Step-children acting out

Question: I’m a step-mother of two children one girl (10) and one boy (8). I’ve been the step-mother for two years. Their real mother has abandoned them, they have not seen her for over a year now. They both seem to be handling it very well until now the boy has been acting out for about three months, not where he just don’t mind, but he’s been destroying thing. Like cutting his covers on his bed, putting holes in bed room walls, peeing in his book bag because he does not like school, tearing jacket because he don’t like the hood on it. His father and I have taken things away like T.V., talking on the phone, going to friends house, and letting friends come over but we have not taking all things away like sports, and toys because we still want him to be a little boy and still have him to look forward to something. I just don’t know what to do any more I don’t want to step over my boundaries because I’m not there real mother and the dad is not fully understanding that they may be something wrong. Are there something that I can do? Should I just stay out of it and let the dad handle it? Please help me I really need some advice!!
– Kimberly

Answer: I’m glad you wrote because things do seem to be escalating for your step-son. It’s hard to know what has provoked these behaviors at this time. This does not sound like typical “testing” behavior that can be easily handled with simple consequences like taking away privileges. Nor do I recommend taking away the positive experiences in your step-son’s day. He needs places and activities where he thrives and enjoys himself.

You are definitely not overstepping your boundaries to get involved. Step-parents are significant adults within the family and have the right and the obligation to participate fully in family life. Begin by talking to your step-son’s teacher. Since part of the problem is school related, I would find out her perspective. Is your step-son acting out at school? What can she tell you that might explain his extreme dislike of going to school?

If the problem seems more general (that is, your step-son becomes destructive whenever he “dislikes” something), you will want to discuss the situation with a family counselor. The school or your insurance provider can provide you with some names.

These behaviors need immediate attention and understanding.

Good Luck,
Karen Deerwester, Ed.S.

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