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I can't relate to my DSS

(18 Posts)
ChinaCupsandSaucers Sat 27-Jul-13 18:36:31

I don't know if this is a step- issue or not; I don't have a lot of experience of 10 yr old boys, so don't know whether they are all like this!

I just don't seem to be able to 'get' him; can't work out what motivates him, can't even tell whether he's enjoying himself or not!

I don't spend much one to one time with him as its been actively discouraged by his mum and consequently it upsets him, but he spends one week in every three with his Dad and I and he is currently with us for three straight weeks.

He doesn't engage in family conversations, even when we encourage him to express an opinion or initiate the conversation topic.
When DP has chatted to him about things in our life, or local events, or even current affairs that could affect DSS has said that it doesn't interest him as he's a child and doesn't 'need to know'.

DP has tried to draw him out, but he has, very articulately, explained that he likes/wants to be told what to do and he'll do it. He 'doesn't want' to make choices or express opinions about what he enjoys doing or is interested in. He can't/won't share with DP what he enjoys in the way of sport, books, music - he participates in a number of activities but doesn't engage in conversation about them or even display any emotion about attending (or missing an occasional session)

My experience is of my very confident, opinionated DD who is now 12 and who has for many years expressed her views, opinions, likes and dislikes openly - sometimes totally inappropriately!

I appreciate all DCs are different, but I guess I'm just bewildered by DSS desire to be led - and unable to think of ways to get to know him and engage with him. He's generally polite and well mannered towards me, but I'm sure he wouldn't notice, let alone care, if I was here or not. I've been in his life for over 4 years and we've never been close, but it was easier when he was younger because the usual 'kid things' like theme parks, icecream and so on would elicite a reaction. Now, everything suggested is responded to with a shrug.

Tittypulumpcious Sat 27-Jul-13 21:14:19

I hope someone comes along soon with some advice for you, just a thought though do your dd and dss get along? If so could she maybe talk to him generally see if he expresses any opinions to her?

ChinaCupsandSaucers Sat 27-Jul-13 23:02:37

pulumpcious They used to be close but not anymore - she's very patient but as she is getting older she is increasingly frustrated by his inability/unwillingness to engage. She has previously expressed similar bewilderment about his "lack of interest in anything" as she described it!

I overheard an interesting conversation this evening; DSS has been flicking his hair a lot and DP asked him if it needed cutting. He shrugged and said that he can't decide when his hair needs cutting - it's his parents job to decide. DP decided to explore that a bit with him and DSS said he thinks he'll be old enough to make that decision for himself when he's 18-20 years old!

outtolunchagain Sat 27-Jul-13 23:07:25

I think he sounds a bit nervous of growing up, he feels safer if someone else makes decisions .Could he feel a little bit intimidated by your daughters seeming ability to make decisions and have opinions,could he be worried ,possibly groundlessly ,about being made fun of or feeling silly .

We have noticed that our second son is much happier to engage and give opinions etc now ds1 is at university , not ds1's fault but ds2 obviously felt slightly intimidated, even if ds1 didn't intend to intimidate .

ChinaCupsandSaucers Sun 28-Jul-13 10:52:07

lunch They're not always together and the seems to be no correlation between whether my DD is here or not as to DSS behaviour/attitude - but it might be linked, I suppose?

Tittypulumpcious Sun 28-Jul-13 13:38:56

Has an adult perhaps told him his opinion isn't needed or similar? Any chance you could find a quiet moment together and ask him simple questions ie which do you prefer..if he has no opinion open a discussion about how his opinion matters etc..I could be way off and you might have already done all this!

colditz Sun 28-Jul-13 13:43:56

Is his mother a control freak?

ChinaCupsandSaucers Sun 28-Jul-13 14:15:18

Is his mother a control freak?

To coin a MN phrase "did you mean to be so rude?"

I might be missing something but how on earth did you conclude that might be a possibility?

Reality Sun 28-Jul-13 14:20:09

I didn't that was rude.

If his mother is teh controlling type who makes all his decisions fort him, it woudl go a long way towards explaining why he doesn't like/feel comfortble making decisions.

As the meerkat says, simples.

