Step Son - plan

darkb4dawnOctober 8, 2009

My step son is 14 (6ft 170lbs), I have already raised my own son who just turned 20. My step son is very disrespectful to my wife and I as well as his BF (bio father). I can understand why he is disrespectful to his BF to some degree as his BF is an alcoholic that has had 5 DUI's and is currently charged with violation of his probation.

Recently my step son had expressed that he was depressed (e.g. "My life sucks" "What is the point of living" ect.) so his mother looked into outpatient care for him. He was attending this behavioral care facility but still continuing to use his angry verbally abusive tactics when he would not get his way. On a recent occasion ss and wife had just returned home and he was already in his mood. SS asked his mother to take him to his friends house to "hang out" as he had done four nights in a row, his mother declined saying that he needed to stay home that night (I was unaware that he had been working her over verbally the whole ride home approx 1.5 hrs). SS turned and asked if I would take him and I also said no that I was tired myself and would also not go against his mother's decision. Obviously ss did not like the answers he was getting so he started swearing, dropping the F-bomb and telling us how bad we were for not taking him. He went in the living room and sat down where he continued to swear loud enough so that we could hear it in the kitchen. I walked out and knelt down across from him to ask him what the problem really was and he said "get out of my face" I replied with "I am not in your face", he repeated his request so I stood and walked back in to the kitchen. SS got up and walked in to the kitchen where he was still swearing and I asked him "what is your issue...." and before I could complete my question he yelled F U at me and began to walk down the hall. I went after him reached out to turn him by grabbing his arm and told him that it was unacceptable to speak to us that way. I let go and he ran out of the house. My wife has since asked me to leave our house over the matter and I find myself struggling to make sense of the events.

I have spoken to my pastor about this happening and he agrees with my wife that I should not have touched my ss at all. I tried to tell him that I raised my own son this way and we had and still have a great relationship. I called my son and asked him what he thought and he indicated that I was justified as have many of my friends and family but nonetheless I am still outside of my house and struggling with what I need to do to change my approach to better fit the situations of extreme disrespect that I find myself encountering with this child.

I have a meeting with my wife and my pastor today and I have been given an assignment to detail how I will change the way I handle future engagements to ensure a feeling of safety for all involved and I would appreciate (actual need) the publics help with said plan.

Thank you


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So sorry to hear of your troubles, Dark.

Am I correct in reading that the issue is that you grabbed your ss's arm and as a result your wife kicked you out citing safety reasons?

1. your wife is the middle man here. She needs to be firm in what she wants to do in regards to parenting, otherwise you have no hope of ever getting it "right" with "her" child.

2. how long have you been married?

3. I think the situation was handled poorly, but do not think the majority of the responsibility lies with you. It happened that the end point was with your hand on him, which allowed the responsibility for it going bad to fall on you, rather than looking at the events that led up to this situation.

4. If this child is acting like this at 14 and there is nothing done, there is nothing but trouble in the road ahead. You and your wife need to be completely aligned in regards to parenting.

5. I would not feel safe with a large adolescent running around screaming. You and your wife need to figure out some ground rules, and put them into place, and quickly. He knows now that he can manipulate you into being physical, and at that point his behavior will not be considered as bad as your behavior. Be very very careful in how you handle this.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2009 at 2:34PM
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I was 4/5's of the way through your long paragraph when I realized that the 'tone' of your interaction may not have been the gentle "I'm concerned about you, Son" I had envisioned but rather "What's you're [not that you'd say it, but] effing problem?!". Or may have quickly changed from the former to the latter. Or not? Tone of voice and non-verbal cues would be extremely important here...

Judging from your wife's reaction, I'd have to guess that the scene was unpleasant and volatile before the "reached out to turn him" incident. (And yes, I'm noting your extremely-careful choice of wording -- "I grabbed his arm" would have been a more natural phrasing.)

