ADHD stepson

DebunnyMarch 10, 2011

I am new to the community but was hoping for some feedback. I am really at my wits end and just in tears quite a lot from my ADHD 14 yo stepson. I feel like this evil stepmom in his eyes because we got custody of him one month after we got married last year when his mom called to say she didnt want to deal with him anymore and we needed to come get him immediately that weekend. This child has never had much of any discipline, no rules whatsoever in her house. He ate what he wanted when he wanted, played video games whenever he wanted, had no bedtime at all; even during school days...and the list goes on. Along with his 12 page discipline report that came with him from his school last year. And there was the probation officer that had to ok him coming to live with us. His mother took him off of the meds he was on for several years because she decided once she moved that he didnt need them anymore.

When he first came to live with us, I actually liked him ok. Hewas the best behaved actually out of all three of hubbys kids. But as the time went on,he started resenting more and more the rules here and getting more and more defiant. There was never a thank you from him for anything. He expected to get whatever he wanted whenever he wanted and if not he would blow up and just throw a huge attitude fit. So more time than not, his dad would just give him whatever he wanted to shut him up....which led to problems between him and I. It was to the point of me saying for him to get him some counseling or I couldnt deal with it anymore. So we have started the counseling and he is back on the meds and at least his grades are improving finally after almost all F's in his classes. But there are still things going on at home that drive me crazy. He had a therapy session yesterday that I couldnt go to with both of them, normally I try to attend them all. My hubby said he told the Dr how his son would try to get a rise out of me and that I had been biting my tongue and ignoring him so he couldnt get to me, and how his son would then just move on to something more to irritate me and try even harder to get a reaction out of me. ( He does this crap often at that) One of our arguments is about food of all things. He constantly complains about EVERYTHING it seems that is cooked or prepared here. I actually cook dinner nightly and we all have dinner together ( his bm does not cook, she is the brownpaper bag queen according to hubby ) One of our biggest pet peeves is breakfast. He was having a horrible habit of eating dry cereal for bfast and then going to school and eating again at the cafeteria because he said he was still hungry. Well, that breakfast was coming out of our bank account adding up. Considering we have my son also whos lunch we have to also buy and then his son it was draining the money from his account quickly eating twice a day at school so we noticed his money was going quicker than my sons and we checked purchases at school and saw it online. His dad got on to him when we caught him doing it and told him he was not to eat breakfast at school again. That took us at least 3 months to get him to stop sneaking and getting it. His dad told him he would not eat the dry cereal for breakfast anymore because that was more of a snack than a meal and that he needed to put milk in it at least so it was filling him up. We also bought oatmeal for the boys so they have a choice of breakfasts. This weekend the stepson fixed himself a bowl of cereal, and had to run to the restroom and hubby and I noticed that you couldnt even see milk in it because there was so little, so hubby got the milk and put more in it. His son ate it when he came out and actually didnt complain. My complaint though is that I feel like I am the food police because it is always ME that has to point anything out or say anything and then I look like the bad person...with food or rule breaking or anything. This morning the ss took his meds with milk, and then poured what was left of the milk in his cereal. As usual you couldnt see the milk at all in the cereal. Now remember hubby added milk himself to ss cereal just this past weekend. So this morning when SS said some comment about how he drank his milk really fast it was different from schools, I made a comment to him that he was supposed to have put it in his cereal and not drank it all. Hubby flipped out on me and said he saw nothing wrong with what he had done and that I was never satisfied. He stormed out of the house arguing all the way out of the door. I just sat in stunned silence and started crying when he got out of the door. Some days I just want to throw in the towel honestly. I feel like this huge weight is on my shoulders because I feel like I am compared to the ex because when he was with her they didnt have any rules for the house. The kids pretty much did what they wanted, had no chores and got what they wanted when they wanted period. I have three children of my own also. One of mine is grown and has an infant that I watch a few days a week while she is working. I have my 6yo son here full time, who is now starting picking up some of the 14yos bad habits. Hubby has saw the stress that everything is doing to me, and has told me at times that he is overwhelmed also and thinks it may be best that his son go back to live with his mom ( who ironcially wants him back now that she has a car payment that we arent making for her after 8 months..ugh) I do not want the guilt though of that if he goes back to her house and ends up in trouble all over again and has no supervision there, and she would take him off of his meds all over again and get him no help. I just feel like I am at my wits end and dont know what to even do anymore with it all. Sorry for the novel here, im just so stressed out and unsure what to even do. :(

