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Defiant 13 year old stepson and DH in denial.... PLEASE HELP ME

stepmomcrisis 80's picture

We have had custody of my DH's children for the past 9 years. He had a 21S, 19D and 13S, the older ones have already moved out and started their own life but my 13SS still lives with us. This did not just start, he is supposed to be in the 8th grade but is in the 5th, he has zero learning disabilities, just lazy! We also have 3 children together.

My stepson and I have had a bad relationship for as long as I can remember even though I have tried letting him do things when he did nothing to deserve it or have any fun thinking maybe that would help. I stay on top of what he has for homework every night, I text back and forth with his teacher on a regular basis and he still lies about what he has for homework, says he forgot or the biggest problem is takes literally 10+ hours to do it even if it's only 1 subject.

My DH says it's because of me but like tonight for example, I am the only one in the home working so I was asleep when the kids came home from school at 3:30, my SS told DH what he had for homework which was write his spelling words 5 times each and a math worksheet with 9 problems on it. I woke up at 7 and walked out to speak to everyone and he was still at the table doing math and hadn't even started on spelling. He just sits there and looks at the wall, plays with his hair and listens to what everyone around is saying or doing. He does the same thing when my SD, parents,aunt (who lives with us)is watching them so it is clearly not just me!

My DH stays ill with me because he says all I do is bitch but yet if I keep my mouth shut and don't say anything and just let it go absolutely nothing gets done to him. The past 4 weeks is a prime example because I have been working nights so my aunt has been helping SS with homework and it's the same thing as always and when I tell DH nothing gets done, he only tells SS to tighten up or he can't stay here all night but we've been dealing with this for years and it's only gotten worse. Please, please, please help me!!!

Ispofacto's picture

Does he have a "currency" (i.e. something you can use for leverage), like video games, tv, snacks, outside play?

stepmomcrisis 80's picture

No, because he doesn't do his chores (washing dishes, keep his room clean and clean his bathroom) so he keeps everything taken away from not doing those as well as not listening about anything.

KittyKatMomma's picture

I say stop. YOU. Not DH.
Everybody stop but Dad. let dad handle him.

He's old enough to know better.
We went through this with SS11.

The only 2 that handled him was BM and DH.
The SF got fed up with the drama and fuckery and I was
told I'm way too strict for a boy like him. (Even though
I'm the only one who gets the child to do his work)

So stop beating yourself up and disengage.
let him fail.

Dad has nobody to blame but himself.

stepmomcrisis 80's picture

Thank you for replying! I have tried stopping everything before but when I do nothing gets done by DH and that makes me more irate. My stepson and I literally hate each other and I have nothing good to say about him yet when he's asked why he hates me his excuse is the way I treat him. Guess what... I'm not going to treat an ass like a prince. I treat our children together good because they do good. His oldest son did some of the same crap but never failed and wasn't as bad as 12SS but he picked up on what his older brothers habits and is so much worse, I tried telling DH this would happen but he wouldn't listen. Now we have a 7,8 and 9 year old together and I under no circumstances want mine turning out like him!

ESMOD's picture

We often say on this site that "you can't care more than the bio parent does".

So.. disengagement isn't just not doing the work.. it's learning to let go of the CONTROL over things and to learn that we can't save the world and that in order to stay sane, we have to come to peace with the fact that we can't care about everything.. especially when the children's own parents care so little.

So.. here is what you need to lay out for the boy's father.. and also to the boy himself.

DH- As you know, SS13 continues to struggle with his schoolwork. Since you feel that I am not able to competently handle him, I am going to defer to you. Going forward, I will no longer remind, prod or otherwise hassle him over his schoolwork. I will leave that to you. Obviously, it has become some sort of powerstruggle with the boy and I would hate for him to actually fail as a result of his trying to "win" over me. I don't think anything I can do at this point would be anything but counterproductive. So, again, from now on, I will continue to work with our younger kids, but you are 100% responsible for SS13 when it comes to his work and his responsibilities around the house. I expect that you, as his father, care enough about his success to not let him fail. And by not failing I mean that at age 18/HS graduation he will either be out of the house with a full time job or he will be going to college full time. He will not be welcome to couch surf while he 'get's his act together". So, at this point I am out of the conflict and it is on YOU and SS13 how this turns out.

