Am I a Bad Parent?

Updated on March 27, 2008
M.U. asks from DeKalb, IL
49 answers

I have a 7 year old step son who is defiant and showing alot of problem signs. My husband and I just got married and right away we got custody of his 7 year old son, and before living with us he has been pretty messed up with mom. We have taken him to counseling and have done everything we know possible, but now it is affecting our marriage and he is getting worse. I have an older daughter and I love kids and they usually love me, but this boy is something else, and I am at my witts end. So, I told my husband that he has to go back to his mothers house. I know it sounds mean, but, I cannot take it anymore, he is too much to handle, and it is starting to affect my health and my husband can't handle him either. Now, I feel like I will be blamed for everything that goes wrong with him, even though he is not my kid and i didn't have anything to do with how he is now. I have never felt this way about a child before. Anyone who knows me knows i love kids. Am I a bad parent?

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So What Happened?

Update: My husband is leaving me, he told me last night that this is all my fault and he is leaving me, and there isn't a whole lot i can do about it. I told him I didn't want him to go that the situation at home was just too much to handle. Since his son has been gone this week, it has been wonderful, and stress free. My husband doesn't think anything is wrong with his son, and as long as that is the case, I can't do a thing about it. Thanks for all your letters.

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K.S.

answers from Chicago on

Heavens NO!!! You are not a bad parent. I am going through something very similar. My step son is 17 though. If you'd like to email on this please do. [email protected]____.com

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L.T.

answers from Chicago on

Sound like he is really angry and you are getting the brunt of it. Many boys tend to get this way after divorces. Girls tend to withdraw - at least until puberty. They may not even know why they are so mad. He may also be using bad behavior to get more attention - from dad and his mom. Some have theorised that there are feelings of abandonment and then fear that it may happen with the new parent. It just takes time.

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B.A.

answers from Chicago on

I know you want to give him back, but I think that is what he is expecting. Whether or not his biological parents have shown him,he needs to be shown unconditional love. however do not let him get awat with things, this too shows him you actually care. Good luck with proving to a child that they have a stable, loving parent.

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S.L.

answers from Chicago on

He sounds like a very sad boy who is struggling with his new family structure. He may even be testing your love for him. Whenever he is acting up, acknowledge his anger, say "I know you are frustrated, let's try to work something out." Read the Explosive Child. Do not suggest he goes back with his mom. Stay patient, and eventually he will see you care and he will turn around.

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L.S.

answers from Chicago on

My advice to you is to stick with it and do even more than you were. Spend one on one time with him and be positive and encouraging. Find things he loves to do and get him involved in them...sports, scouts, church, give him outlets for dispensing his energy. Hug him and let him know no matter what he does you will love him. He expects you to reject him and it sounds like if you sent him to his mom's you would just end up getting him back at an older age with more problems. The younger he is when you change his routine and rules the more likely he will adjust to them. Children love routine and rules even if they fight against them...they thrive in knowing what to expect. There is a good book called How to make your children mind without losing yours. He is only 7. I had a difficult time with my 3rd son who has ADD but just because he tested me constantly didn't mean I was going to give up on him. He is my son...and this little boy is your son now. How would you feel if you were in his situation? I'm not saying you're a bad mom, I am saying you are the adult and he is only 7. You can take control of the situation. You can do it, don't be discouraged. If you had given birth to him you couldn't give him away. Life doesn't always hand us easy stuff, keep trying. This little boy needs you.

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M.N.

answers from Chicago on

M.~

I like what Elizabeth said below.....i wanted to ad that you currently have a daughter correct? What if you were in the same situation with her? What if she was that little boy? No matter what she did wuld you send her back to her Dads? And what would you think of the man you married that is forcing you to get her out of your house? I just wanted to point out one more thing. You use him in such a negative term when referring to him "of HIS 7 year old son" and "he...." and "he is not my kid" and "how he is now". If you step back and read this have you done everything for this little boy? It sounds as if your a bit stand offish with him. Have you put yourself in his shoes at age seven? He's carrying the weight of the world. He didnt ask to be born into a divorce or for you and his father to get married you expect him to deal with his feelings in an adult manner as a child.

If I were you....since I only know a paragraph of the story. I would research areas that I am aware f that affect your young one, I would be his advocate. I would speak for him n the things he cant speak for himself. What would you do for your daughter? Go to the ends of the earth? Ok then be that good parent for your as your call him "step son". Find a way to reach him. When it comes time to breathe and reevaluate where your at then take a time out. Communicate with your husband that you want to go see a movie with a girlfriend and breathe or go take yoga or something.

I have a step son that is the best. I love him as much as my daughter and we have four parents in our situation and all four of us may not agree on everything but we all love him. I also grew up in a divorced family where a lot of pain was divvied out as a child and it was hard for me to deal with. I had a great Dad that never gave up and Im older and happy.

Your little one may nt be able to communicate why he is unhappy. Your the adult that should take care of him. So step up and be his hero:) Not to go Dr. Phil on you!

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D.I.

answers from Chicago on

M., I am so sorry. Without hearing anything else about the story I would guess this, though: if you send the child back to his mother, your husband will resent you. Your marriage may never be the same. Whether or not it is difficult for you, he is still your husband's son. Maybe your stability, kindness and dedication to his well-being will eventually make this child happy. You may be the mother that he has needed.

Good luck.

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D.R.

answers from Chicago on

First no you are not a bad parent! But there is a couple of things noted.... I am not a step parent but I was a step child before. Please try your best not to make a difference between your natural children and him. Always refer to him as your child too. Also getting him involved in many different activities. Such as sports, or something along that line, and maybe getting him involved in the big brother/big sister program might help him channel that energy to something more positive.

