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My first post - need advice!

Posted by laurencz (My Page) on
Thu, Oct 7, 10 at 10:47

I've been lurking here for awhile, looking for answers or advice and generally just finding comfort and hope in the fact that even though it feels like it, I'm not alone in what I'm going through. This is my first post, and while I can't put my whole story here at once (I'm sure there must be a length limit on here!), I'll start with this issue:

First, DH and I have been together for 3.5 yrs, living as a family for 1.5 & married for 3 months. I have 3 children from a previous marriage (DD 10, DS 8 & DD 5)- my ex and I share joint custody and have a good co-parenting relationship. DH has a son/ 12 from a previous relationship, and we have him full time- BM picks him up from school 1-2 days/wk for a few hours and gets him every other weekend.

The problem is that SS lies constantly, about anything and everything. I know every kid tells white lies sometimes, but these are things you don't need to lie about. And then when you question him he'll start switching stories and then start saying I don't know.., But I thought.., I think.., I'm confused ..and so on and start looking like he's going to cry (which is the biggest manipulation, I swear.)A few examples- I ask how much homework he has, he says a couple of questions. I tell him to get it done, as we are all going somewhere. DH goes in 15min later to see if he's done, comes out and tells me he actually has math problems #6-20 evens. Nothing is said to him about telling me he had "a couple of questions". We tell him to pack it up and he can finish at where we're going (a family member's house). Finally at 8ish DH tells him to finish it up, and he's at it for 30mins. I look over to see if he needs help, and it turns out he had the whole page to do 1-26, all of it. Again nothing is said over lying about it. Why lie?
Another good example, and the catalyst for this- When SS takes his socks off, he takes them off inside out into a ball. I cannot stand this - putting them right side out again is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me, the feel of the fabric on my nails or something. This has been an ongoing issue- I have asked SS repeatedly not to do this, and even used analogies he could understand (he's kind of a germaphobe). I even tried boycotting folding his socks- maybe making him do it would drive it home, but I caught DH helping him sort them, so it kind of took away my authority on it. I finally put my foot down, got a box and put all his socks in it as they were washed. My thinking was eventually he would run out of socks, ask me and I would talk to him about it and have him fold them - a plan I let DH know about. Well weeks have gone by and nothing. Last week I get curious, look in his drawers and no socks. So what is he wearing I wonder? The dirty socks are all my DS, he's only 8 and a lot smaller than SS, but I'm thinking SS is stretching out DS's socks and wearing them. This is confirmed when a few days ago DS says to me "I think SS is wearing my socks". So last night BM drops him off and we tell him about the basket of his socks and ask him what socks he's been wearing. He says he's been wearing socks for 2 days in a row. I say yes but I purposely had yours in a box, your drawer was empty last week and I know you've been wearing DS's - why not just ask me? He denies wearing DS's socks, which is a lie because I saw them in his basket when DS wasn't even here, and then says that he grabs a pair from BM's. But I know this isn't true either, bc all the dirty socks are DS's. He then says he thought maybe all his socks were at BM's, I say how is this possible when you only sleep there 4 nights out of the month? He is still denying everything, and I just don't get it- IT'S SOCKS!!! Who cares? I thought it was more funny than anything, but when he starts lying about socks it sent me over the edge. He gets the basket and goes into his room and DH goes in there and is talking to him and I can hear him denying and I went right in there and said what needed to be said. That I'm tired of the lying and its ridiculous to lie period but especially about things that don't matter. I told him I'm fed up with it, that I feel like if I asked him if the sky was blue he would lie about it and I just don't get it and I'm tired of it. He starts with the big eyes and "But I thought.." and I just walked out. So DH comes out a minute later and is MAD AT ME! For actually saying something for once. We are still not talking.

