How to combat false abuse accusations/implications?
Over the last two years, SS10 has mentioned a couple of things his mom has said to him that are meant to make him believe hubby and I are abusive: "If they ever leave a red mark on you, take a picture and I'll use it in court" and "If they withhold food, call CPS." She also brings up all kinds of criticisms of Hubby's parenting in arguments with him, accusing him of "withholding personal hygiene" and other stuff.
So, sensible advice please. Are the following inappropriate or abusive, and if so, what's the alternative for a child who is being extremely volatile and/or defiant?
I do very occasionally give SS10 a single smack on the butt with my hand (last time was in late 2022), but only after I've tried everything else (time out, taking away screen time) and he continues to throw a toddler-style tantrum. One smack usually makes him straighten up.
(His mom and stepdad spank him occasionally too, despite his mom having once "pinky promised" him she'd never spank him again.)
(If anyone has advice dealing with an extremely volatile 10-year-old without ever spanking, I'm all ears; I hate spanking.)
As for "withholding food," that came up like a year and a half ago when I told SS10 to put down his phone and help the rest of us make pizza. SS8, Hubby, and I were cheerfully working on it and trying to convince him to help, but SS10 (then about 9) just lay on the floor wailing "It's too hard!" until the pizza was done. I warned him near the beginning that he had to help if he wanted to eat it. Then when the pizza was in the oven I said, "You can still have pizza if you wash this sink of dishes." It was a reasonable amount of work for a then 9-year-old - the dishes were mostly just a few medium to large ones that we had used to make the pizza, it wasn't a sink full of forks or anything. He just went upstairs and started watching TikTok again. I took his phone away, gave him a smoothie, and said "Drink this to tide you over." He refused it without touching it, saying, "It's disgusting and so are you." The kids also always have fresh fruit and vegetables available to snack on, but he was holding out for pizza without having to do any work. He never did drink the smoothie or do the dishes, so when his mom came an hour or so later he was still hungry. He told me later that she then bought him Arby's, said I was withholding food, and told him to call CPS if it happened again.
(Fyi, SS10 was, and still is, clearly a well-fed child, bordering on chunky.)
That was a year and a half ago. I'm very particular about making sure the kids eat healthy food and not too much junk food, but the "withholding food" thing didn't come up again until 5 days ago when I told SS10, who recently had a course of antibiotics, to drink a glass of milk (which he loves) in which I had mixed some probiotic powder. He said "I don't want to" and walked away. I drank the milk myself (it tasted fine), mixed him another glass, and told him he had to drink it before eating dinner or anything else. He eventually drank it and joined us for dinner without making a scene, but the next morning I picked up my phone and saw he'd looked up "what is cps's number". Wifi was off so he didn't find it. When we asked him about it he said he was going to call them "because you told me I couldn't eat food."
During the ensuing conversation, hubby and I both encouraged him to go online and research child abuse and neglect. I don't think he's done this yet.
BM feeds them pretty much the SAD, and when SS10 started getting chubby she accused us of feeding him too many snacks. (Snacks, at our house, are fruits and vegetables.) And she "put him on a diet," which in her mind is still feeding him sweetened cereal and hot pockets and chicken sandwiches on white buns with barbecue sauce - she just tells him to stop eating while he's still hungry. No fruits or vegetables. SS10 said they do have apples but those are for the 4-year-old.
I will admit that SS10 has impulse control issues and has been caught sneaking the higher-carb foods such as chips (we buy organic corn tortillas and they are only available to the kids with permission). I know he's done that at both houses. He also dislikes any form of exertion.
Between BM's and ours, though SS10 doesn't like it, he's slimmed down until he's again just a tad chunky.
Hubby "withheld personal hygiene" from SS8 when he assigned him a chore (helping hubby mulch the garden), SS8 tried to get out of it by saying he wanted a bath, hubby told him to finish the chore first, SS8 broke down crying for a while then finally finished the chore, and when hubby reminded him about the bath he said he didn't want it anymore.
At our house, the kids bathe 2-3 times a week (they love baths) and in the summertime sometimes as often as 3x a day. So I know for certain that's an unreasonable accusation.
