12 Year Old Behavior Problems

Updated on July 02, 2010
M.B. asks from Simi Valley, CA
24 answers

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).
Thank you!

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answers from Los Angeles on

go to classical homeopath with CCH credentials. correctly seslected homeopathic remedy should change his behavior 30% after the first visit.
Good Luck

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

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.

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answers from Los Angeles on

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?

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.

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. :)

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


answers from San Diego on

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.

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answers from Los Angeles on

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.

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answers from Los Angeles on

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.

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answers from Los Angeles on

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, [email protected]____.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

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answers from Los Angeles on

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!
good luck!

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answers from Los Angeles on

I've been taking a fabulous parenting class at my church. Last week it was on Communicating with Love, and last night it was on Overcoming Anger. It was EXCELLENT. Kind of the bottom line, is that kids act out because they feel vulnerable and powerless. Here are the steps it recommends to improve communication and stop negative patterns of communication:
1. Return good for evil. (use an even tone, speak respectfully, be reasonable, state rules and consequences lovingly, even when your child is being disrespectful). Sounds like you are good at remaining calm, but sometimes an expression of love and appreciation towards a child that is feeling anxious or unloved will diffuse tense situations.
2. Look for the good in your children, and praise it. Again, sounds like you have rewarded good behavior, but maybe also try to praise the good qualities you see in him, however few you may see. Let him know he is a valuable person and that you see the good in him.
3. Listen to your children. Help your child feel valued and respected by accepting their feelings as legitimate, even when you do not agree. Allow them to express feelings, even those that you do not approve of. Paraphrase their feelings back to them in a nonjudgemental way.
4. Respond non-defensively, even when your child is upset with you.
5. Share your feelings appropriately when you are upset - use "I" statements. (i.e. I feel frustrated when assigned jobs are not done.)
6. Clarify your expectations.

I have seen many friends and family members struggle with teenage children and often drive them away completely. I myself have a very intense and emotional preteen daughter. I am a reformed yeller (and frankly, I have reformed recently. This communication stuff has improved our relationship 1000% in a short time. but it takes work and a lot of self control!!) Many of these "trouble" kids exhibited offensive behavior, which was met with incredulity and punishment on the part of the parents, which led to the child not feeling understood, which led to a further distance between them. Sometimes responding with love is the last thing you want to do when you feel taken advantage of, taken for granted, and disrespected, but sometimes it is what the child needs. Often kids who feel valued and appreciated will begin to turn around when yelling and threats have not caused them to do so. Hope that helps!

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answers from Los Angeles on

"his 4 kids live with us" is the first problem you are having. Your 12 year old does not respect you because you keep referring to him as your step-son or your husband's kids, not yours. He was already dumped by his Mom and now you keep saying he is your husband's kid. I think that you really need to make it a point to say things in front of him like my son ... and our son... and our kids... and so on. It will make him feel more accepted by you. He will be more likely to respect you. Have you all had family pictures together? This is crucial. Do you carry pictures of them in your purse? There are many things you can do to make him feel loved and it should help with his respect toward you.

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answers from Boston on

It is easy to get angry when a child is mean or dis-respectful. But also you need to understand that a boy this age isn't doing this just to be a jerk (even though he wants it to seem that way) Clearly he needs someone.

What you first need to do is sit him down, he will not want to and he will have an attitude with you, he may even be mean and curse. The whole point is that you get so frustrated that you go away. But the truth is that you can't, and you shouldn't. Dig your heels deep down.

He does not respect you as a ' mother figure' or his own because he clearly has mother issues. He has no attachment to either of you because in his eyes he wasn't wanted or needed and hes not getting what he needs. To be honest with you, you may also be part of the problem.

Taking priveleges away, grounding, and threatening him is only going to make him more defiant. What you need to do is this.

You need to sit him down just you and him eye to eye and be genuine and calm. Do not say " I know why you feel this way " because you don't and it will only make him more angry. You need to say " Listen Josh (whatever his name is) Things are pretty hard around the house, and I know that maybe your angry at me. I want you to be honest, because clearly I am not helping you get what you need, and I want you to tell me what I need to work on so that we can get along better, I want to be close to you and do fun things with you, but you are distant. What can I do that will show you how much you mean to me, and how much I love you" If he outbursts and yells and just raves then hes angry, and isn't ready for this. If he sits quietly hes thinking and may not want to tell you now but later on he will. Or maybe he will just tell you " I don't feel as though I belong to you, I am not your son and you don't love me" which is probably what he is feeling considering he listens to his father and not to you. You need to set down ground rules.

