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How to deal with DSS' behaviour?(6 Posts)
I feel a bit daft reaching out in this way, but my situation is really delicate and I would like a neutral perspective.
I live with my DP and his two children, who split their time equally with us and their mum*. I have been living with them for just over 3 years and care about them all deeply.
BUT, I'm struggling. My DSS (12) has lots of great qualities - he's sparky, he's intelligent and he has a good sense of humour. However, he's also highly emotionally reactive, lacks respect and courtesy and needs to be constantly reminded about basic manners. He's often rude to his dad and doesn't seem to appreciate anything that's done for him, instead being very entitled.
I'm in a fortunate position where I can speak openly and honestly with DP, but honestly DP is pretty rubbish when it comes to any form of 'discipline' and it seems like we constantly have the same conversations without him ever putting strategies into practice to deal with DSS' behaviour.
I'm at a point where, after 3 years of putting every ounce of energy into my relationship with DP, DSD and DSS, where I can feel real frustration brewing and I feel like it's impacting my ability to react in the best way in situations with DSS.
This is very much my family and I don't want to leave, but I don't know how to go forward. There is a lot of love but I put a lot of value in compassion and respect and DSS' lack of moral compass really gets me.
*DSS' mum left a few years ago, leaving the kids behind for a couple of years, and is now very much back on the scene and I feel is making up for lost time, very much bending to every whim of DSS, which doesn't help at all.
Any advice on what to do would be greatly appreciated. I feel like I'm failing.
When you say he lacks a moral compass can you give some examples?
With the greatest of respect, unless your DP is willing to do something about it then I’m not sure what you exactly you can do. I really feel for you though, it sounds like an impossible situation
You're not failing.
12 year old boys are traditionally hideous - I know mine were, both my own and my step son. Testosterone kicks in around that age and they turn from basically good kids to aliens from another planet. Rudeness and entitlement... normal. The moral compass issue could be worrying depending on what it is, it could be just normal "lets see what I can get away with" behaviour. Impossible to know without examples.
Your DP effectively being a Disney Dad is pretty normal too. For some reason guys separated from their kids Mum seem to think that putting boundaries in place, enforcing discipline means they will somehow loose their children, they will want to stay with Mum and have nothing to do with them. Utter rubbish of course. All kids NEED boundaries and they need to know what the boundaries are. They'd never in a million years admit it, but sensible boundaries and fair enforcement of rules makes them feel secure.
The problem you have is your DP. HE needs to step up and actually parent his son, not leaving you to do all they hard work. You need to step back and let him. If he won't, that's up to him, not your problem.
Presumably you got together with your DP because you love him, not because you wanted to parent his son. Parenting just happens to be part of the package.
I'd have a "final" open discussion with your DP. Outline your concerns and how you need him to back you in your efforts to guide and discipline his son. Tell him you can't do it on your own and that for him to expect you to is unreasonable and unfair. He'll bluff and bluster of course and say that he is is backing you, tell him that what he's saying and what he's doing don't seem to match, and you need them too. It's not fair on your relationship and it's not helping his son grow into a man that he can be proud of. Point out that as a Dad, it's HIS job to show his son how to be a man.
Once you've had that conversation, step back. If something doesn't bother your DP enough for him to do something about, and it doesn't directly affect you, let it go.
If your DS is rude to you, disrespects you etc etc tell him that it's not ok, and that if he wants you to keep doing the nice things for him (i.e. taking him to his friends/picking him up/making his bed or whatever works for you), then he'll behave or you doing the nice things for him stops until the behaviour improves.
My Dh could have written your post 4 years ago. Him and DS used to get along great and then hormones kicked in and DS turned into a raging, unpleasant, grumpy, dirty alien.
DH approached to it was to be at him every second, picking up on every behaviour and imposing punishment. I didn't totally agree but gave it a try and as I did, I saw my DS retreating into himself rather than turning back into the lovely boy he is used to be. I could see him getting depressed and his self esteem crashing so I knew I had to pick my battles.
It's been hard for my DH. Ultimately, the anger bursts disappear on their own after 1 year or so as did the rudeness gradually, but during that time, my DS and DH relationship crumbled. DS felt that DH only focused on the negative and ultimately picked up his negative vibes that made him feel bad about himself so he started to avoids him. DH considered his attitude rude and therefore thought even more negatively about him. Its been hard for everyone.
DS is turning 16 and it is getting a bit better as both are realising that they didn't acted in any way helpful.
My advise is to trust that many many 12yo boys go through this phase and it is normal. Turning into prison officers and punishing them for something they feel they have no or little control over themselves is only going to make them isolate themselves physically and emotionally.
That doesn't mean that bad behaviour should be ignored but finding the right balance is important. It's very hard to do as a parent and certainly even more so as a SP. It really comes down to believing and having faith in the kid that they really are good people deep inside and their behaviour is a outlay of the hormones flowing through their body rather than who they are as a person.
I never though I could understand this as well as I do now going through the menopause! Amazing how it can impact on our emotions in a way that makes us wonder how we've become the way we are because it isn't who we want to be but feel so hopeless to be who we really are.
Keep talking with your OH about stretegies and don't hesitate to take a step back, not all the way but enough to keep sane because at the end, he is still his parents responsibility and not yours.
Thank you all for the really considered, constructive advice. It's refreshing and reassuring!
When I say DSS' moral compass is askew, I mean that he struggles dealing with things that have a clear 'right' or 'wrong' solution, and often seems to fall down the 'wrong' path. He's now in his second year of high school, but throughout his schooling to date he has constantly been in trouble with teachers, peers and parent's of peers because of his behaviour. The word "bully" has been brandished quite a lot, and whilst I don't think DSS has a bad heart, I can see what is happening. In fact, whilst I was at work one day, he actually walked past the window and I saw him yell something unkind at another kid and then run off - obviously, he didn't know I'd seen the whole thing.
What worries me is that this seems to be more of a personality trait than a rush of hormones, although granted that will be adding to it now.
I guess the other factor in our relationship is that I'm a good 20 years younger than my partner (currently in my late twenties), and whilst this has never been a problem and is something the kids' have accepted with amazing grace, I get frustrated that I seem to have to parent my DP as well as DSS, despite the age gap!
I really have a lot of respect for you all to have gone through and come out the other side, and I definitely agree with the philosophy of discourse and "picking your battles" (a personal mantra). I can definitely feel my patience waning and I don't want to become someone who isn't a true reflection of myself out of exasperation!