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I feel your frustration. Can you losen up a bit? Maybe stop cereal at breakfast and feed him something heartier (more filling) or don't feed him at all breakfast and let him eat it at school? You can stop the school sneaks by contacting the office and blocking his card and/or setting limits on won't scan when he does a no-no.

It's not all the ADHD and the part that is BM blew i big time when she allowed him off his meds and for the terrible habits to take over.

You've got him bck on meds, you all our doing the counseling thing, can you hang in there a bit longer? Habits are hard to break and a kid allowed to do as he pleases for years is not going to take kindly to sudden set routines and discipline. Who cares if he 'hates' your food, he gets nothing poisoned and the other kids survive it, he will too. Make sure a few meals a week are something he really likes (as well as the other kids) and let him whine over the other nights. He does eat it right? He's not starving, he's just being a pain over it because it's not what he wants. Let dad cook now and then, he can whine to his dad that this food sucks.

He's capable of following set rules and minding his just may have to repeat repeat repeat. Yeah, he's playing power struggle with you and as long as dad does not back you up and insist on respect for both you and dad, kid is going to keep finding and pushing those buttons. Talk to dad later (when kid's ears can't hear) and let him know that the scene in front of Jr and jumping on you in front of Jr only helps Jr think he's going to 'win' this battle eventually.

Maybe besides just 'theraphy' you and dad can also be refered to a support group...there are other parents out there going through the same things. Support groups can give parents a chance to role play and get ideas/solutions to certain issues from others. He's not a 'bad' kid, you're not an evil stepmom. Kids with ADHD are not always easy to deal with and ones that have been allowed to call the shots and do as he pleases under BM's roof are going to be even more trying.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 11:09AM
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Why is it that EVERY ADHD child I know (and there are many) who is in big trouble has a parent who has decided that his/her child *doesn't need* to be on medication? Or that it will 'stunt his growth'? Or that it will 'stigmatize him'? (So now you have a *big* problem child instead of a smaller nice one? And he's stigmatized by *his behavior* instead of by visiting the nurse once a day for his meds?)

ADHD is a legitimate medical problem. Perhaps it's an over-diagnosed one (though I've read some very interesting studies done by major universities [not drug companies] that have concluded it IS NOT actually over-diagnosed) -- Anyway, my older son's doctor explained that for kids who truly have it (my older son does), the medication is as important to them as insulin to the diabetic. It allows them to function successfully and *learn* the skills they will need to possibly function well without meds later. (Though new studies suggest that adults with ADHD function much better on meds also.) And my son's life experiences would back that up. (After going back on meds, he went from a struggling B-C high school student to a straight-A pre-med student winning award after award at a great college.) For some kids, ADHD meds are a lifesaver.

And what's with the inconsistent discipline? Parents don't get to take the 'easy way out'. ESPECIALLY parents of ADHD kids. They need to be taught early (just like every other kid) what the rules are and what the consequences are for breaking them. But if you pay the dues up front -- when the kids are young -- they can do quite well. You may choose to set slightly fewer rules (pick your battles) -- but you'd better have some, and they'd better be real. 'Giving in' after the kid makes a stink teaches the kid to make as big a stink as necessary until Dad gives in. Your SS apparently has learned this lesson.

Dry cereal is actually not a bad breakfast. There's protein, carbs, lots of vitamins. And if anyone told me I had to put milk on mine, I'd kick up a fuss as well. Drinking a glass of milk? Fine. But mush up my nice crunchy cereal? No Way! Why pick a battle over something so silly?

What you really want is for him to eat an adequate breakfast at home and stop charging breakfast at school. So make that your only criterea and *ask him* how he'd like to make that happen. Maybe he can add a yogurt or egg at home, or bring a granola bar or piece of fruit with him to school. MANY ways to solve that problem that don't involve telling him what to do.

