How to discipline a defiant 12 year old??? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 18 Old 11-17-2005, 12:32 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Okay, my first time in gental discipline section. I usually post in custody or stepfamilies.

I will give a scenario. I know it's long, sorry.

We have 50/50 custody of 9 year old stepdaughter and 12 year old stepson.

Mom hates me with a passion and is not shy about telling the kids. She incourages them to disobey me and when they do she rewards them. They always tell her negative things about me because it "makes her happy". If they say good things about me she gets angry and says "let's not talk about her anymore today".

That is nothing I can control or try to. The problem arises when that stuff seeps over into my home or at his school.

He has a history of hiding homework, not doing his classwork, being disruptive in class and disobedient at home. He is currently failing 3 classes in 7th grade.

Dad tried to discuss this with mom via email (he has a restraining order against her) and she refused to discuss it unless he lifts the restraining order & she could call him.

She told stepson that dad refuses to communicate with her so now he knows he could tell her anything he wanted and we wouldn't find out. Little did he know that she would tell the VP of the school & the VP would tell dad everything.

Anyhow, we found out that mom openly disagreed with dad & the teacher's methods to stepson and encouraged him to not follow instructions from us. (he is to have his teachers sign his planner daily to make sure he wrote everything down)

Now for the discipline. We make him go to study hall to complete his HW that he didn't do at his mom's or hid from us. We make him have his teachers sign his planner every day so we know he wrote all assignments down. We make him redo his work if we cannot read it (his teachers said they would not accept it if they cannot read it).

He hasn't gone to study hall and told us he did. He says he forgot to have teachers sign or they were too busy. He takes 4 times as much time to do his work because he is upset that he has to do it.

He tells his mom that we make him redo his work because we are angry at him for no reason. Last week he told her that I call him bad words in front of his dad and his dad doesn't do anything. (lie)

We are in a custody battle and the kids will see the evaluator in two weeks.

My stepson was once diagnosed with Anxiety and Depression.

Here's the delima...I feel sorry for him for what he has to go through with his mother. I know if she let up it would curve his behavior. I know there are some things he cannot control.

But, I know that he is capable of being responsible for his actions. I know that he has manipulated some situations to his advantage: for example; we told him he was failing 3 classes. He knew we would let his mom know so he told her all those bad things about me to get her focus on me and not his 3 "f's".

He expects me to be happy-go-lucky with him even though he is stabbing me in the back every chance he gets. I can't do it anymore.

How do I get myself to stop being angry at him for what he's doing. I can blame is mother all I want, but inside I feel like he is in control of what he is doing.

How can my husband and I effectivly discipline him for being defiant daily without feeling guilty or defensive of our parenting methods?
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#2 of 18 Old 11-17-2005, 01:07 AM
 
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I think one of the hardest things to recognize when our kids get older is that there is very very little that we can control And the more we try to control they more they will struggle against that control even if it to their own detriment.
Your current effort to micromanage his education appears to be backfiring because he is not actively a willing participant, he has no support with his mother, and he can use it as leverage against you to make you mad.
What he is telling you is "you cant make me!!!" and when it comes right down to it, you cant.
So is there anythign you can do to make HIM want to succeed? Is there any way you can convince him or encourage him positively. (not by punishing him if he doesnt go to study hall or get his homework sheet signed)
Instead of punishing him for homework missed. Perhaps you can reward him for achieving a full week with no homework missed. Plan something he can get really excited about. Help him set very small goals for himself and help him get there.
Another thing is to get him involved in an interest that he can really get passionately involved in that might point to a future career. The more he really wants to "become" something, the more he is going to think in terms of what his education can do FOR him later rather than in terms of what it is doing TO him now.
The more you make school a battleground the less incentive he has to succeed. He wants to WIN this battle with you. To him right now that is more important than grades or some future that is too far away to think about. Unfortunately in order to win the battle he has to prove he doesnt have to do anythign regarding school. And as long as he is out to prove that you cant control it. He will not have any success.
If he feels internally motivated to pass his classes because he wants something from his future, his moms lack of involvement in school wont matter because he wont need her on his back to succeed

As for the defiance. I would pick your battles. Make sure he has as much control over his life as he possibly can. Work on the relationship rather than the behavior.
Insted of focusing on fixing him. If you focus on helping him feel better about himself and his future and solidifying your relationships, his behavior will get better.
I am sorry you are having a rough time.
I have a 13 year old and we also have struggles with school.
I'll be able to tell you in January if the plan worked!
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#3 of 18 Old 11-17-2005, 01:16 AM
 
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That is quite the situation! I think it's going to be really hard to deal with as long as the mother is instructing him to defy his father and stepmother and his teachers.