When I was younger my father and I used to SCREAM at each other. I never got into trouble I never drank, or did anything wrong but our personalities were SO much alike we couldn't stand each other. But it was our tempers, both of us that made us like oil and water, completely incapable of decent conversation. My father called me downstairs and even though I didn't want to go I went. I didn't want to talk to him and I probably didn't say much. But what I did say I remember.. " The minute you raise your voice to me it shows disrespect and I don't feel like you care about me at all. Once you raise your voice you become disrespectful and I cannot help but to raise my voice back " we told each other that we would work on our communication and now we are much better. We respect each other a lot more and i find myself wanting to spend more time with him.

You need to sit down with him just you two, and tell him that you don't want to yell. You just want to tell him that your both grown ups. (even though he isnt) and that you need to work together sometimes to make things happen around the house. If hes mad at you for his own reasons, then you want him to tell you, ask him what you can do so you can get along better. But yelling and punishing will never work.

Because not only is your 12 year old the problem, but you and your husband in a small way are as well. And yes it is hard to hear, and yes this may offend you. But a 12 year old is in many ways product of the environment. Maybe you do not realize but he watches everything you do. Maybe he does not complete chores because you or your husband may not, pay close attention to your daily routine, and how you interact with your husband, or other people. Show more affection towards things, more interest, and thereby showing more interest in your son. because even though he did not come from you, you are in fact his mother. I hope this helps.

To change a child we must first change ourselves.

Good luck!

The people that tell you to take him to counseling are wasting their breath, if you are not good to your child and you do not help him in the correct ways he will never love you. The parents that scream and hit and yell are part of the problem and most people cant, dont know, or dont want to admit it. Some parents dont have time for their children, and I dont mean ' but I took them to the mall ' that is NOT time with your children. You need to show interest, you need to give out praise when they do something right you need to spend time with your child and sit down and talk to them like adults, you cannot point, yell, scream, hit and expect your kid to listen. You cannot take your kid to therapy and assume " he/she" will be 'cured' when you are ALL part of the problem. You need to assess the ways you interact with him, and talk to him, and find out his NEEDS from you. Your his MOM not his doctor, or friend. You should have unconditional love and he should know that. I am not saying baby him. I am saying you need to sit down and tell him like it is. but in a respectful, calm way and ask him if he understands. Tell him that when you do something that makes him upset to come talk to you, get it out, and you can fix it together. For the people that grew up with an unruly child... and it stayed that way. Is because that child never respected you and you are part of the problem. Im sorry but its true.

Be angry, but listen to the Truth. You have communicated with your child wrong and have not given the child what they need.

Even babies know ' right from wrong' and the babies that are grown up with ' Honey we can't touch that because it's hot and it will hurt ' instead of 'NO' have a better understanding of how serious you are and why (Because you care about them)..

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answers from Los Angeles on

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'

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answers from Los Angeles on

Get him off the DRUG, lexapro. CHANGE his diet. NO suagr!!!!!!!!!!! Lots of greens, fruits, all other veggies, nuts, seeds and legumes!!!!!!!!!!!
Can you even imagine, a "bio" Mom just walkiung out on them! Of course, they are going to be messed up. Maybe the other kids will not show it or act out until they are older!?? One never knows!! Just get him off the DRUG. Change his diet. TODAY! Get a juicer and juice him some REAL juice!

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answers from Los Angeles on


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!

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answers from Honolulu on

I have to agree on the love thing. Just love on him. I know it is frustrating but love does help.

You might need to read the book "The 5 love languages for teens" He needs a full love tank before he can really be disciplined by you.

Another good book is "discovering your heart with your flag page". It can be really helpful with super angst filled teens or suicidal teens. Basically it tells you what is really important to him and how to help you get through to him better.

Edit: and just so you know, he seems to be showing the signs of being suicidal or severally depressed. http://helpguide.org/mental/depression_teen.htm look it up.

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answers from Honolulu on

I believe it's important to be consistent with discipline. continue to take away privileges as he misbehaves. also, maybe lexapro is not a workable medication. is it possible for the doctor to try another medication or increase the dosage of lexapro. i can only imagine what a difficult time this must be for you. are there any relatives from his biological mother's side that interact with the children. perhaps some connection those family members might be helpful. he surely must feel rejected and abandoned by his mother. i hope all works out well.



answers from Honolulu on

Hi M......sounds like you could use some extra support. I get great support from Lorraine Pursell. She's an awesome parent mentor. She lives here in Hawaii and travels all over the us. Her website is www.LorrainePursell.com Sign up for her free parent empowerment pack so you can be at the free teleclass and talk to lorraine directly.




answers from San Diego on

M., You are living my life as it was 6 years ago- it has only gotten MUCH worse!! If you,husband & son can go to family counseling that would be great, but I have learned the hard way that the most important thing you can do is to get your husband to put his foot down and stop this behaviour right away. If he is anything like my step son (who I have raised since age 7) he is testing you both to see what he can get away with. By freshman year of high school he was selling pot and was expelled. We tried 3 more schools and he was kicked out of all of these for drugs. He will only disrespect you both more often and you will hear "you're not my real mom 10 times a day". Only your husband has the power to be tough with him and don't be surprised if the child threatens to call social services on you both. Good luck!! C.