Your SS is old enough now that he can take a more active role in making the decisions that shape his life. Sure, he'll make some semi-bad ones! But now's the time. Let him start with the food decisions. So long as he's getting adequate nutrition and you're not cooking different meals for different family members -- make those your only parameters -- let him choose what to eat. He's also old enough to learn how to cook -- which is a GREAT cure for picky or complaining eaters.

Above all, DON'T give up and ship the kid back to Mom. You KNOW what message he will internalize from that. (They don't want me.) If you and Dad can just hang in there. Keep up the therapy. Keep up the meds. Decide which rules matter and which don't, then get 100% consistent on the discipline.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 12:20PM
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Oh, dod, this brings back memories.

Cereal is okay for most of us, but ADHD kids' metabolisms convert sugars & starches to energy & blow through it very fast;
it's like getting a super-hit of caffeine would be to most of us, & it likely is the reason he's hungry again by the time he gets to school & the reason he's fully charged & in overdrive at school.

Peanut butter in an apple is a good substitute I learned about years ago;
protein is harder for the body to break down, & the apple adds fiber & flavor & something else that I forget (adult ADD?)

Other than that...everything sweeby said.

Remember, too, that he's 14, so he's battling adolescence, he's in a completely different environment with a completely different schedule, never easy for anybody, & ADHD kids especially need routine & structure.

It seems to me that boys especially need a strong male presence during these times, so hubs might try channeling Colin Powell or the military model of your choice, providing absolute structure for this kid to test himself against.

You two might watch "Supernanny" to see just how much repetition you sometimes have to go through before a child believes the message.
I wish you the best.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 3:56PM
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Never heard that about the starch for ADHD kids, Sylvia -- makes sense. I'll pass it along to older DS. Not that he'll then go for peanut butter... Eggs maybe?

And SuperNanny is fabulous! The amount of repetition needed is, indeed, daunting. And just one or two slip-ups and cave-ins can undo weeks of good work. One thing that worked really well with mine was to ask them:

"Will I change my mind if you ask again?" (pitch a fit/sulk/pout/slam doors, etc.)

Of course, that tactic only works once they actually know that you WON'T cave.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 4:09PM
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everybody has great advice, I can just add that do not give up easily, and do not take him off medication.

Unfortunately too many parents have wrong info about meds (meds are bad and we are bad parents if we give kids meds) so they end up denying their children medical care that they so desperately need because they do have medical problem. I think there is just a lot of misunderstanding and plain ignorance. So keep him on medication.

I would let him eat dry cereal, not a big deal, I would add some fruit to his breakfast: banana? maybe yogurt? Eggs are good but it is not healthy everyday. And 14-year-old boys eat a lot, him being hungry again is not that unusual.

And I agree with sylvia, If he eats cereal, make sure it is has none or low content of sugar, so if you give him sugarless cereal add fruits to it for sweetness. Or would he like oatmeal?

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 6:23PM
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1. You and your husband need to have a discussion and ultimately an agreement as to how to deal with your SS.
2. Your H should be the one who disciplines and imposes the house rules or whatever rules you BOTH think are appropriate. For example, after dinner even the SS does not like your cooking, your H must demand him to say thank you to you for preparing the meals, and the SS needs to partake in the cleaning up.
3. Relax yourself a little more. Instead of expecting the son to do what you think is good for him, let him be. At the age of 14, he is very prone to disagree and argue for that is just the nature of learning how to be independent. As long as he conducts himself in a manner that is SAFE for those around him then just let it be. I have 3 Ds so I have gone through the frustration of dealing w teenagers. There were moments when I almost went nuclear and was ready to go to ground zero - sign away their custody to their aunt, sell my business and move overseas. We went to a family counselor who finally calmed me down. Now several years later, as they are in college their attitudes have changed 180 degree as they are more mature and understand how much I have taken care of them, in my own way.

Your EGO is telling you that you are right and if he does not obey your directions, he then you have failed and he will turn out to be a bad person. Well, that thinking will only leads you to more disappointment and unhappiness.

