging at the mall” with her friend and her mom with a bag of new socks. I gave her a funny look and she said, “mom, they were in the clearance bin, they were only $5. 2 months ago when I bought this same pack it was $9! I am going to put them in my closet for school”
I could go on, but really I have already taken up too much space. I would love to talk to you about the simple things you can do, ____@____.com. I have written some ebooks about some of my advice/ideas ($23 for 3 books) if you want, contact me and I will tell you how to get them.
Family Wellness Coach
1 mom found this helpful
M.B. answers from Los Angeles on August 03, 2009
I know this sound wierd, but I would suggest doing things with him on an individual level. I think if you show him respect, he will show you respect.
What does he like to do? If he likes to ride a skate board, then tell him you want to learn to ride and you want him to teach you. I know it sounds crazy, but you need to get through to him, and getting down to his level a little bit, might get him to open up to you. He may just feel important to you for just a short while, and I can only see that being a good thing. I would also suggest that your husband does the same thing. It is very important to spend individual time with each of the children.
Maybe he feels that you love his sibilings more then you love him. That could be the reason he acts out......for the attention. Kids will take any kind of attention, even it is negative. You have to somehow find the good in him, and go with it. I'm sure it would be very hard to do since he gets under your skin. I know how you feel, I have a niece that I have a hard time being around. And she is WAY younger then your step son. But, anyway, that is my suggestion. Spend some one-on-one time with him doing something he would enjoy. (maybe a movie). I'm telling you, you may be surprised what can happen. I'm sure it won't happen right away, but it is worth the try!
1 mom found this helpful