Saturday, October 15, 2011

Help with my teen step-son


My step-son moved in with my husband and I last summer. He has lived with us for approx. 6 months and it has been very difficult for all of us. Ronald lived with his mother from 3 years old until now (he is 16). We have just now got "custody" of him, because she (his mother) said that she couldn't handle him anymore.

He was failing school (all F's--literally), wouldn't go to school (refused to go), and was behaving violently towards her.

Now, we (my husband, his father, and I) are basically dealing with the same problems. When my step-son lived with his mother, it was only she and him. I guess I stated that because I think he's used to being an "only child".

Now, since he moved in with us, it is very different. We have 3 boys at our home, and now, 4 with Ronald.

At first when he moved in, everything was fine, but lately, he has started drinking alcohol, and possibly doing drugs. He swears at his dad (calls him curse words), and blatantly disobeys him.

His report card was due a couple weeks ago, and when his dad asked him for it, he'd always reply, "I forgot it, sorry". Well, it continued on for quite some time, until finally I got online, sent his principal an email and asked him to mail it to us. We got it about 2 days later. I can see why he didn't want to bring it home now. His grades were all F's. Now, he's starting to be "mean" to his little brother (half brother from his dad and myself). It's really beginning to bother me, and I don't know what to do. My husband is trying really hard, but he has never had to deal with a teenager before. He seems to want to try and talk to Ronald, and be his "buddy" instead of trying to help him.

Ronald didn't have any kind of punishment for his grades, and when he got drunk (it was on Christmas Eve, at our home), there wasn't any punishment either.

Sometimes I feel like my husband is afraid to punish him because he thinks he may lose him as a friend.

It seems like it may stem from the fact that he hasn't been allowed to be an important part of Ronald's life until now. Right now, I feel like it's getting to the point that my husband may have to choose between me and his son. I really don't want that to happen though. I want to help him. It's just that Ronald seems to be so self-destructive right now, that I'm afraid something bad is going to happen to him. I know my husband will blame himself if it does, but...he just can't seem to figure out a way himself on how to discipline Ronald, or how to really "talk" to him. Last week the boys were all playing pranks on each other. Ronald actually started the whole thing by putting hot sauce in his step-brothers' Kool-Aid. Well, he thought that was hilarious, but when my son put hot sauce in his tooth-paste, he was so angry, he said he was going to kill him. He cussed alot, threw his things around in the room, and when I went in there to try and calm him down and talk to him, I honestly thought he was going to hit me. That is the first time I've ever been afraid of him. He's about 6'2 and weighs well over 200 lbs. I'm 5'2, and weigh 100 lbs. As you can see, he could have.

Please help us with some advice. I am desperate, and afraid that something bad is going to happen--either to him, or to us.

Dear Amy:

Something bad probably will happen. Let's sort this out. First of all his being with his mom from the time he was 3 until now is not the issue. The issue is his bad behavior and you and his father need to keep the focus on this and not on each other or his mom. He is old enough to realize his behavior is unacceptable.

Next, punishing him for his bad grades is not what he needs. He needs consequences. Many times I hear these stories and then find out the teen has a cell phone, Internet access, and more electronic toys than are imaginable. What he needs is not to have things that should be a privilege or earned.

Next, YOUR MAIN CONCERN needs to be keeping those younger children safe. You need to focus on protecting them. They do not need to pay for whatever he did or did not get from his childhood.

Lastly, if this is going to work you all need intensive family counseling now. Otherwise, you could end up with a broken home, younger children who have been victimized who will in turn act out as they grow older and/or this teen who ends up in juvenile detention because he assaulted you. This is not good for you or him.

Please do seek family counseling.

Best Wishes!

M Kay Keller

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