Hello and Help!!

momdrAugust 1, 2010

I am new to this site and hoping that you all can give me some imput and help. I have been with my husband for 6 years. We have been married for 4 years. He has an 8 year old son from a previous marriage and I have a 12 year old son from a previous marriage. When we got together our kids were 2 and 6. Our boys have pretty much grown up together and think of eachother as brothers. They get along well for the most part.

My problem is the way my husband babies my stepson. We have custody of my stepson and he rarely sees his biological mother because she is unstable, not mentally but just in lifestyle. She is always living places with utilities shut off for non-payment, then hopping between friends and with family members, or with guys my husband does not want his son exposed to.

Anyways when my stepson was 2 and 3 I could understand the babying. But, when my stepson was 5 and my husband had to carry him through stores because he refused to walk or sit in a cart I began speaking up. My stepson would act like he was a baby over everything. He did not want to sleep in his own bed and would cry till my husband went and layed down with him. Then if he woke up during the night and my husband was not in the room he would sit up in his bed and scream till the whole house woke up! My husband actually started sleeping in a twin bed with my stepson until I had enough and told him it had to change.

If my stepson did not like dinner he would cry and my husband would prepare a seperate meal. If my stepson did not want to go to bed my husband would make up an excuse to let the kids stay up later. If my stepson did not want to go to the store he'd cry and my husband would try sending me by myself. It got crazy. I would voice my opinion and my husband would make excuses for my stepson. I would point out that when my son was a little older than that and we were together he never saw my son do those things because they are not normal for that age. My husband would get defensive and we would fight over it.

Around that same time my husband got a promotion at work that required him to work a different shift, so then we were on opposite work shifts. My stepsons behavior while he was just with me was so different than his behavior when my husband was around. This just reinforced to me that my stepson was acting like a baby because he knew my husband would allow it. So when my husband and I would be home at the same time my stepson would go back to being a baby and when I pointed it out to my husband that he could act differently it turned to an argument and my husband being defensive.

Fastforward a few years till now and the behaviors have not changed. I am a stay at home mom now to the boys because I got layed off last year. Financially we are ok so we agreed for me to stay home because of all the running around involved in the kids activities and homework, etc. since my husband works afternoons currently. It was too much on me to do all the kid stuff on my own every night as well as do my job all day and paperwork and such in the evening. Plus I am a clean freak so I have to have the house organized and clean all the time and my husband tried to help but I ended up going behind all he did and fixing it. IT was all driving me insane.

Anyways My stepson is now 8 years old and still cries over everything and has daddy eating out of the palm of his hand. On my husbands days off my stepson makes them miserable. It turns into it all being about him. He cries constantly and my son and I are ignored while my husband practically jumps thru hoops to please my stepson. When my husband is at work my stepson behaves for me! When he does not he gets consequences. He does not cry or argue about consequences to me. But when my husband is at home my stepson will cry about any punishments I gave him, like no television or video games. Or he will know that I grounded him from it and he will go ask daddy if he can do those things and won't mention that he is grounded from them. When I bring up that he is grounded my husband says he did not know and I point out that stepson did and he should be grounded longer for trying that scam, but my husband says he is sure stepson just forgot! My husband is constantly making excuses for him and even tries to tell me I am being too strict.

What really kills me about it is that my husband has a different set of expectations for my son. At 8 years old if my son did any of the things my stepson does my husband would not stand for it, well neither would I to be honest. But the point is that he has no issues with his son doing it. My son is too talkative at times and will just ramble on with question after question. My husband will get to the point where he will tell my son that he is talking too much. But when my stepson does the same thing it apparently does not seem to bother my husband because he does not tell my stepson he talks too much. When I point out these inequalities to my husband he tries to tell me there is an age difference or he gets defensive and it turns into an argument. I am just at a loss.

Recently we were on vacation with my grandparents and my stepson threw so many tantrums my grandma spoke up and yelled at him a few times! My grandma is the most tolerant woman I know and never reprimanded me as a child nor has she ever reprimanded my son. Of course my husband did not utter a word about that. My family and friends all see the difference in my stepsons behaviors with my husband not around vs. when he is around. And to be honest my son behaves so much better than my stepson, but my husband picks at things my son does instead of looking at his own child. I end up getting defensive and stepping in a lot on that. We try not to disagree in front of the boys, but it does happen. Not too long ago my stepson was acting up and I said something to him. He began crying and daddy came to the rescue. When my husband was not facing me but my stepson was my stepson actually smirked at me and stuck out his tongue! When I called him on that my husband was embarassed and actually yelled at him and sent him to his room. But that is the problem, my stepson knows what he is doing and how to manipulate his dad. And then my husband either sides with my stepson or overreacts because he is so mad he has to react at all.

