Seeking Stepmom Advice

Updated on May 18, 2010
T.V. asks from Saint Ann, MO
30 answers

I have recently become the full-time mother to my 4 year old step-son. His mother just moved out of the area with her fiance and has only called 2 times since she left 3 weeks ago. I have been in my step-son's life since he was 2 and we have had shared custody (every other week) for the last 8 months. He is a realy sweet boy, but clearly has some attentional difficulties and possibly some developmental delays - i.e. fine motor skills, sensory integration, etc. I have been in contact with the school district and we are in the process of setting up an evaluation to try and get him some help for these things. His mother has never had any structure in his life, and very poor bounaries with the boy; so his living in our home is much needed and we are grateful to finally have him full time. The problem is, while I love this boy dearly, and make every attempt to treat him like my own, I am having a hard time finding the patience to tolerate his special needs. Sometimes I find myself loosing my temper out of nowhere and screaming at him. I feel guilty even saying this, because I hate to think that I am like this. I feel like he needs so much extra attention and patience and it takes away from the time that I could be spending with my 8 month old (my first child). And I also feel like if I were dealing with my own child, I would have way more patience than I do with him, which makes me feel even more guilty. I love him so much and am trying so hard to make his life and this transition as easy as possible. And, I'm really working on finding outlets for my frustration and developing my own set of coping skills to manage his special needs. But it's hard. I guess I just need some reassurance from other step-moms that this is normal, or maybe even some suggestions for how to manage my frustration. Step-parenting is the hardest job. And no matter how hard you try or how much better of a life you provide for them, the child will always want their own mother more. And of course they do. I understand that logically, but emotionally, I haven't quite got there. Any advice would be much appreciated. Please tell me that I'm not crazy.

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So What Happened?

Wow; I am overwhelmed by all your responses and the sense of support I feel from your responses. Thank you. There were several things that I especially identified with, in particular the way I seem to be extra frustrated with him when I am angry with his mother. As a mom, the thought of leaving my son so abruptly with barely even calling is hard to comprehend. I do know that she is trying to make a better life for herself, and I respect that, and I do not say a bad word about the women in front of my step-son. I've even gone so far as to put a picture of her next to his bed so that he can talk with her every night before he goes to bed. We try really hard to maintain an amicable relationship with his mom for his sake, but legally, she has full custody (husband was in the army at time of divorce) and My fear is that she will randomly decide to drop back into his life and try and take him away from us and undo all the hard work that we've done. We are attempting to get this changed, but fear damaging the good relationship with her, plus it is a long, expensive and complicated process. I feel like I need my husband to be more appreciative of everything I do, but that is something I need to take up with him, and not take out on my (step)son. Things I will try: adding extra time to our mornings, and really like all the different suggestions for using a reward system to get him motivated. I do need to take more time for myself and also feel i need one on one time with both of my boys. Again, thank you for all the advice. I will also look into a support group and do some research on the therapy possibilities. Ironically, I am a therapist, so I think this is a little too close to home. Thanks again, I genuinely appreciate it.

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C.R.

answers from Knoxville on

I am not the stepmom but have felt that same way with my own children. What helped us in the AM was to have things ready the night before, clothes, breakfast things- bowls, spoons, glasses possible even box of cereal, bags to go to daycare.
Could he take his breakfast to the daycare and eat once he is there? We have also had success with the timer method. You set the timer for an appropiate number of minutes to get the task done and try to beat the timer. ( Get dressed 10-15 minutes) The other things is to see if you can get most of something done before the timer goes off. ( Most of the toys picked up or the books put neatly back on the shelf)

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C.S.

answers from St. Louis on

T.,

I can relate with what you are going through...sort of. I am not the step-mom, however, my husband is the full time step dad to my 7 year old daughter and my 5 year old special needs son. My son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Development Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified) when he was 3. This disorder falls on the autism spectrum and he has sensory integration disorder as well as large and fine motor skill delays, difficulty with social interaction, and speech and language delays. I understand what you are going through, battling with the patients. Know that when you love a child, the love that you carry is enough. There is nothing that you would do differently if he was your own. It is clear from what you expressed that you love him very much. My husband of 1 1/2 years needed some help with the discipline, also. Be consistent. Even if it is a hassle for you, be consistent. Never look to your husband to approve of your disciplining. Be confident that what you are doing is right. Never discuss discipline in front of your step-son. Even at four he will know what you are talking about and learn how to work you. My daughter had some problems adjusting when my husband and I married. Six months of therapy was worth every penny. Sometimes the kids may just need someone on the outside to talk to about what they are feeling. Your little guy is going through a lot right now. I'm sure he is feeling abandoned by his mother and doesn't know how to handle this new emotion. Know that my children now cry for their step-dad when they are away from him. It really upsets my ex, but he is the full time dad. Prepare yourself for that. Someday, it will be you he cries for.