Now, I know his BM lies a lot - she'll pull stuff out of the air and spin a story - that's a longer note than this one, trust me. So I get that he's maybe learned this behavior and maybe doesn't even realize he does it, which sometimes I think he doesn't. Like I'll ask him a question and you can see anxiety come over him, like instead of telling me the answer he's trying to come up with "the right thing to say". I've actually sat down with him and tried talking to him about it, like why he does it and what can we do to change it. I suggested taking time to think before answering - I think maybe he talks faster than his brain works or something, but it just doesn't change. This is the hard thing, I don't know if its always on purpose, and I feel bad pointing it out. Mainly I'm tired of feeling like a bad guy, because it happens so much and I'm the one trying to deal with it. I'm tired of dealing with it, and I'm tired of being mad about it, but I can't just let it happen either. I feel like I don't even want to talk to the kid anymore, I don't believe anything he says and feel like I have to investigate everything. This is especially rough because I would never tolerate this kind of behavior from DD's or DS.

This is happening at least 2-3 days a week, and I would just appreciate any advice I can get. Maybe I'm missing something, or there's something I need to try? The resentment I feel is starting to take over way too much of my thoughts.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: My first post - need advice!

Oh, Laurecz, I understand exactly what you're going through. I've been there many times with SS16. He goes through periods where he lies about everything. He always gets caught, because I see right through the lies. DH, on the other hand, gets taken in every time and beleives in always giving him the benefit of the doubt. But, I'm a person who believes in nipping these things in the bud. I'm not into talking gently and trying to analyze why this child feels the need to lie. The bottom line is that he's lying and needs to be accountable for that. It's unfortunate that your DH doesn't really suppport you when you do address the problem with your SS.

As far as the sock issue goes, SS16 does the exact same thing with his socks, and it USED to irritate me. But, I found an easy solution. I showed SS how to do his own laundry when he was about 12 years old. So, now I could care less about the inside-out socks. He throws them in the washing machine that way, and they come out of the washing machine the same way -- But, he's the one who has to wear them, so I don't concern myself with it. We just never buy any white socks anymore!! LOL.

I'm not sure if any of this helps, but I hope it helps you to know that there are a lot of us who are dealing with this every day, and you're not alone. I've been full-time SM for 8 years now and it will get easier, I promise.


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RE: My first post - need advice!

"Like I'll ask him a question and you can see anxiety come over him, like instead of telling me the answer he's trying to come up with "the right thing to say"." That may be exactly what he is doing. I think if kids are around adults who they believe are behaving erratically (punishing them for random things, or have wild mood swings or something) that they can tend to focus more on doing what they feel will make them "safe" rather than being honest.

Realistically, honesty can sometimes be a luxury reserved for those who don't have too much to fear for telling the truth. If a lunatic invaded my home and told me he'd let me live if I promised to not call the police when he left - well, frankly I'd lie through my teeth.

I know it's hard because I hate dishonesty too, but maybe it's better for now to focus on the behavior instead of the lying.

"I finally put my foot down, got a box and put all his socks in it as they were washed. My thinking was eventually he would run out of socks, ask me and I would talk to him about it and have him fold them - a plan I let DH know about." Am I understanding that his socks just disappeared and he didn't know where to? Maybe it would have been better to have explained exactly what was going to happen, and then do it.

I think it's hard for us SM's sometimes because we think that our sKids should "know" how to do a particular task - but that doesn't mean that they do know. We might think that of course a seven year old knows how to do X because most kids learn at age four; well, if no one ever took the time to show them at age four they may not know, and all the sudden someone is upset and annoyed that they are not doing something that they never knew that they should be doing. And it's not at all helpful when DH does not have your back but rather is undermining you when you tell SS your expectations.

Maybe it will help if you and DH come to clear agreements on expected behavior for all the kids, then explain it to them. It sounds to me like SS is really conflicted and so maybe counseling would help as well.


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RE: My first post - need advice!

Hi Lauren, and welcome!

"I just don't get it- IT'S SOCKS!!! Who cares? "

Well, hm. That's what I was thinking! DD balls her socks too. Drives me crazy. So I understand.