I just don't know what to do anymore about it. I find myself starting to resent my stepson for it, but I know it is my husband who I should resent. This has been going on for years and just getting worse. I love my husband and don't want to divorce over this but things have to change. We discuss it all the time and it never changes. Sometimes my husband seems like he gets it and feels bad and he will try to put his foot down with my stepson, but then it never lasts. Even my son talks to me in private about the way my stepson acts. He says all the crying gets on his nerves! I just can not handle an 8 year old running our home!!

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i feel for you...I don't really have much advice...Others with young children might be more helpful here.

Seems that your husband is doing guilt parenting. He must feel guilty that his son is growing up without a decent mother so he overcompensates for it.

Your stepson is learning manipulation, now he is 8, but what's going to happen when he is 16 and demands new car or 22 and refuses to work? if your husband does not listen to you, maybe there is some other relative he would listen to, or maybe you can buy him parenting book? I think he is just clueless and doesn't understand danger of such bad parenting...

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 9:49PM
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That is what I am worried about. He is 8 and runs my husband. I know it will only get worse as he is older. My husbands family is oblivious to it. My mother in law gives him whatever he wants when he turns on the tears.

My husband has one sibling who has older children, but he is the opposite of my husband. He is all over his kids all the time about everything.

The whole situation bothers me so much that I catch myself punishing my stepson at night for things he does when my husband is home during the day! Last night I grounded my stepson all night from any electronics because he cried during lunch. I have him a sandwich, he took a few bites and declared he was full. So I had him put it in a ziploc bag in the fridge for when he gets hungry and told him no snacks till the sandwich was gone. Not even 5 minutes later I caught my husband and him eating chips, my husband did not know about the sandwich. So I told my stepson if he was hungry he needed to finish his sandwich, not eat junkfood. He then cried and said he was not hungry at all. My husband said nothing. So after my husband went to work I told my stepson that he was grounded for trying to sneak chips earlier and then crying about it when he got caught. I also told him that if he cried to daddy about no electronics when he got home from work I would make sure that no electronics was more than a one day punishment. I have even told my stepson that I am tired of his crying games with daddy.

I feel like I am mean and overpunishing because I am so frustrated. But then I feel like if I let it go I am adding to the problem. If my husband would just deal with the behaviors then I would not have to. But this kid has a biological mom who is absolutely useless and a dad who does not realize that he needs to be a parent instead of a bff to the kid!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 11:37PM
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momdr, I'm not sure how much helpful advice I have but I can completely sympathize with you. My DH did and sometimes (rarely) still does baby SS8, and the "excuses" for his behavior are so familiar too. My DH also had SS8 since he was a baby (I also have an older SS but he was 11 at the time of their divorce, which seems to have changed that dynamic), erratic and unstable BM, etc. And I'm working from home now so I'm the sort-of stay at home SM too.

I think PO1 is right and it is guilt parenting. I also think that, at least with DH, it is a youngest child thing - it's not that he doesn't want his "baby" to grow up but he's not anxious to rush it either. That might come into play with your DH and the different expectations for the two boys. Finally, I think with DH that he was sub-consciously worried that if SS got any punishments that SS would be angry at him or hate him or something. Once DH realized that, if a child knows what the penalty for something will be, does it anyway, and receives said penalty, they don't hold a grudge or anything, it started getting better (with DH) as well. I think children are very conscious of what is "fair" and what's not - and a defined punishment for a defined act is very fair.

What I did was to try to talk to DH about particular behaviors at a calm private time, not in the heat of the moment, so to speak. And I would calmly say why I was concerned by something, did he agree that that particular behavior was not something that should continue forever (like the whole climbing into bed with us thing - we had that too) and then would try to work out a plan for modifying that behavior. DH could (and sometimes still does) excuse away any one particular instance, and I think sometimes that was the problem - he wasn't realizing just how frequently these "exceptions" were occurring. In the abstract it was a lot more difficult for him to justify to himself.

The crying thing would be a very good place to start. If I may make a suggestion, I'm not sure a punishment for crying is the way to go. Perhaps your DH will agree that what an eight year old (and focus on a generic eight year old, not SS in particular!) who is not physically hurt or suffered an emotional blow but is crying needs is some quiet time to "get it all out". So, if SS starts crying because he doesn't want to eat lunch, fine. He can go to his room to "rest" for a few minutes, until he feels better, and then re-join the family. Crying, like temper tantrums, only works so long as it is getting attention. But this is something you and DH need to agree on beforehand.