You need to find a support group in your area for parents of special needs children and lean on them. Parents who have gone through what you are experiencing (or are going to experience) are a treasure. Other things to consider, look on-line and educate yourself as much as possible on SI dysfunction. Invest in the book "The Out of Sync Child" and "The Out of Sync Child Has Fun". The first helps you to understand what your little guy is going through and the second is filled with activities for SI kids. If you need copies, I have them, however, I have scribbled notes in them. I don't know if First Steps is still around, but something to check out. First Steps provided my son with FREE Occupational therapy, Speech and language therapy, Developmental therapy, Physical therapy, and a Dietician. Upon his 3rd b-day, the school district picked up the therapy. Look on-line and see what types of therapies are available and push for what he needs. If he qualifies for multiple therapies, you may want to look into seeing a Neurologist for a diagnosis. If you get an official diagnosis from a Neurologist, it is easier to get the therapies he needs. You and your husband are his only voice. Be prepared for IEP's (Individual Education Plan). Learn the language, the therapists and teachers are going to speak in a language that is foreign to you. Don't feel stupid if you do not know what they are talking about. Ask! Learn about ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis). The more you know about what is going on with this little guy, the more patients you will have. It is hard. You have a long, frustrating road ahead of you. But I assure you, it is a rewarding one. Good luck and just be the best mom you can be. You know that you can do it. Just pretend that nobody's watching.

~C.

PS- Kids with Sensory issues can often benefit from being "brushed" with a special brush. They are very inexpensive. Look into it. Also, deep pressure can be a life saver. When your little man throws a tantrum, give him a VERY tight hug. A weighted vest or a stuffed animal filled with beans (easy to make) can be a lifesaver, also. Oh, and praying doesn't hurt! Feel free to e-mail me if you need someone to talk to. [email protected]____.com

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D.L.

answers from Topeka on

If it helps, all little boys dawdle. My main stress is mornings also. I discovered using a kitchen timer with my son works. I time it for five minutes to brush teeth and when it rings, he knows time is up. He gets just as tired of hearing me say "hurry up" as I get tired of hearing myself. I can't help you in the step-mom category but I am a foster mom so I understand some of the frustrations and resentment. My heart aches at times but then I remind myself that it isn't about me, it is all about them.

Good luck,
D.

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S.L.

answers from Kansas City on

T.,
I am not a stepmother. But I feel you because I go through this in my daycare everyday. I have always sought to treat my own children exactly the same as the other kids and without pariality. I'm open 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. So there is never a time I don't have others here. All I can say is that every time I lose my patience with a child I find myself thinking and asking questions about my actions, reactions and intentions. I'm always wondering to myself if I am being fair and how I would have handled that differently with my own children. These kids are with me more waking hours during the week than they are with their parents. So they need the same love and care that they would get at home. But I'm human and so are you. You are not crazy. I think that the fact that you are asking these questions shows that you have enough love to give and the patience will come when you need it most. It's the times we do lose it a little bit that gives us the chance to evaluate ourselves and figure out ways to handle it differently next time. No one has it all together all the time.

Also, since your own child is only 8 months old. Let me just say that you will find in a couple years that you absolutely will lose your patience and even lose your cool big time with your own flesh and blood child. :) We all do. Anyone that tries to say they don't is a liar.

Suzi

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A.K.

answers from St. Louis on

First, you are not crazy.
Second, don't feel guilty, you happen to be human.
Third, "real" moms become impatient with their kids and scream. Not advised, but it happens!
Last, in your little about me, you mention the dawdling in the morning, not an uncommon occurrance. My daughter, now 21, dawdled more and more each morning. The angrier I got, the worse she got. One morning, I told her she was not going to make me late under any circumstances. I had thrown down the gaunlet, dawdling was an unstatement. So, I threw her clothes into the car, put her in her carseat in her pajamas and told her she was going to school in her pajamas. The ride to day care was very quiet and she asked to put her clothes on in the car, which she did in record time. That war was over.

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S.S.