But, I think, as it is most often here, the problem with the kid is really a problem with the spouse. You and DH need to get on the same page.


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RE: My first post - need advice!

DH does not believe the lying, however he does nothing about it other than an occassional "You need to stop the lying".

I was putting clean socks into a separate box right out of the dryer - something I had been warning I would do for some time (and had done at one point if you see above)and finally followed up on. My intention was that eventually he would run out of socks, ask me and that would open up a dialogue (for the 80th time).

There are alot of stability issues w/BM, one of which is the tendency to impatiently and irrationally fly off the handle. This is what I believe leads to the anxiety I mentioned above, however I have treated this issue as thoughtfully as possible for a few years now and while there has been a lot of improvement when I ask him questions about something, there is still the intentional lying.

We did have him in counseling - I insisted on it following an incident where BM was questioning him on how things are here and when he said they had chores (taking their dirty clothes downstairs, dishes or vaccuuming one day a week) she lost it and started yelling at him about why "You do all that for HER and do nothing for me?" Um, bc you spend 10hrs/wk with him (not even that if you count that BM bowls one of those nights and drags him to the bowling alley) and every other weekend? SS lives here full time, and thus has MINIMAL chores just like the other kids, who actually are only here 60%. So I was concerned, but DH took him once, and right before his next appt SS said he didn't want to go, so DH didn't make him. I completely disagree with it, and DH knows it was a mistake. I'm thinking perhaps we should revisit it.

Thanks Ladies for the advice and the ear! I'm going to be on here lots more often - I felt so much better after getting it out earlier today, and I think I need to do that more often :)


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RE: My first post - need advice!

Lying is bad, but socks?

DD always balled her socks, always. I never paid much attention, just socks you know, i have more things to think about. If you have such a problem with it, ask him to wash his own socks, but really i mean guys don't you have more interesting things to do rather than discussing how he takes his socks off? I don't know how socks could drive one crazy. i hate dirty house and clutter and I could see if he throws dirty socks everywhere it is uspetting, but how he takes them off? Really?

Kids usually lie when parents are obsessed with little things, atmosphere is too tense. Every time i hear about lying kids, that's the case.


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RE: My first post - need advice!

How is this:

--" I thought it was more funny than anything, but when he starts lying about socks it sent me over the edge. He gets the basket and goes into his room and DH goes in there and is talking to him and I can hear him denying and I went right in there and said what needed to be said. That I'm tired of the lying and its ridiculous to lie period but especially about things that don't matter. I told him I'm fed up with it, that I feel like if I asked him if the sky was blue he would lie about it and I just don't get it and I'm tired of it. He starts with the big eyes and "But I thought.." and I just walked out. So DH comes out a minute later and is MAD AT ME! For actually saying something for once. We are still not talking."--

any different in the child's eyes, then this:

--" insisted on it following an incident where BM was questioning him on how things are here and when he said they had chores (taking their dirty clothes downstairs, dishes or vaccuuming one day a week) she lost it and started yelling at him"--

and what it ends up is this:

--"So I get that he's maybe learned this behavior and maybe doesn't even realize he does it, which sometimes I think he doesn't. Like I'll ask him a question and you can see anxiety come over him, like instead of telling me the answer he's trying to come up with "the right thing to say".--

It's socks for Pete's sake. A few problems turns into actually 26.

Have a sit down with DH with no little ears anywhere around. Discuss, set guidelines/rules you both agree on and will support each other in. SS automatically gets laundry duty (example: gathers and washes all his own socks and underwear, folds and puts away...if he does it poorly, oh, well, his socks his problem, he's 12).

Rules #2, never run in and interfer with DH again when he goes in to talk to son, and same when it's the other way around. It undermines your/his authority in the child's eyes. Kinda like 'why do I have to listen to her/him, afterall he/she thinks him/her is wrong, can't handle the problem whatever, blah blah'...you get the idea.