I'm also wondering if your DH is starting to realize that SS is being manipulative but is putting you in the "bad cop" role.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 9:37AM
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"Finally, I think with DH that he was sub-consciously worried that if SS got any punishments that SS would be angry at him or hate him or something."

I think this is so typical. My SO is terrified to say "no" to his ADULT kids because he is scared they will not talk to him or not call or not visit. They employ this technique with both mom and dad and he falls for it every time.

So I think that if your DH allows such manipulation AT 8, things only are going to get worse. If he doesn't understand word "no" at 8, he won't be able to say "no" when SS is 28 and asks for expensive vacations, fancy dinners at restaurants, constant changing plans to accommodate him, $1000 worth Christmas gifts etc

It has to stop now. I am a very lenient parent, but even I think SS's behavior is ridiculous.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 9:59AM
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Mattie said: "Crying, like temper tantrums, only works so long as it is getting attention. But this is something you and DH need to agree on beforehand."

I totally agree.
SS is 11 (with severe ADHD and recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder, so he's "young" in many ways).
A few years ago, he often threw big crying fits over simple little things, like too many peas on his plate. He'd be screaming and sobbing and DH didn't know what to do. I suggested that we tell him something like "You can calm down now and eat your peas, or you can go to your room until you've calmed down and you can eat them when you come out. Either way, you're eating the peas."
It's been HIGHLY effective for us. When he realized he wasn't getting reactions anymore, the crying really decreased. It still happens once in a while, but not at the level it was (it was multiple times a day).

I also got sick of when he tried to play us off one another. Here's a typical example:
"Ceph, can I go on the computer?"
"Not right now. It's almost lunchtime. Would you help out by setting the table please?"
"OK, I'm going to go to the bathroom first," and then he'd go find DH and whine that he was bored and wanted to go on the computer. DH, not realizing that he'd just been aked to help instead, would say OK.
SS would go on the computer, give the the smuggest look and say "Well my dad said I could." Then he'd get mad when I booted him off and it would cause a fight between DH and I.

It took multiple fights with me saying "What caused this fight? It wasn't that I said he couldn't go on the computer, because that was perfectly reasonable for the information I had. It wasn't that you said he could, because that was also perfectly reasonable for the information you had. It was that SS tried to play us off each other and he succeeded. I think we need to talk to him about that if one of us gives him an instruction, he isn't allowed to go to the other for a different answer."
I bet we had this fight at least a dozen times.

I also agree with Mattie about that if a child is well aware of what the result will be, and if they choose to do it anyways, they're typically more likely to accept their punishment and learn from it.
This is quite effective with SS. We usually say "Next time you do X, you will lose Y privilege for Z hours/days," and he accepts it very well if it comes to that. When negative consequences came from (what he perceived as) left field, then he'd cry and whine and make a fuss. Then DH would feel guilty and say "Well, OK.... Just don't do it again." But we'd go through the exact same thing next time he did it too.

Best of luck ;)

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 12:05AM
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"I think we need to talk to him about that if one of us gives him an instruction, he isn't allowed to go to the other for a different answer."

Asking if he has already asked the other would work too. "Did you ask Ceph? And what did she say?" are perfectly reasonable questions. :)

I remember doing that to my parents too... and my DD has done it to us on occasion. KIDS!!! Always testing the limits :)

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 5:53PM
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Silver, if we say "Did you ask Ceph?" he'll either shrug or lie.
It's a pretty normal thing for kids to do, but it isn't an acceptable thing to do. So we changed our strategy to make us more accountable for checking with the other, and him accountable for not doing it in the first place.
He RARELY does it now, as he learned that it's not worth it to try. But if he does what he is asked or told, then he is thanked and things go well for him.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 6:35PM
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Hm. I guess I didn't take into account shrugging or lying. The shrugging would make me crazy. I don't tolerate eye rolling or uh-huh's either though. If I got a shrug, I'd probably tell DD if she can't figure that out, the answer is no.

I agree it's not acceptable. Best to nip this sort of behavior in the bud early, IMO.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 12:41AM
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I would remind my husband about how hard school is on kids, especially a boy who is a cry baby. The other kids will EAT HIM ALIVE. It would be best to find alternative methods of dealing with disappointment, anger, etc., then crying and the very best place to start practicing these alternative methods would be at home.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 9:08PM
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