C.P. asks from Saint Helens, OR on May 06, 2009
My Fiance's 12 Year Old Son's Behavior Is Out of Control!
I am engaged to a man with a 12 year old son. This is the first time I have been with a man who has a kid so it has taken some real adjusting on my part. Since the mother of the child is not in the picture I have taken on this role of playing "Mom". Most of the time he is a good kid but lately his behavior is out of control. He seems to run on his own schedule and is inconsiderate of anyone else's time but his own. For example, in the mornings when I take him to school he just drags his feet and when I tell him we have five minutes until we have to leave, when the five minutes is up, he is still not ready to go. The other night his Dad gave him ample warning that soon he would need to pick up his toys and go shower before going to bed, and when time was up he was again, just going at his own pace and when my fiance' kept telling him several time to hurry up and pick his toys up and go shower over and over, he was resistant and we we had to drag him LITERALLY to the shower, he grabbed a hold of the towel bar and wouldn't let go!! It was soooo childish on his part. Plus, we took the toys away that he was playing with because of the behavior that was displayed and he hid one of my nice dishes in his room and said that if he got his toys back that he would give me my dish back. I was so angry at the way he was disrespecting me and my property when the reason he lost HIS toys was because he didn't do as he was told and is now grounded. I love my fiance' and I am afraid that this will continue making it very difficult to be happy in this relationship. These kind of threats from him, the smirks on his face, "the I don't care attitude" have all been displayed before in front of me and according to his Dad many times before in the past before I came along. Even the teachers at school are noticing bad behavior and unwillingness to do his assignments at school and much attitude. We are possibly seeking a therapist for him. Plus, I am sure he is going through puberty since he has positive signs of hair growth under his arms and above his lip and according to him many months ago, he is growing hair in "other areas". Could this be a puberty thing or..?? We are so confused and are at our wits end with him! Please HELP!!!!!!!!!
1 mom found this helpful
M.B. answers from Portland on May 07, 2009
Yes he is probably going through puberty but that is no excuse to be mean. I do think he needs to go to talk to someone to help him through what has gone on and what is going on. Good Luck!!
G.T. answers from Portland on May 07, 2009
My kids are younger, but I have worked with this age before. This is very typical behavior, and you should not take it personally. It is the terrible teens, and he just needs some feeling of control over his life. Maybe you could both set up some way for him to feel more in control? Maybe a schedule of things that need to be done each day, with a reward at the end of the week? Boys also need physical contact, and he may be missing this since he is no longer cute and cuddly. Good luck, and try to hang in there!
D.H. answers from Spokane on May 07, 2009
I believe that one a kid hits what I call the tween age (ages be twin about 9 and 10 to about 12) be for there a teenager they tend to act out more due to hormones in the body not knowing what to do and you say he is going through puberty this is probably true.So just hang in there it goes by quicker than you think.
B.O. answers from Portland on May 06, 2009
You may not want to hear this but here goes:
You are not his mother. Yet. Until he accepts you into that role,until you and him create a relationship, you cannot be that role for him. You are his dad's soon to be wife. What relationship develops after that is yet to be determined.
He is going through many transitions right now, puberty included. I am sure there are issues within him about his mom not being in the picture, and your addition to the family compounds that. Have patience, empathy and compassion for his transitions and what he might be experiencing.
He is too old to be dragged into the shower. He is old enough to be respected in his personal choice not to shower once in awhile. Welcome to being near a teenage boy. It doesn't last long, because shortly he will be interested in attracting girls:)
If you need (true)respect from him, you need to earn it from him, and he needs to earn it from you also. It will take some trial and error to create that mutually. Don't view his hiding your dish as if he has adult logic. He is not an adult. You are the adult, you should not be viewing his smirks as "threats".
If you are not happy with the kid's behavior, and that has affected your happiness with your fiance, you may not be ready for this challenge in your life. Don't expect to send him to a therapist and have him "fixed". If you are serious about assuming the role of parent in this family and making things work, you will not only send him to a therapist, but you will also attend family therapy sessions with him.
Last, I highly suggest beginning to read guidance books, such as "Parenting with Love and Logic" and "Parent Effectiveness Training."
I wish you the best, good luck!
4 moms found this helpful
E.L. answers from Seattle on May 07, 2009
"Since the mother of the child is not in the picture I have taken on this role of playing "Mom"."