SS13- I know you and I have gone round and round on your schoolwork and I have some good news. I am no longer going to be on your case about it. The bottom line is that I have already gotten my college degree and have a good job. I'm a successful adult because I did well in school. So, to be honest, if you fail, it really isn't going to impact anyone but yourself. Going forward, your dad is going to be helping you and following up on your schoolwork. Just remember, in the end, you are going to have to figure out how to support yourself as an adult and it will be a LOT easier if you have gotten a good education.. however if you choose not to, it's on you.. I can't care more about your future than you do.

And then wash your hands of it. When the other kids whine about SS13 laying about and failing in school.. point out that they can all have a good laugh when he is towel boy at the local car wash.. that you are their parent and they are your concern and what their dad does with his oldest son has nothing to do with what you expect of them.

KittyKatMomma's picture

Ok I'll repeat myself.

You can not do more then the bio parents.

Let him fail. This is on Dad and Mom.

Not your kid, not your problem.

Mrs Fireball's picture

"My DH says it's because of me"

What a jerk.
Like PP said, just stop helping and let him fail. Focus on yours.

stepmomcrisis 80's picture

Yes he has been tested for ADD and ADHD, he has neither... He is just a lazy kid that thinks he can can always get something for nothing.
I want to let go and let DH handle things with him but I'm afraid he won't do anything or only do something every now and then because that's the way it's always been and I'm honestly not willing to just let that fly in my household. I don't cook and work for him to get punished sometimes and absolutely nothing done to him the majority of the time...

ESMOD's picture

"I'm honestly not willing to just let that fly in my household."


I mean, it is his kid. It's the kid's life. If they want to just slack on through, then that is their problem. That doesn't mean that YOU have to let YOUR kids do the same.

It's not that hard really. "Oh.. why isn't SS13 doing his work while we have to? Well, when you are grown up and have good jobs and he is handing out french fries at the drive through window, you will thank me."


"SS13 is your father's responsibility.. not mine. We aren't talking about SS13, we are talking about YOU.. and as your mother, I get to lay down the rules when it comes to you. You will learn life isn't always fair, but generally the people that do the right thing and work hard will have an easier life and as your mother i want that for you."

I mean, in reality, how does HIM not doing HIS homework impact you? Bad grades? oh well SS13 kiss your hopes of getting into a college of your choice or even getting in to any college. So SS13 doesn't do his chores.. doesn't clean his room. Well, guess what, since your DH has control of this if SS13 doesn't do them.. "oh honey.. the trash needs to go out...Yes, I know that's SS13's chore, but unless you make him do it, YOU will have to do it instead... no, I'm not reminding him, remember we decided it was YOUR job to do that since it was my fault he was failing"

Tell your DH that making YOU be in charge of SS13's stuff is creating a bad relationship and even if it iS your fault... obviously, it is in the kid's best interest if his DAD steps in at this point in time... so that he doesn't continue to fail.

stepmomcrisis 80's picture

I'm not against him failing in school, he's already 3 grades behind for crying out loud I'm against them being under my roof and nothing being done to him. I am the one working and providing for this family and there is certain things I won't tolerate and letting SS get by with everything is one of them.

I may be looking at it the wrong way but everyone has there limits and things that they cannot accept. For me, being okay with nothing being done consistently about disobedient behavior and don't give a shit attitude is some of them

ESMOD's picture

So your husband does not support your family at all? maybe I missed that.

Unfortunately, there are some things that we cannot "force" people to do. As hard as you may try or want it, you can't force the boy to like you, or to respect you.

