NWR: Need Kid/Stepmother advice for SIL

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ArtBride Posts : 4,838 Registered: 5/9/07
NWR: Need Kid/Stepmother advice for SIL
Posted: Jul 6, 2008 10:44 AM

Ok, I know that not many people will see this until we all drag ourselves back to work tomorrow, but I'm going to put it up now. I'm looking for a little advice for my SIL about her stepson, but I don't know a lot about kids, so it's hard to know what to say to her other than, 'I'm sorry things are so hard, but I think you're doing the right thing.' So any stories or advice from the moms and stepmoms (or anyone else who knows a little about kids!) would help!

A little background: My BIL got married for the first time VERY young (21, I think) while he was in the Army and stationed in Germany. He and XW had a son before they divorced. Their divorce was very confusing and dragged on for YEARS (it was handled by German courts). During the 5 years that it dragged on, BIL left the Army, moved back to the US, and met SIL. Due to German laws and him not being a citizen, he was unable to see his son for those five years (ages 1-6). He married SIL when the divorce was final, but still wasn't able to get any legal custody of his son, though they were able to visit him in Germany, which they did a couple times. Finally, (last year) XW's new husband, who was also an American Army man, was transferred back to the US. BIL was FINALLY able to go to a US court and get some sort of shared custody. (BTW, if the legalities of all this sound wrong, it's probably just me understanding it wrong. I really don't know the details - just the basics) Anyway, my BIL's now 9-year old son didn't meet the family until last Xmas. He has since visited DC for our wedding in April, and is currently up in MA until the end of his 6-week summer visit. Sorry the background info took so long to explain. Oh - I should also mention that BIL and SIL also have a son of their own who is almost 2.

Most of this comes secondhand from my SIL. I've only spent about a handful of days total with him. Apparently he has recently become very angry at his father for not being more involved in his life when he was younger - and for not being there all the time NOW. (Stepson lives in the midwest now, so no easy trip from MA). He's also VERY jealous of his little brother. He becomes destructive when BIL spends one-on-one time with little brother. He's also very competitive with little brother, constantly making sure that little brother is not 'better' at things than he is, or that little brother doesn't get more of ANYTHING than him. They have been trying to treat both boys equally, but stepson seems to get upset when he doesn't get MORE than little brother. The longer he has been living with them, the worse the lies, manipulation, and fighting have become. I haven't talked to BIL about it, but SIL is pretty worn out emotionally (which is saying something, because she's a VERY patient woman). 

They have been trying to discipline him more and have spoken to his mother about increasing discipline when he's at her house. His mother is shocked to hear how he's been behaving and they have all agreed that counseling is a good idea for him. BIL and SIL have also asked to have him visit more often and for longer periods of time, so that they can work through the issues with him, discipline him more, and teach him his role in their family. I think it would be good for him to spend more time with them, and I really admire them for doing what is best for him, even though it is so exhausting for them.

While I'm asking, there's another issue that SIL finds pretty upsetting. Stepson is 9 and displays a disturbing interest in girls. They first noticed it at our wedding - and thought it was cute, then - when he started hitting on my bridesmaids. (This probably goes without saying, but my BMs were not 9-year olds - they are women in their late-20s/early-30s. Oh, and my 16-year old sister). Like I said, everybody thought it was cute at first, but they've observed more during this longer summer visit, and BIL and SIL say that the way he talks about girls and intimacy has become quite disturbing. I'll give you an example from my other BIL's wedding, the only time I've seen him pursuing girls (other than my BMs). There were 2 FGs and 2 Jr BMs at BIL's wedding - I suck at guessing kids ages, but I'd say they were close to his age. From the first minute at the rehearsal to the time they left the reception, stepson's self-appointed 'mission' was to figure out how to attract the girls. He kept asking the adults for advice on how to talk to them, how to make them like him, how to get them to dance with him, etc. I confess that I egged him on at first, not knowing that it was an issue - but by the end of the wedding, his insistence that he had to 'get with the girls' had started to disturb me, too. Is this normal behavior for a 9-year old, or has he picked up somewhere that he is 'supposed' to act like this? 