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M.L.

answers from Chicago on

I think you should do everything possible to help that little boy. It sounds like the environment he will go to once you have him leave is damaging.

I wonder what kind of discipline you are using. Also I wonder how long he has lived with you.

Creating a time out area for my daughter works well. She will do what she has to in order to not go there. This worked well with my nephew also and he was VERY difficult. Also, if it’s been less 6 months or even a year it’s too soon. I’m sure it takes children longer to adjust.

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E.F.

answers from Chicago on

Dear M.,
Stop and take a step back for a minute...
Your new relationship/marriage included this wonderful child of 7 years. Custody was granted to the father for a good reason I'm sure, because it isn't easy to get custody from a mother. So first and foremost, do you really think it is wise to send the boy back to live with her? Dealing with life's problems IS hard and you signed up for this challenge the minute you married into the family. You don't just marry the man, you marry the family! If you fail this child and send him away, your marriage is doomed to fail as well. Just stick it out and muddle through as best you can and make this marriage and relationship with the child work. He is just a child and you are the adult. You are the one that needs to make it work. Don't lay any of the blame on the child. He has been through a lot. His life isn't blissful like your romance has been with the new hubby. This child has lost his security of a happy, healthy childhood and homelife when his parents broke up to begin with. Just take another look at the situation and make it work for all of you. Don't look at each individual as having a problem. You are all one family and in order for there to be peace you have to make all the parts work. Don't throw away the broken pieces... FIX THEM and stay a family unit. I mean this out of sincere caring and only wish that you all get through this together!
Sincerely,
E.

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W.S.

answers from Chicago on

M.,

I do not think you are a bad parent. I do think that all of us, as parents, do make mistakes sometimes though.

What sort of 'problem signs' is your stepson showing and what do you really mean by "pretty messed up with Mom"? If his mother lost custody in the first place I am a little concerned about him being sent back to her house. It is possible that both parents could lose a child like this to the foster care system, I am sure you don't want that to happen.

It sounds like, even though you have an older child, you kind of got socked right away after your marriage with being a step-mom and this might have blindsighted you.

Step parenting is very difficult, it is not the same as parenting your own - and older stepchildren do not accept authority from a step-parent (and they should not have to).

It is up to your husband to be a father, do the disciplining, give him quality time, etc. as the step mom of a 7-yr-old, your authority is going to be pretty limited. I would not be at all surprised if a 7 yr old who was discplaced and 'forced' to accept a new stepmother would be showing rebellious behavior - and that's not your fault.

Please do not take this as criticism, I feel for you. I had my son by adoption at age 4 and he came fully loaded with extremely serious behavioral issues - (and rebellious - oh my!) and, like you, I could not handle him on my own.
My situation of course, is completely different than yours. I adopted my son out of the foster system and as many times as I felt at my wit's end with him, I would never dare risk him going back to that system (please don't let this angry little guy be at risk to go there either).

Even if your stepson returns to his mother's house as a primary residence, won't you still be dealing with him for visitations with your husband?

I guess my point is, maybe you just need a break from him for awhile and perhaps you need a counselor to explain to your husband about the pressures of being a step-parent and what his role should be for your sake.

Also, if your step-son gets the impression that he can manipulate the situation through his behavior, well - let's just say things are not going to go well for a long time for you. Is it possible that sending him back to his mother's is exactly what he wanted you to do?

hugs,

W.

PS M., I just had to add to my already "long" post that your step son might also be TESTING you - I know my son did, to see if you are really going to "Keep him, or get rid of him somehow". If that is the case, once the test period is over in his young mind, you will come to a new place in your relationship - hang in there.

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L.

answers from Chicago on

I don't think that you are a bad parent. It must be hard dealing with a problem child. Plus I think it would be natural to feel annoyed with it and wish not to have to deal with it. The fact that you are worried about your feelings shows that you are in fact not a bad parent.

You don't mention how long your stepson has been living with you. For a 7 year old it must be pretty confusing being shuffled around from one house to another. He probably also hears you fighting about him, so it is easier to be defiant and just make it hard so you will send him back.

I would urge you to still try, even though it is difficult. Even if he is sent back to his birth mother's house, he is still the responsiblity of your husband, and yours as well. Unfortunately, when you marry someone who has kids you get their kids as well. Maybe you could do a shared arrangement instead? Or look into a program that might take him in for a few weeks - maybe a camp for troubled kids? That might help?

What do the counselers say? It might also help if you went and saw someone for yourself. That way you would be able to express your anger and frustration with the situation without turning it into a fight with your husband. It would also be an outlet for you to express all your feelings without having to temper them, which I think would be useful.

Good luck

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M.C.

answers from Rockford on

It sounds like you have not been married that long yet, so I would try to give it some more time. Being a step mom is not easy, and making blended families is not easy. When I married hubby #2 we blended families and it was excruciatingly difficult. As I look back now, there were times when I felt just like you - sick. It takes a lot to get through, but it does get better and it is worth it. My stepkids have lived with a mother who never took care of them as babies (my hubby worked full time and was up every night feeding them,etc). She is a selfish, cruel, and unpredictable mess. It was very hard when the kids came here because they lived in a zoo at home and we had rules and boundaries here. The kids at that time were young like your step son and they had absolutely no idea how to handle all the changes. If he lived with a horrible mother, then he is going to need time to feel the way a 7 year old child should feel. He won't act accordingly until he feels safe and loved and secure. It is pretty much impossible for the 7 year old to get a grasp on his feelings and express his true wants and needs, so he acts out. You sound like you feel all alone in this problem and that should not be. There is only so much you can take. Your husband should be in this with you to the very core. You may not make it if you do not be strong and work on this together. It has to be both of your priorities and you have to stand together, for support of each other and to create a united strength. If the counseling for him did not work, get another counselor or ask for more intensive help, and make sure your hubby is right there in the thick of it with you. I suspect it will take some time for this little boy to feel secure and loved and wanted, but for the sake of the entire family, he has to or else it will get worse and you will see your family slowly but surely break apart. You need to take care of you as well, get your own counseling, take a weekend at a friend's, join a club, anything that's for you to just get away for periods of time for you to regain your strength. Lastly, your husband, although he is in the same boat with trying to handle the child, may end up resenting you and blaming you for not giving it a chance. I would not give up yet, but would come at it with all I have, with my husband and professional help.