You also can't apparently "make" him do what you want him to do. So, he spends the next 5 years accomplishing zero... So your husband takes responsibility for it all and nothing comes of it.

Think about it this way... you can do all this agonizing and railing against the storm and in the end, there may be zero difference in the output.

Now, if you don't want to do nice things for the kid.. don't. I would not go out of my way to do anything for him at this point. Beyond cooking when I was cooking for the entire family, I would just let dad deal with it all. Dad can deal with his laundry, his chauffering, his homework etc...

By eliminating this responsibility from YOUR book, you are removing a source of contention with your husband. No longer will you complain to him about his son. Just complain about the messes etc.. and let him do the heavy lifting when it comes to his son.

And.. for goodness sake.. why are you paying to support his boy? Does the guy not work? Does his EX not pay CS? If your DH is so useless that he brings no money into the household and doesn't back you up and blames you for his kid's shortcomings.. I think your problem is more assuredly your HUSBAND and not his son.

stepmomcrisis 80's picture

ESMOD... No ma'am my husband does not work at the moment and has only worked for 9 days in the last 9 months. I get what your saying about letting go and making him take responsibility for his child I honestly do, but at the same time there is still certain things as I previously stated that I will not tolerate in my household and SS getting away with everything he does with no consequences is just one of those things need. My husband is and has been looking for a job to an extent and the problem is both my DH and SS.

I do appreciate you taking the time to give me your input and I have done some research on disengaging. I want to give it a try but hold DH responsible if and when he chooses to do nothing, is that ok or would you advise against it?

ESMOD's picture

Of course... you should hold your husband accountable for ensuring that his son toes the line.. up to and including doing his schoolwork.

9 months is an awful long time to be unemployed though. Perhaps his son sees this and doesn't see the value in work? It's ridiculous that your husband isn't supporting the household in any way and yet expects you to not only bring in all the financial support, but expects you to do all the other family support like cooking and riding herd on the kids over their homework.

At this point, I would be reading my husband the riot act that he better step up his game in the home.. It's absolutely astounding that he expects you to do it all. I mean, what is he there for if you can do it on your own? You would be better off as a single mom with just your 3 bios.

stepmomcrisis 80's picture

My DH does construction work and when it's good the money is great but when it rains and usually close to the holidays it slows down quite drastically. We've had several obstacles in our way this year as well that I prefer not to go into detail about for everyone to see but I will say that it had nothing to do with the children.

So you think it would be best if I disengage from my SS and when my husband doesn't hold him accountable then I'm aloud to bitch right? Not that I like doing it but as I've stated several times I'm not tolerating doing nothing and nothing getting done from either of them.

ESMOD's picture

You obviously "can" complain about it but honestly, you will be happiest if you can just absolve yourself from the responsibility towards his son. So the kid fails.. so what? How does that negatively impact you? That doesn't mean you have to let your own kids have a pass. A simple, "you are not SS13" is enough of a reason.

So the kid does nothing.. If he isn't doing his chores... tell your DH to do them.

I would simply tell your husband that being in charge of his son, when he clearly doesn't respect you and his father clearly thinks you are not competent is going to stop right now. His son, his problem. But.. you are going to hold your DH to be responsible.

BTW... where we live and in many places we have traveled.. I see no end to help wanted signs. There is no good excuse for not earning money for 9 months...

stepmomcrisis 80's picture

Thank you again ESMOD, you seem to be very wise with these situations and I appreciate your advice. I am definitely going to attempt disengaging even if my tongue falls off from biting it so hard trying not to say anything to SS lol

I wish everyone would take the time to read everything a person posts about their situation as you did instead of only focusing on one thing they don't like and begin questioning them only to be made out to be the ass they truly are!