Anyway, I think they're handling him as well as they can, but any advice would be appreciated. Has anyone dealt with similar behavior from children or stepchildren? How did you handle it and how long did it last? Did counseling help? And does anyone have experience being thousands of miles away from a misbehaving stepchild? 


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auntofthebride Posts : 9,354 Registered: 4/2/06
Re: NWR: Need Kid/Stepmother advice for SIL
Posted: Jul 6, 2008 4:05 PM Go to message in response to: ArtBride

Dear ArtBride,

"They have been trying to treat both boys equally,"

That's the sentence that jumps out at me.

One very hard lesson I learned, late, as a parent is NOT to treat the children equally, which is very difficult with twins. Treat both children as if they were, each, an "only child". Set boundaries and expectations that are appropriate for the needs and abilities of each child.

With two boys the same age, I tried valiantly to be "fair and equal" to both. But, what if one does his chores right on time, no lagging, and the other piddles around? Shouldn't the on-time kid get a treat? Shouldn't get other go without? But, then Mom has to hear choruses of "IT'S NOT FAAAIIIIIIRRRRRRR. YOU LOVE HIM MORE THAN MEEEEEEEE!!!".

Finally, I said "Tough". It's not FAIR to me that one gets his stuff done, while the other won't move a muscle without a kick in the pants. It's not FAIR that one does his homework, while the other plays video games.

Once I ditched all this "fair and equal" treatment crap, things worked out much better in our house. You, Sonny Boy, get what's "fair" in accordance with your demonstrated level of maturity and commitment, regardless of what Brother gets.

In the case of your SIL, these two boys are way apart in age, way apart in life experience, way apart in parental responsiblity, yet they are treating them equally?!? One kid has no personal memory of ever living apart from his father, and the other has deep wounds from having felt abandoned by his father? Damn straight, the older boy has a deeper need for paternal attention and affection. Let the younger boy bond with Mom, while Dad and older boy go off camping or on a great road trip together. 

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ArtBride Posts : 4,838 Registered: 5/9/07
Re: NWR: Need Kid/Stepmother advice for SIL
Posted: Jul 6, 2008 4:44 PM Go to message in response to: auntofthebride

Aunt, I think they've tried that, but should my BIL really ignore the little one for several weeks at a time, while the older one is there? They've been doing plenty of 'special dad and son' stuff, but the older boy gets destructive every time his father shows any interest in his brother. 

I hear what you're saying, but is it a good idea for Problem Child to get ALL the attention at his mom's house AND his dad's house? To the point that he knows that he can manipulate his dad by playing the 'you weren't there for me when I was little' card?

I think they're just having a hard time during this visit making the transition from 'just visiting dad' to 'living with dad.'  They've gotten past the 'getting to know one another' stage, and I think they're having a hard time adjusting. I guess they're just at different points in the healing/getting used to one another process, and BIL needs to realize that it will take his son longer to accept him then it does for him and his family to accept his son.

From what I've seen, my BIL is doing a good job parenting him - at least, better than I would have expected from someone who suddenly has a 9-year old after (for all intents and purposes) not having a kid for 8 years.

Personally, I don't blame him for being upset. I've tried to give him extra attention when I've visited, but so far, it has just translated into him asking me for advice with girls. 

It's funny, AOTB, but I have an older (than me) friend who has twin boys as well, and she says the same things as you do!  