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K.S.

answers from Chicago on

I would not say that you are a bad parent! My sister and I gave my step father hell when he came in and married our mother with no warning. He was really nice to us for a few months, then they got married and told us about it later! After they were married he turned into a Drill Sgt.!!! I think that you were right to send him back to his mom. You should gradually bring him to your house and you and your husband need to talk to him seperately about the two of you being together. You should let him know that you are not trying to take the place of his mother, but he will need to have that kind of respect for you in your own home. Your husband needs to tell him the same thing and you should find out some things that he would like to do and you take him out. You will never know what's wrong with a child if you don't try to find out. Just keep trying, it'll get better, you just have to get to know each other and stop looking at each other as a threat. I wish you luck, and I will pray for you too!

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B.D.

answers from Chicago on

M.,
I just wanted to encourage you. You are definitely not a bad parent. I can't imagine what you must be going through to deal with a 7 year old who's been messed up and confused and probably angry.

But I wanted to hopefully encourage you to keep him and work through the hard part...as parents we learn patience, self-control, and unconditional love. I think your step son is testing all the waters and is very insecure. He may feel like it's his fault that his parents broke up...I don't know, but I know a separation of a child's parents will make them go through so many emotions and they will all deal with their grief in different ways.
I think he needs a mom and dad to be consistent in discipline (that's so hard..but needed) He needs to see unconditional love as well..."we'll work through this no matter what" kind of mentality. Sending him back to his mom may just make it worse for him. He needs consistency and love right now in this hard time for a 7 yr old seeking out some security and something solid.

I am not making light of your health being affected, but I pray you really think hard about what it will do to your step son if you shake his world again and send the message that he just doesn't belong anywhere and "nobody wants" him. That could seriously mess up his health, his state of being, his whole future.

I don't know if you're a believer or not, but I know I get frustrated even with my own boy. He can really push my buttons sometimes. It is hard to "like" him at times, but I love him always. And I sometimes fail to be totally consistent in discipline, but I try the best I can. I have to pray to my Savior, Jesus, to give me patience and not blow up at him at times. We all have stubborn natures and we are all sinners and fall at times and disappoint. This is why I hope you can stick it through the hard times and have the reward of seeing his temperment change over time while loving him, encouraging him, disciplining him, and never giving up on him.
Just my opinion...pray about whatever decision you do make with lots of consideration before taking action though...its' a very tough decision.

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L.R.

answers from Chicago on

You have lots of good advice here - I especially like Carla T's post - but most of them are missing something basic. You said this is affecting your health. YOU can decide not to let it ruin your life, and you MUST do this for your sake, the kid's sake and for the sake of your marriage. Do not internalize behaviors that are obviously not aimed at you personally. The child will see this - that normal life goes on for everyone regardless of his behavior. I also don't think you should let it interfere with having children of your own. By the time the baby arrives, if you let him in on the process as a future big brother, you might be surprised at how much it will improve relations with him. It really did wonders for my stepkids, when they realized that not only did having a new baby NOT mean they were left out of their father's life, but that they were older siblings now, too! They loved it.

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L.N.

answers from Chicago on

I was in your same situation! It was the worst thing I ever went through. I don't know what your step son is up to but mine was very mean and manipulative. He would put stuff in my contact lense case, lie, etc. It reached a point where we had to let him go to his moms (an even better mess) We took him to more counselors than you can imagine. I was in your same situation. I had stress induced athsma, acne & eczama while this was going on. It put such a strain on not only my marriage but my relationship with my own children. My stepson took all our energy and time. He was 4 1/2 when we married and 9 when this started ( thats when his mom came back into the picture). He's almost 20 now and we see him now and then and its very acward. I guess the biggest thing is how does your husband feel about this? I reached a point where I stepped out of it totally and let my husband handle him completely, I tried my hardest(and let me tell you it was hard) to not say or critisize anything or way he handled whatever he did. He lost his patience with it quickly. It was very hard but we did get through it. Pray, explain to your husband that it will start to affect your children and you can not have that. That was what sinched it with my husband. He did not want me to start having situations with my girls, or their dad. Hope all goes well, I would like to know how this goes. Thanks.

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D.K.

answers from Chicago on

Please don't send him back, if you really care about children, you would do everything, everything possible. You don't say what YOU have done, just that you tried counseling. Also sounds like your a little upset that you just got married and didn't get time to start your life with your husband before you had to take care of a 7 yr. old. Seven years old, he's a child who doesn't understand what is going on with his mom, then dad gets married, now stepmom wants to send him back to MOM. Please keep trying, he has to come around, if he's showed LOVE, unconditional LOVE. Take care and be strong.

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K.K.

answers from Chicago on

I know you got a ton of advice and I do not have the time to read them all, but I just wanted to say make sure you and your husband get counseling yourselves. I was a special education teacher for years before being a mom and I can't tell you how many families breakup b/c of children with disabilities. And your case is even more unique, him being your stepson. Take care of yourselves and you daughter too.