answers from Wichita on

Due to the fact that you are aware of sensory integration, you may know some of this, but here are some things that may help your morning routine. 1. Sometimes it helps to get a kid moving if it is a game, can he get dressed faster than you can dress the baby? For sensory, you could place the clothes throughout the house for him to find and put on as he gathers. (If this is your main area of stress, and he has difficulty getting dressed, I would say for now to help him get dressed and save the trouble for both of you.) 2. Maybe switching up the routine- try brushing his teeth and then getting dressed. 3. As far as brushing teeth goes, a vibrating toothbrush is a good way to get in a little sensory input, wake up, and most kids love them! 4. Heavy work is always good, have him push a clothes basket around the house, carry the diaper bag or backpack out to the car, get the milk jug out of the fridge, or some other activity that may make sense in your schedule. 5. Sit down and take some time to plan out your morning routine and every step along the way, so that it has a smooth transition from one activity to the next. (Also, plan a little extra time for mishaps, as they are going to happen, if you have a little extra time for them, AND are ready for his "routine", it makes it easier to handle. Being prepared for a situation to be difficult usually makes it much easier than expected) An example of the morning routine might be - wake him up, and allow him to go to the bathroom and have a few minutes to himself, then it is time to get dressed, so he has a timer to beat while he races around the house putting his clothes on. Then he eats breakfast (crunchy foods are stimulating). If meals are a slow time, maybe he runs in to get a bite to eat after each item of clothing he puts on. This may seem to take longer, but it saves sitting and playing with food. Then he combs his hair and brushes his teeth. If needed, make up a small chart on a magnetic board that he has several magnets to check off each item once they are finished (for added sensory, have him bend down on the ground to get a magnet, then turn around and reach up high to put it on the board.) As you get him enrolled with the school, they should be able to look into different sensory ideas and what works best for him to incorporate into his routine. As for getting frustrated with him, I think it is a sign of stress, and you have had a change in your situation which has added a lot of stress, so it will pass as everyone adjusts, but it is also just a part of parenting! Everyone has those moments, you are just admitting to them. This really just makes you more aware and thus you try harder to make it not so! But, be sure you have an outlet for the stress, so that you don't end up resenting the situation. If you have any further questions, feel free to email me, I am an occupational therapist and have dealt with sensory issues before. [email protected]____.com

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K.W.

answers from St. Louis on

You are not at all crazy! I have a step daughter, due to the fact we have always lived cross country from her (every time we have moved closer they move farther away, some say coincidence, I think it is more) we only see her in the summer when we take her for 4-6 weeks. This is a very hard time for me, she has been raised very different from my own children, and much of me simply does not understand why her mother has made the choices she has. I do not need people to tell me that we all make different choices and it doesn't mean her choices are bad, I know all of this, but it does not change a thing!!
I think the fact that you realize what you are doing is a huge step! Just try to remember in the heat of the moment what is going on. I am sure he is also dealing with some abandonment issues although being 4 he would not understand this. As a mom I do not understand how she could leave him! It will take a while for him to re-learn everything he has been taught, my step daughter used to play my husband and I, telling half truths of what happened through out the day while he was gone. At first this caused a lot of stress between us, but we communicate well and got over this hump. She has had a step dad in her life since before she was born and this made my husband want to be the better dad in a way, so he did not want to dicipline her when she was with us, but he quickly realized that this was not helping anybody!
So our situation is quite different, but I feel I know what you are going through. It is not easy to be a step parent, I think most importantly you and your husband need to be on the same page. Make sure you tell your step son every day how much you love him, I was saying the words to my step daughter before I really felt the emotion. I think saying it made me feel it sooner. There are also lots of support groups online and probably in your community. I am sure here are a lot of people that will respond to this as I think most step parents have gone through rough patches and second guessed themselves. Feel free to contact me anytime you want, even if it is just to vent!
You sound like a good person and it seems like he is better with you than he was with his own mom, just hang in there, he needs you!

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S.S.

answers from Wichita on

Hi there!

I will admit a few things that I am not proud of either, but want you to know that it has happened to others. When I was pregnant with my first child my husband and I were not married. He proceeded to go "sow his oats" (while I was still pregnant)and get another girl pregnant. She ended up passing away 3 days after Ethan was born. After a few months of this happeneing we got back together and I began taking care of my now step son. I was his mother starting at about 6 months. 2 years later we got married and I legally adopted him. There were times I know I was yelling at him more than my own daughter. And I had the same feelings as you, but then I look at the things that I was mad about with him and I realize that they are totally different things than what my daughter does, meaning maybe I wasn't just directing it at him. Although I know some of it I was. He really had a crappy first few months of life and I guess I just really wanted him to make more of himself than his father and biological mother had, you know. I expected more of him. Which was not right. Well I divorced from his father in 2002, and I have legal custoday of him. My point is this, I will be honest with you and tell you that I did not and sometimes catch myself still not treating him the same and it is hard. I honestly don't think you will ever love or feel the same about your step child as you do your own. Not that you won't love them but it is just not the same.

I hope this helps you. You are not alone and it is not an easy road, but it is surely not an impossible one!You have a chance to make this little guy a different person, sounds like his mom is not doing the best example.

Hang in there! S.

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W.K.

answers from Topeka on

First of all, let me tell you that you are not alone! I had 4 very wonderful stepchildren, and I loved them like my own. You mentioned that most of your stress is in the mornings! I know how difficult it can be to get the kids ready and out the door to make it to work on time. Have you tried maybe getting him up earlier in the mornings? I found that n extra 30 minutes in the morning did wonders!! And, getting things together the night before also cuts out some stress and frustration. I would pack the diaper bag, and lay out the clothes for the kids the night before. I would also have breakfast ready to go before I would get the kids up in the morning! If they were having cereal, I would do everything but pour the milk before they were up. Anything that will cut time off your morning stress is always best done the night before if possible. I hope some of these ideas help you out. If all else fails, have you thought about hiring someone to be your assistant in the morning? Or maybe rewarding your 4 year old if he does a good job getting ready in the morning? Good luck!