United front. You didn't have one and you showed the child this. Bite your tongue and discuss with each other (DH/you) in private later on.

And always remember that this child is 12. He lived the first 10 1/2 years being raised in a different way than what you are raising your children. He's had a BM who is a liar and screamer and you can, as you said, see the true anxiety in his face when he sees possible situations arising that will cause him stress and 'lost it' aka 'went over the edge' acting parental figures.

Kids lying because he is afraid of telling the truth, the reactions he will recieve if he does tell the truth, and the scenes he fears if he doesn't tell the truth (example:--"I went right in there and said what needed to be said. That I'm tired of the lying and its ridiculous to lie period but especially about things that don't matter. I told him I'm fed up with it, that I feel like if I asked him if the sky was blue he would lie about it and I just don't get it and I'm tired of it."--)

And as far as counseling, sounds like a good idea to me, perhaps some family sessions would not be out of line either...open up the lines of communication.

My 2 cents.


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RE: My first post - need advice!

It's not about socks, its about lying. Apparently in my over-zealous attempt to be as detailed as possible, I may have shifted the focus off of the actual issue. These were just a few examples - there are many more (i.e. what he had for lunch, that's not my towel on the floor, when tests are at school, yes I did put my laundry away etc etc etc)

As far as the socks go, it is also an issue of respect - this is something that bothers me, and I have talked to him about it, nicely btw, at least 20 times. Since I am the one that does the laundry for 6 people, it is not too much to ask to not have socks balled up inside out, or underwear tucked into pants etc. Plus, I'm the parent, so there shouldn't be a question. While I agree he is old enough to do his own now, I immediately feel bad at the thought of it. My intention is not to punish him, but to get some respect and help, and I think this is how he would look at it. I'll have to think about it.

As far as justme's comments - my version of losing it differs drastically from BM's - I talk sternly and say what needs to be said, I certainly don't yell and scream and F this and F that. There's no comparison, apples to oranges and all that.

I agree with what everyone has said about this being something DH & I need to hash out, and I appreciate the bits of constructive advice I've received.


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RE: My first post - need advice!

Lauren, I had another thought as well. If SS is lying all the time about completely trivial issues and then seems to be trying to figure out what the "correct" answer is, it is possible that he may have a physical/emotional/psychological issue that is causing him to truly not remember - thus his panic at trying to figure out what to say, because he really does not know. I really hope that that is not the cause but it might be something to keep in mind.

But I suspect that it is more of an issue with SS realizing that you and DH are not on the same page. The incident you mentioned where DH went in and helped him fold his socks after you told him that he had to do it himself is concerning. SS may feel that his Dad doesn't think he should have to fold his socks (after all, why would Dad have helped him if he should have done it himself?) and he is in a position where he feels that to please his father he must defy you.

Does SS remember living with Dad and BM (if he did)? Do you think this sort of thing may have happened then (as in, one parent telling SS to ignore what the other one had just said?) He may be practicing learned behavior.


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RE: My first post - need advice!

I did not mean to imply that OP screamed F this and F that. My point was BM has spent 12 yrs F this and F that on this child. In the child's eyes even OP 'stern' may set off alarms in this child that he tosses up defense.

IMO, you can't expect respect if Dad is not stepping up and supporting. Where has Dad been the last 1 and a half that you have been trying to get through to this child? Dad falls on his face in enforcing behavior and expectations...you march in and 'tell it like it is' (and yes, I do understand your frustration)...Dad has to be on the same page you are if child is to be expected to respect you and your parenting role figure in dealing with child.

SS doing his laundry is not punishment at his age. He had a choice. He did not want to give you his laundry in a manner that your household laundry is done, so it is his choice to then do it himself, his own way. You are not the household maid. My own children decide to not follow laundry guidelines , they have the choice of doing their own. I don't crawl under beds to find it, don't unroll balled up socks, nor do I turn right side a tee to make sure it does not need soaking first, I just politely refuse to launder the items...my son did his own or it sat dirty in his room until he brought it to me. Not the best solution maybe, but I am not his maid.

