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Lila 06-22-2013 07:14 PM

My partner has a 12 year-old son who is an only child. He seems to think that he should know everything that happens in the household. I know he goes through our things (We have started keeping "adult" items in a locked suitcase) and when my partner and I want to be alone in our room even just to talk he is right there at the door wanting to be in on every detail.


I have four children of my own and he can't stand it when I have a private conversation with one of them. When one of my children needs behavioral correction I teach them by means of talking privately with them, and it seems that every time I need a private moment with one of my children he is right there peeking around the door listening in..

His father says he has talked to him about privacy and respecting other people's personal property, but I am not seeing any behavioral reflection of this. It is getting to the ridiculous point that we are having to use code words around him when we talk about certain things because his nosey little ears will hone in on everything we say!

I suspect that, because he is an only child and lives with only his mother during the week, he is treated as the man of the house. I understand that, but in my house he is not an adult. He is one of five children. I don't expect him to behave as my kids do, who have always lived with a house full of children, but I don't know how to handle the nosiness issue.

I feel like the root of the problem is that he believes he should have all the same rights and privileges as an adult. If his father gets a new electronic device, he talks his mother into buying him the same one. Anything that is in the house he expects to have access. Any information he feels he should be privy to.

He is a very sweet child and otherwise very considerate. I just don't know how to handle this particular situation. Suggestions would be very helpful.


dalia 06-22-2013 07:24 PM

He sounds like he is in need of attention. To me, his behavior seems like he is struggling to feel like part of the family. Maybe he feels a little drowned out in a large group. You might try taking special care to make sure he is included in everything (within reason) and just explain to him when he can't be included. He'll probably grow out of it as he sees that he is part of the whole unit. Not saying you don't already do this but he may need a little more attention.

dalia 06-22-2013 07:26 PM

I just realized this was in blended and step families. I saw the post on the "new posts" area and replied but I should say I am not in a blended or step family! Sorry.

Lila 06-22-2013 07:32 PM

Yes, the whole step family creates a strange situation and I can see how it would seem that he needs more attention. Fact is, he gets constant attention. When he is about, his father sets me on the back burner and focuses full-force on his son. That was difficult for me to deal with at first, but I understand and support this. That said, a bit of daily private time is necessary for us as couple, to discuss adult things or even just reconnect. There is no more attention to afford the child. I think that is actually the problem. I think he is overly attended and cannot think of himself as second to anyone.

dalia 06-22-2013 07:44 PM

Yeah that's tough. I guess with my limited knowledge to that type of situation I would just be consistent with him. I would try to look at it as immaturity and not arrogance on his part, and treat it as if he were younger, because he kinda is in that area. For example, I may say to my three year old, "I know you want to be with us, but we need to be alone right now, just like sometimes you and I or you and your dad need to be alone sometimes. What will you do in the other room while your dad and I are talking?" This way, you acknowledge his feelings and also get him thinking about what he can do independently. You will just gently be teaching him some social skills.

Good luck!

Lila 06-22-2013 07:51 PM

That is a good thought. He does seem a lot less mature in many respects than my own 12 year old. He is more on par with my 8 year old! There are a lot of things he has been indulged in. He lacks table manners, he doesn't knock before entering, he does not seem to know a lot of common things that children learn in a family. His parents divorced when he was about 8, and It is my opinion that they have both been very indulgent with him ever since. DP and I have been together for a while, but only began living together in April. I hope that my children and I might be a positive influence on his social skills. I guess until then we'll just have to buy more suitcase locks. shrug.gif

Mummoth 06-22-2013 08:09 PM

Hmmm, could this be his way of dealing with anxiety? I have an anxious child and he can't stand not knowing 'the plan'. He has a very hard time backing off and letting my husband and I talk. We have tried to reinforce that when he allows us to talk, good things happen. Things like: we'll require privacy for a few minutes while we decide which park to go to, even though it isn't really necessary, so he's getting desensitized to it... the more times nothing bad happens after the grown-ups have a talk, the more mellow he gets about that.  Sometimes I'll tell him the general topic of what we're talking aobut and that we'll fill him in when we have the details worked out (if I'm actually going to do that) and that seems to help too.