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N.L.

answers from Chicago on

You are not a bad parent and your step son is not a bad child. But he is angry and hurt, possibly feeling rejected by his own mother and angry at his parents for being divorced. You are the step parent, someone he is not connected to emotionally, so he feels more comfortable taking his anger out on you in the form of defiance. Don't take it personally. He is a child, expressing his frustration in the only way he knows how.

The problem, of course, is that you didn't raise him, and you don't know what he has been through before he came to live with you. He could have experienced all kinds of emotional traumas, which he may not even be able to express until he's much older. Such an abrupt change in his life was probably too much for him emotionally. It may have been better if you and your husband had started out by keeping him on weekends and giving him time to bond with you over a period of months before you and your husband took custody of him.

Don't feel like a failure if you have to make other arrangements, such as having to take him back to his mother. Your husband and his ex wife probably need to work out some sort of joint custody situation, unless she is somehow too dysfunctional to be a proper parent for him.

Its not easy being a step parent. I know, I've been there, and the anger that the children feel over the separation of their parents is projected at the step parent. Even if you were a trained psychologist or counselor, you are still a human being and you have feelings. Discuss this openly with your husband. He has to understand that you are trying but you can't undo seven years of damage in an instant. It takes time to build a strong marriage, and this might be a bad time for you to also try to build a relationship with a troubled child . If you are willing to try and help your stepson, you and your husband may need family counseling to learn how to jointly agree on some ground rules for discipline. Your step son needs a lot of reassurance, love and patience as well as firmness and stability. I would suggest that, even if you do decided to maintain custody, that his mother should be a regular part of his life, if possible. Maybe she can keep him on weekends, to give you two a break. Either way, all three adults need to be in harmony when it comes to rules and methods of discipline, if at all possible.

And above all, NEVER let your step son play you and your husband or his ex-wife against each other. Children learn quickly how to manipulate adults who are in conflict. Try to be loving and kind to your stepson, but always be firm about what is right and wrong behavior. It may take years for him to develop the kind of relationship with you that will make a harmonious family. You'll need a lot of patience. Don't give up, but don't beat yourself up for being human.

Something that might help you see into the mind of a seven year old: Give him paper and crayons, and ask him to draw you a picture, either of his friends, his family, or his favorite place. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. He may draw something that expresses the hurt he feels, and it may help you understand the root of his defiance, and give you more patience to help him through this difficult time.

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L.B.

answers from Springfield on

Your stepson quite probably has suffered from the divorce of his mother and father. At 7 he has no way to communicate with adults other than acting up. Sending him back to his mother will not solve the problem and only exagerate it. He probably suffers from feeling unloved, after all, his mother gave custodoy of him to his father and now his father and stepmother want to give him back! Just try and think how you would feel if no one wanted you. You said he is not your kid and this attitude comes across to him. Try to love him, have one on one time with him, talk to him. It just may be very simple solution. After all, he is only a child and you are the adult. Showing patience and love can also benefit your husband and your daughter and be rewarding fo you.

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C.W.

answers from Chicago on

Read Sherry P's response again. She is on target. This child is not a ping-pong ball to be batted back and forth when someone doesn't want to deal with it. Parenting is the TOUGHEST job there is and even the best of kids test the limits. This child feels unwanted by his own mother, and now dad doesn't want him either. You signed on for this responsiblilty when you married this man, you knew this child existed. Now do the right thing by him and raise him to be a successful productive adult. Consider the movie "Step Mom" with Julia Roberts and take this child in as if his mother is terminally ill and you couldn't just send him back. Children feeling unwanted and unloved in divided homes is one of the BIGGEST problems facing our country. They are our future, and what are you going to teach them? Teach them love, commitment, and devotion. Good luck. Nobody said it was going to be easy.

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J.F.

answers from Chicago on

Hi M.,
Everyone has their breaking point, especially when your health is being affected. The definace that you speak of reminds me of my own son who is now 3. I've been taking him to Tuesday's Child for sometime now because his tantrums and ranting were getting out of control. Turns out he has sensory integration issues. Its interesting to me that your family was given custody of this child pretty soon after your marriage. Was his mother deemed unfit? If so, this child is depending on someone to advocate for him. If his homelife has suddenly been uprooted, he's probably not feeling very safe. What that looks like with our son is that he tries to boss everyone around. He's like- you sit there, and you go in the other room and on. We have to work with him and be very patient, but the reason he does it is to feel safe. If he can sort of control his surroundings by yelling or throwing a fit, he feels safer. It is my job as a parent to figure out what it is that makes him feel safe- how do I set him up for success? I urge you to take a look at your situation from his eyes. How is all the newness affecting him? And perhaps a sensory integration/occupational therapy screening wouldn't be a bad idea either. If he's in a public school they will do one for free. Also, you might check out Tuesday's Child. They are a weath of information and changed my relationship with my son immensely. Immensely.
Blessings,
J.

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J.M.

answers from Chicago on

M.-

I have to agree with everything Amanda wrote below. While this is not your fault and you are not a bad parent, you are in a situation where you have an opportunity to make a difference in a child's life. A child you choose to take in when you said, "I do." Like it or not, he is also your responsibility and with the right help, you can work to turn things around.

Family counseling might be a good place to start - and individual counseling for all. This will give you all a time to figure things out alone and then together. It won't be easy, and it won't be quick, but as Amanda said, he is 7 years old. He is a child and it's not his job to figure it out. As a parent (step or otherwise), it is your job to help him.

You have an opportunity to change his life for the better and make his childhood a happy one. To provide a stable and loving environment and home with boundries and direction and most importantly, love. You might not be able to do it alone, and will most likely be more successful with professional help and guidance but in the end, you will all be better off.