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A.H.

answers from St. Joseph on

I'm afraid I can't really help with the Stepmom thing, as I've never been in that situation. I can say, however, that patience is learned--and it does take practice. The more you practice it, the better you'll get at it.
Realistically, you probably wouldn't be any more patient with your own child if he were *suddenly* 4 years old (with or without special needs)--but you'll have four years with him to learn and adjust to his needs and personality before he reaches that age. You didn't have that with your stepson, so give yourself (and him) time to adjust. After all, you're both playing catch-up!
When you say you lose your temper "out of nowhere," it sounds like maybe you aren't listening to yourself, or just don't recognize the signs your body and mind give you when they are stressed. Either that, or there is a particular action your stepson is doing that really triggers your anger. Either way, the hard part is learning to catch yourself *before* blowing up. If you can recognize what makes you angry, you can learn to deal with it before it gets out of hand. If you know what triggers your temper, you can come up with specific solutions. Be patient with yourself, too--not only is it normal to make mistakes, it is *expected* in any learning process.
Keep in mind that he is only 4; the hard part (BTDT) is remembering that he is NOT a small adult--he is a young child. (There is not a preschooler I know of that doesn't dawdle in the mornings, for example.) Also keep in mind that he is having to learn *everything* about rules and boundaries, too--not an easy task when there were none for his ENTIRE LIFE before now. ;-)
For stress: Have you tried keeping a journal? I don't mean online, either--banging on a keyboard when you are frustrated is just NOT as satisfying as pressing letters into a page with a pencil or pen, IMO! Don't forget to write down the good things, too, though. You can go back and read them when you've had a particularly hard day, to remind you that not every day is bad! (This really helps me get those feelings out ... and let go of them!)
For mornings: You might want to try streamlining your mornings to help make your job easier, and to give your stepson (and later, both kids) less of an opportunity to make you late. If it generally takes him 30 minutes to eat a bowl of cereal, make sure he has 45 minutes when you set it in front of him. Lay out entire outfits--from underwear and socks to shoes, jacket, and hat--the night before, so that you aren't running around last-minute trying to find that missing sock. For that matter, it may help to prepare everything you can the night before to save time in the morning! Set out breakfast dishes, pack his schoolbag, put the packed diaper bag near the door. The less you have to do in the morning, the more he can take his time without stressing you both out. In my experience, a relaxed pace in the morning really sets a nice "tone" for the day.
You could also try giving him a morning job that he does on the way to the car or in the car--picking up the newspaper from the yard or the mail from the mailbox, for example, or selecting which (child-friendly) music CD you'll all listen to on the way to daycare. Then when he's dawdling, you can casually remind him of his job, "Do you think the mail's here yet?" or, "Which CD do you think you'll pick today?" (This worked with my kids until they were about 9, lol.)
Well, hopefully something I've said will be useful to you. Best of luck!
--A. H.

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M.F.

answers from Kansas City on

hey, i'm a step mom and have embraced "crazy" it's ok to be a little crazy. when i get frustrated i will grab them up and blow "raspberries" on the tummy, with sensory issues this can be a symbiotic sort of coping skill. now, i'm not saying YOU are crazy, what i am saying is crazy has it's place, too and is very underrated.one of the things i did w/ my boy who has similar type issues is along the line of what Crissy was saying. if he's in a sitting position, you can gently yet firmly push straight down on his head with your hands. hope this helps a bit. good luck!

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L.C.

answers from Portland on

wow reading your post hit so close to home. I know exactly how you are feeling; I now have 2 step kids and the boy is now 5 and I get so frustrated with him because he seems to have alot of special issues and anger problems and never sits still and is never calm; he needs alot more attention than most kids do; there are times I get extra frustrated with him and at those times; I try to calm myself by thinking how much he needs me and how much he has been through (his real mother has abandoned him off and on since he was a baby and even went days without feeding him, done drugs in front of it, been arrested in front of him and abused his father in front of him). its a really tough situation. I hope everything works out. I do not have too much advice except that I am in a similar situation and it seems like it would be easier if they were your own kids.

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S.W.

answers from St. Louis on

the following is my e-newsletter for today, the topic is always the joy of parenting. i find its a good source of sound and peaceful advice. i thought this particular article was also appropriate to your question and concerns. i can relate to the frustration. i try to take the advice of these articles daily. you could sign up to receive them too, if you wish, by going to the website mentioned below.

(sorry for the length)

THE DAILY GROOVE ~ by Scott Noelle
www.enjoyparenting.com/dailygroove

:: Your Emotional Guidance ::

Nature designed our bodies to feel *pleasure* when we
do things that are good for us and *pain* when we do
things that aren't. For example, eating feels good
when you're hungry, but it hurts when you're full.

Just as physical feelings are meant to guide us toward
physical well-being, *emotions* are a higher order of
feelings meant to guide us toward *spiritual*
well-being -- that is, to guide our thoughts.