I do believe you have the child's best interest at heart, I'm just not sure you're been approaching this with any chance of actually seeing improvement. As long as you have to march in and deal with what you think Dad is failing on, I don't think you've been on the right path.

DH and you have got to do this together in agreement or you have to step back and let DH do it his way.

Totally an aside, but why are you carrying the household chore load for six people? While you make out an agreement between DH and you, think about including what chores everyone in the household can pitch in and do (age consideration of course)and don't think of it as punishment... think of it as responsiblities of being a family unit.


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RE: My first post - need advice!

Yes Mattie, for sure. Though they were never married, they lived together for several years and it was a tense, drama filled environment, to the point of middle of the nights arguements and things being thrown, walls being punched on a weekly basis (by BM). The last 5 of those years they lived together but separately (ie separate bedrooms) Per DH he thought he was doing the right thing by keeping them in the same house even if they weren't "together". BM has an alcohol problem, and I know SS was a pawn in many arguements. This is where I struggle, because I know there are some psychological things going on so I have tried to be patient and talk him through stuff and try to teach him. At this point I think it is a psychological issue combined with some manipulation. I guess I am frustrated, because I am starting to feel that my patience is being taken advantage of and also that I have 3 other children that I am trying to raise into productive, good caring people also and worry about how this affects them as well.


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RE: My first post - need advice!

"SS doing his laundry is not punishment at his age. He had a choice. He did not want to give you his laundry in a manner that your household laundry is done, so it is his choice to then do it himself, his own way. "

AMEN! And the same thing goes for husbands too!!! My DH came out last night and started telling me how to do the laundry and I just looked at him with a level eye and said.... "if you want to do it....step in at any time" and he backed down.

LMAO...


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When kids were raised with different resources

Hi Laurencz, and welcome! If you've read older posts, then I am going to sound like a broken record, but there are some things that might help you work through the issues you're dealing with now.

The first thing has been mentioned already, but worth mentioning again--there is no reason that you should have to be the Sock Czar in your house! I know you said "it's not about the socks," but those things can be so symbolic and turn into power struggles, especially when one's newlywed years are challenged by four kids in the house, exes, etc. For whatever reason, the socks thing has become a safety/control issue for your SS, and at this point, pleasing you is less valuable to him than whatever he is getting from the Great Sock Rebellion. This would be a great time for your DH to take over! No need you wasting a lot of head space on it. We all have our things that drive us nuts/put us on edge--why should YOU be the one to unball the socks when it gets to you? Your DH probably stepped in that one time because he wanted you to be happy, not because he was trying to save SS's skin, ha. I don't know what percentage of the housework you do, but it doesn't have to be way more than DH's even though three of the kids are yours.

Stepfamily experts say it takes seven years for a stepfamily to really coalesce--you don't need to rush it. Your concerns about how your own biokids will be impacted by SS's issue are valid--but one way you can help is to let them see SS's dad handling most of his discipline and parenting, at least at first. It will make them feel safer and it will help them understand even at their tender ages that SS was not raised as they were, and hasn't benefited by the kind of parenting they received. (You can put it more diplomatically than that, of course.)

About the lying--we think of it as a great character fault, but it is also a defense mechanism, especially in kids. It sounds like SS has experienced borderline abuse in his upbringing, and if he is a sensitive kid (sounds like he is), he has probably learned to lie in an attempt to ward off verbal harshness from BM--so much so that it has become an intractable habit. It can also be a sign of depression in kids.

As much as your SS's life may be improved by having a new stepmom and three wonderful stepsiblings, he is probably nonetheless going through a period of grief. His life as he knew it--even if it sucked to a degree?--has changed. Patterns that are familiar to him are lost. That is a challenge of forming a great stepfamily--to acknowledge the kids' grief, and to recognize that expressions of it may erupt as power struggles and acting out rather than tears and vulnerable sharing.