Tomatoe's picture

They dont hold kids back for 3 yrs like this. Not unless they have some serious disabilities and even then its very vert rare.

stepmomcrisis 80's picture

Nobody held him back he failed. He doesn't care about schoolwork, as stated in original post when doing homework he just sits at the table paying attention to what everyone is doing and saying. And yes, I make sure he knows how to do his homework (how to write his spelling words 5 times each, how to add, subtract and multiply for example), I also help him on things he don't get (if he's having trouble with a question in social studies or science) if I see he's trying to help himself (he's already answered 1 or 2 questions but can't seem to find the next one) but I do not try if he's been staring at the wall all afternoon or if he knows where a certain person is at and why they are there but doesn't have anything done on the subject he is supposed to be working on.

He knows I don't mind helping as long as he helps himself or at minimum tries to come up with the answer on his own without just writing something down. He is in school with one teacher 7.5 hours a day which equals 37.5 hours a week, that is more time than he spends awake at home so he has ample amount of time to ask questions if he doesn't understand. I have stressed all of this to him several times and I promise you he is capable of doing it because if I try to bribe him with something (going to the movies for example) he gets it done by himself with no issues and it is done correctly.

ESMOD's picture

So, just curious, what has happened when one of you tries to talk to him about what he hopes to do for a living when he "graduates" (if ever)?

I would think that his school would be highly concerned that he has failed three years and that they haven't suggested some counseling or testing to ensure that there isn't some underlying attention deficit disorder etc...

Maybe academics aren't going to be his thing.. maybe he would be better in a trade school environment?

I think it's incredibly lazy of his father to put all this on your head.

stepmomcrisis 80's picture

I don't know what he was wants to be and haven't asked because at the rate he is going it's not going to matter what he wants to be he will never do anything more than serve fries at McDonald's or shovel shit. I know I sound like an awful person and maybe I am but after 9 years of BS I've had more than enough.

Testing has been done and the teachers, counselors etc. know how he is they see him 5 days a week for 7.5 a day for the majority of the year. They are just like me and know he can do it, it's the point of him wanting to.

Academics not his thing... Then what is? Chores isn't his thing and neither is listening to anyone unless he's getting to do what he wants to do and no job is going to tolerate that either.

ESMOD's picture

Honestly, maybe it's time someone DOES ask this kid what he thinks is going to happen if he continues down this path.

Maybe someone can help him see that the path to what he wants will require that he get past some hurdles.. school being one of them.

It sounds like he needs to understand the facts of life and that food, clothes & housing aren't just given to you for free. You have to earn them somehow.. what does he think he will do when he turns 18?

Ask him.. you may be surprised at his response.. and you may be able to help him understand that there is a method to the madness of school

stepmomcrisis 80's picture

DH and I have both tried telling him how important getting an education is and that we don't won't to see him in prison or dead for doing something stupid to get what he needs to live because he didn't want to get an education and be able to work for it like a responsible adult.

His older brother bounces around from house to house staying with different people and doesn't have a steady job therefore SS13 is following in older brother's footsteps as he has been doing for years but his brother didn't fail even one grade in school and graduated the same time as his classmates he was in kindergarten with so SS13 is already on the wrong path if that's his intentions.

But when we ask what does he think is going to happen when he turns 18 all he says it's idk and he don't care.

ESMOD's picture

What DOES he care about?

Cell phone? TV? Video Games? Bike? Clothes, Shoes? allowance?

Does the kid care about anything at all?

You said "bribes" help.. well maybe making some of the above only available after a certain output from him.

Like.. we hold your cell phone, internet password etc.. until X is done to our satisfaction. He can earn his nice sneakers or whatever.

Find out what matters and you have a motivator for him.

stepmomcrisis 80's picture

Well... All those things are already gone except clothes and shoes due to his constant lying and stealing. Nobody can believe a word that comes out of his mouth including his biological grandparents. It's sad but hardly anyone wants him around whether it's because they don't want his habits rubbing off on their children's, afraid of what he may steak from them (he stole my class ring out of my jewelry box and gave it to his girlfriend, luckily her mom found it and posted it on Facebook and some friends tagged me in it because they knew it was mine and he has some from our kids).

