21 answers

15 Year Old Step-son Sneaking Out of the House at Night

It seems like it has been one thing after another with my step son. He will be 16 soon. He has been struggling through school since I have known him. His father has set up an IEP, taken him for countless evalutions, talked to his teachers constantly, sent him to a therapist, etc...
My step son is lying, sneaking out of the house at night, his father knows he is smoking pot, but what can we do about it? It seems like if we set boundaries, remove priveldges, etc..he just sneaks out at night anyway. He just got his mid-terms and has an F and a D, even though he is supposed to have all of these support systems in place.
He does not do his homework. I am so frustrated. I can tell my husband is very frustrated. I really want to be supportive to my husband, but I feel like this kid is running the show. He manipulates his dad by giving him the silent treatment. Which seems to work, because my husband is sensitive and wants to be close to his son.

I tried in the past to be a team and sit down and talk to the son as a team. I think I made my husband uncomfortable because he told me later it felt like I was trying to be in charge of his son. We have only been married for 18 mos. so I really took a step back and tried to be a better wife. I have tried to just ignore the things my step son is doing and let his father handle it, but it's driving me crazy now! I have three small children, too, who are looking up to this boy and seeing his behavior. I can't sleep at night because I know he is climbing out of windows and doing god knows what.
He has stolen things from me twice in the past, and when I have tried to sit down and talk with him about issues, he is just waiting me out.

What can I do to regain some order in my home? I need advice.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Well, first, thanks for all of your responses. I showed my husband my request and everyone's answers and he was really happy to read everyone's suggestions.

We did, ultimately, decide to try family therapy. Well, let me tell you that the therapist you choose can make or break you. The social worker we saw through my husband's EAP was opinionated and basically told me to butt out and let my husband handle his son.
Everyone keeps telling me that we are a 'family' now. That these kids are 'our' kids. But the reality is that it is not true. My husband doesn't think we have equal authority with each other's children. I can't begin to tell everyone enough how hard it is to have a blended family. There is a lot more at stake than just how much two adults love eachother and want to be together. Throw in differences in parenting styles, etc...and you've created a frustrating and heart-wrenching situation.
I am struggling right now, and so is my husband. We have made the commitment to get through this together, though.

Featured Answers

I think you should seriously consider sending him to military school because things are just going to get worse. I know it sounds pretty extreme but I think that is what he needs because his behavior is getting pretty extreme.

1 mom found this helpful

How about getting an alarm system for his window or one for the whole house? Just a thought... what does the therapist say? Does he/she have any suggestions or ideas as to why this kid is acting out?

More Answers

Hi K.,

It's a hard position to be in, to be a mother and new stepmom. As a child, I grew up in a home of 5 kids as well and had the experience of having a stepfather with two children from a previous marriage who become stepsiblings. One lived with us, one did not. As you might have guessed, some of us had quite an attitude about the authority of our stepparents. However, the two adults made it perfectly clear that they were both heads of the house and both of them were to be listened to.

One thing I saw missing from your plan of action regarding your stepson: marriage and family counselling for yourself and your husband as a couple and for the family as a whole. If your stepson is the only one going to therapy, he could be feeling very angry to be considered "the only problem". I am sure that coming into this situation during the beginning months of a marriage is very hard on both you and your husband. Having someone to talk to about this, who could help you both find a better balance in regard to parenting all of your children is very important, or resentment can arise.

Bear in mind, too, that your stepson may have unresolved feelings in regard to whatever the reason is that his biological parents aren't together. Coping with divorce or death is very difficult for children of all ages, even when they put a brave face on it and act unfazed, they aren't. You don't say if your husband was divorced or widowed, but either way, that can be huge for a teenager.

My ultimate advice: get the counseling and have some accountability. I wouldn't "crack down" as much as I would invite him to particate whenever possible. By all means, you do need to secure the house at night. Consider getting an alarm installed, and explain to the installer that you want to make sure to keep your kids in. My parents have an alarm that must be turned off before any door or window to outdoors is opened, or it sounds. Do not give your stepson the code. The alarm tech can put sensors on the windows. Make it clear to your stepson that this isn't to keep him imprisoned by any means, but that there are serious safety reasons that he musn't be out at night, most especially without parental knowledge and permission. Permitted overnights where another friend's parents are home and in contact should be allowed. If he thinks that he's an untrustworthy disappointment, he will continue to behave in that fashion. I'd also install some kind of smoke detector in his room if you suspect the pot-smoking is going on at home. There are kinds that can be wired right in to the electrical system.

My best to you and I wholeheartedly hope this situation improves for everyone.

