Parenting a Step Child

I am the mother of two boys, ages one and three, and a step-mother to a ten-year-old boy who stays with us on some holidays and for eight weeks in the summer. He is so difficult. He has been kicked out of two schools and suspended several times for violent and sexually inappropriate behavior. He has done some horrible things to my sons. He hurts them, trys to feed them things like used motor oil and dog feces, makes them watch while he breaks their toys, etc. After his last visit, my son described in his limited speech an act of sexual abuse. No one wants to help this boy. My husband and I can’t get him in to see a counselor unless the mother agrees to it, and she is opposed. When he is here I have to be so vigilant that if I have to use the bathroom, I have to take my boys away from what they’re doing and bring them with me. When I ask my husband to watch them so that I can take a break, the situations that I described above occur. The sexual abuse was reported when it happened three months ago, but the glorious state of Arizona has other things on its mind and nothing was done about it. When he visits, I become sick within three days. School is almost out for the summer, which means he will be here for eight weeks. I threw away my dream of starting a vegetable garden this year, and decided instead to spend the summer in another state with my sons. This is expensive and not at all in line with my idea of family and home life. We do attachment parenting, have read your book, and try to avoid punishment and rewards. My step-son’s entire way of being is informed by punishments and rewards. “Wasn’t I good in the store? You should buy me some ice cream.” “If I break this dresser, what will you do to me?” I don’t know where to start. No one I’ve asked knows where I should start. It seems like it’s up to me to do something for him since his parents aren’t helping and the school just keeps kicking him out. But my first priority is to protect my sons, and I don’t even know how to do that without putting them on an airplane. Please help.


Dear Parent,

Yours is not “a question” but a plea for counseling help. I would love to help and I cannot do so in a short “answer.” I know the child must have a good reason to behave the way he does and you can be the greatest help to him. I also see the importance of protecting your children from unhealthy experiences. 

I would love to work with you by phone on either, making this summer visit a breakthrough for your stepson, or eliminating his presence from your life. It is possible to help him and show your children the power of love. But, if you cannot afford phone sessions, and are unable to help him, it may be best to eliminate the visits.

Warmly,  Naomi Aldort,


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