How to handle mean-spirited child

cosmicsong8May 29, 2007

I posted here before saying my boyfriend has a five year old who has been smart-mouthed and sometimes violent with me. My boyfriend and I are very serious about being in this relationship for the long haul. However, his five year old son's mother feeds the child a lot of negative ideas about his father's relationship with me, because she hasn't accepted that her ex-husband has moved on. Anyway, this child is very loyal to his mother, so he has not fully accepted me. And he sees me I think as the barrier to his parents getting back together. I talked to my boyfriend as you suggested in my last post and he does understand better now what his son is doing, but he blames the birth mother. He doesn't always hold his son accountable for his own actions, although he's getting better at spotting it and correcting his son. To be honest, I just simply do not like this child and I'm trying to figure out how to handle his smart comments without stooping to his level. After all, he's only 5! A friend of mine told me there's nothing more effective than just plain ignoring him. I'm wondering if anybody here has tried anything else. Just looking for some ideas. I find myself not looking forward to going home the nights I know he's going to be there. It's not a comfortable situation for me anymore. We have him 3 days a week. Fun fun fun!

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Hi CosmicSong8;

I appreciate where you're coming from, and I believe that the advice that your friend gave you is actually the best that can be given. If your BF is present when the smartmouthing takes place, he should let his son know that it's not appropriate to speak to you like that. If you are alone with him remember that if you correct the son, you will be perceived as the "bad guy" That's best left to his father. Keeping quiet and walking away will let him know that his actions/words aren't OK, but will also avoid the conflict he's trying to engage you in.
I have 2 SS's, one which lives with me, the other with their BM. The one that lives with his BM did resent me for a time, and would say inappropriate things, and act out with me. A few times I did respond with my own smart mouthed answers, but that really doesn't do anyone any good. It just fueled the resentment. Once I just let go, and ignored him, after a few months, he got the message. I wasn't such a threat to him and his relationship. One thing to possibly do would be to make sure that he does have one on one time with his father that doesn't include you. Quite often children of divorce feel a sense of loss of the NCP, and resent any outside interference. Some activities you should all do together, some should be just him and his father. That way he doesn't feel a need to compete with you.
My SS's are teenagers now, and I still regularly suggest that my DH have one on one time with each son, as well as time that is just the 3 of them so that they have special moments with their father.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 6:27PM
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I agree w/ jessegirl.

Ignore him, let his dad reprimand him, but insist your bf make this boy treat you w/ respect. "Son, I wouldn't let you talk to stranger like that, so you're certainly not going to talk to my gf in this way."

Over time, he will hopefully see you for you, and this attitude will taper off. It's just hard, until the BM matures and acts in this boy's best interest, as she still has the most control. Someone here posted a list of areas for parents to consider regarding their child's well-being during divorce. Print it out and see if your bf can say that his end is working on this and he hoped she'd also find it helpful. If she's too angry about everything, it may not work, but hopefully she'll glance at it anyway.

Good luck,

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 10:51AM
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CosmicSong8, as much of an advocate of the "ignore inappropriate behavior" mantra (and I am using it a lot lately, especially with a business partner!), I think it works mainly if it's used only if a child is testing his boundaries within limits... If not, essentially, we risk letting these children's behaviors run free.

One thing that I have learned is that children, especially those caught between two parents, try to gain power/control of the situation because they feel the adults in their life aren't. By pushing you over the edge, he gains control over you. I am speaking by first-hand experience as well as from what I have "learned". Sometimes, we will just lose it and burst, but what children need is an adult figure that will stay consistent and cool as much as possible. He hits you? Time out. He doesn't agree? You pick him up, put it in his TO spot and walk away. The trick is not to engage, a skill many step-parents can praise the glory of those who are able to do it... and I guess it's a variation of "ignore inappropriate behavior" only this is to be implemented only after you have addressed the situation.

I'm a big believer that, not only as parents, but especially as step-parents, it's important that we gain as much knowledge as we can to deal with situations we do or may encounter. I'm a big reader so I can offer some reading that has helped me.

"Divorce Poison" is one that makes me sad just thinking about it, but itÂs good to know where a parent can lead a child because of their own frustration/anger towards their ex.

James Dobson has a small but useful book on Discipline ("Dare to Discipline") as well as one for "The Strong-Willed Child"Â

And then, more recently, I saw a Dr. Phil episode that got me thinking that has excellent resources or brief reading material:

A much longer post than I intended, sorry! Hopefully, I wrote something helpful!!!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 12:08PM
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This is what I learned:
1. Your relationship between husband and wife comes first ( I know this is hard when you are only BF and GF but it must come first)

2. Trust each other and stick together.

3. See a counsler now and definately prior to marriage. Discuss both expectations and roles for you and your BF.

4. Talk to each other about your style and thoughts on parenting and discipline. Make sure you are on the same page and post guidelines for behavior/punishments/chores for the children.

