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HELP! My 9year old step son has become a MONSTER!

My stepson has become a terror lately. He lies, steals, and does what he wants, when he wants, no matter what he has been told. He has no respect for others or others belongings. Of note, he has PTSD due to an incident of domestic violence with his mom and stepdad 4 years ago and he gets bi weekly counseling and has the whole time he has lived with us. We are at the end of our ropes and it is especially difficult to deal with as we have a 3 year old who is mimicking EVERYTHING he does! We are about to make the house "military" for him down to a schedule he must follow. Please, Please I need help here! (even his counselor is beside herself at this point) and yes mom is triggering his PTSD horribly by moving back into the home where he was beaten. I understand PTSD but, we can't find an appropriate way to curb his behavior. ANY advice would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you so much,
Desperate mommy of 6

Answer Question

Asked by zbralady at 7:08 PM on Dec. 13, 2012 in Tweens (9-12)

Level 6 (124 Credits)
Answers (8)
  • It sounds like you haven't gotten the best kind of support for his issues.
    Unless the behaviors are viewed as trauma-based & responded to with this in mind, your reactions are likely to trigger more acting out (escalating the situations in the moment) and also erode your relationship. That is what happens with the typical behavioral focus (focusing on changing his behavior & discouraging negative behaviors through consequences & rewards.) If this is what his current therapist has been recommending & supporting, even while attempting to help you all to be more constructive/less reactive, then it's not a surprise that you're all struggling. The "military" response is the same road, just more extreme.

    Check out resources like Heather T. Forbes, Bryan Post, Daniel Hughes, who recommend a very different approach to trauma, opposition, defiance & extreme behaviors (in line with current findings in neurology & attachment theory.)

    Answer by girlwithC at 8:10 PM on Dec. 13, 2012

  • You could also look at Peter Levine's extensive work on trauma (and look into finding a therapist who has somatic training), consult with Heather Forbes (she has a pretty strong online presence, I think) for advice for professional support in your geographical area, perhaps take an online/teleseminar course for support with this perspective & approach, check out the Hand-In-Hand (parenting by connection, Patty Wipfler) organization & their parenting resources, and explore other print resources. Like Gabor Mate's book about ADD (title: Scattered) which has a significant portion dedicated to parenting very challenging children in more constructive ways...ways that tend to improve the dynamic in the moment rather than escalating things & getting all parties more entrenched & embattled, as is typical. It's a practical resource.
    Even books like Parent Effectiveness Training (Tom Gordon) can help improve interactions dramatically.

    Answer by girlwithC at 8:18 PM on Dec. 13, 2012

  • Another in the same vein is the book How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk (Faber & Mazlish.) Gordon Neufeld (developmental psychologist) also gives some practical strategies for responding to behavioral issues in ways that focus on or prioritize relationship (Hold On To Your Kids)
    Those books are not specifically about trauma but all of them lay out ideas, values, patterns of communication, and ways of responding that are completely consonant with healing trauma.
    The P.E.T. & "How To Listen...." books in particular focus a lot on the ways we inadvertently cause problems for ourselves (that seem like they are kid-generated problems) simply in our routine responses to things.
    Reflective listening alone is a wonderful tool for connecting (in highly charged & emotional times of conflict) instead of dividing. If put into practice, it can shift a very entrenched dynamic & begin to transform things.
    Best wishes!

    Answer by girlwithC at 8:26 PM on Dec. 13, 2012

  • On the chance that a link will be helpful, here is a direct link to the book Heather T. Forbes & Bryan Post collaborated on.

    Beyond Consequences, Logic & Control: A love-based approach to helping attachment-challenged children with severe behaviors.

    The "stress model" contextualizes the problematic behaviors as trauma-based--that they are acting out a fight-or-flight stressed state of mind. When your response to the situation focuses on THIS issue (stress, fear), you begin to address the underlying cause of the behaviors that are disrupting things, rather than routinely responding to the problem behaviors in ways that exacerbate the underlying cause. There's a lot on trauma and on what kinds of responses support healing of the specific issues.
    It's not my fave book but the info is very solid.

    Answer by girlwithC at 8:41 PM on Dec. 13, 2012

  • if mom is the trigger why is he seeing her?

    Answer by luvmygrandbaby at 8:16 PM on Dec. 13, 2012

  • This is the OP..To answer ?...Court has allowed mom visits for a "trial" period to end shortly and hopefully she will get supervised only. I want to give huge thanks to girlwithC for all of the wonderful ideas and let her know that I am actively following up on them. I also want to make it clear that I KNOW I am part of the problem. I know that I do not handle him appropriately or helpfully all of the time and I am trying so so hard to change that. I don't want any one to think for one minute that I place all of the blame on him or think he is a "bad kid". My DH and I are just beside ourselves and at a loss as to how to help him and solve the behavior issues that are present. Again thank you so much girlwithC for all of the wonderful advice and the links. I will try to remember to update this in a few weeks and let you know how this all turns out! Thank you SO much!!!

    Comment by zbralady (original poster) at 10:15 PM on Dec. 13, 2012

  • Perhaps he needs some loving one- on- one attention from your DH or a trusted man. Children need a mom and dad or at least a responsible male character in their lives.
    The tantrums and misbehavior are probably a sign of needing special attention. I went through this as a teen years ago. Plus I was going through a deep depression and didn't know it.
    Do you have a Godly Youth Pastor or even a good Pastor who can relate to him and share Christ's love with him? It may really help him.
    Show him unconditional love and see how it works. Sometimes it takes a little "honey" to draw them close instead of "vinegar"

    Answer by Ruthmom802 at 5:50 PM on Dec. 18, 2012

  • Hi I am a step-mom of 2. My SS is now 11 1/2. I've known him since he was 8. If I hadn't known better I would have thought I wrote your question! We tried the counciling (my SS said it made it worse) and it did! I don't know if it was because the counciler kept asking /digging up the same nightmares for him every week or what but his behavor got so bad he almost got arrested for trying to harm his lil sis. We stopped the counciler.. That helped a little. (He saw us as saving him from the mean man) but we still have daily almost constant behavoir problems with him. Not as extreme (he has stopped trying to harm his sis 99% of the time) I made a rule they are not to touch each other for any reason. (He reacts violently to ANY one touching him unless it was his idea) basicly I'm trying to say we have just learned how to avoid triggers and to never show "weakness" infront of him. I know its mind numbing fustrating :(

    Answer by wickedstepjenn at 1:12 PM on Jan. 6, 2013

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