I have a 10 yo DS and he's a mystery to me, to be fair. He mostly communicates in shrugs and grunts, lately.

Reality Sun 28-Jul-13 14:20:52

fucking typos. Can#t type and eat, obvs.

I didn't think Colditz's question was rude, to be clear.

ChinaCupsandSaucers Sun 28-Jul-13 14:43:52

I have a 10 yo DS and he's a mystery to me, to be fair. He mostly communicates in shrugs and grunts, lately.

And maybe that's all it is with DSS - it's so hard to know! Problem is, as a SM I'm always second-guessing myself rather than being able to take things at face value.

daisychain01 Sun 28-Jul-13 16:01:52

Hello China, I can appreciate your sense of frustration, wanting to connect with your DSS and somehow feeling you don't quite know how to do this. I really would not assume that he does not care if you are there or not. Boys, especially, lock away their feelings, they can find it bewildering having to articulate them. You sound like a very caring DSM, especially given how your post is very much focussed on him and wanting to improve a situation you are currently less than happy with.

He may well have divided loyalties (I am assuming this based on the information in your OP regarding his mum's active discouragement of any relationship with you). He possibly feels that if he allows himself to get close, it will mean he is being disloyal to his mum. That is a terrible shame, but it is what it is, you don't have control over that, so best to sidestep and "carry on regardless". I don't think it would be a good idea to 'force the issue' - rather, just don't give up, continue to be a constant and consistent person to him, he will benefit enormously from that stable influence. Also, if you continue to involve him fully in all your family activities within limitations of time and opportunity within the care arrangement, this will become the norm - he will always look back and remember being included. You are building his memories for the future, even though it feels like a daily struggle. The full week care pattern could become increasingly helpful as his maturity increases. It is a meaningful period of time, rather than the 'jumpiness' that can come with a "1 weekday plus a weekend" pattern.

Sometimes SM/DSC relationships take years to build - as you feel that building the bond is beneficial to DSS and to your family unit, IMHO, it is very much about 'playing the long game' and realising there are some complex emotions going on inside that young man's head. I know from first-hand experience, the relationship I built with my DSS has enhanced his life, but has been cultivated over a long time - like your DSS, there was sadly a constant discouragement and negativity about forming any relationship with me, ascribing it to associations with disloyalty, which was frustrating but I did manage to neutralise the effect of that to the best of my ability by focussing on the immediate, which invariably is how children/young people see the world - its today and maybe tomorrow, but not much beyond that :-)

Regarding your DSS's stated preference to be told what to do rather than making decisions for himself, at the age of 10, I am not at all surprised! Some children are remarkably grown up at 10, others (like your DSS) are really not emotionally ready or capable of making decisions - the very thought may be frightening! If he stills says it at the age of 16, then you have cause for concern. At his age, why not continue to give him very small opportunities for choice, maybe offering 1 or 2 very identifiable options from which to choose, so it isn't a mountain to climb (without identifying it at the time, in terms of "you are making a decision") - let him test the water and experiment. Then you can (retrospectively) give him some words of encouragement like "hey [DSS], that was brilliant, well done, you really chose well!". Leave it at that, let the "dust settle" so to speak and do the same again. It takes time, but it is all about building that young man's confidence over time, and making him believe in himself.

By the sounds of it, you do have challenges with time and opportunity due to the shared care arrangement, but just these little snap-shots can be very impactful at his age. Also he will associate your presence with someone who cares and is there to help. I also appreciate that he doesn't seem to have any specific likes and dislikes - don't worry, those preferences may come with time, he may drop little comments into conversations that will hint at things he is starting to like - also once he goes to secondary school, that is often a time when there is greater exposure to activities and potential for preferences. Until then, it may need to be a guessing game

I hope the above thoughts are of some help - I admire you for wanting to make life better for your DSS, he is a lucky young man!

purpleroses Mon 29-Jul-13 10:22:52

I have a 10 year old DSS (and a DS of my own, now 13). Things that DSS will talk about keenly include - movies he has seen, computer games he is playing at the moment, things he's been doing in the last few hours. He's very much here and now, and usually wants to talk about what's going on in his life right now, or otherwise in some complete fantasy world.