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FinallyMrsS Posts : 1,035 Registered: 3/29/08
Re: NWR: Need Kid/Stepmother advice for SIL
Posted: Jul 6, 2008 5:45 PM Go to message in response to: ArtBride

Artbride Your nephew(he is your nephew, right?!) definately needs counseling. There are a lot of issues that will need to be dealt with. Who knows what this poor boys mother told him while he was growing up. If your BIL acts IMMEDIATELY and doesn't stall then I definately think that will get better. One thing to let both SIL and BIL is that it will get worse before it gets better. WAY WORSE!! They need to be prepared. They also need to understand that they need to be consistent in EVERYTHING they say to him or any child for that matter. As for him hitting on girls. If he is wanting to dance with them or hang out with them then that is ok. If his actual words were to "get with them" then that is a problem. He learned that from someone. It was either on a TV show or movie or a man that he is close to has spoken like that in front of him. If this boy is also good around his mother, then she needs to really step up and talk to her son. He needs to hear it from trusted people(which your BIL is not right now to him). But no matter what, he still needs therapy. Good luck girl keep us posted. And if you have any questions, I can help I have a lot of information on kids and behaviors! =)

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ArtBride Posts : 4,838 Registered: 5/9/07
Re: NWR: Need Kid/Stepmother advice for SIL
Posted: Jul 6, 2008 6:17 PM Go to message in response to: FinallyMrsS

Thanks MrsSchultz! Yes, he's my nephew. The woman I refer to as my SIL is DH's brother's wife - she and I are very close. 

I'm concerned about what his mother has told him about his father up until this point. My IL's have mentioned things about her that upset me...such as them sending him presents for Xmas or birthday and him never receiving them. Or worse - that he receives the gift, but wasn't told who it was from. And based on BIL's former relationship with his ex (what I know of it, anyway - I have never met her), she is rather manipulative herself. I've been told, however, that she has been a very caring mother to my nephew, though she spoils him and shelters him. I agree that they all need to communicate and work something out that is in his best interest. 

He told me that he wanted to 'get with' the girls, though I'm not sure whether he knew what that meant. He seemed to want to talk and dance with them. SIL says that he has disturbing ideas about intimacy, but I haven't asked for examples. I personally haven't seen anything I would call disturbing - a bit odd for his age, but not disturbing - but like I said, I haven't spent too much time with him as we live far from BOTH his parents.

I will tell her to be prepared for worse - how so? I know that they've talked about getting him a counselor while he's at home with his mom. I suggested family counseling while he's with them, as well. Hopefully he will heal with time. He's a really nice kid - just confused and angry. I'd hate to see anything bad happen to him because of issues in his past that aren't his fault.  

By the way, if anyone who prays would be so kind as to pray for him, my SIL would really appreciate it. His name is Aidan. 


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auntofthebride Posts : 9,354 Registered: 4/2/06
Re: NWR: Need Kid/Stepmother advice for SIL
Posted: Jul 6, 2008 6:48 PM Go to message in response to: ArtBride

Dear ArtBride,

This is such a difficult problem, and it's really too complex for an internet message board.

The bit about treating the two children equally hit a hot spot with me, so I responded.

I think that professional family counseling is in order, here. The wounds are too deep. The young man does not understand that German law made it too difficult for his Dad to be there. He only "knows" that Dad could have tried harder, but did not.

Oh, and by the way, there's the tremendous adjustment to living in the US after living in Germany. I go to Germany all the time. I know. It's really different there.

"It's funny, AOTB, but I have an older (than me) friend who has twin boys as well, and she says the same things as you do! "

It's good to hear I'm not alone in the world. I kept on telling my self, over and over, "parent the child you have, not the child you want".

Oh, and ask your friend if she tires of hearing her separate, individual, beloved children referred to as one person. "What do the twins want for Christmas?".

Grrrrrrr

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ArtBride Posts : 4,838 Registered: 5/9/07
Re: NWR: Need Kid/Stepmother advice for SIL
Posted: Jul 6, 2008 7:44 PM Go to message in response to: auntofthebride

Thanks AOTB - I hope they go forward with individual AND family counseling. I agree that they SHOULD be treated differently - but I also see SIL's point in NOT treating them differently. It really is a complex problem - I'm glad it's not mine. 

Nephew basically grew up on a US military base in Germany. His mother had an American father and German mother, and basically stayed in the same area as her father had been stationed...which is where she met my BIL, and later, her current husband. I think my nephew lived off-base for most of his life. They now live in on-base housing at Fort Riley, Kansas. His grandmother left Germay to be with her daughter and grandson. They are hardworking people blue-collar people and I'm sure they think that they're doing what is best for him. 