3 moms found this helpful

It's really hard on kids to be part of a blended family. I did similar things as this when I was a teenager for the same reason. It would have been better if you had waited until the kids were grown before getting married again. This boy probably feels like a lot of the attention he used to get is now being used on you and your kids. I would have your husband spent a lot of extra one-on-one time with the boy. It feels bad to be in this situation, like you're now lost in the midst of a new life that you didn't want. Try to be compassionate, there are only a few more years before he leaves the house. Most people grow up past this faze and become decent adults. Good luck, you're in a tough spot.

2 moms found this helpful

Your stepson has been put in a devastating situation (and so have your children). Not only did divorce tear apart the family that made him secure, but now he's expected to be part of a "family" that he's just been thrown into, and has no say about it. Acting out is his way of getting his say.

Have you ever thought of apologizing to him? I know you don't feel like you've done anything wrong, but in his eyes you have. Sit him down and tell him that you had a moment of clarity and saw the situation through his eyes, and you're so, so sorry he's been put in such a tough spot. Tell him you completely understand that his life has been turned upside down, and that he hasn't been given a choice about who his own family is. Then ask him what HE thinks you all can do as a family to make things better.

I'm sorry this is so tough, but this is common in blended families. Good luck to you!

2 moms found this helpful

This may be a long post, and don't know if it will help you at all, but you just threw me back almost 40 years. But the role is reversed a bit. I was divorced and had two children, the oldest a boy (now 47 years old). When I remarried, I married a man with no children who absolutely loved my son and daughter. We then had 3 "of our own". My oldest son did the identical same thing at exactly the same age (15) both my husband and I tried to take the hard line with him, grounding etc; contacted the school, each thing you mentioned. He also dropped out of school at 16, and there was no way we could stop that either, because of the school at the time. I believe the bottom line now was that he felt replaced, or displaced with the younger ones. He lied about things that he really didn't need to lie about. He would sneak out, to meet up with friends, and yes...he was smoking pot, then later he tried other things. I think he was crying out for attention and love. Even though he was loved, in his own mind he was not (he was replaced with younger children that required more attention). So to him, any attention was worth it (even bad attention). The reason I'm telling you this is, fast forward 30 years. I have not seen my son this time for almost 11 years now, and the time before that it was 8 years. I don't know where he is, or if he is even alive. My heart has been torn out over this, and don't know why he's chosen to stay away. He also ended up with one child and broken marriage, and a child with another woman. They also haven't seen him in over 20 years. And I would hate to see the same happen to your family. My advice may not be the correct advice, but if I had it to do over, I would tell and show my son just how very much I love him, and make him feel as special as I could. And of course, I would go to family counseling with him also. I would never be so busy with all the other children, that he would feel he wasn't loved as much. Our family has been shattered over this. By all means talk with him and tell him how much he means to you and your entire family. Once he feels your love and concern, hopefully all the other issues will fall in place. If he felt really happy and loved at home, maybe he wouldn't be so eager to sneak out, or do any of the other attention getter's. I'm by no means saying you don't love your son, or are doing anything wrong. This is all probably in his own mind, so if you could re-inforce your love and concern to him, maybe he would get it, and realize his thinking is not accurate. I'll pray for you and your son.

2 moms found this helpful

You don't mention his mom in this story. Where is she and what can/does she offer?
Pot is not acceptable at all. It is illegal. If he gets caught with it in his possession at school he will be suspended for a minimum of 10 days, if not longer. Referred to a treatment program of some sort. So the consequences delivered here may not be up to Dad, the legal system takes over.
Dad is not helping. And if you are not able to discuss the issues out of sight/earshot of the 15 yr old and come to some sort of a game plan, you need family counseling, all of you. The son can see what he's doing, and probably has been doing it for sometime, playing both ends against the middle. The issue is now you, not him.
School work... support systems are just that, support. If there is nothing there to support, nothing is there. Many schools now have online grade books, you don't have to wait until progress report time, you can get a pretty current view of what he is or isn't doing. Many schools have after hour study tables, assign this activity. A little tough love needs to be used here. Reality sandwiches served. If your son can't get the grades he needs to graduate now, he won't be able to get a job that pays the rent on a studio apartment and a bus pass, let alone buy the food he needs. There is no military service without a diploma. Options, choices are severely limited.
Leaving home at night? You may have to put grating on the outside of his bedroom window and find a way to lock the front door from the inside. Maybe taking shifts to watch his behavior. If he's out at night, he's not getting the rest his body requires to be able to stay alert and attentive in school. DSHS and the school can make a recommendation to Family Reconcilation Services. Again, this is a family therapy situation that works towards resolution of the problems. It may be that he will be removed from the home for 5 days and placed in a retention center. It's extreme, but you step son is on a very slippery slope and he's the 'teacher' for your younger kids. They're looking at him and taking notes as to what they're going to be able to do.