It has helped me so much in my parenting by FINALLY ACCEPTING that being a parent, I am only the bow from which the arrows, my children, are sent forth. Where they go, How far they go, and where they land are up to them,their Destiny and GOd. My job is only to point the bow in a general direction and make sure the bow itself is strong enough to send them FAR.

Good luck

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 8:57AM
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Welcome debunny! You've already gotten some very good advice on breakfast in particular so I was going to address the situation in general. It seems to be a recurring theme here where Dad has/gets custody, but SM is the one who spends the most time with the kids, trying to maintain consistency and keep to the agreed schedule and rules, only to have her DH pop in and start making "exceptions" and un-do all of the progress SM has made.

As for SS's trying to get a rise out of you, I wonder about that. My SS is only eight and has lately started arguing with me about everything, and I mean everything - if I mention a news story I read he'll try to argue with some part of it! But, he mainly does this with me, not with DH - and he only does this after weekends at BM's. I'm wondering if he's testing me. He's already said if he pushes at BM she either gives in or screams at him and spanks him. I don't know if SS is trying to see if he can make me reach my breaking point, or if he's checking to make sure that I don't push him away too.

I can't imagine how a 14 year old must feel when their mother announces that she doesn't want to deal with him anymore and wants him gone. I'd have to think that he has some issues right now with maternal figures - and unfortunately it is now you who is right in that spotlight. To make matters worse, it sounds like your DH just wants to stick his head in the sand and dump most of this onto your shoulders - so of course now you look like the "bad guy" on top of being a woman - and thus likely to kick him out with almost no notice yourself.

I don't have a magical solution (yet!) because we're struggling through some of our own things right now. Some of the things that have helped us are to have very clear, very well-defined, agreed upon expectations, with set penalties for violation thereof. I try to make sure that the "rules" do not involve any judgment calls - because that's when DH is most likely to want to make an excuse or an exception. So, instead of saying, for example, "room must be tidied" it would be "floor must have nothing on it but furniture, all clothes must be either in dresser if clean or hamper if dirty, bed must be made, all toys must be in toy box". SS knows exactly what to expect, and I have that clear guideline as well, so there's less of DH wandering in from work to find a room two-thirds of the way tidied and saying "Oh, I think it's pretty good - what's the problem?". Meanwhile I'm ready to pull my hair out because I've spent the past four hours with SS coming to me every five minutes saying "It's done!", when I check, the only thing he'll have done is maybe make the bed - and SS will put away one more toy and then find me again - "It's done!" Over, and over, and over.

Maybe you should all sit down and come to an agreement - here is a list of foods SS can eat for breakfast. He can eat as much of them as he likes. He is not to have breakfast at school. (You may have to negotiate in "exceptions clause" because guaranteed otherwise DH will say "Oh, it was only one time! Let him go!"). Here is what will happen if SS eats breakfast at school - the cost comes from his allowance, he is required to do household chores, whatever. Done, post them, proceed.

Now, it's not incumbent upon you to convince SS he needs more milk, apples are good for him, he didn't eat "enough" breakfast, or anything else. Did he eat food from "the list" or not? Did he eat breakfast at school? Yes or no, true or false? See what I mean? It's no longer your judgment that's in question - it's a clear infraction of rules and boundaries agreed upon by all of you.

And the complaining about meals needs to be stopped now. I'm usually the one who cooks dinner as well, and I told DH in no uncertain terms that I was going to stop cooking entirely if I had to ever hear "Ewwwww! Yuck!" at the dinner table - it's just very bad manners. You don't have to like my cooking, you certainly don't have to praise it - but since I went to the effort to put a nice homecooked dinner on the table you'd better not disparage it while I 'm sitting right there!

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 9:11AM
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Been there and I feel your pain. you need to have him seen by a doctor. Given that your custody situation is every other weekend, I don't know how much you can do. This is a time when the interests of the child must come before any ill-feelings between the divorced parents. Dealing with an ADHD child is not easy but it can be done if the adults care for the child.

Here is a link that might be useful: information about adhd

    Bookmark   September 25, 2011 at 1:25AM
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