I haven't had to deal with snooping yet. My current thoughts on that are that if he does go snooping around he's more likely to find something that he doesn't want to know about. I might feel differently if/when that happens... but my sister was a snooper and I can remember her being grossed out because she'd found some racy lingerie, and I think that cured her. I'm inclined to think I might just let that happen. It's a lesson they can learn without any effort on my part, ha ha!

Lila 06-22-2013 08:20 PM

Anxiety does run in his family, so it wouldn't surprise me. We need to find an age appropriate way of dealing with this, though. He needs to learn to respect other people's space.
As for letting him snoop.. we have MUCH worse things for him to find than racy lingerie (mkay we're a bit kinky..,) which is why we feel the need for the luggage lock. We decided not to lock up our vintage girly mags just to give him something to find. ROTFLMAO.gif

grisandole 06-23-2013 02:14 AM

I think that part of it may be some anxiety/need to know, combined with the fact that he is most likely "in" on everything at his moms, and then add to it that you husband treats him differently, it totally makes sense. I agree that if you husband is over attentive to him to the point where you are at the back burner, that puts the child up on a pedestal so to speak. He can tell that he is "king", so he is acting like it. Not necessarily consciously, and certainly not with any malice or attitude. But if he is "man of the house" at his moms, and then at your house, he is clearly "Dad's favorite", that is just setting him up to have those expectations. While your dh and you are telling him with your words about privacy and such, your actions (well, your husband's) aren't in alignment with that.


If he is snooping or listening, your dh needs to tell him to go into another room, and if he doesn't, or is still trying to eavesdrop, then there should be a consequence. When possible, sure, you pull your dh or child into a private room to speak, but if dss is following or listening outside the door, that isn't okay and he needs to be asked to give you privacy and go elsewhere. Same with household items that are off limits, your dh needs to tell him what is off limits and then actually enforce it. I hope it gets better soon, can you tell that I've dealt with this? :)

Lila 06-23-2013 05:35 AM

Wow yeah you sound like you speak from experience. smile.gif  To be fair to him, before I moved in he did have the run of the place. I moved in to his territory in a way. I hope that when we move house in the Fall it will help to establish new boundaries. Until then I will try your advice.

mamarhu 06-23-2013 12:08 PM

If Dad is giving DSS his full attention, to the exclusion of you and presumably the other kids, perhaps he DOES feel left out. Could YOU give him more attention - not even one on one as much as just being a part of the group. Maybe you could make a point of bringing him and one or two others with you to the grocery store or errands, followed by a little treat? Or an outing for just the boys (Dad takes him with step-brothers)? Could the "big kids" build a fort? I have no idea of the ages, genders, or interests of the kids in your family. Is there some interest he shares with some of the step-siblings? I think that if Dad singles him out for so much separate attention, he might feel excluded from the other kids, and the family as a unit. So he has been trying to include himself, granted in a maladaptive, annoying way. Hopefully, if he felt fully included in the family, the behaviors you are talking about would just go away. In my experience, if you can solve the underlying problem, the problem behaviors just fizzle out - no consequences, rewards, or lectures needed.

Viola 06-24-2013 03:47 PM

This is an interesting thread, but mostly because I can relate it to myself at 12 years old, and then the other 12 year olds I've known in my life: nieces, nephews and my own daughter at that age.  In some ways this almost seems like typical 12 year old behavior, because I have always found that to be a challenging age where they try to make the transition to being a young adult, but still have a lot of that childishness there. They can come off as intrustive and know-it-all. Some 12 year olds I've known want to be treated as fairly grown up and always try to insinuate themselves into adult conversations and participate as such, and if they have often had that privilege, then they may not even realize it's problematic for adults.  I remember feeling that way, I wanted to be recognized as different and distinct from the other children in my family, I didn't want to be grouped in with the others when I was so clearly trying to behave in a different, grown up  way.  So for me it was just wanting to be respected as an older person, and it didn't occur to me that when I added my commentary that it was unwelcome.