When your thoughts are aligned with your Higher Self,
you feel pleasureful emotions like peace and love.
When your thoughts are out of alignment with your
Higher Self, you feel painful emotions like fear and
resentment.

Today, be mindful of your emotions and notice the
thoughts that accompany them. Tell yourself that
ALL emotions are good -- even the "negative" ones --
because they are there to guide you back to your Self.

:: An Example ::

A mother sees her toddler snatch a toy from his baby
sister, who starts crying. The mother is outraged.

The conventional view is that the child's behavior
*made* the mother angry. But the cause of her outrage
was actually her *thoughts about* the behavior. Those
thoughts flashed by so quickly she didn't notice them.
Thoughts like...

* He's traumatizing the baby!
* What've I done wrong to create that behavior?
* What would my friends think if they saw that?
* I am powerless to stop the behavior without
resorting to punishments.

These thoughts are out of accord with her Higher
Self who *knows* her limitless creativity and
freedom, her absolute worthiness, and her children's
inevitable well-being.

The anger is her Emotional Guidance telling her
she's gone off track. She will find relief (and
eventually her "groove") by deliberately reaching
for *soothing* thoughts, like...

* The baby always recovers quickly.
* My desire to be a good parent is stronger than ever.
* Whoever judges me is not my friend anyway.
* I can connect with my Authentic Power regardless
of his behavior.

When she feels relief, that's her Emotional Guidance
letting her know she's moving her thoughts in the
right direction.

Try it!

http://dailygroove.net/emotional-guidance

Note: In The Daily Groove the terms "Emotional Guidance"
and "Inner Guidance" are used interchangeably.

Feel free to forward this message to your friends!
(Please include this paragraph and everything above.)
Copyright (c) 2008 by Scott Noelle

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A.B.

answers from Kansas City on

My sister (with whom I'm very close with) was in the same situation, she got an 8 and 10 year old who had been abused by their mother....and of course, they still wanted their mother. But only for a little while. My sister couldn't deal with their lack of cleanliness (never washing hands, nose picking, refusing showers, etc) because her children of the same age weren't like that. And she was PARALYZED with guilt, as it sounds you are. She also felt all the extra time she had to devote to them was taking away from her kids. She finally made some real progress by being consistant and she, at first, MADE herself hug and encourage them and it became easier as time went by. It definately affected her relationship with her now husband but she was honest about things and insisted on him helping over time with them. 2 years later, their worthless mother is nowhere to be found (thank God) and they love and respect my sister and she feels the same. As far as the guilt and frustration, I totally understand and feel free to "vent" to anyone on MamaSource-we're all in this boat together! Good luck and God Bless

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R.W.

answers from Kansas City on

T. -

First of all, stop beating yourself up! You are doing the best you can and obviously you love your little step son or you wouldn't be so concerned with doing things right. So, you are off to a great start really BECAUSE -
*you love him dearly & want the best for him
and
*you are seeking ways to be a better parent to him

I think that some family counseling would be a great benefit to all of you. There are a lot of new changes and it can be a very stressful adjustment period. Just trying to balance work and home can be hard enough so finding time to work through all the stuff in between can make it all that much harder! If you absolutely cannot do family counseling then there are a lot of great books out there. Our favorites are the Love & Logic books. I am a MUCH better parent after reading and putting those into play! Also, consider getting him involved in some activities if he isn't already that will further help him develop and mature. And depending on what school district you are in, you might even qualify due to his needs for him to be a part of your school district's preschool which would also really help him with his development as it is very structured and follows the school district's curriculum.
I am not a step parent but my mother was one and she really struggled. I think a lot of what you are going through can be normal. Just try to take a time out for those times when you are about to explode. You want to model the behavior you want from him (hard as that can be sometimes). For in the mornings, try to start an incentive program with stickers or marbles and each time he does what he needs to do - have him add marbles to a jar or stickers to a chart and have special rewards for doing a great job.
Hope you find some help. GOD BLESS YOUR NEW FAMILY! :)

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A.R.

answers from Oklahoma City on

Two things-One, let go of the guilt :) I yell at my kids (both mine) sometimes and that is certainly not my plan for discipline. They are very well behaved, but we just sometimes have bad days on the exact same day and it gets ugly so don't feel like it has much to do with him not being your kid. In fact, it would be worse if you were indifferent to him because he wasn't yours. The fact that you are yelling means you are emotionally involved and you really care whether or not he does well.
The second thing I would recommend is a lot of quality time with you. It doesn't have to go on forever like this, but for a while get down on the floor with him and hang out. His behavior will improve and so will some of his skills. Do things that he wants to do, but also suggest things that may improve some of his skill and are also fun i.e. pouring water from one container into another without spilling, putting large beads on a shoestring, puzzles, games. It will reward you.
As for the getting out the door thing, there are lots of great discipline books with ideas for things like this that are a problem every single day. One is called "Getting Kids to Mind without Losing Yours" another is "Love and Logic"

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R.H.