Good luck and please please please let us know how things turn out.

Jen

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K.R.

answers from Chicago on

As a mom of a 8 yo (9 on Sat.) boy who is very defiant and strong willed I MUST tell you it is not you, and no you are not a bad parent. We parent both of our children the same way and our daughter is very compliant and sweet. It is just the difference in children. Our son just finished a program in Hoffman Estates that is for defiant children. It was a very hard decision for us to make and one that we fought against for a long time. But the defiance gets worse and the older they get the more extreme it becomes. So we pulled him out of school and "enrolled" him in this program. It has been a blessing....he has learned effective ways to deal with his control issues and defiance...and we have learned how to parent a child that is defiant. Maybe check into it with your insurance company and see if they would cover something like this?? We did counseling first too~~and it may work over time, but it takes a LONG time at 45 minutes once a week.....this program is 5 days a week from 8:30 am to 2:45 pm.....
We are first hand experience that a defiant child can disrupt an entire family......hard as it may be....seek out help....otherwise you will hit one dead end after another.....
GOOD LUCK TO YOU!!!!!!!!

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C.T.

answers from Chicago on

Dad, Dad, Dad. His Dad needs to get on board. ASAP. The Dad needs to give every ounce of his being right now to this child-- spending quality time with the child (yes sports and a movie or two- but reading books, baking cookies, discovery walks, snuggling), enforcing consistent discipline, reading books about parenting, working closely with the principal and teachers at his school, seeing a therapist himself to dig deep and figure out some of his own reservations about parenting.

Together, you and the Dad have to figure out how to interpret your step son's moods and cries for help. Together, you have to figure out what kind of behavior modification system will work with your family, and how to praise the boy for the baby steps of success along the way.

It sounds like from your request that you are doing all the work! And if your husband's job makes it hard for him to be as involved as he should be, indeed must be, with raising his son, then he needs to figure out how to fix that ASAP, too.

All parenting is difficult, step-parenting is extra challenging, and being a loving step-mom to a wounded child is saintly. (Yes, you are a saint, not a bad parent!) BUT, if the father is being passive to his child's needs, expecting YOU to figure it all out, expecting YOU to fix it, then your problem is multiplied exponentially.

If your husband doesn't get 200% involved then it will be 200% more difficult for you and 200% more difficult for your marriage.

Best of Luck

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R.M.

answers from Chicago on

I think when you married your husband you married his son too. It's a package deal. I am a therapist/counselor and when parents get frustrated with their kids behavior problems/issues I tell them that they will have to help their children for as long as they need to and in some way deal with it. If you need to get your own support/counseling to help deal with your stress then do so. Think of it this way, if you had a child that was born with a disability (whether it be mental or physical) you would know that you would be caring for that child for most or the rest of your life. It's NO different when a child has a mood or behavior disorder (like ODD)! And I know he is not your biological child but he is your husband's child and therefore he is now YOUR child. Please don't give up on him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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A.M.

answers from Chicago on

I dont think your a bad parent at all. A little frustrated (maybe) but who wouldnt be. Sending this boy back to his mother is just going to create even bigger problems for him later. He has been sent away to his dad once--now dad will send him back???--what kind of message is this boy getting from his parents--no wonder he is a little angry. If I were in your situation I would extinguish every possible avenue--school, counseling (family--not individual)& have some very consistent negative consequence for negative behavior & on the flip side some very positive consequences for anything done good!! I am sure there are some good things he does--even the slightest need to be reinforced,( no matter how simple that may seem). Someone outside of your situation will have an easier time telling you what should be done, but if you really love & care about this boy explain to him how you & your husband feel & this is going to be a last stitch effort........you will not regret it. It is hard enough to be in a new marriage, now throw in a step son, with a behavior problem!!!! You & your husband need to be consistent with everything you do with him...by just writting this note for advice says what kind of a parent you are--Good Luck!!! & I hope to hear he is doing well in the future & still with you, your husband & your daughter.
A.

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E.S.

answers from Chicago on

Definitely not. I am a teacher and your story reminds me so many of my students. I hope that you will give him a little longer with you. I have seen so many kids really be able to turn themselves around and deal with their problems in homes where there are rules and consequences for breaking them.

Anyone who blames you for any of his problems, has a big problem him/herself. I agree - you are a saint and probably a great role model and important influence in this boy's life... NOT the person responsible for this angry child. Having said that, you also have to take care of yourself and your own daughter. Your step-son's school and the counseling may help, but if at some point you are becoming sick and it is really negatively effecting your daughter, then maybe you do have to say no. If that happens, you are STILL NOT a bad parent. I have found that in some situations the only way to make people who are STUCK change is to say, I will not be a part of this problem anymore.

You are obviously a strong, concerned, caring parent to even write this question here. I wish you the best of luck!

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M.W.

answers from Chicago on

M.,
What is your husband's opinion? I know it must be hard for you. It is hard to love a difficult child especially if it is not yours. My worry though is that he is only 7 years old which is pretty young still and can change with the right, nurturing environment. Maybe you should try another counselor and encourage your husband to go with him. It must be hard for him to be away from his mother. Plus, the whole new family situation is really rough on kids. Children who act out need even more love than other children. I would keep trying new things. It sounds like his mother is not a very good role model. In all reality, he will still be a part of your life anyways as long as you are married to his father. Good luck.

V.T.

answers from Chicago on

NO you are not a bad parent. You are a sensible person and parent. been there and done that, it's no fun.