We don't ever require the kids to do chores beyond their abilities, but BM always brings up in arguments with hubby that he makes them do too many chores and after this she accused him of "withholding personal hygiene."
BM rarely makes them do chores, never makes them do school work (they are homeschooled which she had originally wanted - they are only getting an education at our house), never takes them anywhere they can meet friends, and there is no bedtime at her house (the one time she ever imposed bedtime it was 1am - no joke). They literally play video games and watch TikTok and Youtube all day and half the night.
But she does make them strip down the minute they get to her house, take a bath (even if they literally just took one before leaving) and put on fresh clothes. She says they stink because I hang the clothes on a line to dry & the clothes absorb the farm smells. True? IDK, maybe. I think the clothes smell wonderful, but we do have billy goats which can be really stinky in August and September. But SS10 says she never sniffs them or anything, just tells them to get in the bath.
If you've read this far, thanks! Advice? Are we being unreasonable or is she? Or both of us?
Keep in mind the incidents I described are isolated ones, not regular occurrences.
We are not perfect by any means, but we're always trying to improve our parenting skills so constructive criticism is welcomed.
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So the big thing here is that
So the big thing here is that SS is manipulating you into not having to do regular household chores and help out and then he cries to bio mom. I don't see anything wrong at all with what you did. He's clearly using these tactics and because bio mom is encouraging it, it's hard to combat.
I would advise heavily against any kind of spank or patt on the butt.
Stick to your guns about the chores and helping out but I think it would be advisable to try a different approach there. Maybe take away his phone or something. Have your partner follow through and make sure he does a what's asked. I would have your partner do any kind of request to him whatsoever make it come from him and him alone. Any sort of discipline, asking the kid to do chores, etc.
Thanks for the advice!
Thanks for the advice!
My problem is I do start with taking away screen time. That sometimes works, but other time SS10 just escalates. If I send him to time out he either refuses to go, screams the whole time, or (occasionally) kicks holes in the wall and breaks things. He's currently on assignment to repair the wall and his bed, asking for help if he needs it but doing as much as he can himself.
Spanking is rare and a last resort. I agree with you it's not a good solution, but how else do I deal with destructiveness or incessant screaming, too loud or disrespectful to ignore?
If you can't control the
If you can't control the child, you should NEVER be alone with him. Where is your SO in all of this? He should be handling these issues, not you. There should be set rules & consequences.
P.S. - my DS was taller then me at 10. You need a new solution - fast.
Hubby is also very involved
Hubby is also very involved with the kids and backs me up 100%, but he does work full time - partly from home. I'm a full time SAHM and if you're in my house I demand respectful behavior, I don't care who you are or how old or young. I don't want to disengage, first because I do love both SSs; second because it's my house, my rules; third because my feelings toward SS10 are a whole lot more pleasant when I parent him firmly than when I don't.
Since BM also works full time, a lot of parenting falls on Stepdad, so I feel that gives me permission to parent. I just want advice on how best to do it.
The term "parental alienation" The BM is engaging in parental alienation. You have pretty much described word for word what we've all experienced.
The big question is does your DH parallel parent or does he just give in to the HCGUBM's relentless psychological warfare?
It sounds as though you are doing most of the heavy lifting as regards parenting SS which is a no no and will backfire if he doesn't see the parenting coming 99% from HIS dad.
Oh my gosh yes! I figured
Oh my gosh yes! I figured this out near the beginning and I've read Divorce Poison cover to cover...twice!
The "poison control" tactics really work, but it's emotionally exhausting to do over and over - and the repetition of toxicity is still having a very detrimental effect on SS10's mental health, and mine as well.
He's in therapy (on our time only...of course), which helps but of course can't stop the toxicity.
In answer to your question, hubby does his best to walk the tightrope of accommodating her when possible, putting his foot down when necessary. He does work full time, partly from home. So it's true I do most of the heavy lifting but he is also very involved.
However, when he's present I see no reason I can't step back and let him do the parenting. It's "switching modes" that's hard and I don't always think to do it. Thanks for the reminder.