answers from St. Louis on

While I am not a step-mother, I definitly know where you are coming from with a difficult child. I have a nephew that is a nightmare to be around and I am usually one of the first to step in and help discipline him because his mother won't. And, like your step-son, this boy has had little to no structure in his life, but you are not crazy and you are on the right path to get him help with his needs. My daughter started having problems with her motor skills and I noticed it at a very early age (9 months) and sought help then. She would get fussy and have tantrums because she was getting frustrated that she couldn't accomplish tasks. She is now 2 years old and has nto needed any more assistance with her delay, she is now back up with her peers (even ahead in some areas) and she is a totally different person. You hear of people having kids with "terrible 2's" but my little girl is too focused on trying to learn and do new things. Don't get me wrong, she does have her moments, but I seriosuly think it has a lot to do with her getting that help that she needed in the beginning. I have hope and faith that once your step-son gets the much needed help that he needs you will start to see a huge turnaround, not right away, but over a period of time. Also, he will eventually want you more than his biological mom if she doesn't stay in the picture, he will realize that you are the caregiver and the true meaning of what a mom is suppose to be and he will start to give you more respect and treat you as his real mom. Just hang in there, it will get better.

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K.O.

answers from Wichita on

Don't beat yourself up. No mother is perfect. Just do your best and remember that every mom yells once in a while. You are very busy and work full time. You are a wonderful woman to be such a loving mother to your stepson. Hang in there. You ARE a great mother! Kati

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A.B.

answers from St. Louis on

You're not crazy...you need an extra hand at least a few days a week until you get a schedule down that works for you and your family. Your stepson obviously needs extra attention right now with his mother just leaving him behind. You need to tell your husband how you feel if you haven't already. Maybe your husband could see if he could go in later in the mornings (at least a few)to give you an extra hand. I don't know what he does for a living but some companies have flextime which allows you to ajdust start and quit times as long as you're getting the required 40 hours or whatever it is he's getting paid for in. It's worth a shot to at least ask. With the developmental delays your stepson has maybe getting him in preschool would be good.Some have daycare provided before and after school. Your husband could take him in earlier with him and than you would just have the baby to worry about in the mornings. If that's not possible try an older lady in your community or even a jr-high or high school kid may come over in the morning to help you get out the door unfrazzled. How did your mornings go when you just had your stepson every other week? You are sooo right that being a step-parent is the hardest job. You and your stepson are both dealing with life altering changes right now and it sounds like you're trying to get him the help he needs. Give yourself and him some time to get adjusted-it will work out.

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M.E.

answers from St. Louis on

T.,
I can totally relate and you are not crazy. My husband had full custody of his 2 boys and their Mom moved to Seattle. I have been step-mom since they were in grade school. It's the hardest job I have ever done. Structure is definitely the key. There is a huge adjustment period, but I can tell you that when they are older (mine now 19 & 17) they will recognize your efforts. It was awesome to hear the 19 year old tell his boss/adult friend that out of everyone in the world, he knew he could count on me, that I would always be there for him no matter what. I would address motor skill delays, etc. with a pediatrian and also discuss some emotional issues to get "natural" solutions. Please beware about getting the school too involved at this point, since he's only 4. My opinion is that the schools, psychiatrists, etc. are very quick to medicate children. There are huge long term affects of this that I believe are not being discussed with parents, otherwise 1/3 of our school children would not all be on some sort of medication. Their young bodies are developing and those meds WILL have permanent affects of the brain's development. Anway, from a step-mom that has been there done that, consistency 1st, lot of love and re-assurance, and yes he will always "wonder" about his mother. I used the difference between the words Mother and Mom to explain to the boys. Their mother will always be their mother and I can never take that away from them. But I was their MOM, the one that got them to school, bathed, cooked dinner, went to PTA meetings, baseball games, etc. I seemed to work for them. Keep you head up, it will pay off, but it may be until after High School Graduation that you truly feel the appreciation from him. Feel free to contact me if you would like to talk further.

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F.M.

answers from Kansas City on

Is there any way that you could find a way to be home full time with the two children? Is there any cuts you and your husband could make so that you can do that, for say a year, so that you would be less stressed? The little boy probably really needs less stress too, and be home with you full time. If you were less stressed, than you would have more patience. Little 4yo boys need lots of day to day time with their mother, which happens to be you now. I know, I have a needy 4yo myself. Perhaps you could take in a couple of little boys his age to keep him busy for extra money, and time to be with him until he gets past this emotional change. Anyway, just a suggestion.