5. Understand that the child is hurting. This isn't an excuse just an understanding. He needs to learn to deal with his feelings and not direct them towards you.

6. We own our feelings, no one makes us feel bad, we let them make us feel bad. (It took me a long time to really understand this one!)this will help you in all of your relationships.

7. Dad must continue to explain to his child that he will never get back with his mother. Over, done with and time to move on.

8. Read everything about PA, PAS with your BF- Parental Alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome.

9.Read John Rosemond column at

ps. just a comment someone else made in another post about the child didn't choose you to be their step parent! Well I didn't choose my parents either or I would have chosen someone like Bill Gates! Ha! Ha! Ha! LOL


    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 4:07PM
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I have never met a mean-spirited five year old. I don't think that such a thing exists. Five year olds are little more than babies.

I would recommend "Raising Your Spirited Child Rev Ed: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic," by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 10:40PM
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My now 14 year-old step GS is/was mean-spirited, even as a little kid. When he was 9, the cops had been called on him many times. Then he broke a window (in custody of other Grandma) and tried to kill his 8 year-old brother with a piece of the glass. He went to kiddie jail for a year and a half, and his little brother came to live with us (with only eight hours notice). Little brother obviously had severe emotional and behavioral issues. Had been diagnosed with Asperger's. Right - NOT! He had never had discipline or consequences, had been severely abused by brother, had never been educated.

Then when brother got out of jail, he sexually molested several of his grandma's daycare kids, including his 5 year old cousin. He has now been in a treatment center for several months. Rather than gracefully accept treatment, he has escaped campus, broken a staffperson's arm while wearing a straitjacket, etc. At first he had numerous episodes a day, now he can go for a few days. Prognosis is not good.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 10:43AM
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Honeyblue "ps. just a comment someone else made in another post about the child didn't choose you to be their step parent! Well I didn't choose my parents either or I would have chosen someone like Bill Gates! Ha! Ha! Ha! LOL "

Thank you !!! I have heard that comment too many times before as if that justifies everything... it's nice to hear someone say the same thing I think .... :-)

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 11:30AM
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"Ignore the behavior" sounds easy enough...
but how hard do you let someone hit you, bite you, or kick you before you defend yourself?

Boyfriend is blaming his ex (exes come in handy if you want to assess blame without taking corrective action!), but he isn't intervening in his son's bad *behavior*, & behavior is the problem.

Ignore it & it'll escalate, but how to you defend yourself against assault without using physical force yourself? on a 5-year-old?

It's tempting to say, "I'm not going to let Fill-in-the-Blank run *me* off", but sometimes it's wiser to get run off.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 2:36PM
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I think one can assume that a 9 year old who tries to murder his sibling is mentally ill, not "mean-spirited."

You may not get to pick your biological parents, but they don't suddenly show up in your life and quite often turn it upside down.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 10:10PM
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Everyone has a mean bone in their body how you choose to react or behave is the difference.

Driving down the road some guy cuts you off... do you say poor fella must be having a bad day or do you say Jerk!! and flip him off??

Do you make/give an excuse for bad behavior or do you hold him accountable for bad behavior?

There are different degrees of mean.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2007 at 12:17PM
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"Driving down the road some guy cuts you off... do you say poor fella must be having a bad day or do you say Jerk!! and flip him off??"

That depends - is he five years old or fifty-five?

If he were five, I would cut him some slack (and call 911!).

    Bookmark   June 2, 2007 at 4:56PM
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I have the same problem with my bf's son and i dont know what to do! My bf and i have a 6 wk old baby together and I have a 7 yr old daughter. His 10 yr old is so hyper and smart mouth and i just dont know what to do. I have thought about moving out but i love my bf so much!!

    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 2:55PM
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A lot of things can turn a child's life upside down- new school, new home, new baby in the family, life-threatening illness of self or other family member, not just divorce or a new stepparent. Why does everyone justify bad behavior when a child has a new stepparent? Children shouldn't be allowed to treat a stepparent in any way that we wouldn't want them to treat any other adult.
Granted this child is only five-not almost a baby; he'd be held accountable for his behavior in kindergarten-so he needs some time to adjust. Some time, not years.
It would be a great idea for Dad to discuss the situation in a way a 5yo can understand, be firm, loving and consistent.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 3:53PM
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My FSD was mean, but in a passive-aggressive way. When I didn't like it, I made plans with friends or went somewhere to hang out with my DS. I made sure that she was never mad at me for not letting her have alone-time with her father. That's my suggestion. When he's there, just go in your room and read a book. Or go have dinner with a friend or something. He'll snap out of it.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 5:15PM
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Get the book, Setting Limits with the Strong Willed Child. Good, useful info. In reality, this little guy is just that, little. He's probably confused. I am certain that my 5yo would have a VERY difficult time understanding/processing getting "negative" information from someone about me. It would be very confusing for her. So, hang in there. He'll get older and realize that you are not a bad, mean ogre. Time will be your friend.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2008 at 6:34AM
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