He doesn't really have opinions about "big" things at all (current affairs, adult lives, etc) - though can express views on the actions of characters in films or books. He won't talk much about school if you ask direct questions, but if you reminise about your own school days (teachers you didn't like, school rules, etc) that can be a great way to get kids talking and sharing their school life with you.

He's also easier to engage with whilst doing something together - ie not just talking for the sake of talking. Going out for a walk, helping in the garden, cooking a meal, etc are all good activies.

Could your DSS be nervous of expressing opinions over things like haircuts that he feels specifically are his mum's decision? He maybe doesn't want to get caught up between his mum and his dad having different views on things.

colditz Mon 29-Jul-13 23:53:07

It wasn't a rude question, I was curious to know if his mother was a control freak. To coin another, lesser known mumsnet phrase, "you seem to be having trouble understanding me, shall I use clearer words?"

Children of controlling parents sometimes 'give up' on engaging with anything, or having opinions of there own, because they quickly learn that it makes no difference. Things will happen exactly as the control freak has already decided they will happen.

This seems to be exactly what has happened with your dss. Now, I'm actually assuming that you are not the control freak in this scenario, as your daughter is engaged and has opinions, your dp has tried to draw him out, so the only other factor is his mother. So.

Is she?

allnewtaketwo Tue 30-Jul-13 06:44:02

It's very very hard work. I think daisychain makes some very good points. I think to some extent he has decided that the way he lives at home is more 'right', for whatever reason. Possibly due to loyalties to his mother. Personally I couldn't be doing with the struggle of trying to convince him he should have opinions when he seems so resolutely determined not to. But I appreciate and know from experience this is very hard to watch.

DSS(17) still wont make a decision or have an opinion of his own. Unfortunately in his case it's exactly as colditz describes and I can't see that situation ever changing.

Anormalfamily Tue 30-Jul-13 07:32:45

Also have to agree with colditz.
Both dsc have the greatest respect for their mum, her word goes, regardless. But dh has a few control issues of his own...
First 2 years were a nightmare as dsc couldn't make proper eye contact, were rude and spoke like mini versions of their parents, dd like mum, ds like dad.
Thankfully dsd has grown up a bit since and generally does her own thing,,only more reflectively.
Dss still mimics his dad, but I have high hopes for him too. He is torn between living the carefree life of a 12 (nearly 13) year old,,with friends and general grotty boy stuff, or being dads pristine BFF, engaging in adult topics which interest his dh.
I make a point of getting dh to encourage dss to "do his own thing", I.e. giving him permission to get an own life. Wouldn't be the same coming from me, no matter how good the intention. Sometimes parents just need to learn to let go...

ChinaCupsandSaucers Tue 30-Jul-13 07:34:15

colditz I'm sorry if I misunderstood - I've always considered freak to be a derogatory term and I don't feel comfortable slagging DSS mum off even on an anonymous forum!

I don't think DSS mum is controlling in the 'do what I say because I say so' manner - the DSC do have a very different lifestyle with their Mum to the one here; there is less flexibility because Mum is juggling a demanding job with two DCs and other family demands. Not only does that mean that there are times when the DSC have to go somewhere or do something that isn't particularly child focused, but it also means that their limited leisure time tends to be spent all together in preference to, for instance, teen DSD going out with friends. Quite understandably, their Mum wants to spend time with her DCs when she can!

I think there's a great deal of truth in the comment that DSS is scared/anxious about growing up - and I'm guessing that's not a Step- issue? I'm at a loss as to how to adapt our family life to accommodate it though - its so contrary to my whole ethos when it comes to DCs!

allnewtaketwo Tue 30-Jul-13 07:42:35

DH and I had a similar conversation at the weekend. DSS17 won't do anything unless it us arranged for him by his mum. This is now leading to him missing out on work experience he requires for uni. As I said to DH though, DSS wants her to arrange everything and she needs to control, so actually they're both very content. Just as DSS wants DH to entertain him when at our house. The only bit at odds with all of this is that we both find it unacceptable for a 17yo to have no engagement in his own life.

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