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J.M.

answers from St. Louis on

Hi T.,
No, you're not crazy. It's natural to struggle with your step-child. I say this, because there's always going to be that other woman in their life that's not you and as you've said no matter how much she hurts your step-child they'll always love her. It's tough. The frustration is probably more of the stress talking. I've been a step-mom of two for 4.5 years now. It's been very tough. Thankfully we just won sole custody of my two and the moms starting to seem as if she's going to stop with all of her stupidity (I hope). Things are very stressfull, until you can learn mentally to accept and deal with the fact of "Mom". It took me close to 4.5 years to get to this stage, I'm not going to lie I still find I build up with anger even after this long. What I do when I'm finding I'm struggling with my frustration, I step away. If my husbands home I tell him I'm going out for a few, I take a few in my room, or I drop the kids off at Grandma's for a few. Special needs does make things a lot harder too, this I understand also due to my oldest having been wrongly placed in autistic classes for the first 3 years of his schooling. I swear if I didn't know any better you were talking about my kids mother, same issues. It's tough, but try to take a breath care for them as you would your own, and do your best. If you need to don't ever feel guilty take a few to yourself. One thing I found worked in the very beginning, is I used to tell myself all the time "how would I want my child to see me caring for their step-sibling". I have found this really helps too.
I hope some of what I've mentioned will help. I know it's tough, but I know we all do our best as step-moms.
Good-luck!

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J.S.

answers from Kansas City on

Hi T.,
Children are often stressful, so don't feel alone in your frustration.

That said, a 4 year old is going to be a 4 year old. There is really only so much they can do at their age and attention span.

You have a tiny baby and that alone would be difficult without help. Is there anything your husband or you can do to help prepare for the next morning in advance? Maybe he can prepare the baby's diaper bag, get it in the car, lay out your stepson's clothes, bathe the children, etc. the night before.

For your own mental well-being, seek some time away from your stepson and maybe the baby too. Even if it's just an hour. Sometimes a break from our children helps us to appreciate them more.

Hope this helps. Many Blessings :-}

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D.M.

answers from Kansas City on

Try adding more to his "sensory diet". You can buy items for this that don't cost a lot. Seriously, the $0.88 isle at walmart in the toy section is great! Things that he has to squish, sand toys, water toys, things with different weird textures, things that have to be pushed or pulled or stretched to get a desired outcome, etc. will help his behaviors as well as Occupational Therapy needs. Some of these things will have to be part of your/your husband's one-on-one time with him as he might not play with them appropriately on his own at first. You can also use these as part of the reward system you set up. Good luck and God bless!

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L.W.

answers from St. Louis on

About 5 years ago I met my husband and moved into his house with his 15 yr old daughter and 16 year old son. (Their mom and dad were divorced for over 10 years at this point and they lived with their dad alone ever since...mom rarely saw them). Right from the start I told them that I wasnt there to replace their mother, and wanted to be their friend and get along with them. Well, needless to say it didnt go anywhere near that smoothly. His daughter was in rebellious stage and ended up moving out b/c she didnt want to follow her dad's house rules (I still think she hates me for taking her spot as the woman of the house). She ended up pregnant at 16 and has been with the dad ever since. (they just got married and also have another kid now too.)
I've tried hard to have a good relationship with the stepson who still lives with us (soon to be 21), but I, like you find that it's hard to have patience with him. I try to sometimes excuse it away by saying they are old enough and should know better how to behave/act/follow rules, etc. I, like you, wish there was more I can do to improve this situation.
My husband and I got married 3 years ago and have our own 2 year old daughter now and recently the stepson told me that he feels I favor her and leave him out of things. I tried to explain to him that I need to do more for her because she is young yet and yes that I do expect him to act his age and be able to do more things for himself (like clean up and cook or do basic chores, etc.)
The stepson and I have big blow ups about once a month. The biggest issue is that b/c his mom rarely saw him and when she did she never set boundries, he thinks he does not have to listen to me. I can ask him to do something, and he wont...until I go to his dad....His dad tells him the exact same thing I did...and he will do it. It is frustrating as [email protected]@.
I totally agree that this is a stepparent thing...and honestly thing that stepparenting is harder than actual parenting. So you are not alone in your frustrations/worries. I truly hope that you can make a difference in your stepson's life while he is still young and that hopefully he will come around. We cant replace their mother's, but we can be the best 2nd mother that we can...it's all that we can do.

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J.D.

answers from St. Louis on

T.,

You are not crazy! Being the mother of an 8 month old alone is exhausting. Add to that the stress that comes from both everyday situations and the stepson, who wouldn't be overwhelmed. It sounds as though you are on your way up though. I am a stepmom as well but my situation is different from yours. This is a wonderful chance to begin life together in your home. The point I am trying to make is that this is your home, therefore your rules, discipline, and love. This is also temporary although draining. The behavioral problems are stemming from the seperation from his mom and coming to live with Dad and you full time. Kids are wonderful at adjusting. My advice would be to set some type of routine up to make it through your day and help him to make it through as well. Kids need boundaries and they thrive on routines. You could also enlist his help in the taking care of your baby to help them create a bound. He could help by bringing you diapers, bottles, binkies, wipes, a toy, etc. I would try to set up a reward system chart for days that he behaves as expected. Once he earns enough points for the week, month, etc you could take him somewhere special ice cream, the park, Chuckie Cheese, etc. The best thing you could do for all of you is to sit down with your husband to come up with the rules that are expected then sit down with your step son as a family to go over what both Daddy and you expect. Explain the reward system and go from there. While your baby is napping remember to take time out to shower him with kisses and hugs. Hold him for no reason at all to make him feel secure and loved. When writing bills or doing lists have him color at the table with you and compliment him on his work. Your words and actions will help him feel secure and loved. Remember that in his mind he has just been abandoned by the person that meant the most to him, let him feel the security and love from the both of you. Also, I would try to have your husband spend at least one hour a week alone with him to do their male bonding away from you and the baby both. It will give you time to relax and it will strengthen their relationship.