One other thought that might help. If you and DH are one of the remarriage success stories, SS will be in your kids' lives for a long time. Try to envision them ten years from now, looking back at this period of their lives. How did everyone do during the adjustment period? What are the experiences they are sharing now that will help bring them together? Sometimes if we can envision these new little people in our lives as long-term members of the family, irritation (QUITE normal) is soothed with more empathy.


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RE: My first post - need advice!

Sock Czar..

(muffled giggles)


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RE: My first post - need advice!

Sock Czar - I giggled too :)

Ulrike - your post brought me to tears, because you are right in so many ways. I truly, truly feel for this kid, because I know that although it wasn't a good situation by any means, his "previous life" is what he knew, and therefor it was his "normal". I guess I just feel that after all this time we should be way past alot of this, and I'm feeling impatient about it and should step back.

I will say that I had a very unstable homelife myself, and recognize alot of my traits in him. I am a very Type A, and very often have to talk myself down from that mindset. I see some of that in him, in that he is a slight germaphobe (has to have his toothbrush separate from everyone else's, has to have his own toothpaste, body wash, shampoo, refuses to wear the same pj pants more than a night or reuse the same towel) It is a joke amongst DH's family that whenever anyone would go into SS room or sit on his bed he would immediately spray it with Lysol and had a fetish with Lysol for awhile. I think this is sad and clearly see it as a way of having control over SOMETHING. He just about 6 weeks ago started keeping his toothbrush in the holder with the other kids (The kids have their own bathroom) and you would've thought I won the lottery, it felt so good! I guess my thing is that I let alot of stuff go, try to be understanding, really take the time to listen and talk to him and I'm starting to feel like its becoming a game to him a little bit. Perhaps I'm wrong. I will take your advice to heart, and thank you so much!

A positive in all this is that all the kids truly get along wonderfully! They love each other and squabble and play and make up the wirdest games and refer to each other as brothers & sisters, and for that I'm truly thankful. There was some resentment in the beginning at all the attention SS got, as well as the fact that SS is here full time and the others are not, but truthfully we've got great kids and they've adapted to each other really well :)

I really appreciate the advice I've received here - its nice to vent and get advice and not have judgement passed on you (for the most part anyway lol)


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RE: My first post - need advice!

Ooohh, I had an answer typed up and thought I posted it, but no, and now it's probably a bit dated after all other responses. Anyway, I made the effort to type it so I'll post it anyway, just disregard the doubling up with what other posters have already said :-)

I was trying to look at it from the kids' perspective:

-It must be challenging to have a mom and a stepmom in your life, especially when stepmom is the main caregiver. Even in the best of circumstances, nothing personal, don't get me wrong.
-Forget for a second who did what and how this situation developed. You are now at a point where you are both not in a good place. He's sensing your irritation and my guess is this upsets him. He might be overly sensitive to rejection, which is not uncommon in kids from divorced parents. My younger SD is the same, and she used to deal with it (at our place) by keeping the unwanted behavior up. For her, to do what she knew was wrong, would give a predictable reaction. She chucked socks in a ball in the laundry basket, I would get annoyed and tell her to straighten them out. For her, to try and do it right was risky. That is when she might fail, what if there would be something else/new that I'd then criticize her for? Better/safer not to try at all. At least the outcome is no surprise when you don't try. This has a lot to do with low self esteem. Does your SS have low self esteem? It wouldn't surprise me if he did. My SD applies the same technique at school. Instead of trying she chooses to fail. Rather then having a go at answering a question she'll insist she doesn't know it, no risk taken.

This is what we did when we were learning how to make things work in our house, for all of us:

1. I sat down with SD and had a talk with her. I tried to create some mutual understanding. I understood it must be hard for her to have divorced parents, different rules and a stepmom who's on your case about them, but I wasn't out to get her. I asked for understanding for my situation as well, being new at the whole stepparenting thing. It's scary for me as well, and then I asked her to please tell me if she thought any rule was unreasonable, there's always room to discuss things. SD has never really brought anything up since, but the talk did get rid of the tension. It gave us a fresh start.