So nice you have the book and
So since you have the book and have read it twice ( it was my go to ). Get the Pluto movie. He's plenty old enough to watch it. In fact watch it with him and as I did, after the first viewing, if my bio or skid started retreating into snarky behaviors I suggested another Pluto watch. After a second one, the mere mention of it was a trigger to them to shape up. I also like you demanded respect for my role as adult in the home. From my bios and skids. We were blending 7 in The early days and I was not going to have a mutiny in my hands! Bonus, it's nice to send a skid back to a HCBM with questions.
We do have Pluto & have
We do have Pluto & have watched it once, but that was shortly after the alienation started, a couple years ago - we could probably benefit from watching it again!
We did watch Mrs. Doubtfire the other day & the kids got very emotional. That seemed to calm down the issues...for this week at least!
I do very occasionally give
Thank you for the advice. I
Thank you for the advice. I DEFINITELY understand how you feel, being a BM as well as a SM myself.
Ok, so making him help out or take probiotics before dinner is fine in your opinion, not abusive - good to know.
What would be natural consequence for screaming loudly and saying button-pushing things when sent to time-out - or refusing to go altogether? If I've already tried taking away screen time and it hasn't worked.
So for an overall
So for an overall disrespectful attitude I like manual labor. Pulling weeds, wiping down baseboards, folding all the laundry, etc. Give him about 30 mins worth of work when the event happens.
If he refuses, exclusion is a good fall back. Take the rest of the kids for ice cream/bowling/to the park/ whatever and make him stay behind with DH. They get rewards for NOT being A-holes and he doesn't get the treat or event.
My DS has grown up & moved
My DS has grown up & moved out. I am proud of him, but I hate having to wash my own baseboards :-(
Yup, this is pure parental
Yup, this is pure parental alienation. BM doesn't like how you or your DH is parenting in your household, so she is taking efforts to control how you parent, by encouraging SS to call CPS if he doesn't like the rules. Does BM ever communicate her dislike for your household practices to DH? Our BM used to send DH lengthy emails (we used to call them report cards) about all the things she disapproved of during our visitation - SS had dessert, SS stayed up too late, SS played too much video games, SS heard someone swear in his presence, SS got a bug bite, SS got a sunburn. It was always like "Damn wrap the kid in bubble wrap BM." When we went to court, BM tried to use all these emails as evidence of DH's poor parenting. The judge laughed and said it was a difference of opinion and that she needed to butt out of DH's household.
Your BM is taking things to the next level with threats of CPS and documentation. I would not be alone with SS ever. HCBMs love to target the SMs when they cannot get to their ex. I would also not spank or really provide any punishment - let your DH do all the discipline. You can both agree to what those punishments look like, but let him execute it. I also recommend adding cameras inside the home. We had to do this after BM accused us of abusing my stepson with a NERF gun and our attorneys recommended it during our custody battle, in case BM riled up and made false accusations." We had one camera for all communal areas and one above SS' bedroom door. You can't put them in bedrooms or bathrooms for obvious reasons, but putting one that faces the door can help fight allegations of sexual abuse in the night. You can remove them when SS isn't there and put them up when he is; they make some with a magnetic base that just snap in and out. I think you will see BM change her tune very quickly when she realizes there are cameras recording yours and SS' every move and that SS' not so nice or perfect behavior is being captured on film. Don't let your guard down with this type of BM. They will go to insane lengths to make life difficult.
Cameras are a great idea!
Cameras are a great idea! Thanks!
For a while I had a background video camera going on my phone, and I would carry it around with me, even setting it up to show the whole room I was in. The files were just so big though I didn't know where to put them. It also encouraged me to be on my best behavior, which is always a good thing. I'll have to look into security cameras.
We have the Arlo system. It
We have the Arlo system. It used to be inside, but now we use it for outside. They come with 4 cameras and they have bases that you mount to the wall, but the cameras clip in magnetically to that base, so it is super easy to put them up and take them down. It catches all video and audio via motion detection and stores it all on a cloud based app. It worked wonders for us.