answers from Los Angeles on

First of all Sonya H is right, about the food. Second of all if you don't discipline you can expect behavior problems - "talking to" is not discipline, boundaries and consequences have to be enacted and also enforced CONSISTENTLY, or you'll have a child who misbehaves.
Oh, ya - and Marla B's response is a bit off, you can't "show a kid respect" in the same way he needs to show it to you, that will be absolutely counter-productive. But, you can discipline while still maintaining a level of respect, but you MUST discipline - it's a balance you need to learn to be an effective parent. I like the idea of a parent mentor, I'd check that out also.


answers from Los Angeles on

Dear M.,

It sounds like you certainly have your hands full. As a parent coach, I help parents with similar issues all the time. Here is a link to an article I wrote about why children lie. If I can be of any further help, please feel free to contact me.

Best wishes,
G. B., M.A.




answers from Los Angeles on

Wow so I am amazed that 3 out of 4 of the kids are doing so well in this transition. I am a teacher and I see what a parent abandoning their child does to them! It can scar them for life! You are just going to have to be very patient with him and give him extra love and attention. He probably doesn't respect women because he saw the one woman, his mother who was suppose to be his everything just give him up. This can cause serious psychological problems in a child, especially in a boy. Good luck and my prayers are with you and your family.



answers from Reno on

OMG!!!!! M. I know exactly what you are going through. My 10 yr old son was just diagnosed with aspergers and he does the same as your boy too. I am at a lost end too. It's so hard to talk to him cause their minds don't work the same as ours. That's what I have read anyway. There are days I just what to shoot myself. Lately hehas started peeing everywhere like a dog marks his shot. He is on lexapro also and it doesn't do anything for him. When I tell him he has to do his chores he just looks at me like I'm speaking another language. I have tried so many ways to disapline him and they have all failed. I found this site that might be useful to you. It's autismspeaks.org I hope it helps. I have learned a few things so far but I just started. If you just want to talk my e-mail address is [email protected]____.com sometimes it just helps to talk



answers from Los Angeles on

Dear M.,
What a bummer! I can totally relate. I, too, am a step mom...although I started using the term "bonus mom" and "bonus son" as it's great that he has me in addition to his bio mom and that I have him in addition to the 3 I birthed. That verbage started us on a path to a closer relationship.

When my bonus son was 16 we had similar difficulties. We ended up sending him to a Wilderness Therapy School in Oregon for 9 months which, although it was the most challenging time in our lives, helped immensely. But what I learned while he was there was that there are many awesome resources out there for parents of teens that I never knew existed. I've since created a website where I gather links to the various wisdom that is out there for parents like us. You can check it out at www.BigBearCommonGround.com

I think one of the most helpful sites I've found is LoveandLogic.com They have a ton of free articles you can read on their website or download. I'd also recommend purchasing their "Teen Pack" which is a selection of various CDs filled with wisdom for dealing with just about every issue teens bring up. I listen to it in the car whenever I'm driving alone or with my husband (he finds it helpful too).

Also, I think it is really important that you and your husband work together as a team. One voice. Whenever discipline is necessary, discuss with your husband first, then decide the course of action TOGETHER. My husband and I found the most success when we talked to our son together. That made it easiest for us to uphold the consequence. Our son couldn't play us against one another, and although I'd allow my husband to do most of the talking, it was clear that it was coming from both of us.

Raising teenagers can be exhausting at times, but Love and Logic makes it SOOOO much less painful (for the parent!)

Be sure to check out the LoveandLogic.com site and BigBearCommonGround.com

Best wishes for success!



answers from San Diego on

Hello, It sounds like your step-son is going through some tough times. I'm not trying to give him excuses (there is not excuse for being disrespectful), but maybe that is a reason. He has taken the rejection from his mother harder than the rest. I would take myself out of the discipline with him and let his father take care of that. I would just be there to incourage him and make him feel loved. He doesn't trust you. He may even see you as part of the reason his parents aren't together. Whatever the problem is with his feelings about you, he will probably come around with much patience on your part.
I would also have his father to ask for an IEP for him at school. Sometimes (even with very bright children) there are underlying problems with their learning. He may have a learning disability. This was the case with two of our sons. Once they get him (if this is the case) on a better learning program he will feel more confident and be able to bring up his grades. The IEP can be started with the counselor at his school. I am assuming he is in middle school. If you and your husband think this might be the case, push for it. If you run into road blocks with the school, go to the district level. It could be the answer to your son's and your problems.
Good luck with your precious family. They are lucky to have you for a mom.
K. K.

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