2. Every time you find something SS does wrong, also try and think of something he did right. And tell him that. Nobody likes to hear what they're doing wrong all the time, a compliment can go a long way. I know plenty things I like about the skids, things they do right, or are good at, and I always assumed they knew. Until I realised they never heard me say it! Create a better atmosphere in the house, compliment SS on what he does well. This could be anything:
-SS you are always so polite, that is very nice.
-Thanks for taking your glass back to the sink
-Thanks for helping me unload the shopping, you are nice like that.
-It must be hard for you to go back and forth between your mum and us, I think you handle it very well.
-I like that drawing, you are good at drawing.
-Wow another high score, you are very good at that game!

3. Sit down with DH and come to a compromize. This is the hardest thing, but it needs to be done :-)
You have to be on the same page, being divided means undermining yourselves. Bad situation for everyone involved.

-The rules. They have to be agree on by both of you, and when DH is around he should be the one to enforce them. Our situation was similar to yours, with me enforcing the rules that I felt were appropriate. DH left it up to me as he wasn't that fussed. This led to a similar situation you are in now. So we talked and talked, and in the end we got there. This took about 2 years I'd say, and lots of practice from both of us, so you have to be patient and allow time to make these changes. FDH had to learn to step up, and I had to learn to let go. We compromised on which rules to enforce, I had to let go of about half of the rules I would have liked to have. I made a list of all of them, and we divided them into "must-have" and "not a must". For example a 'must have rule' was the having dinner at table, eat with knife and fork, and a 'not a must' was only two hours of tv a day. If FDH does not care they hang in front of tv and don't play outside, then so be it. I let go.

-You have to have each others back. No arguing about rules and discipline in presence of kids. When DH got angry with you after you got angry at SS, a loose-loose situation. Next time don't go in and interrupt SS and DH, wait till you can talk to DH after, when you are alone, and agree on an approach. Ideally DH will then enforce that with SS. This was the hardest thing for me, and it still is, but I'm learning to keep a lid on it and save it for later :-)

Right now SS probably sees you as the one with the rules, not you and DH. Before FDH and I were on the same page, my SD's perceived I was the one that had high standards/lots of rules. And I did!, compared to BM who doesn't have many and FDH who used to let everything slide thinking he was doing good by keeping the peace (bless him :-).
Once we changed our approach and it wasn't me and my rules anymore but rather our rules the dynamics changed.

Good luck!


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RE: My first post - need advice!

Life is more than a pair of perfectly folded socks. Enjoy it and live it. After my life was killed in a car accident, all those little things like what you experience mean nothing and don't bother me any more. I wish I could take back all those nasty and hurtful comments I had ever made to my wife.

If your SS does not fold his socks YOUR WAY, then have him do his own laundry. Sooner or later we all will have to do our own laundry anyway, so why not now for a 12 yrs old.

Being a SM, I think you need only to step in when your SS's behaviors are unsafe or causing harm to others or the home. Other than that, leave it entirely to the Bio PARENTS. Your life will be much more at peace and harmony.


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RE: My first post - need advice!

yabber, that was a great post. "For her, to do what she knew was wrong, would give a predictable reaction." That's really something for DH and I to think about with SS and the on-again off-again homework struggle. Thanks much.


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RE: My first post - need advice!

Hey Mattie,

Thanks, I'm glad that helped! As I said, my SD has such low self esteem that even the simplest of questions can scare her. She still prefers not to try rather then to try and possible fail. And even though we understand her behavior, it doesn't mean we can change it. But, we are better equipped to deal I suppose. And in our home, it has made a difference. If anything, just because I understand I'm not feeling so irritated about certain things that she does. And we address them. If SD says she doesn't know the answer to a homework question we'll push her to just have a go. I tell her; "What's the worst thing that can happen? So you might get it wrong, so what? I get things wrong, remember when (insert occasion). What did you think of me when that happened? Did that change what you think of me? See, you don't think it's a big deal when somebody else makes a mistake, but it's no different for you and that's what you have to remember. Now try and answer that question and we'll go over it afterwards, together, ok?"

