Disciplining my stepson

mykidsmom28December 2, 2009

I need help desperately.

I have a 6 year old stepson. His father and I aren't married, but we live together so I don't know what other label applies. So to me, he's my stepson.

I love this little boy tremendously, and I'll call him 'Ethan'.

Ethan hasn't had a typical childhood, and there are numerous reasons, events for why Ethan has the behavior he has.

Last night I made the decision to stop disciplining Ethan for the time being. It isn't working.

Ethan physically attacks me, screams profanity, and threatens to stab or shoot me. Yes, all HUGE indicators this child needs emotional and psychological help. We are in the process of doing that.

My question is: If I am not going to discipline Ethan, how do I handle the issues that arise when his father isn't home?

I pick Ethan up after work, along with my own children and his father doesn't get home until 2 hours later.

I don't want to put his father in the position of as soon as he hits the door he's dealing with discipline issues. That will cause even more stress in our relationship and further resentment from Ethan. Also, I believe if he does something and it isn't addressed until hours later, the consequence will feel out of place. Since Ethan has likely forgotten that he got in trouble to begin with. Plus, if the behavior is bad enough to warrant a consequence, I think the 'message' of acting appropriately is somewhat lost.

I'm really lost on this. I need some guidance while we're finding a professional to help us get to the root of the issue.

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Anyone who is a main caregiver has to provide some type of discipline/guidlines for a child...even the baby sitter does....of course I imagine if he physically attacked and threatened to stab the sitter she would quit! (I say this because I know you will get some responses that this isn't your child, your not even married to the dad etc etc....and to some extent I agree)
Think about it, will you really be able to stand there and do nothing if he say started throwing things and breaking them, or physically tried to hurt one of your children? You would have to intervene to some extent.... so planning to never be involved in disciplining him prob isn't going to work if you are with this kid for hours by yourself.
You mentioned you all are getting him help...I would ask the couselor the best way to handle it... really Dad should be doing the disipline, and if it means dad has to leave work early, because he can't be alone with you, than that's what you might have to do...

    Bookmark   December 2, 2009 at 7:07PM
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Thank you for your response.
I know the person chosen to help us with all these issues will give me some sort of guidance. My fear is that it could be a few sessions of getting everything out in the open before we begin to prioritize what needs to be addressed, and in what order. As the step-parent, while I do think my role is important, I feel the focus should be on Ethan and his parents. I have no issue with being a peripheral issue, and I know that in getting to the root of the problem and solving it, in the end it will solve the issues Ethan and I have as well.
I just don't know what to do in the meantime, till things are clearly defined for me.
My three children are wonderful. They back talk, don't do their chores sometimes, and other 'normal' things. But the bottom line is they're respectful, kind, loving, well-adjusted children. They would never even consider doing some of the behaviors Ethan displays.
While I have confidence that I've done something right in the parenting area, it isn't my place (and isn't well received) to offer advice to Ethan's father or mother.

Obviously no, if Ethan is physically acting out or behaving in any way that's harmful to himself or others, I'm not going to sit there and do nothing. And I don't intend to be completely, 100% removed from the area of discipline. I want to take more of a supportive role to Ethan's father. And in his absence figure out if I step outside of that supportive role, or maintain it. And what that supportive role consists of.
No, this isn't my child and I'm not married to his father. I struggle to 'like' Ethan, but it never diminishes the love I feel for him. Above all, I want to see Ethan succeed in life. I want to see him acquire the life skills he needs (ie: coping with disappointment, defusing his anger, effectively communicating with others, etc.) to have a happy life.
I didn't carry him for 10 months and go through 30 hours of labor, but he's still my son in my heart.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2009 at 11:42PM
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If you do not want to be the one to "discipline" him then I think you and your significant other need to sit down and make a list of behaviors that would need to be corrected along with the consequences for those behaviors. Maybe even make a list on posterboard.

Then your significant other needs to tell his son that he wants to talk to him about behaviors and consequences. He needs to tell his son that the behaviors he listed are unacceptable and will result in the corresponding consequences.

Then if you are watching the boy and he does something on that chart just simply refer to the chart and say for example

"Ethan you threatened to stab me, if you look at daddy's rules he says that when you threaten to hurt someone you have to go sit on the couch for 6 minutes and think about what is making you so angry. After that 6 minutes you can get up IF you discuss with me why you are so angry without making threats"

    Bookmark   December 3, 2009 at 11:28AM
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How long have you lived with the dad and Ethan? Seems like it would be pretty tough to live with a child, even one without his level of issues, and not feel comfortable discipling them at some level. The therapy is a great idea, but, don't expect overnight success. It takes time.

What are your SO's thoughts on this as well as the boys mother? They may not be super receptive to your parenting advice but they probably don't want their child acting this way towards anyone.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2009 at 12:16AM
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