My issue with him goes so much farther than him not wanting to do school work or listen to me. If it was one of my children they would have been sent off well before now.

ESMOD's picture

This absolutely sounds like you should 100% absolve yourself of this problem and place it firmly in the lap of your husband. Right now, while he is still not working, he has nothing but time to devote to his son.

While you DO appear to have a SS problem, you ALSO have a DH problem. That he would say that his kid's actions are somehow your fault when he is sitting right there doing nothing? that's weak.

I would tell your husband that fine.. you have had it... he can take over since you are obviously not up to that task.. with working, taking care of the home and raising THREE other kids. So, his son will be his responsibility from now on. His son's failures will be HIS failures. His son fails... he fails. His son slacks on chores? well, you expect them done by someone.. and that someone isn't going to be YOU. Stealing? Well, DH.. you will replace what is stolen.

stepmomcrisis 80's picture

I know I have repeated this several times but I'm going to say it again.... THANK YOU!!!! As I originally posted I hate my SS but there is multiple reasons as to why. I have give in several times hoping he would do better but it's always the same outcome. I just told DH the other night I'm done. There will be no more than being on my end until his son starts giving instead of taking and that is all there is to it.

ESMOD's picture

You're welcome. This kid is 13 NOT 3. He won't expire from not having you nanny and baby him. I would only do things to benefit him if I was already in the mode of doing it for other people in the home.

Like, I would let him eat a meal I cooked for the whole family but wouldn't go out of my way to drive him to a friend's house.

Look, really sounds like you tried, but maybe his dad actually will make a dent in his mind? who knows.

Tomatoe's picture

Held back and failed are the same thing. I have never seen a school fail a kid for 3 years. They put them in special ed with whatever diagnoises they can label him with. This doesn't make sense.

stepmomcrisis 80's picture

Idk where you are from but in the state we live in held back and failed are not the same thing... Held back is when a child does not comprehend how to do the work, does but understand it enough to pass on to the next grade and the teacher recommends the child be held back which requires the parent's consent. Failed on the other hand is when a child does know how to do the work, is capable of doing the work and makes F's (which is failure) and failed does not require the parent's consent.

Furthermore, I also stated above that my SS has been tested. I'm not an evil person who has no sympathy or care what happens to a child, if I were I would not be involved with his teachers like I am on a weekly basis and more than that if necessary as I also have already stated above. If his teacher has any concern she contacts me (we all had the flu the other week, she contacted making sure everything was ok since none of the children were at school) I am very involved and am the only one who keeps up with what he does in school as well as attend all school functions for him (kindergarten graduation, field day, class parties and the list goes on and on)

Meezer's picture

A kid can be held back as many times as they fail, they just can't be held back more than twice *in a row*.

stepmomcrisis 80's picture

Yes they can but they are not the same thing, in the state we live in anyway, as I just explained in detail. I would not choose for him to be held back and be 13 and in the 5th grade under no circumstance, he's only one grade above our oldest child together which is embarrassing enough for us and he doesn't care one bit.

Tomatoe's picture


simifan's picture

Forgive my harshness, but your DH is showing SS that he doesn't have to work or do anything just find a woman like you who will do it all for him.

stepmomcrisis 80's picture

It's fine, I prefer honesty! DH has always been a hard working man and took care of us all until the last 9 months, the only reason it changed then is because he does construction work and it has been severely slow as well as we have had some issues come up beyond our control that he's had to deal with (both vehicles down, pump quit working therefore we had no running water and every time he thought he fixed it what he had fixed wasn't the original problem. To an extent it is his fault for not trim by harder to look for work but for the most part I can honestly say it has not been his fault.