I actually experienced something similar with feelings of inadequacy, a couple of years ago. I was working with a difficult colleague. It was just the 2 of us in the showroom and she made me feel very uncomfortable. I was in a new job, just finished training, and even though I knew my stuff, being around her paralyzed me and I asked lots of dumb questions because of it. Seriously dumb questions. She just made me feel so insecure, I lost all my confidence and started doubting everything I did and said. I was 32 when this happened, and I'm usually a confident person!!

It just goes to show that when you're nervous around somebody it can have a paralyzing effect, and even the simplest of requests can seem like a trick question. (I don't mean to imply that OP is a bully like my colleague was :-) We all deal differently: SD just stops trying, I started asking dumb/obvious questions.

2. The other coping mechanism, saying what she thinks we want to hear, is something we're also aware of. It's what she does with BM. And this reminds me of what Laurensz said :"Like I'll ask him a question and you can see anxiety come over him, like instead of telling me the answer he's trying to come up with "the right thing to say". Just like your SS's BM our BM can fly off the handle pretty easily, the F-bomb gets dropped regularly and when she drinks it gets exponentially worse (which is very often since she has drinking problem). SD12 is a clever girl, she knows how to ward off attacks, by pleasing BM, and has therefore developed this coping skill, rather then her own opinion. We try and get her confidence up by asking her for her opinion more. We get her to think about what she wants or thinks, and show her that it's ok to have your own opinion.

It's a slow process, but we take it one day at a time. We don't see SD's a lot, but we'll still try to do our best.


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RE: My first post - need advice!

That's great advice - to start asking SS's opinion more. Maybe "What do you think of this" will help get his brain on a more independant track, rather than direct questions. Its hard for us, because we do make progress, then he goes to BM's for a weekend and you can see the 2 steps back when he gets home.

Had a sitdown with DH last night - it was productive and went very well. Fueled by the advice and insight I've received here, I was able to really think this through and come to a few revelations myself. I realized that a few of my bigger concerns also are that if this stuff is happening now (lying, manipulating etc) and we don't try to get him on a different path, what is he going to be like when he's 16? Or an adult, father, husband? My personal philosophy is that our biggest jobs as parents is to raise our children to grow into kind, productive ethical adults. My second concern is that in letting this behavior go as often as I do out of trying to be understanding( there are other things also) I feel guilty disciplining DD's & DS, and so have started to let things slide with them too. Being kids, they are aware of everything too, so this behavior with SS affects them too, directly and via their interaction with me. Like, I feel guilty reprimanding DD/10 for sassy mouth (who knew it started so early?) when I know SS lied to me 3 times this week and I let it go or just responded lightly.

DH and I are going to sit down this weekend and come up with rules/consequences for all the kids. then we are going to have a family meeting and go through them. We are also going to come up with weekly chores for all of them - a set of responsibilities instead of random things here and there will good for them (and me!)


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RE: My first post - need advice!

"We get her to think about what she wants or thinks, and show her that it's ok to have your own opinion." Oh, I know this one too! If SS is having a bad day he wants to make sure his opinion is the "correct" one. I mean things like his favorite color or animal - he'll ask over and over if it isn't my favorite as well. We tell him (over and over) that his opinion is as valid as ours, neither better nor worse.

Lauren, I forgot to mention that I have a middle aged friend who sometimes behaves this way. He's a great guy, very shy and quiet and very bright - but if you ask him his opinion on something you can sometimes literally see him struggling to decide what the "right" answer is. I never met his father but I do know that he was an abusive alcoholic. It's awful what people can do to their kids.


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