Disrespected step mom
jenasci posted:
My husband and I have been together for almost a year now and most of the time we have his two sons, ages 4 & 1, with us at our house. My older stepson has this bad habit of completely disrespecting me, my things, and our home. Recently he's begun taking all the toilet paper off the roll, balling it up and throwing it away. Also he's taken to coloring on the furniture with markers, turing off the water in the house, messing with the water heater, getting into the movies (VHS & DVD) and scratching the discs or pulling the ribbon out, and harassing my cats. Whenever I get after him about his behavior he throws tantrums, throws toys, or completely ignores what I'm saying to him. Whenever I actually get him to listen to me and I discipline him for misbehaving, my husband gives in and lets him do whatever he wants. The 4 year old also has a bad habit about hurting his little brother. I know all about sibling rivalry having 3 brothers myself, but intentionally hitting his little brother with toys, laying on top of him (there is an almost 50lb difference), and pulling and pushing him around too. I'm 2 months pregnant with mine and my husbands first child and I'm afraid of letting my oldest stepson anywhere around the baby whe it arrives.

I'm getting tired of being ignored and disrespected when it comes to my stepson and my husband giving in to him all the time. I'm tired of the one trying to teach him how to behave at home and in public and having no back up. Somedays I just want to bury my head in the pillows and not come out. I hate always seeming like the evil step mother when I discipline the child, but I refuse to let my stepson continue behaving in this manner.

I don't know what to do anymore and can't seem to get my husband to ever be on my side when it comes to upholding a punishment I've handed down. Whether it be no snack, time out, or no movies. With no back up all I can see is this boys behavior getting worse and if he isn't shown how to properly behave I'm afraid he's gonna end up getting in serious trouble in later years.

How can I handle this? I'm pretty lost right about now.
phoenix31674 responded:
Sounds like you really need some family counseling. Your stepson is acting out because of the divorce/because he's not living with his mom. Big changes are hard on young kids and he doesn't have the coping skills to deal with it. Your husband probably feels some guilt over the divorce and he may feel it's his fault his son is acting up and that's why he gives in.

If you can't get your husband to agree to family counseling, I strongly recommend some parenting classes. I have a very headstrong now 5 year old, but she never did anything that extreme. You and your husband need to sit down and agree on some boundaries. That's what he's looking for. He doesn't recognize you as an authority figure because your husband likely countermands everything you try to do. That's why he needs to be on the same page. You two are being hit with divide and conquer and the 4 year old is a master of it. This will not get better unless the two of you get on the same page and present a united front.

At the very minimum, the two of you need to carve out some time one evening to sit down and discuss what the expected behavior out of the boy are and what the consequences are going to be when he misbehaves. He needs to understand that being on the same page from a parenting standpoint is vital to your relationship. Let him know that you feel marginalized.

It's good that you are trying to set your stepson up for success in life. Make sure you let your husband know that is your main concern.

I hope for everyone's sake that he will agree to seek some professional help. I know it seems odd to say get a 4 year old therapy, but he may be thinking that the divorce is his fault or that if he can make you mad enough you'll go away and his mom and dad will get back together. A child psychologist can help him understand none of this is his fault and cope with the new family dynamic.

Best of luck to you.
Elizabeth_WebMD_Staff responded:
Hi jenasci and Welcome -

In addition to the great info that phoenix provided I wanted to pass along these links for you and to share with your husband.

Kids Coping With Divorce
Is My Child a Troublemaker? - This is for older kids but it may give you some clues and tools to use. For instance, reinforcing the good behaviors, etc.

Any other members have good phrases or tools to use when dealing with these types of behaviors? Or, any suggestions for talking with her husband/their dad?