You haven't described any of the wonderful and positive attributes of being a mother. Are you striving for any of them? Do you love this boy? Does he know how you really feel about him?
Remember that he is a real person, not a creature to be bent to your expectations and desires. Also remember: He was there first.
If you are getting angry and acting out at someone, what do you think that you are going to accomplish? You will only foster negative feelings and reap negative reactions. Reproach with love.
I do think that counseling is a good idea. Individually for him and together as a family. He needs to be heard, respected, validated, and above all, LOVED.
You can only become a "family" if you want to genuinely be a family. Drop the quotes. Make it real.
3 moms found this helpful
M.D. answers from Portland on May 07, 2009
Others who responded here talked about behavioral changes that come with puberty, and also touched on the dynamics of step-parenting. They all made valid points, but that doesn't really help you deal with the situation you find yourself in.
I agree with the person who recommended the Love and Logic books. They present a wonderful technique used by many teachers and parents to deal with behavior issues. It's based on the idea that actions and behaviors have natural consequences. Rather than getting physical or arguing, you, as the adult, simply implement the consequence.
For example, if you are responsible for taking him to school, and he is never ready on time, you come up with a "real world" natural consequence. Possibilities are: 1. When its time to leave, you take him to school in his current state of readiness (no books, hair uncombed, no breakfast, etc.), 2. You leave without him, and he has to get himself to school, 3. He pays the cost of a taxi ride to school, 4. He pays you for your time wasted. You get the idea. No yelling, no anger. Lots of real empathy for the situation they have made for themselves.
I encourage you to read one of the books. Sometimes, local schools offer Love and Logic parenting classes for minimal cost. It's something you and your fiance really should do together, so you're on the same page with how to deal with behavior issues. Good luck.
3 moms found this helpful
A.P. answers from Eugene on May 07, 2009
When I was about 13 my parents seperated and mom started having a new "friend" around some. I was a model child--straight A, never in trouble, a very easy child (and teenager) according to my mother. However, I was a monster to this guy for quite a while--I would slam doors in his face, refuse to talk to him and I'm sure lots of other things that I can't remember. I am now 28 and he and my mom are still together and he walked me down the aisle when I got married. In part we have a loving realtionship because he just put up with my bad behavior and NEVER, EVER tried to parent me (or my younger sister). For whatever reason he understood that what was happening in my life (my parents seperation, his presence) was completely out of my control, it made me sad, frusterated, and many other emotions. I am so grateful to him that he was so understanding and kind to me during this difficult time--and that pretty much meant leaving me alone. My mom's partner didn't move in until after I went away to college, I can't imagine how horrible everything would have been if he actually lived with us. Remember, this child has absolutely no control over what is happening to him--he probably doesn't really like the fact that you're around. He certainly didn't pick you. And frankly, I think that's pretty understandable, no matter how fanastistic of a person you are. I also think that some of the behavior you've described (like dragging the kid to the shower) sounds pretty childish--you and your partner need to pick your battles and remember these kinds of transitions are often very difficult.
3 moms found this helpful
L.D. answers from Bellingham on May 07, 2009
I think it is remarkable that you accuse a 12 year old child of being childish. The reason they call it childish is because it's an appropriate way for a child to act. I can understand your confusion having never been around children, but the truth is that the behavior you describe is not all that out of control. It sounds to me like your son isn't getting something he needs, and is reacting as a result of that deficit. Consider his position - not having a relationship with his own mother, which has to be incredibly hard, and then having to come to accept you as a substitute. No matter how well intentioned you are, it is going to take a lot of time and careful communication for him to accept you as "mom", particularly if he has been living without one for all these years. I highly recommend the book "How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Can Talk". It has a lot of wonderful tools for dealing with difficult communication situations without having to result to the combat of taking things away or making threats, which are techniques that rarely work for any child. If you and your fiance can deal with your son with respect and mutual communication, I am sure you will get much better results, even if they are still childish at times.
3 moms found this helpful
K.R. answers from Bellingham on May 07, 2009
Lots of great advice here.
Now here is my advice:
Focus on your relationship with your fiance, for now.
And let your fiance handle his son, for now.
One of the toughest lessons I have learned (I just celebrated my 2 yr. wedding anniversary with my husband - I have two teenage step kids and three of my own) is that your relationship has to come first. And, while it is a huge responsibility to raise children, it is your fiance's child, and his responsibilty first. You and he need to talk and talk and talk some more about what your role is in this boys life. You and he need to be in complete agreement about how to approach different situations before hand.
