HELP — The Bump
School-Aged Children

HELP

I need advice.  My Stepdaughter is 10. Her mother left her when she was 4 and she has only had phone conversations with her recently.  We keep SD all of the time.  I've been around for 3 years now and over the years SD has been continuously getting more and more aggressive.  We've had her in therapy for 3 years (since my husband and I met, due to the adjustment of a new relationship) - and each therapist has tested her and she has not been diagnosed with anything.. not even ADHD.  However, my SD is abusive.  She is verbally abusive - she calls my husband and I stupid and tells us she hates us and tells us to shut up.  She also is physically abusive.  She kicks and punches and has full blown toddler tantrums at the age of 10.

We've had her in therapy.  We've taken everything.. and I do mean EVERYTHING but her bed and dresser out of her bedroom and had her work for her stuff back.. but everytime she works for her stuff back.. she gets it back and then the battle starts all over.  We've tried positive rewards.. such as a "surprise" bag for good behavior.  We've spent extra time with her and recently in June I had a baby and I'm terrified she's going to do something to hurt him.

 What can I do? I want to hit her back to show her she can't bully me, but I do not believe in spanking.  I have sat down and really spent time talking to her about how much we love her and we have a very open house where we talk about everything.  I can't figure out what is causing my SD tantrums.  Honestly, it is as if we say NO and she sees red and immediately goes into a panic rage!  She isn't getting any help from therapy because she isn't angry when she goes into therapy, therefore she seems like a cute rational young lady who is very cooperative and understanding.  SD doesn't have any problems at school, no problems with friends, no problems anywhere but at home.  She honestly thinks she is queen of the house and is very disruptive.

 What can I do if therapy isnt working?  How do I stop her from hitting?

Oh, and time out! hahaha.. I had to actually put a lock on her door (on the outside) and when she becomes physical and dangerous to the household she is locked in her room until she calms down. (which normally takes 40 minutes or more) and now, she's learned how to pick the lock and she runs around the house throwing stuff and laughing and screaming.

I'm at a loss.  I love the little girl as much as I love my son and we do everything to show her and she still is abusive. 

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Re: HELP

  • What is causing it is most likely the abandonment issues, even of she does not remember her Mom being around it is going to affect her, even if she is unaware. And she likely does this to see if you guys will leave her too. Post on the blended family board, there are a lot of people that are/have gone through it too so even if you do not get the answer you will at least feel less alone.
    Jen - Mom to two December 12 babies Nathaniel 12/12/06 and Addison 12/12/08
  • Try to get some video when she's melting down and take that in to her therapist and see where it leads.  You're going to find it will provoke her in a hurry while there because she's not going to want others to see her the way she really is during those times...
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  • I have a 10 year old son (w/ ADHD) and so help me, it must be in the air. I have not dealt with the abuse but his attitude is terrible. Have you considered that she may be jealous of the new baby and maybe thinking that he will have two loving parents and she got shafted? I also have a SS, who is 13 and he often tells us that he is jealous of DS b/c he has both parents at all times. Just a thought. As far as the behavior with being abusive, I would punish her by spanking, just enough to let her know who's really in charge. I have to remind my DS of this often. It works, and will get her attention.
  • This sounds like a very complicated situation with lots of different nuances.  I'm not sure how much help I can give, but I will share some observations I have after reading your post.

    --It seems like you all may have reached a stage where you have become very focused on crime and punishment.  It may be that you've just emphasized that because you want to let everyone know how serious things are with your SD, of course.  I think it's possible that things have devolved to a situation where both you and the child are locked in a "kid acts out/parent reacts/kid acts out worse/parent reacts more strongly" kind of cycle.  I'm not sure how you would break out of this cycle, but I would look for a way.

    --You have been fairly focused on getting a diagnosis from the therapists.  I have noticed that lots of people can get hung up on achieving a diagnosis, and I'm not sure that's so important.  Really, a diagnosis is just going to give you a term to apply to this problem.  It's not going to solve the problem.  I would stay focused on a plan to deal with your SD's behavior.  If necessary, I would switch to a new therapist who will focus on behavior management and on helping you and your H to come up with techniques to deal with your SD.

    --Consistency and structure will help with any child who has behavior issues.  You can't go wrong with consistent expectations and a structured environment.  

    Hang in there!  Sounds like you have a tough situation on your hands! 

    High School English teacher and mom of 2 kids:

    DD, born 9/06/00 -- 12th grade
    DS, born 8/25/04 -- 7th grade
  • image reynoldsx4:
    As far as the behavior with being abusive, I would punish her by spanking, just enough to let her know who's really in charge. I have to remind my DS of this often. It works, and will get her attention.

    Honestly, I wouldn't go this route.  Not to start a nasty debate, but there are far better ways to "let her know who's really in charge" than through spanking.

    Never mind all the moral objections to spanking -- everyone has to make their own choice when it comes to that.  There's a MAJOR practical reason for not relying on spanking to solve your problem.  You're already dealing with a kid with serious behavior problems who works hard to show you that SHE'S the boss of you.  She's already behaving in an abusive manner toward you.  Do you seriously think she wouldn't suffer through a spanking and laugh in your face?  And then what do you do?  You've already played your trump card.  What do you do to show her "you're boss" if she laughs off the spanking?  Spank her harder?  Spank her with a switch?  With a belt?  With a 2x4?

    Where do you draw the line, if she is willing to suck up a spanking in order to keep acting out?  

    With kids like this, spanking is even LESS effective than with kids who don't have serious behavior issues. 

    High School English teacher and mom of 2 kids:

    DD, born 9/06/00 -- 12th grade
    DS, born 8/25/04 -- 7th grade
  • everyone has different views on spanking, I totally get and respect that. This however is the most effective in my home.
  • image reynoldsx4:
    I have a 10 year old son w/ ADHD and so help me, it must be in the air. I have not dealt with the abuse but his attitude is terrible. Have you considered that she may be jealous of the new baby and maybe thinking that he will have two loving parents and she got shafted? I also have a SS, who is 13 and he often tells us that he is jealous of DS b/c he has both parents at all times. Just a thought. As far as the behavior with being abusive, I would punish her by spanking, just enough to let her know who's really in charge. I have to remind my DS of this often. It works, and will get her attention.

    Ok, sure that is a great idea, spank the 10yo stepkid with abandonment issues! Teach the kid another way to hit!
    Jen - Mom to two December 12 babies Nathaniel 12/12/06 and Addison 12/12/08
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