I also travel to Germany (mostly Berlin) pretty often for work, and I speak German fairly fluently. When I'm around nephew, I try to speak German with him (he makes fun of my bad American accent, but I think he appreciates it). I don't know how much his mother and father have done to deal with the culture shock of living in the US. I'll bring it up to my BIL - he may not have thought of that. 

Haha, AOTB, that bugs the HECK out of my friend! Her twins just started college this year and no one can remember which one goes to which school. They're not even identical. I make a STRONG effort to keep track of which one she's talking about when she tells stories about them. Also, she has another son who is 2 years younger than the twins. It bugs her when people 'forget' about him, especially because he's her only baby who is still at home (even though he's the 'problem child!') 


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sjhc132 Posts : 164 Registered: 3/18/08
Re: NWR: Need Kid/Stepmother advice for SIL
Posted: Jul 6, 2008 8:31 PM Go to message in response to: ArtBride

dear artbride... while i am not a mom or anything like that i do believe that counseling would be a good thing for this little boy. my xbf who i was with for 7 years neice and newphews i was pretty close to them growing up and i was active in their lives so i know a little about kids... but by no means am i an expert. there seems to be so many factors rushing into this little boys life right now and it just seems to be turning it upside down. has your bil talked at all with xw about continueing with couseling for him when he goes home to be with them.. i agree he needs stability and consistancy in his life. maybe his mom just needs to sit down and really have a heart to heart with her son about his dad and be truethful about why he wasnt there for him when he was growing up and now why he can be apart of his life now and will continue to be apart of his life. as far as him wanting to "get with girls" one of my xbf newphews was like that too at that age in fact he still is but hes 13 now so i think his view has changed to just wanting to have a girlfriend... but this behavior was learned from some male figures in his life and him wanting to be apart of the older crowd. but i think counseling and time will really help him... your sil just has to remember his whole world has been turned upside down and hopefully soon it will start to turn right side up for him and your family. i will pray for them in my daily prayers and i hope everything turns out ok.

 

i was meant for him and he was meant for me :)

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FinallyMrsS Posts : 1,035 Registered: 3/29/08
Re: NWR: Need Kid/Stepmother advice for SIL
Posted: Jul 6, 2008 8:44 PM Go to message in response to: ArtBride

Art what I meant by it will get worse before it gets better is your nephews acting out. You said he gets destructive and what not, that will increase. Any behaviors he has had (including talking about girls) will get stronger and more frequent. Basically he is going to test BIL and SIL BIG time. But once they weather the storm the behavior will (or should) stop. It is just a matter of time.

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kroberts Posts : 443 Registered: 7/30/07
Re: NWR: Need Kid/Stepmother advice for SIL
Posted: Jul 6, 2008 10:45 PM Go to message in response to: ArtBride

I have the point of view of being the stepchild. While your BIL is the biological father, from the background you gave, he's been missing from his son's life. Your BIL, from my point of view, is more of a step-parent himself. Your BIL ex-wife, how long has she been remarried? My guess is that the boy has had more contact with his step-dad than his biological dad.

My mom's 2nd husband tried to be an authority figure, and my sister and I didn't need to be disciplined by someone we didn't think of as our father, especially because our father was apart of our lives. My mom's 3rd (and current) husband has taken a backseat. Granted, by the time he came into our lives I was 16 my sister 20, not once has he tried to be an authority figure. He'll give advice, but not much beyond that. It doesn't work well when a child doesn't recognize who the authority figures are. Counseling is a good solution to this problem.

About him making sure the younger brother knows his place, I want to chuck it up to just being an older brother, coupled with the fact that he himself is finding his place within mixed/2 seperate families. Like wolves - there's an order, everyone has their place, and need to stay there. Again, anything more serious, couseling will help.

Same goes for him being more sexually aware that the typical 9 year old. Couseling will help.

Keep us posted.