I was a reluctant student for many years. I hated doing homework and would hide it, "forget" it, just not do it, lie about it, and end up getting in trouble for all of it. My parents made a huge deal out of this, sent me to special after-school tutoring sessions which included time management and study skills. I also had to have my teachers sign off on my work and they were in contact with my parents.

Although it may seem that they were doing everything "right" as far as forcing me to do my schoolwork, it actually had the opposite effect: the more they insisted, the more I resisted and the whole thing blew up in our faces. I never became a better student because of all those specific efforts.

The only person in this situation who is in control of the schoolwork is your stepson. You can push and pull and yell and threaten and yet you can't force him to do his work. Only he can do that.

This it what *I* would do if he were my son. I would explain the importance of a good education. I would emphasize the consequences of not doing his schoolwork, concentrating on him getting held back if he fails his classes. If he has a lot of friends in his grade I would ask him how he feels about failing and not being in the same grade with them anymore. I would tell him that if he needs my help I am available for him at anytime. I would explain that HE is responsible for his school performance, not his parents.

Then I would leave it to him. Tell him you will not be checking his work or forcing him to do anything, but prepare him for the fact that there will be consequences if he fails to perform at school.

The very worst that would happen is that he gets held back a year. This is what ultimately happened to me, and guess what? It was the biggest motivator of my academic career. After repeating a grade, I became an above average student and graduated in the top ten percent of my high school class.

Aside from the school issue, I would work really hard to resolve things with his mother. That sounds like an impossible situation, because she is constantly undermining his father's authority, thereby giving the son an opportunity to manipulate all parties. This is not a healthy situation.

This is just my personal opinion based on my situation... if you don't thing your stepson has the maturity to actually do his work, then you may need to find other alternatives.

Good luck!
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#4 of 18 Old 11-17-2005, 01:35 AM
 
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wow great post lisac77- sounds like my hs years as well....

This is not ment to be snarky,I truelly hope you find some common ground-(my opinion comes from experience from his pov).
One thing to think about is what he.. is.. going.. through.. re: parents divorce and remarry-VERY hard on a child. maybe try and play a different role in his life-he already has 2 parents-I would try and stay out of it as much as possible (and maybe mom would start to lighten up as well if she were only dealing w/ his father not the 2 of you)-I certainly would have lashed out/acted up if some woman married my father and wanted to now parent/discipline me.
sounds like the kid needs a break and some love~just my .02
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#5 of 18 Old 11-17-2005, 01:52 AM
 
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lisac -GREAT post. All so true. I was just doing volunteer work setting up a book fair at dds school tonight and I was struck by how very very much parents feel they have to be involved in the childrens' schooling, to an exhausting degree. I too was an indifferent student for a number of years. But my parents let me take my lumps. They let me know they weren't happy, I did get grounded sometimes. But our lives were not about how I did in school. Now I see mothers who know the content of every book their children read and study. And the first thing that pops into my head is how much more miserable I would have been if, in addition to struggling to be motivated (because of other things going on in my life) I also had had several adults heavily overseeing so much of it and wtching me closely every day. It would have made me despair and hate school AND them. Motivation really does have to come from within, and reality (failing, having to repeat) can be a great motivator. You cannot force growth on someone, it has to come from within.

But this is such a delicate situation with the divorce and custody issues at hand because the system favors the mother and she appears to be a big part of the problem if the OP is taken at face value. Meaning no offense, from the divorce/custody situations I have seen, I do believe the children always suffer more than many people--even good people-- want to admit, which exacerbates the child's anger and related behavior. I will offer this for what it's worth, I may be totally off, but is it possible it would help if you back out of involvement with the son's school issues and just be a nonjudgmental, listening presence for him right now and leave it to your husband to resolve with his ex? That you do not express opinions about his son, and kind of let everyone know this is between the original family members. That may take some of your 'threat' away from his ex wife over time so that she can focus on what's best for her son if she's not fearing/resenting you as much as she sounds like she does right now? And it would take some pressure off the son not having three adults so intensely aware of his behavior and performance.

I may be way off and drawing parallels to other situations I have seen but the ones I have seen usually have certain factors in common, especially when one of the spouses has a new partner.
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#6 of 18 Old 11-17-2005, 01:56 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shanagirl
lisac -GREAT post. All so true. I was just doing volunteer work setting up a book fair at dds school tonight and I was struck by how very very much parents feel they have to be involved in the childrens' schooling, to an exhausting degree. I too was an indifferent student for a number of years. But my parents let me take my lumps. They let me know they weren't happy, I did get grounded sometimes. But our lives were not about how I did in school. Now I see mothers who know the content of every book their children read and study. And the first thing that pops into my head is how much more miserable I would have been if, in addition to struggling to be motivated (because of other things going on in my life) I also had had several adults heavily overseeing so much of it and wtching me closely every day. It would have made me despair and hate school AND them. Motivation really does have to come from within, and reality (failing, having to repeat) can be a great motivator. You cannot force growth on someone, it has to come from within.