And whenever you get into a power struggle with a child of any age, you lose. You lose face, you lose trust, you lose respect, etc. You cannot sink to his level and FORCE him to do anything. It will backfire. All the advice about letting a child suffer the natural consequences of his actions is spot on.
This boy, without a doubt, is going to test you over and over again. And you can choose to take it personally, or you can take a step back.
I would encourage you to seek counseling for yourself, rather than for your fiance's son. Not because there is anything 'wrong' that needs to be fixed, but because you are going to need strong support in this situation. You will feel and express frustrations, yes, but your fiance will feel divided between you and his son, at times. So he is not the one to voice your frustrations to.
I can't stress enough, this situation is so hard. It will seem unfair, so unfair at times.
But if you really love this man, if you can't bear the thought of not marrying him, you must be brave. You must be strong. You hang in there for love - if it is true love.
People all say to care about the child, think about the child's point of view, understand the child - and you SHOULD. But how much you sacrifice in the name of doing right by this boy is up to you.
Your very first responsibility is to C..
You must find a way to have faith and give up control.
Take care of yourself. Practice meditation, yoga, excercise. Treat yourself to baths and pedicures. Don't allow these conflicts to take over your sanity. These lessons all come in time.
And wherever you end up ten years from now, you will be a much wiser woman.
Good luck. I am sending you good vibes.
3 moms found this helpful
C.H. answers from Portland on May 07, 2009
Just so you know C. this is absolutely positively NORMAL pre-adolescent behavior. Everything you describe is gone through at this age and shouldn't be an indication of future behavior. He'll be a teenager soon and most likely some of these behaviors will intensify.
What to do? Well there's no book on how to do this because each human being is different even though we all share the same type of behaviors. Good even handed and FAIR discipline applied with 100% consistency should help a bit but don't expect huge changes in his behavior.
My son, who is now 28, went through most if not all of these behaviors and today he is a wonderful young man with a lovely wife and child living a good life. When I look back on raising him I feel totally blessed because all in all he was an easy child when compared to what I've seen other parents go through. However at this age blaming everything on the child will only cause more issues either now or later. Issues that could result in low self-esteem and lead a person to be someone they may not really be. Parenting plays a very large part in a persons behavior from birth to adulthood and although this will most likely be a very unpopular comment but some of these behaviors, although fairly normal for a boy his age, might be the result of inconsistent discipline as he grew up. Our son knew by age 12 that there were simply some things that were absolutely NOT tolerated and so we didn't have much trouble with him acting out or disrespecting us.
About the teachers at school you should be aware and remember that although they may claim to have your stepsons best interests at heart a large part of why they show concern is because he is probably disrupting the class and being a problem to them. Things have changed a LOT since I was in school (I'm 54) and from my experience during the time my son was in school a molehill is very quickly made into a mountain anytime any child is different or refuses to 'program'. We are all different individuals with different ways of seeing things, acting and with different needs. In order to maintain order in the classroom teachers would much prefer their students to conform and to behave perfectly.
As far as needing a therapist I would say ONLY if he begins to get physical with others or threatens to harm others or do harm to himself. Otherwise it just doesn't make any sense to send a perfectly 'normal' pre-teen to a therapist.
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B.L. answers from Portland on May 07, 2009
I am going to be very frank and respond like Dr. Laura would... If you can't stand Dr. Laura, STOP READING RIGHT NOW, or God forbid you might get offended!!! It's just one more opinion and you can take it or leave it.
Everyone else is responding to the parenting angle, and I want to address the relationship angle. I can't tell from your post if you are living with this boy's father, but if you are, Dr Laura would tell you to leave this man and his son alone until the son is 18. Dad needs to raise his son through puberty and get him out of the house before he moves a new woman in. If you are living with this man and having sex with him while the boy is around, that needs to stop, because the boy going through puberty doesn't need to hear his dad having sex with his girlfriend in the next room. Even if you're quiet, pre-teen/teen boys KNOW. You are not this boy's mother until you marry this man. If you marry the man, then you become the boy's mother. It's not fair to the boy to "try it out." If your man won't propose, leave. Don't waste your youth trying to be a mom to a boy who doesn't want you, or with a man who won't commit to you. He doesn't need therapy.
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