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sophiaR Posts : 5 Registered: 6/26/07
Re: NWR: Need Kid/Stepmother advice for SIL
Posted: Jul 6, 2008 11:24 PM Go to message in response to: ArtBride

Hi I'm really sorry to hear that he is having a hard time adjusting. Thats pretty much what it is. He hasn't seen his dad much, he is angry and resentful and unlike us adults who can really explain how we feel, kids tend to act out. Dr. Phil had a show on recently with a little boy who was 7 and he had this really strange intrest in girls, or so his parents thought. well it turned out that he was doing it to get their attention. Another thing, speaking from personal experience. I spent the first 15 years away from my mum, she lived here in the states and I lived in Jamaica. lets just say that it took until I was 31 years old to get rid of all the resentments I had. I had to go to counseling. It was easier speaking to a stranger and getting it off my chest, then I was able to let it go.

He needs counseling. He needs it along with is dad, to help them over that hurdle. the older he gets the worst it will be. Kids do not forget and thats so sad. They dont understand that sometimes things happen that a parent cannot control. Give him lots of love, get him to open up. If he can just open up he will be fine. I know its hard, he's so young. Well good luck and I hope they find a solution


"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear" MLK

sophiaR 

 

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ArtBride Posts : 4,838 Registered: 5/9/07
Re: NWR: Need Kid/Stepmother advice for SIL
Posted: Jul 7, 2008 10:29 AM Go to message in response to: sophiaR

Thanks everybody - a lot of what you've all said makes SO MUCH SENSE. One thing that stands out particularly is that the interest in girls might be a way of getting attention from the adults in his life. I know little about his family life in Kansas...but it just struck me that in his three recent visits to his dad, he has been to TWO family weddings. Perhaps that has contributed to his interest in girls - he's seen his two uncles get married and have big parties simply for finding girls. That certainly makes sense.

BIL and SIL have talked to his mom about getting regular counseling for him at home. She intially seemed shocked to hear about his behavior, but she seemed open to the idea. I'm just not sure how much commitment they'll get from her in trying to work through his issues - given that none of the issues affect her personally. I hope she'll do the right thing. I suggested family counseling to SIL while he's visiting them, and she is going to look into it.

His mother has been remarried for about a year (maybe a little less), and has lived with her current husband for about 3 years, I think. I've asked Aidan about his stepfather, and all he's said is that they play video games together...so I'm not sure if his stepdad is taking an authority figure role or if he's basically acting like Aidan's playmate. I don't know how old stepdad is - his mother is 28 or 29, I think. I'm pretty sure that he feels closer to stepdad then he does to his dad.

BIL was initially irritated that Aidan had VASTLY different interests from him. I think he was sort of shocked at the difference in upbringing that Aidan has had with his mom...versus how BIL would have raised him. So it's been a bit of an adjustment for BIL as well...though he's done a good job hiding that from Aidan.


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cyndi33 Posts : 2,585 Registered: 1/3/07
Re: NWR: Need Kid/Stepmother advice for SIL
Posted: Jul 7, 2008 6:31 PM Go to message in response to: ArtBride

I hear what you're saying, but is it a good idea for Problem Child to get ALL the attention at his mom's house AND his dad's house? To the point that he knows that he can manipulate his dad by playing the 'you weren't there for me when I was little' card?

He's 9, he's still little.  Counseling, and yes, more attention when he does get to be with dad.  Little brother has dad all the time, all year.  sounds like this poor boy hasn't ever, through no fault of him OR dad...but still.

Aunt's advice is great.  WE don't do the you've got to be fair thing either.  Life isn't fair.  People are different.  We treat each child according to how we think it will work best with and for them.  Much easier than the ridiculous attempts wemade before trying to treat each of our kids equally.  His and mine. It just doesn't work that way.  (I'm a step  mom of three and so is my husband to my three).  Try Aunt's advice...it WILL make it easier on then IMO.   


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cyndi33 Posts : 2,585 Registered: 1/3/07
Re: NWR: Need Kid/Stepmother advice for SIL
Posted: Jul 7, 2008 6:58 PM Go to message in response to: ArtBride

PS

I think my first post might sound too harsh.  But that's not the intent.  I just think Aunt's advice is GREAT!!!  We've been through somuch since I moved in with now DH, that I sure wish someone would of given us that advice long ago.

