What would you do? - FamilyEducation
What would you do?
11/06/2008 at 11:11 AM

I really need help with this!  My almost-8 year old step son is making life miserable.  He steals from my two daughters and me, lies, physically and emotionally hurts others in the family, breaks things belonging to others, and has recently started peeing in his room or peeing himself, and pooping in his pants.   I am going crazy with this.  We are on our 3rd therapist.  I feel he should either return some of the 40 plus items he has stolen, or pay for them.  I am going broke trying to replace everything.  (The latest was my daughter's IPOD).  His dad seems to excuse everything going on ("He's only 7... he's having a hard time adjusting.. etc.)  This has been going on for over 2 years, and I'm just curious - what would you do?

Does dad have custody? Where is his mother? When my wife became ill I dealt with similar situations exhibited by my oldest son, who at the time was 5, was stealing things from classmates. I would find all types of school supplies in his backpack which I had never bought. In talking with a Child Psychologist I was told that children who suffer loss will sometimes do this as a way of letting others feel the loss that they have felt. As for soiling himself, we have had accidents here but they have been few. This is not an issue I had to deal with. I would say that if it takes 100 therapists before you find the right one it will be worth the effort. He is not a bad kid, he may just be dealing with more than he is able to. As for the stealing, Dad needs to make him accountable for it. Each item needs to be returned with a sincere apology.

sorry, I accidentally hit enter. I wanted to say that I recognise that children communicate through their behaviour. It's our job as adults to find out what was happening before the behaviour and what the consequence for that behaviour was. In this case I believe the child's father is contributing to the child's behaviour since there has been no consistent consequence on the father's part. I would suggest contacting a behavioural specialist and make sure dad is there to be educated at the same time. These problems are not going away if dad doesn't stop being in denial.

Thanks for the comments. Mom and Dad share custody 50/50. He has not really had that much loss in his life; his parents were divorced before he was 1 - this is how he has always known life. My daughters both have dealt with death in the family and they both have serious medical issues, but they don't behave like this. It has been over 2 years, and we all treat him fairly - why is he being so miserable?

Divorce, 50/50 custody, the constant back and forth are all things that can attribute to his behavior. I wouldn't get in to the habit of comparing him to your daughters as he is a completely different person from them. Maybe it's time that Mom and Dad come together in counseling to see if they can work together to remedy this behavior. Maybe try a child psychologist who specializes in divorce and loss.

Although tempting at times,(lol) dumping him because of his son's issues is not a chapter in my book. I'd hope I have a bit more integrity than that. I won't tear apart a family, or cause my son to live the life of a "divorced" child simply because one family member is experiencing issues. Some people don't give up so easily. Thanks for the interesting option, though.

Ive had a big of experience working with children with severe behavior issues(much more then this). I can tell you and be fairly sure its accurate- that a child who is going to the point of soiling himself is looking for something to control. He might feel unstable in his life. Are the routines in your home and the moms very simular? What does he have actual control over? Is he responsible for chores? does he have to face responsibility for cleaning up when he soils himself? does he have to pay back when he damages something belonging to the other children. Do you make notice of things he does that are positive? Does his dad spend one on one time with just him? as hard as it might be to admit he is being disturbed by some family dynamic that is going on. Be totally honest with yourself how often do you just smile at him? Although I know its difficult at this moment because he is causing so much disruption but he needs to know beyond all the things that upset you he is worthy of time and positive attention. All Children just want someone to beleive in them to think they are worthy- part of that is making him see that everyone has to accept responsibility when they do something wrong. Make sure there are not other rules for your own children. getting Mom and Dad together on this might be a nightmare- if you have to do it alone you might just have to- even as his step mom it will in the end bring himcloser to you- children often lean on the parent they know will expect more of them as long as they are treated with kindness and love. good luck mom

Get over yourself. I never suggested that you get a divorce. What I meant was maybe the biological mother and father should get together for counseling to help their son deal with his issues.

My son is almost 18 now and he had these same problems when he was 6, 7, 8, 9...The soiling was the WORST!! I know how it feels to clean up after an 8 year old boy who continues to soil himself. My husband and I were divorced when he was 4 and there was turmoil between us. My son has continued through his life behaving badly. It was very difficult for me to handle AND I LOVE MY SON DEARLY I'm sure it's harder for you. From your post I gather you do not love this boy. You love his father but I suspect you don't like this kid. I'm not judging, just observing and I also know it's very hard to love someone who behaves this way. It is obvious to me that you treat your children different than you do this boy. The fact that you say your daughters have had loss and do not behave this way indicates that you compare him to the "good" kids and he does not match up. Every kid handles emotions differently. You should treat him as an individual. I am guessing this kid does not have a lot of control in his life. Do you have structure for him? Does he have chores and assigned homework time? Is your home clean and is his room clean? How is his mother's environment? I think this boy needs help beyond counseling. He needs a safe environment where he feels love and structure.

I saw a friend of mine handle this issue beautifully. Her husband also gave every excuse in the book, so she took it to her step-son's mom. She actually called the Mom and went to lunch with her. She approached it like a teacher would to a parent at a conference -- an adult with very little authority over the child and asking the parent for suggestions. I know she praised the Mom and told her how much she didn't want to ever overstep her role as the boy's mother, so she wanted to know how the Mom wanted her to handle it. Then, she did EXACTLY what the mom suggested. When it didn't work, she asked for more suggestions. The husband (who knew about the original meeting ahead of time) all of a sudden got more involved because he did not want his wife and ex-wife collaborating so much. The son's poor behavior stopped pretty fast when he knew everyone was on the same boat. (I wonder if he just wanted his parents together parenting at least.) One thing you may want to look at is the schedule of visitation. Maybe he's revolting at your house because he is angry at missing something at his Mom's house. (Could be something as simple as at Mom's house he gets to watch his favorite DVD every Saturday and at yours he can't.) Good luck with this. I'm sure it's hard to not just step in and handle it yourself when it's affecting your own children so much. I would also maybe suggest when your step-son really oversteps, leave him out of the fun. He can stay home with Dad and you take your daughters out. Just tell him as long as he is being mean to them, he doesn't get to be around them.

Thank you, everybody, for the suggestions. We have tried some of these. I think the real issue is that Mom & Dad don't think there is much of a problem. They think I am "overblowing" the issues, and that this is just how some kids behave. I feel this kiddo is screaming for help, but until they both come out of denial, he won't change. We make him do chores (all the kids have chores), and a structured, scheduled day. I just feel like right now, I am along for the ride - until Mom & Dad come out of denial.