One of my nieces was 12 when my Dad died, and wow, she was so hard to take during that time because she could be very self-centered.  So that is a challenge too.

I think it would be a difficult transition for him from being in a situation where he is probably given primacy and privileges of adults, but then going somewhere where he is expected to be one of the children who have different requirements, maybe not ones he wants.  He might feel resentful about it all on some level.  I think it sounds like you are right on the mark with treating each child respectfully, but it sounds like he is trying to put himself in a position of authority and trying to distinguish himself from the others. The snooping, however, does sound beyond what most kids that age would do. My sister did stuff like that, and also stole from the family, but she was probably a little older. I don't really know what was going on with her at the time, other than she felt insecure around other people outside the family.

I don't know, my mom always thought I was nosy, called me Big Ears, stuff like that, so maybe it's a part of my personality, but I think that part of it is there was an expectation that I would understand certain things, and there were complaints when I didn't seem to be paying attention. Then if I was paying attention just out of force of habit, and asking questions to try and understand more, then that was not always well received, and I honestly found that to be a confusing message.  It did take a very clear message of, "You're not an adult, we are talking about adult things right now, please refrain from commenting" for me to really get it. 


I've also found that I really have to model the behavior I want.  If my kids are talking and don't need or want me to be involved, and I intrude on their conversations, they will likely do the same to me. Does he understand that you want to be free from his getting into his things just like he would want the same thing from you and your children?  I think his mother also has to be on board with this, and if she is asking him questions about your relationship and what goes on in your house, maybe that is part of why he is trying to find out so much.

limabean 06-26-2013 08:37 AM

I don't know, a 12-year-old dealing with 5 extra people moving into his space just 2 months ago? That's a huge adjustment! I think I'd just give him some time to get used to it -- and take some time to get used to the new situation yourself too before changing things too much.

He's probably thinking, "Hey, this is my house, you're the new ones here. I can be wherever I want in this house!" Not saying that should be an accepted attitude long-term, but it's certainly understandable for his age and circumstances.

~Nikki~ 06-26-2013 08:59 AM

Have you asked HIM why he's nosing around? Maybe - being new to your family - he's curious about what goes on in the room when you're disciplining. Maybe he's terrifed that you might be beating his new step-siblings in there. ;) Maybe he's insecure, and thinks you might be talking about him behind his back. Who knows? At that age, kids dream up some weird things. The blended family aspect only adds to it. I know that sometimes my kids come up with WEIRD versions of reality, and when I finally get to the bottom of what they're upset about, or why they're behaving strangly, their explanation is totally off-the-wall. As a former anxious and insecure kid, I can totally see that side of it. Set boundaries, but don't forget to talk to him about what he's so nosy about. Maybe he'll surprise you and actually have a reasonable kid-version explanation for his behaviour. The snooping is unfortunately normal for most kids, blended or not. I recently learned that my son discovered ALL of his christmas presents last year. Little buggar. =/

AluraDawn 08-17-2015 02:44 PM

This is an old thread but I wanna share this in case it helps anyone else with a similar issue. I am dealing with a younger, nosy daughter of my roommate in a similar way and something occurred to me while reading the comments.

On the note of it being a sign of anxiety, it makes sense to me that an only child of divorce would not want adults talking behind closed doors. I can imagine that the divorce was decided in private before he was let in on it, and he probably did not get much of a say on that. Maybe even subconsciously he is nervous that private conversations bring about world shattering events.

I personally would deal with the anxiety separately, working to reassure that the world is just fine in other ways. But still set gentle boundaries the same way I do for everything else even with my young toddler. Set a boundary and allow the child to vent their displeasure at said boundary, without caving.

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