But this is such a delicate situation with the divorce and custody issues at hand because the system favors the mother and she appears to be a big part of the problem if the OP is taken at face value. Meaning no offense, from the divorce/custody situations I have seen, I do believe the children always suffer more than many people--even good people-- want to admit, which exacerbates the child's anger and related behavior. I will offer this for what it's worth, I may be totally off, but is it possible it would help if you back out of involvement with the son's school issues and just be a nonjudgmental, listening presence for him right now and leave it to your husband to resolve with his ex? That you do not express opinions about his son, and kind of let everyone know this is between the original family members. That may take some of your 'threat' away from his ex wife over time so that she can focus on what's best for her son if she's not fearing/resenting you as much as she sounds like she does right now? And it would take some pressure off the son not having three adults so intensely aware of his behavior and performance.

I may be way off and drawing parallels to other situations I have seen but the ones I have seen usually have certain factors in common, especially when one of the spouses has a new partner.
wow- I wish I could have put it the way you so eloquently did-but its kinda hard whilst breastfeedin'!
I hope I didn't come across to harshly
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#7 of 18 Old 11-17-2005, 02:59 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks all. That's very good advice.

Sad thing is, we've tried to use techniques given to us by teachers, school counselors, therapists, parenting instructor, the church, and two vice principles.

They all basically say let him hold his own. If he fails, then he fails and will try harder next year. They say let the teachers deal with his failing grades and lack of effort to a high degree.

The problem is...for example (if I repeated this once already I appologize) mom took dad to court this year for full custody. One of the prime reasons was that my stepson received a 93% on a report that he could have received a 95%, because he erased a sentence about beer and it was my fault. Truth of the matter was that I told him to elaborate and he deleted it to avoid doing more work. His teacher said just a few children got a grade as good as his.

If we back off and let him fail, then she could take us through another expenseive custody battle.

I understand the part about a child has two parents and all, but that doesn't work in our situation. For the first 3 years everything was fine. He would occasionally push blame on me to get himself out of a jam with mom. The problem is this year he has 6 teachers instead of one that are all coming down hard on him. He is releasing that stress out on me even more.

One other note, it doesn't matter what my husband does or says to or in front of my stepson, he always tells his mom it was me. So if my husband disciplines him, he tells her I did it. Also, if his sister tries to correct him and say it was dad who disciplined him, mom says dad only does it because stepmom tells him to.

We are in the middle of a 730 psych eval. I hope the truth of this all comes
out in there. Problem is, relating all this to the evaluator without soundling like we are just trying to badmouth mom or sound like overwhelmed parents.

Now I know you might say that the kids are just telling us this, but we have emails from mom and stepdad telling us almost word for word some of the stuff the children tell us.
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#8 of 18 Old 11-17-2005, 03:42 AM
 
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So, looking at this from your stepson's perspective, there are at least 10 adults evaluating his performance and work-- 6 teachers 'coming down hard on him' and four adults arguing over him-- mom, dad, stepmom and stepdad...? This seems like an awful lot of attention and pressure on one 12 year old.
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#9 of 18 Old 11-17-2005, 04:16 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Yep, which is why he is falling further into depression, chewing his finger nails until they bleed, saying hateful things to his little sister, trying to provoke his older stepbrother into hitting him so he can call out for help, has stopped taking showers (instead wets his hair and pretends to take showers), etc.

It's a no-win situation. For him or for me.

Guess we'll try to fall back and let the teachers reprimand him. Let's see how that works.

I wonder how popular scenario is. Will this evaluator be surprised when he hears our story? How do I sound positive instead of exhausted?