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L.C.

answers from Chicago on

I am a step parent too and the child lives with us, against my better judgement. However, you must be very careful what you tell your husband. He may resent you for it. Even though you want him gone, let your husand decide so he cannot blame you if he gives him back to his mother and things go bad. Ive been through this for the past 5 years and i cannot openly express my feelings because it would hurt my husband and he could resent me for not wanting his child, even though she is a huge strain on us and should not be living here. He knows all this but the decision has to be his. Be careful what you say. You dont want him to say in a year or 2 that you made me give him back and know look what happened, or something like that.

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J.R.

answers from Chicago on

No- it's just a lot to handle. I was step-mom to a 12 year old girl when we first married. I love kids and get along well with them. My step daughter's main goal in life was to make things as miserable as possible for me. She left home at 18 and blames all of her problems on her dad's marriage to me. My advice is to find a good counselor. All of you need to stick with it. I know of many situations where the blended family situation does work. You're lucky that your husband's son is younger. Good luck.

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J.G.

answers from Chicago on

when you marry someone knowing they have children.......they in turn become your family.....i don't know about him, but i would chose my children over anyone new that happened along. and i hope that you can overcome your disabilities with him and find a way to become the type of mother figure he needs in his life. good luck

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S.P.

answers from Peoria on

My 13 year old stepson just moved in with my husband, myself and our 3 and 1 year old daughters. He has a bad attitude much of the time, but I know it's all due to his not having structure at his mom's, and the change has been a wake up call for him. My husband and I both teach...my husband in the same grade that my stepson is in, so he has NO room to do the things he was doing at his mom's...and that upsets him. We struggle with his mouthiness, his not wanting a bedtime, lack of respect, not wanting to do chores or homework, and being appropriate in front of our girls. SO...I TOTALLY understand your frustration. HOWEVER...I really think it is a mistake sending him back. As his dad's mom, he IS your child, and he needs love, structure...and maybe a few swats on the behind to wake him up. Stick with it...he will come around when he realizes that he has a much better situation with you. It will be hard...stick to your guns, be consistant, and follow through with any punishment that you threaten with. Eventually....I hope your little guy, and my bigger-little guy both come around. Deep down, they want to be good kids...they just need to be shown the way. PS..I've also started taking my stepson to church regularly...and that has really seemed to help. Feel free to email me personally if you'd like: [email protected]____.com S.

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C.G.

answers from Chicago on

I'm sure that you're not a bad parent. In fact, I think there's a good chance that he is acting out because you are being a parent to him- setting boundaries, etc. He may not have expected that or be used to it.

I was in a similar situation growing up. My mom remarried and her husband has a son who was about 7 at the time (I was 16). He has ADD and many behavioral problems. My mom who is a good mother simply had no experience with a child like that, and he in turn had never truly been parented- his mother did not take good care of him or address his issues. In his case he went back to live with his mom but sadly turned out to be a high school dropout with no job, etc. I don't tell you that to be a downer, just that it's tough and no matter how hard you try you may not be able to "fix" him.

But I would encourage you to try everything you can. Maybe family counseling, spending alone time with just you and him, a special family vacation, making sure his issues are addressed, etc. Good luck, it's tough. I just always regretted the way my stepbrother turned out.

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L.S.

answers from Binghamton on

Hi M.--I have to agree with what Wendy said in her PS below. He may very well be "testing" your love and committment to him, as much as a 7 year old can. Not knowing what type of messed up situation he was in, I can only assume that he did not feel a lot of love in his first 7 years--a very impressionable time in a child's life--so wants to be sure if he gives himself to someone that it's real and safe.

You are not a bad parent or a bad person for feeling resentful or annoyed--but I think those feelings need to be less directed at the boy. Perhaps one of the best things you can do is to get you and your husband, without the little guy, into therapy together to talk about how to deal with this TOGETHER. This is not solely your responsibility to work on. As the boy's father, your husband needs to make his son know that he is loved, wanted, and expected to follow rules.

One thing to know is that once you guys iron this out, you will be so grateful that you stuck it out and that you and your husband bonded together to help this child out. The rewards in the end when he makes good progress will be worth the gray hair you are no doubt getting.

Another thing to know is that kids are so ultra-sensitive to people's perceptions to and reactions to them--please do your best to not make him feel like you don't like him. You don't like his actions. You love him. If the love is there and is felt, these situations are easier to resolve.

Good luck to you, and I do hope it all works out for you.

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T.C.

answers from Chicago on

M. U, personally I think you are trying to do what's right. What's your relationship like with his mother? Do you say bad things about his mother in front of him? You know, even if kids have bad moms, they will still love them no matter what. Maybe he's feeling uncomfortable because he doesn't want to appear happy with you guys to his mother and vice versa. My youngest child's father was married 2 years ago and we had to deal with that. She was afraid that I would be upset if she liked her stepmother. She had no reason to be, but she took it upon herself to be concerned with that. Anyway, when her stepmom and I met and had cordial conversation my daughter saw that everything was okay. I even told her that she should spend time with her and have fun with her. Now, we all hang out together. It may take all of you - you, your husband and the ex to come together to find ways to help him deal with his issues. Maybe take some one on one time with him. I used to play a game with my daughters to get them to tell me things without saying them directly. For instance I would say on a scale of 1-10 how comfortable are you with talking to me. This way you can gauge based on the number given if you need to adjust one way or the other. Ask him to write you a letter and tell him that there will be no consequences to what he says, as long as he's respectful of course, and that you would pick out things from the letter to talk about with him. Again, you should take time with him alone - maybe a walk in the park or something. So should your husband. He needs to know that you all care, but want and expect better things from him and that you all with work with him as long as he tries. If you see some improvement in his behavior, maybe reward that with a trip to the ice cream store for his favorite ice cream and let him know that you appreciate his efforts. Kids want to know that their feelings count too that their efforts are noticed and that they are cared for no matter what. It will take some doing, but hang in there. I will keep you in my prayers.