If you're working for a large employer, contact your EAP person and ask for assistance/referral. But you and your husband have to understand that this son isn't just his son, he's your son as well, you are a family and there is none of this 'yours', 'mine' and 'ours' they're all 'yours'.

Best of luck!!! To persist is to achieve!!!

2 moms found this helpful

I commend you for being an involved step-mom!

I think it is time to be really clear with your husband. The boy is smoking pot and stealing, and those are illegal activities. They cannot happen in your home around your smaller children. Period.

So - how to get that to happen? If it were me, I would move and change schools. Peer group is usually the reason for this behavior. If that isn't possible, then maybe he needs to go live somewhere else for a while away from family.

Therapy is great, but he should be going with dad, not alone. If that isn't in place, start it asap. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

I think you should seriously consider sending him to military school because things are just going to get worse. I know it sounds pretty extreme but I think that is what he needs because his behavior is getting pretty extreme.

1 mom found this helpful

Since your step son seems to have a lot of idle time on his hands, take him down to volunteer at a shelter for the homeless in your area. Let him see first hand what it's like for the less fortunate. Does he think he's going to live at home till he's 40?? Maybe helping others will allow him to feel better about himself. I don't know the circumstances involving his mother (divorce? visitation?) but while he's living under your (you and your husband)'s roof he abides by your rules. You and your husband have to be a united front and I understand your husband wants to have a good relationship with his son but this kid sounds to me like he's hurting inside maybe from whatever the situation was with his parents and he needs reassuring that he matters or that you care enough about him by setting boundaries and rules and that there will be consequences if he doesn't abide. You have to follow through and don't back down or get slack. Call it tough love if you will. He's controlling the situation right now and if you think it's bad now, wait till he turns 18 and thinks he can do as he pleases cause he's an adult (course you could boot him out on his own at 18 too but doesn't sound like something dad would do). Communication is important. Keep trying to talk to him. He needs to know your all in this together. It's tough, really tough! Painful and heartbreaking, I know, my son just turn 18 and it hasn't been very pleasant. He's not into drugs but he's bored with school and doesn't want to go half the time and we just want him to graduate. I am so tired of struggling with grades every year, it's just worn me out! The only thing thats improved our situation is our son got back together with his girlfriend and so now he wants to go to school to see her. She's an honor student so maybe she can tutor him! LOL
I wish I had the magic solution for you. Stand your ground and don't allow him to control the situation. Best of Luck to you.

1 mom found this helpful

One thing about teenagers is that when they go through their adolescent phase, it is the time where they experiment and discover their roles, whether it is desirable or not. When I was growing up (we grew up poor), my mother exposed me to things like people strung out on drugs, homeless, teenagers with babies, and then she would ask me, is this what you want to be? Is this where you want to end up? She would reiterate that if I ever tried drugs, snuck out and didn't graduate from school, this is where I would end up. Showing your teen these people and these situations and asking him if this is what he wants might make his wheels turn. Also, show him the complete opposite. Show him people with nice homes and families that don't have issues and ask him is this what he wants in life? If the answer is yes, then tell him you can't sit around and smoke pot and not finish school to have this. Give him some incentive, and show your support and show that you love him like a son and that you don't have to be his mom, but pretty darn close. People learn through experience, well most people, and getting him to open his eyes by enabling him might inspire him and build his self esteem. You don't have to graduate from high school to join the military either. (army) So keep your chin up, don't victimize him, but show him that you care by throwing him into the world and letting him decide for himself which path he chooses to take. He'll learn someday, (hopefully not when he's 30!)

1 mom found this helpful

You may not be able to keep your step son from sneaking out at night or making other bad decisions for himself but you have a right to expect a certain amount of order in your own house.

Find a good therapist who can work with you and your husband to protect your marriage and younger children during this time. Ask around til you find someone who has been successful in dealing with this type of situation. He/she may not be able to help your step-son directly but will help you to make decisions for yourselves and your family that will provide the framework for your step-son to change if he is willing.

My heart goes out to you. I hope you sleep better soon.

1 mom found this helpful

It sounds to me like you're trying everything and being so careful and sensitive to all the many conflicting needs, so bravo to you. I would start at the heart, your step son's heart that is. Kids this age can be very bristly, don't you find? Even when they are with their natural parents who have loved them for their whole lives, they start to do things that allow them some distance. And you have to let them go to some degree, but you can always have a place in their heart, so try to get that place by just letting him know that you care about him and you really want to learn about his perspectives. It won't be easy. He probably will think that shutting you out is the best way to get what he wants (kids can also be extremely selfish) but if you show him you care by finding out what he likes (and what will make him exhausted so he won't sneak out) and then enroll him in that, it might help? Also, "sit down and talk" apparently doesn't work with boys especially but teenagers in general. Perhaps he'll be more apt to talk if he'd doing something fun with you.