P.S. He's also had 5 therapists in the last 3 years who have tried to figure things out & give him advice plus two court ordered mediators to tell his story to and now this evaluator.
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#10 of 18 Old 11-17-2005, 04:26 AM
 
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Try a new outlook that will help you feel positive.
You are empowering your stepson to know what it means to succeed.
You are removing the barriers in your relationship which exist as a result of the constant battle over school.
You are giving him what all adolescents crave, autonomy. The only person his school success affects is himself.
If most of the "Defiant" behavior is a result of the battle of wills over school, you might be transfering your house from a battleground to a warm inviting home.
And remember, the school has records of his moms unwillingness to cooperate with the teacher etc. . . if his grades look bad for somebody in the custody battle it will be her.
If you parent out of fear (fear of bad grades, fear of losing custody) your decisions will serve the fear and NOT the needs of the child.
If you do something that doesnt work, or even makes things worse because at least you are "doing something" it is time to reevaluate if doing something is really better than doign nothing. Is the "cure" really worse than the problem calls for?
It is exhausting. I know. I worry every day that my daughters decisions will not serve her future well. But by not fighting her on them and just being there as a loving presence and a sounding board I am hoping she makes better decisions than she would if she was resenting me looking over her shoulder all the time.
Oh and grab a copy of Positive Parenting for Teens by Jane Nelson.
IT has a lot in it about letting go of our fear of our childrens mistakes!
I read a little bit every day to give me strength and pespective.

Good luck! Get yourself a massage or do whatever it takes to lighten your load a little.
Joline
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#11 of 18 Old 11-17-2005, 09:57 AM
 
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Excellent point, Joline. I feel so sorry for this boy... all of the adults in his life are serving him at cross purposes. Seems like a classic case of being overly "child-centered." He is desperately seeking for someone to lay down the rules with him and set an example of how to behave, but he's getting nothing from all sides.

In addition, he's 12. He's trying to be independent (because that's what 12-year-olds do) but how can he really be?

Best of luck to the whole family. I hope you can all find some peace.
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#12 of 18 Old 11-17-2005, 10:14 AM
 
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Just a thought...I would consider that he is not only lying to her about you, but he may also be lying to you about things she says and does.

Unfortunately, when parents are battling it out like this, and not communicating, children will take whatever power they can from the situation. You, your dh and his mother are all fighting with eachother, and that must really be disturbing to stepson. He is only trying to survive in such an ugly situation.

This might sound harsh, but I think it needs to be said. Until the grownups start acting like grownups, the child will continue to take whatever control of the situation he can.

I would back off the kid, and let his mom and dad figure out how to communicate better in order to improve the situation.
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#13 of 18 Old 11-17-2005, 11:00 AM
 
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My mother raised two stepsons from the ages of 5 & 7. Things were better when she backed totally off and let the parents hash it out. She had to let go of worrying about grades and anything like that. It was hard, because she raised 4 other children in a totally different manner. She was very hands -on etc. But these children were not hers and already had two parents. It wasn't fair, they hurt her feelings with their steadfast loyalty to their less-than-stellar mother (which she now knows was only natural and normal) etc. I can't tell you how many times it pained me to see my mother so hurt and how many times i cursed (quietly) her love for their father. Why couldn't she have married a guy without kids, or at least with grown kids?

You might be exhausted and hurt, but unless you are planning to leave their Dad, you're stuck letting the parents deal with the big stuff --even though it impacts every aspect of your life. From watching my mother all these years (my stepfather is only a couple of years older than i am), I see that trying to have as much say as the parents only backfires on the stepmother in a big way.

I always felt sorry for my stepbrothers; they often got the worst of both their bio parents (due to the animosity they had for each other--esp the boys mother for the father), and couldn't accept the best of my mother most often. They at least had the benefit of my mother not participating in the pulling and disagreement. She could read to them, play board games with them, feed them etc and it took her a long time not to want to interevene when she saw them acting in negative ways her bio kids hadn't.

They are young adults now, one is married with kids, the other living on his own , and appreciate my mother, although their allegiance is still with their own mother in all ways, even though she is not the most stable person. Compared to my bio sibs, these kids are not as emotionally stable or successful. They have too much baggage from parental strife. When my parents divorced, there were no step parents to deal with. We were already adults when our mother remarried.
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#14 of 18 Old 11-17-2005, 11:02 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Suzetta

This might sound harsh, but I think it needs to be said. Until the grownups start acting like grownups, the child will continue to take whatever control of the situation he can.

I would back off the kid, and let his mom and dad figure out how to communicate better in order to improve the situation.
I agree.
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#15 of 18 Old 11-17-2005, 12:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I know you are all correct in a real world with the "parents hash it out" and "adults be adults" . But in this world it's a bit different.

Mom is a violent and hostile person. My husband has a restraining order against her. Her current husband was granted a restraining order against her last year, but let it go after she promised to get help (which she never did). She made threats to her current husband just recently in front of the kids like "Those frying pans really work and you have to go to sleep sometime". This was in a police report that I saw. Stepdad has called the police on mom several times for DV. I have declarations from 4 other men who were physically and verbally abused by her. The children have been there every time except for one.