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L.G.

answers from Columbia on

I know you will get lots of advice from folks that maybe are going through the same situation and have some real and constructive things to tell you. I don't have that many constructive things to say but wanted to let you know the situation seems hard because it is hard. Realize you are in a very challenging situation, it won't be easy, many families in this situation don't stay together but in realizing this I think you give yourself an extra chance. Make sure you give yourself every opportunity for success. Do get any extra help for this child that you can. Know that some people will never feel for a step-child what they feel for their own. Some people do love their step children as much as their own but some just don't/can't/won't. Until you do or if it doesn't happen make sure you understand things from your step-child's point of view. It sucks to be in a family where one child is loved more than another. It is not a fun way to live life with more challenges in your personality, your mom is not what you need her to be. So as step mom you have to be what he needs even if he can't appreciate it sometime. You do what is right because it is right and not because you want to be appreciated. If you know that this all will present more challenges to your marriage try to have a better marriage that can withstand this challenge. You have a lot on your plate but you sound like a strong caring person or you would have not written for advice. Oh, have empathy for Mom. Whatever her challenges she is probably not the mother she wanted to be. Assume it is beyond her for now but maybe she can be a more stable part of his life some day. It is easy to trash somebody but harder to say she has struggles that are beyond your understanding and you will try to have empathy for her. It works better for you and your family in the long run. Take care and I wish all the best for you.

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E.D.

answers from Springfield on

well first of all u need to remember he is not at fault here he can't help it , and it will take time to teach him the correct way to behave , and u never know if ur child may have the same sore of problems one day , so pray a lot and try to think of him as ur child and give alot of love to him and get some conseling for ur self , be glad he is still young enough to learn and not set in his ways to badly . try getting up a little earlier till everone gets on track . amd pray and pray for god will reward u for ur kindness and love u show the child and he will love u for it some day when he is older . i will pray for u T. ---E.

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K.B.

answers from Wichita on

T., Good Morning. Ya know what most kids dwaddle in the mornings! My 3 yr old grandson is one as are his older cousins. (8 & 7)I go over in the mornings and pick up our two youngest ( 3 & 6 mo ) to keep during the day. Then bring them over to our home if I have things to do here. (less then 3 blocks away)

He is learning to dress him self to prepare for 3 days a week day care. He will say Nana can't do it. I don't want to be big boy Nana. I tell him can't never tried but He can do anything he tries. If he takes more then say 10 minutes to put on his jeans then I help and make it fun. He is doing alot better.

When your little guys dwaddling causes you to lose it, calmly walk away and tell him Mom needs a quick time out. Then deep breath, hum a silly song or whatever to control your emotions. Right now he doesn't know why his mom just took off and left him. That has got to be hard for the little guy. And it may be part of the reason for his emotional problems, learning skills etc. I was a Step child ( from age 5 ) and my step mom was the greatest most loving woman I ever knew. I lost her last August. I still have my mom & step dad and my father. I have my mom but she doesn't know me ( Alzheimer's )

Your little guy does need extra attention right now, and really it's not so hard to do. Read to him while you hold your baby, let him help with diaper throw aways. There is always some thing he can do to help him feel important and needed.

And Babe your not crazy, it happens to the best of us out here.
In His Amazing Grace
K. aka Nana

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C.S.

answers from Kansas City on

I have been a step-mom for the past 10 years. I have an incredible 15 yr. old stepson. The one thing I have come to realize is that when I am angry or frustrated with his mom, that is when I have a short fuse with him. It's almost like a subconscience way of dealing with her. She works full time, I am able to stay home with our kids (2 younger ones also) - so I get him to most of his activities, etc. When I feel like she is really taking advantage of us (financially, taking my time for granted, etc.), which is most of the time, I have seen my frustrations come out on him. Well, I should be taking it up with his mom. I was 23 when I chose to take on this role...and I do have to frequently remind myself that I CHOSE it. I loved this little boy so much that I chose to take on this role. It's not his fault that his mom slacks. However, I'm not about to let him and his life suffer b/c of his mom's faults - I want to make his life better by being in it. Then that makes it my choice when I take time away from my girls to do things for him...makes it a lot easier to take!
Just keep reminding yourself that it's not their fault their parents are divorced, that the extra slack is thrown on you, and that he IS just as wonderful as your own biological kids!! Good Luck!

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