T. - Single mother of 2 girls 17 and 12

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A.F.

answers from Chicago on

I think you need to first create a plan to take care of yourself. Because you cannot take care of your family and be the source of strength that they need unless you are in good shape, i.e. feeling well mentally and physically.

My strongest recommendation is that you contact Tuesday's Child, ###-###-####. They are located in Chicago on Irving Park Rd. just off of I-94. They have programs on Tuesdays, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday mornings. They work with families and their children to evaluate and assess and then work on a plan to 1) give parents techniques to use in the home to improve behavior, and 2)improve the overall relationship. It sounds like my son was doing pretty much the same stuff as your step son, and their program completely turned him and myself around. Their assessment team is amazing as well as the staff. I now continue to volunteer there because I believe that it is such an awesome program.

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T.H.

answers from Chicago on

Hello. I just read your story and first i want to say NO you are not a bad parent. However the worst thing you can do is send him back to his mom. It is not his fault that he is the way he is. You and your husband need to be patient and loving towards him and try to talk to him about his feelings and his ideas and what he wants and also let him know what you want in return. I hope all goes ok. My prayers are with you.

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M.B.

answers from Chicago on

M., sounds like you are the brunt of his anger against his mother, against being taken away from his mother, the divorce and everything that existed before you arrived on the scene.

When I did my internship at a residential treatment center for disturbed children (and I was 50 yrs old then), there was this wonderful children's psychiatrist (who is probably retired now) at Evanston Hospital. He would come once a month to meet with a parent or foster parent and counsel them along with the staff.

One time there was a beautiful boy who was taken away from his family and siblings. He had 5 other siblings and all the children were placed in foster homes around the country.

This was a fantastic couple who had taken in this 7 yr old boy, but he became so violent that they had to place him in the residential treatment center. (He took a chair and threw it thru a window and pulled a knife out to stab his foster mother). The foster mother was also a therapist. And only children in this center were placed there after going thru at least a dozen of unsuccessful foster home placements. So you can only image their rage and of course underneath everything, their pain and fear. (And that is what you need to see. You need to see the hurt, not the behavior).

Anyway, on with the story. The woman became pregnant while the boy was in the residential home. When we all met with the psychiatrist the parents were afraid to take the child home. (He was no longer displaying rageful outburst). The psychiatrist said to them, "It takes an adult to accept this child back into their home and give him the love that he so desires and needs.) I will never forget that.

Your "son" needs a loving home and at the same time needs family therapy with all of you = his biological mother, his father, his sister and you = once a week AND he needs play therapy with an expert about 3 times a week.

I suggest you purchase the book, Dibbs in Spite of Himself. It is a classic and the first book ever written about the affects of play therapy. And the book, Play Therapy by Virginia Mae Axline, which is a textbook. Your "son" may also do well in once a week Art Therapy, but that would be coordinated with the main therapist.

You have a long haul ahead of you if you are going to stick this out, and you cannot do this alone. Your husband must take the lead and responsibility. And it is important that you do not yell at the child, hit him, blame him, call him names, etc. If he needs time out then you need to sit with him.

Many people think that this may be silly, but watch the The Nanny on TV. She has some wonderful strategies.

At a spiritual level, did you ever ask yourself, why was a chosen to be in this place, at this time, with this child? What lessons am I to learn from this? What lessons can this child teach me? How can I grow from this experience and become a better person?

And of course, you need to get out of the house once a week and take care of yourself. Get a massage, exercise, something.

Good luck,
M.
www.children-and-divorce.net

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S.A.

answers from Chicago on

No matter what people tell you, you are not a bad parent. It is hard to love and be patient with a child that is not yours. Anyone that has ever worked in a classroom, watched children for a living or so on knows that it is not an easy thing to be nurturing, loving and supportive of a child that has no home training. You can be fair. You can be somewhat tolerant. You can be many things to a step child, but it is very hard when they are bad. The best saint in the world has problems with that one.

You are having to be the bad guy with a child that is not yours. It is hard enough with your own children let alone with one that is not yours.

And just because you love his dad doesn't mean that you automatically fell in love with his son. Anyone that would suggest that is a fool. Do they love the bad neighbor kid? Do they love the tyrant at daycare that is a monster to their kids? It is no different.

How many of us have in-laws we can't stand. Just because we love our spouse doesn't mean we love all their relatives. You can't make yourself love this boy. If he's bad and ill-mannered it just makes it harder.

Please stop beating yourself up. It is your husband's responsibility to put his foot down and straighten the child out. I would think your only responsibility would be to enforce the rules and consequences that your husband has discussed with his son and put in place. That way he is the bad guy and you are just doing what he has decided needs to be done.

If your husband doesn't want to take these steps, then he does need to send his son back to his ex-wife and hope for the best. You will always be the step mom and won't have any power of persuasion with the boy unless dad makes it clear that he's behind you 100%.

Good luck with this very difficult situation.

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T.H.

answers from Chicago on

I don't believe that you are a bad parent. You just want peace in your home and you should have peace. Have you tried to have him tested for Autism? My son used to be a lot to handle when he was younger (he's 17 now) and before my husband and I found out that he had autism, we just thought he was a bad kid. Maybe you should check into that, because one thing that you know for sure is that there is a problem it's just not using all your resources to find out what it is.