When BM made her allegations, we offered the courts two weeks worth of constant video footage and told them they could sift through every second of our lives for two weeks. They quickly declined, realizing if anyone was smart enough to have cameras in their home, they likely weren't doing anything that they wouldn't want recorded.
When my SS was 14 or 15 there
When my SS was 14 or 15 there were vague accusations of abuse in court. Nothing specific and our lawyer squashed SS's statement fast BUT I immediately bought cameras. Mine were just a 4 pack on Amazon for $100 and it was $9/mo for monitoring. It held 30 days worth of footage. We told SS that if he is going to make another accusation he better have a date and time because he is now monitored. -- Never got another word of abuse again.
I would *NEVER* spank someone
I would *NEVER* spank someone else's child. I will give my DD a swat on the butt from time to time (like if she runs out in the street), but I would not even consider that for the SDs. If my DH chooses to spank them, that's his prerogative, but no how, no way am I going to do that.
Nothing else that you're doing seems the slightest bit out of line. Your SS sounds manipulative, and BM sounds like she may be engaging in some parental alienation. You might consider cameras for your home.
No of course the things you
No of course the things you've done are not abusive, however you are trying to parent a child that is not yours. With a BM like his, you should never lay a hand on him again. You should really never be alone with him, you are not responsible for him, and he really shouldn't be there if DH can't be home. You will have no impact on how he turns out. If he wants to be a brat and a tub of lard, that's up to him and his parents.
He is oppositional and in a power struggle with authorities. The only way to win is to not play the game. Ignore/avoid him as much as possible. Don't offer him smooties, milk, vitamins, probiotics, or any other special thing. He's old enough to get what he needs for himself. If there is something you don't want him to have, lock it up or hide it. Because of the drama, maybe don't make any meals contingent on anything. Just serve meals, and if he eats it, he does, if he doesn't, he doesn't. Don't give him any advice or feedback or argue with him about anything, it's attention he doesn't deserve. If he wants to call cps, he can go right ahead and try. There is food in the house, healthy snacks are available, he was offered dinner, and he refused. Too bad. (One time when we were out and about on vacation, with a little smirk on her b!tchy face, Killjoy refused to eat when we stopped for lunch. Fine, no one argued. An hour later we were busy doing something and she complained she didn't get lunch. I guess we were all suppoed to drop what we were doing and take her to a restaurant of her choosing? The joke was on her. I told her lunch was over and she should make better choices next time. I told her to make sure to tell Satan we didn't feed her, and tell Satan to call cps on us. Then I chuckled. Killjoy was speechless with rage.)
If he's screaming his head off, leave the room and close the door. Don't give him attention. (I'd go so far as to laugh at him or take a video, but I'm an azzhole. Killjoy used to throw screaming hissies to get her way. One time DH picked her up, set her down in the bathroom, and closed the door. Another time, my son and I just sat there and screamed back at her, that shut her right up.)
Password protect the wifi. Have DH take his electronics away. DH can handle SS's chores and consequences.
If he gets violent, call the cops on him.
You need to take a step back when it comes to discipline.
You need to take a step back when it comes to discipline. If BM makes a complaint to CPS and they decide there is a problem in your household, they could remove your children. It is worse case scenerio, but it could happen.
Never, ever lay a hand on your SS again. All discipline needs to come from DH. I know you said he works full time, but there are ways for discipline to come from him. Honestly, you should never be alone with SS. If you can't do that, then get cameras in all public places in your house. BM is absolutely laying the groundwork for a complain and SS is clearly going to cooperative with whatever she comes up with. You have to protect yourself and your children
Time to start rubbing BM's nose in the stench of her idiocy.
With holding hygiene? Is that even a thing?
As for the calls to CPS, when that happens, sue the shit out of BM for defamation of character and put her ass living under a local highway overpass.
Web cams. Everywhere. To clearly document the Skid tantrums, and total lack of neglect, etc... Though a swat to the rump may not play well so be careful about the swats. Though I for one have zero issue with corporal punishment to reconnect a kid's brain with enforced behavioral standards.
No, you are not being unreasonable. BM... is just a dumbass pure and simple.