Anyway, I don't discipline his kids, he doesn't discipline mine.  Mine are way too old anyway, youngest is 17.  However, on two occasions mine has gotten lippy with me or refused to do something and then DH DID step in, my son listened.  But it wouldn't work if he tried to be the disciplinarian.  Their relationship has much improved over time, as has mine with his oldest but we have him full time.

It's tougher with the two we don't have full time, for me and for my DH.  He with fighting his own guilt and sadness for NOT getting to be with them full time, me for being in the tough role of part time, sort of, stepmom.  Bio mom and I don't get along, we sort of have a truce of tolerance now, but she makes a lot of derogatory comments in the presence of the kids about DH, which puts the kids in themiddle.  Neither of us engage in that, but it still does do damage.

We've done family counseling, the two we have have done counseling, and we just do the best we can.  But, the best advice we got ever was, treat them as individuals...be the parents, be there, but life isn't fair and that isn't the standard by which we need to raise our kids.  After all...the goal is fully functioning, well adjusted adult...that means dealing with things as they are, to their abilities, so that's what we try to accomplish.

When we disagree on discipline by the other, we TRY to keep that to ourselves and generally are pretty good at that now.  

In your BIL/SIL case, it's got to be magnified because the boy isyoung, he has spent most his life in another country, and had no contact with bio dad (or step mom and half brother) during that time.  Anyway, good luck and I'm happy to talk about step parenting if you ever want. 


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sweetie01494 Posts : 73 Registered: 2/17/08
Re: NWR: Need Kid/Stepmother advice for SIL
Posted: Jul 8, 2008 3:08 PM Go to message in response to: ArtBride

Art...I would certainly say that counseling has the potential to help your BIL, SIL, and nephew's relationship and the issues that are at hand.  I think one really important thing to note is that there have been some pretty drastic changes in this little boys life in the last year or two.  That would be a lot for any child to handle, much less this little boy and the large occurances in his life.

  I know a  little bit about this because I am soon going to become the Step mother to a 13 year old and soon to be 11 year old. I have seen these children for the last three and a half years grow and change and have learned so so much!  We certainly don't treat them equally, but we are FAIR with each of them. That is definitely important.  Now, from the time my FH got divorced in May 2005 to Sept. 2006 when she got remarried there was a lot to deal with the kids. She let the kids know the day before her wedding that she was marrying her current husband the next day and they were going to be in the wedding (surprise!). This was just the most recent in a string of "boyfriends" that she got hot and heavy with in the past year.  So, needless to say that the youngest went through periods of anger and acting out inappropriately. Now, I have never condoned his behavior, but I do understand why this little boy has been so angry.  I am telling you all this because I can see how it would possibly be the same thing for your nephew.  His life has entirely changed and he is angry right now at the person who is easiest and most convenient...both his father and younger brother.  It is essentially like bringing home a newborn and cultivating that relationship with the older brother.  

  Also, there are things that your BIL can do to spend some quality time with his older son that his youngest simply wouldn't be able to appreciate.  Try outdoors things to pull him away from the video games (which I firmly believe are due to too young of people having children...the built in babysitter). I understand the frustration with that because our youngest is the same way with video games...could sit there for an entire day! Hiking would be a great thing, or even throwing around a football or baseball in the backyard.  Fishing would work too and get him outside and technically you could include the younger brother in a cute way.  They make the little poles with fake fish weights to tie off at the end. That way there is only one kiddo's pole and fish to worry about but little guy could still participate.  It could be some fun bonding time for all!
  Parenting any child is certainly a process and a much harder one with step children.  Counseling is a good step. Being consistent in discipline and a presence in the child's life is also really important.  Remembering that most children aren't going to appreciate the limits and boundries that they are given at the time...but the payoff is when they are grown and can appreciate them!  I hope this helped and made some sense.


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