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T.C.

answers from Chicago on

Hi M.!
No you are not a bad parent. Bad parents do not question whether they are good or bad (My mother's words when I was growing up).
He might not understand what is happening, and why he is living there with you. Our reasoning and their reasoning can be totally different. He might need to be spoken to nice and slow, to answer his questions. We do this before sleep when I am home. We talk about feelings, what happened, and attempt to answer the "why" questions with him knowing I don't know all the answers, but we can figure a way out to answer them somehow.
A lot of questions therapists use are called parroting. They will ask " how was school?" The child will say rotten, or great whatever, and then he therapist will ask Why? You can do that one on one, or let him talk to Dad. Dad will be a closer bond, and ask if you could sit in on their talk. When he says no, don't take offense, respect his space, until HE is ready for you.
I have a child with Aspberger's Syndrome, and that is what we do with him. He doesn't understand social cues, and absolutely hates change. We tried showing him a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, how change can be good, and nothing works until he is ready. We are doing the therapy too, and I get frustrated because I get more information out of him than then the doctor does!
So, hang in there, and be patient. The summer is coming up and there will be more time for him to adapt.

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S.

answers from Chicago on

Why would you want to send him back to his mothers house if she is messed up. I bet your step son does not want to be bad. I bet the little guy has been through alot in his short seven years. Seems that maybe you need counseling or some direction on how to deal with him. Just the fact that you say he is "not your kid" is wrong. If I can pick up on your dislike for him in just your short request imagine the things he picks up on at home. When you married your husband you said for better or worse. This may be the worse part so don't let a seven year old tear your marriage apart. Perhaps you might look into sending him away to a school that might whip him into shape. I bet he is just a really angry kid for alot of reasons and doesn't know how to act and control all the feelings he is feeling.

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A.E.

answers from Chicago on

This does not make you a bad parent, however you don't know what kinds of things he saw or experienced with his mother. Have you had him tested for ADHD or BI-Polar? These are very similiar. Your up, down, your hiper, you over-react, etc. My son has ADHD and I have been dealing with that for 7 years now (he's now 11). Also my best friends is in the same situation with her step-son who also has ADHD and had many issues with his mother until she passed away this last year of an overdose. My friend struggles with the same issue and her marriage has suffered from it. She takes him to counseling and has put him in sports activities to keep his interests going. You can try that but I would talk to his pediatrician about what's happening. He could have ADHD, Bi-Polar or severe depression. You never know. And I'm not saying throw him on medication but it may not be a bad idea if the chemicals in his brain are not functioning well. Your Pediatrician may refer you to a pshychologist who deals with these issues daily to better guide you.

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L.P.

answers from Chicago on

I think you're a good parent for seeking advice from others. You are not alone. I have a five year old who is strong willed, very determined, creative, and defiant all in one big ball of energy that absolutely drives me wild. He's not a bad kid, he's extremely smart and very sweet. But he also has two homes. Every other weekend he goes to his dads where he is not the only child and his siblings are older than him (and their behavior is definitely not the best!!!). Their lifestyle is much different, there are ten people living at his dads and only three total in our household. When I first allowed him to spend the weekends with his dad, I dreaded the Sundays when I would pick him up because he would take out his frustration on me. A little two year old mistreating me, crying for no apparent reason, tantrums galore. It was like he was going through detox or something. It took lots of patience, and sometimes I wouldn't know what to do, but as he gets older, it's getting better, little by little. He's in kindergarten now in a Catholic school. They have color charts for behavior. My son unfortunately rarely gets a "green day" which is the best color he can get, and the only days he does get a "green day" is when it's a half day, or he had a field trip or something. I've spoken to his teacher regularly just to keep tabs on his behavior, and it seems he messes up when it comes to following directions. She's suggested BEHAVIORAL COUNSELING. I haven't tried it yet, but it's definitely something I look forward to looking into b/c I DO NOT want to medicate him. It's going to take lots of commitment and patience and most of all LOVE and consistency, but it's definitely something that will be worth it in the long run. Just think of the feeling you will have in the future when this step son of yours grows up to be successful and it's all because you never gave up on him. One thing my mother has constantly reminded me is to NEVER GIVE UP! I refuse to give up. I think you are on the right track for seeking the advice of others, and from what I've read so far, it seems like it's more common for kids to behave this way today then ever before. I was never like my son. But God has given you (as well as me and the others) this opportunity for a reason. Please don't give up on him. Don't give up on your marriage because of it. Just try your best to do all you can to help this child whom obviously didn't have such love before living with you and your husband. Hopefully all will work out in the end. I have faith it will be worth it! Good luck!

P.S. Try to find some kind of activity that he can get into that interests him. You may have to keep trying until you find the right one, but in the mean time, it may help him to channel that negative energy into something more positively. My son loves baseball and looks forward to his little t-ball league, and this is his second year already. But do look into your insurance policy and speak to your physician about your options. Try the behavioral counseling before you immediately assume he needs medication of some sort. Also, Church is a good option to consider. My son used to behave badly in Church but he loves my fiance very much so I suggested to my fiance to start joining us so maybe my son will take it more seriously and believe me, it has helped a lot. You never know unless you try, right? But like I said before, don't give up, no matter how hard it gets. Good luck, and God bless!

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R.

answers from Chicago on

Have you tried family counseling? He is only one part of the equation. You all play a role in the issues--therefore you all need to be seen as a family for therapy. I would try going that route before sending him back to his mother.

It sounds like a tough situation. Good luck.

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D.L.

answers from Chicago on

Hi M.,
No, you are not a bad parent nor is your husband but please, do not send your stepson back to his mom, any unseen progress that you & your husband have accomplished will be completely destroyed. I am fairly sure that this child is testing you just to see how far he can get & to actually see if you & your husband will turn you backs on him. Once you set the rules of the house with him & stand by those & with more counseling for him & you & your husband-even possibly his mom you should start to see a difference, just don't give up on him. Remember, you are the adults & he is just a child who needs rules & guidelines to live by. Best of luck to you.

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