I'm not going to jump in and assume the worst. But I will say that IMO, there are very, very, very few times when I would consider it appropriate for a StepFather to physically touch a teen StepSon in anger -- never to hit, but to physically intimidate or 'grab' such as you indicate. Use of force or threat of force should be an absolute last resort, and always tightly controlled. Never an explosion of anger --

How should you handle it now? I'd say never get physical in the future for one, and apologize now for doing that in the past. You're trying to teach this young man self-control, and how can you do that when you lose it and get physical? At the same time, you need to be able to enforce some boundaries that he won't cross, and verbally, he seems to be ignoring them. I'd ask your pastor what he suggests. Ask your SS's treatment facility what they recommend. Ask your wife what she thinks is appropriate -- because I'm guessing it'll happen again.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2009 at 3:14PM
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My step son and I have had an exceptional relationship for the past 2 years that I have been in his life. The part where it started to go sideways was when he started to impose HIS physical will on his mom as his BF regularly has done to my ss. The last time he started to go into the rant that he did (ending in the above events) he tore our house up, wrecking three internal doors, putting 12 holes in walls, throwing phone and equipment on the floor and stabbing the walls with a knife (over 100 knife holes) repeatedly. He is very angry and very volitale and yet her we are with no filed ARY papers and still giving him chances to correct his behavior so I would say that my reactions to this particular instance were not correct but certainly a product of frustration. Now here I am outside of my home and having to come up with a plan to take the abuse should I return. I NEED HELP, maybe that should be the "extremely careful choice of words" you might read into. I have no want or will to inflict pain on my ss, rather I want to find a way back to our former relationship that resulted in him writing a paper about me being a "Positive Influence" on his life.

I need a plan that involves "I statements" (e.g. If my ss started swearing at my I will leave the house, engage a friend of faith, pray, seek group/individual counsel etc.) so that I may (at all costs) avoid any future events of this kind. I will answer the fundamental question.... Yes I am angry that my ss calls me names. Yes I am angry that he spits on his mother (MY WIFE) and I can do nothing about it. Yes Yes Yes I need help to channel my feelings into a positive outcome for our whole family.

I appreciate the postings, please keep them coming as I feel the answer is starting to form.

Thank you


    Bookmark   October 8, 2009 at 3:46PM
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I think it will happen again too. And I'm thinking the boys behavior has become the norm in the he's ruling the roost.
And that is probably what triggered your "grabbing" his arm. Hey, I'm not judging...I've had similar scenes with my out of control daughter at that age. And it wasn't pretty...I acted out in shock...said and did things I'm not proud of as the adult in the home. But I quickly learned that by me "reacting" instead of "acting" was exactly the wrong way.
And as you probably already know, the boy WILL push you to react to his abuse until you learn not to react at all.
ACT do not REACT.
I believe he is extremely hormonal and should have that avenue looked at also. It can be controlled if that's the issue.
I wish you peace in your home.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2009 at 3:47PM
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I have no advice for you but will share a bit about my own son. He's 32 now and a real sweetheart but it was not always easy when he was in his teen years.

He stand 6 foot 5 inches and in HS weighed in between 200 and 215 and he has ADD (attention def. disorder). We really had to watch stressful/frustrating situations due to his poor impulse.

We learned when to talk things over and when to wait a bit. He tossed a typewritter out his bedroom window once. I never batted an eye, but he mowed the yard all summer to pay for replacing it. He didn't much like that, but he decided if he had to pay for broken/trashed things by working to earn the money instead of hanging with friends on 'job' day, he maybe should think twice before destroying things again.

He was usually sent to his room--yeah, mumbling and telling me or dad he hated our guts--once there he'd rant (but only vocally cost to much to trash stuff was a quick lesson). It was after when things were calm that the discussion and talk of any 'punishment' would take place.

Of course talk of 'punishment' might sometimes set him off again. But that was okay, just back to the room he'd go. I remember once telling him I'd ground him from all but breathing. Nothing could make him see how worthless his attempt to 'egg' me on was like calming hearing me state 'when you're done with your fit....' or 'when you come up for air remember you're still grounded and the longer it takes for you to need that air, the longer you will not have so and so over'.

In your case though, there is more going on with the boy so my soultions can't help much yours. I think you, wife and SS all need to talk to professionals and just the church may not be enough. And you may have to tolerate a few backslips from SS as he goes through his behavioral sessions--nothing gets fixed instantly.

Me? For stress release I dig in dirt. Seriously. I now have nothing but winding garden paths through my property as over the years the shovel and I worked out frustrations. Nothing like kicking a shovel mumbling. I have a lovely cottage garden now.

If you need to turn around and walk away for a while, do so. Go for a drive, a walk, shot basketballs--learn to deal with the tough stuff when things are calm and all have cool heads.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2009 at 4:52PM
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I my own self would find an apartment & file for divorce.

His mom is enabling him, training him to be an abuser, & I don't know a thing anyone can do about it.

I don't know how anyone, 14-years-old or otherwise, can be "turned around" when he has all the power & when he's being enabled/encouraged by his mother.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2009 at 6:30PM
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