Dear Miss A,
My son is 9 and is behavior is very defiant. He has stolen from a classmate and from a friend of mine all in oneday,called a special needs child a retard at a telthon I attended, and he hits me and his two younger brothers. He has no respect for me or other adults. I am seeing a behavioralist for 1 year and it is not helping. There is not to much I can do exept be consistent on my end because of different parenting styles. I am consistent with punishments. I dicipline him and then his father calls to argue with me about it making me out to be the bad guy. My son refuses to come home, and would rather stay at his dad’s. It really hurts. Any advice?
My first thought upon reading your email was that you should let him stay with his father for a while, if that’s what he wants, and if your ex seems to think he knows best how to raise your son. You have two other sons to raise, who deserve some quality time with you without your constantly having to devote negative attention to your eldest son.
Then I started thinking about the 20 year old I met at the Barkley Square Bakery Yappy Hour earlier this evening. His mother died when he was only a few years old, and his father beat the crap out of him until he finally ran away at age 17, and was forced to steal cars for chop shops in Trenton, NJ to make $2000 per car to pay his rent. He is now very remorseful and ashamed at how good he was at being a car thief. He asked me for water so he could take his medication for ADHD, and fortunately has Medicare and Medicaid to get his prescriptions.
Nature and Nurture work together to shape who we are in the present, how we evolve over time, and in the end, what we accomplish with the life that was given to us. In the case of my new friend who I met tonight, it’s clear that lack of Nurture did a great deal of damage. I’m sure your divorce is toughest on your oldest son as he remembers more of living with both parents in the home. I’m guessing that is where the anger comes from. Do you know if he has been the victim of verbal or physical abuse at school, or by a family member? It seems to me he lacks empathy and compassion for others, and doesn’t understand that calling people names or hitting them hurts.
I think you and your ex need to meet with either your current behaviorist, or find a therapist you both respect. I’m guessing your ex doesn’t believe the advice you’re getting from the behaviorist and that’s why he’s not helping you all stay consistent with your son. Finding a therapist both “sides” can agree on seems to be one of the biggest challenges for former couples, as one will often feel the therapist is siding with the other or will disagree with the action plan. I feel for you, because the onus is on you to both solve your son’s behavior problems, and appease your ex-husband’s discipline/therapist issues.
This has got to be a ton of stress on you, and I worry about your younger two boys who don’t get much of your attention and energy. You might consider giving your eldest son to your ex-husband to see if that makes any difference, and perhaps if your ex had your son more often, he’d see the full picture of the behavior, and realize that discipline and consistency are necessary. I also wonder if your younger sons wouldn’t enjoy a much better childhood in a more peaceful household. I think it’s also fair for your ex-husband to share in the joy and the burden of raising these kids.
I wish you the best, Ceecee. Keep me posted, Honey!
– Miss A