She was supposed to take anger management but refused because she said it was other peoples fault she got angry at them.

Dad and I have nothing to do with mom except via email & attorneys. Before the restraining order, she would call us several times a day to argue about one thing or the other (mostly how she wanted him to leave me). She did this with the children in the same room as her. She fought with us at every child exchange. She stalked my home to find out where we went and when we returned. We knew this because she sent us emails complaing about where we went & the exact time we returned.

Now she and her husband sends hateful emails telling my husband he loves me and my son more than his children and he's not man enough to tell me he wants to talk to her. Oh, and they send emails stating that my husband is treating the children bad because mom left him. Sounds like mom still can't let go of the past.

She also read my response to her modification motion to the children and some of the old emails my husband sent her. She told them how mean I am to her. I know this because she said it in an email and the kids quoted some of the sentences in the court paperwork.

I know it's easy to say let the parents hash this out. But my husband has tried everything. We had "parents therapy" in 2004. The therapist wanted us to go every other week. He wanted parents & stepparents. It didn't work. We worked on specific incidences rather than what's driving those incidences.

I know it's easy to say everyone needs to act like adults, but what else can you do with someone who has hated your wife a full year before she met her, blames everything on your wife, refuses to coparent, refuses to hold children responsible for their actions, and threatens to take you to court each and everytime she sends you an email with complaints about you.

After 4 years of trying to reason with mom, a few months ago my husband stopped replying to any derogatory emails, refused to comment on anything the children said and held them responsible for their actions. This is when things got worse. She started going through the kids even more.

I agree that these children will side with mom all the way until the end. Stepson once said that he knows his mom does bad things but he will never tell anyone because he doesn't want to get her in trouble. Stepdaughter says mom gets really angry sometimes and sometimes she don't so she's okay.

My husband and I hold my son (15 years old) to the same standards as his children. My ex and I have a very good relationship. My son has never had the opportunity to try to get our focus on each other. Sometimes he complains to me that his dad doesn't do for him what I do, but I tell him that people are different. End of story.

My husband has decided to send the teachers an email letting them know the situation at home and how it's more harm than good. He's going to ask them to follow through with what they have said they would do (hold him to the same standards as the other children, not accept poorly written work, not accept late or incomplete work, give him study hall if he doesn't get classwork done, etc). So far the teachers have let him slide more than others. They have given us time to help him clean up HW from mom's house. The HW is dated, if mom tries to use it, we can show the dates compared to the custody schedule. That should clear that up.

This way we can have fun family time and if he fails it's on him.

What do you think about that???
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#16 of 18 Old 11-17-2005, 01:41 PM
 
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Bit you can't change any of that. You can only change your reactions, as hard as it is. the children aren't going to stop loving her. And you have to decide whether you can emotionally afford to be exhausted by it. I mean, you will be and all, but it's not about you. You have to self-preseve and take care of your children.

The thing is, sweetie, you *cannot* do anything. You have no power here. dad needs to discipline, hash it out however that is. You have to take care of yourself so you can be a caring step mother, and sadly, pretty much just a witness to disaster.

I hope the mom gets what she needs so she can try to be there for her kids. But you can't make that your job...

I'm so sorry you're sufferring, that the kids are sufferring etc. My mother went through a lot with her step kids and is was often very sad to watch. She came through it ok. She had to develop a certain detachment as she had no power over the other parent, or over the kids reactions to what was happening.
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#17 of 18 Old 11-17-2005, 04:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yep, your right...my mind knows you are right...my heart is still coming around.

My son sometimes wishes mom would take the stepkids and leave the state. Of course he only tells me this in private. He loves them, but he hates all the court & therapy.

He also wishes we had them full time so they couldn't do the back and forth thing.

I go through this about 3 times a year. I get all wound up and let it all out. Then I calm down and think that kids have survived much worse and I need to focus on me and my son a little more.

Tomorrow the kids go back to mom for her week. I think I will give myself a little TLC that week.
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#18 of 18 Old 11-17-2005, 05:02 PM
 
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I just wanted to suggest a couple of books that might help. "How to talk so your kids will listen, how to listen for your kids will talk", "Kids, Parents and Power Struggles" and "The 5 Love Language of children".

The first two give some awesome communication tools that can change your home pretty much instantly. Things like reflective listen and validation. The 3rd talks about how we receive love. If we aren't "speaking" our child's love language they aren't feeling love, even if we think we are loving them. May not make sense until you read it but it is fascinating and I think it would help.

I'm sorry for all you are going through. My heart is aching for this boy! I hope you find some tools that help and can bring the joy back into your family.

Anna
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