All the best,

Love him. Love him HARD. Get family counseling... all of you together. He'll sulk - he'll avoid it - he'll sit there and not say anything session after session. But all the time he'll hear you and your husband say "I love you."

My brother went down this path at the same age. My parents' reaction was to try to fix just him instead of trying to fix the family. It was all his fault and his choices, rather than looking at what prompted him to make those choices in the first place. They tried tough love... and he moved out. That was 25 years ago - he still doesn't have a relationship with them.

Love first. Don't blame... just love and forgive and focus on making it better.

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Now that you are married to this man, be it 18 months or 10 years you need to be involved in this child's life too. You did't say how involved the mother of the boy is or where he lives full time, however you and your husband need to both be involved with his teen and he needs to get over the uncomfortable feelings and work together with you as a team. This child seems displaced in the family with 3 children of your own. Is the child you're not mentioning his too.
This teen has slipped downward and I feel it's essential that you both be involved in his life by making sure he doesn't sneak out even if it involves giving him a different bedroom that it would be harder to happen.
Listen to him and ask questions of him about how he feels about his life. What does he see for his future? Try to keep him involved in the family, chores, and work to included him in family decisions even when he doesn't care or just wants to move on. Have him invite his friends over. Try to narrow the distancing because it won't get easier and his friends are more important to him at this time. Find small ways to show you appreciate something about him or something he has done.

If your step son is still seeing a therapist, you might try making an appointment with him/her for you. I would do this privately, at least at first, so that your husband doesn't feel like you are overstepping. Talk with the therapist about the effect that your step son's behavior is having on you, your marriage, and your other children. The therapist may have some insight, or may be able to talk with your husband to try to relieve some of the tension. You may have only been married for 18 months, but you have a right to protect yourself and your children. It sounds like you need to step in here since your husband's way is not working. But, you have to be careful not to step on his toes too hard. I don't envy you, what a tough thing to have to go through. If it were my kid/stepkid, there would be an alarm system going in so that I was alerted anytime a door/window was opened.

How about getting an alarm system for his window or one for the whole house? Just a thought... what does the therapist say? Does he/she have any suggestions or ideas as to why this kid is acting out?

Hi K.,

I feel for you. I have a 17 year old daughter who all of a sudden thinks it is ok to stay out all night. She even stayed gone for 3 days recently. It is absolutely breaking my heart. She dropped out of school about a year ago. She had missed one too many days of school, so her school told her that she would not get credit for any of the classes she has taken. So rather than fight it she curled up into a shell that took us a while to break her out of. She was okay for a while. Then she hooked up with a friend she had not seen or talked to in a long time. This friend was alot freeer than my daughter. She went to hemp fest with her, (of course I had no knowledge until later), to a teen club in Seattle, etc. Then her friend and her parted ways. Now that my daughter has had a taste of this new "fun lifestyle", she is off the hook. I have threatened her with having to move out, taken her cell phone away, and everything else I know, but I can't seem to get through to her. This is so hard, I love her and don't want to see her throw her life away. I just don't know what else to do. So, as you can see, I guess I can't be of any help. Just know that there are other people out there just like you, going through the same things.
Any advise for me??

Best of luck and wishes,

Heartbroke Mom

Do not back down, do not step back, do not allow your husband to do so.

It is time for a counselor, private, or an intervention.

It needs to be done as soon as possible.

Your family will be in my thoughts.


Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers (Paperback)
by Gordon Neufeld (Author), Gabor Md Mate (Author)

This is a really good book.

Dear K.,
i am a grandmother who has gone thru what
your dealing with.
I would say to join a alanon group.
You can get information, and group help
dealing with this.
I will be praying for your family.
Sometimes,, people have to learn for themselves.
It really sucks for the people who love them.
Teenagers.. Mercy..
Good luck.

If you know he's smoking pot, he's doing other drugs, & drinking. He's testing you both. He's trying to make your marriage not work. Stick to your rules and parenting plan. Get him to a DR, have weekly drug tests done. Maybe he will get arrested and find out he really doesn't want to go down this path. The kid needs positive influences around him, doesn't sound like the kind of friends he has. Lock up your valuables, purse, & money. He will find a way to get money for drugs if he is deep into it. Things are going to get worse if you don't get a handle in this right now. Do you go to church? Get involved in one if not. Get him in the youth group. A good youth pastor will be helpful and it's someone besides you guys trying to get him to go down the right path.Put locked bars on his window if you have to. Alarm systems that will wake the dead if he tries to open any door or window in your house. Something WILL work, but you and your husband need to do it together and have each others back. Don't ever argue or discuss anything in front of him that will give him more fuel to try and pull your family apart.

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