Merry's picture

You sound like you have the world on your shoulders right now. With your husband not working at the moment, it seems he can help out in other ways that YOU need help with. His son being one of them.

You sound like a saint to me -- your SS clearly does not care about you or himself or anything else, yet you continue to try to help him. Can you have a heart-to-heart with your DH and explain your frustration in a way that isn't a condemnation of your SS, but that YOU need help with this. Others have suggested you disengage, and that is what I suggest too. The timing seems especially right and you just can't take on all this yourself without building resentment to the point of explosion.

stepmomcrisis 80's picture

I honestly feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders. I do ALL of the kids hw with them, cook, was clothes, pay bills, grocery shop and work (I'm sure there are other things I left out).

DH is well aware that I could use the help with everything around the house, he did was a few loads of clothes for me last night while I worked yet while I was sleeping so I could go to work all night he didn't help any of the kids with their homework. I feel like I'm in a battle I can't win!

I am 100% going to give disengaging a shot. Hell, I have nothing to lose from it. And thank you for your kind words but I am far from a saint, I have not been the best stepmother and have done things I regret including cussing at SS but I am human and have been dealing with this for literally years and everyone has a limit I am just bring mine now. I know I've stated I have my SS but the truth is I hate him as a person because of his actions and would love him if only he would change. I wish him no harm and only want him to succeed not end up in prison or dead and that is exactly the direction he is headed.

And yes I have talked to my DH about how I feel and why I feel the way I do but no matter how many times I try to be the better person and give my SS another chance he puts forth zero effort so after 10 years and counting I'm done giving, either SS can start doing some giving first or things will never change and I'm just going to have to be ok with that. Prime example: I worked weekend before last and SS wanted to go with me (so he could get out of the house since he doesn't listen to anyone, lies and steals all privileges are and playing), I allowed him to because I could use the help cleaning since weekends are busy. DH tells me I wish y'all could get along like this all the time and I replied that I did too but SS only listens and acts decent when he's getting to go somewhere or getting to do something he wants to do and DH agreed because it is the truth. Well low and behold Monday rolls around and after school he's still doing the same shit he always does and it continued all week long and last night so one can only imagine what's in store at my household tonight... Same shit different day.

Tuff Noogies's picture

stop. just stop. you are killing yourself.

my yss is (not clinically diagnosed, but i'd bet my life on it) O.D.D. check it out and see if your ss fits any of the symptoms.

disengagement is a fluid thing. the level of engagement you offer or are willing to give is completely up to you, and can change at any time. and it can be different for different kids. i disengaged on different levels with each of my three ss's. i didn't cook unless *I* wanted to, i didn't clean up after anyone else, i didn't help with school-work unless my help was specifically, sincerely and respectfully requested. i never really had much of a personal problem with oss and mss, they were both *not* @$$holes to me and i generally didn't have much of a problem with them as people. i'd engage with them as if i were a family friend.

kaos, on the other hand, was a whole different extreme. after they moved in with us full time, i pretty much became fully engaged with mss. oss didn't last long living with kaos (he'd previously been living with just dh and i) and moved out after 5 months. the one i was MOST disengaged from was yss, aka 'kaos'. i flat-out told dh that i was D. O. N. E done with dealing with the kid after a certain point. i would not even SPEAK to him unless he spoke first, and spoke nicely. if he said "hi" i'd say it back. if he said "what's that?" i'd give a short, direct answer. that was about it. if he was inside, i was outside and vice versa. no rides, no appointments, no being alone without someone else present. two ships passing in the night. and i QUIT talking to dh about anything regarding kaos, unless it directly affected me, or presented a safety hazard - then it was "dh, dear, please go check on your son."

after *quite* a while, when *i* was in a better place, i decided to try more "positive reinforcement" and started taking steps to re-engage with him as a person. i'd say 'hi' first. if he spent time w/ g-ma, i'd ask if he had fun. i'd tell him a joke i'd heard or show him something i knew he'd like. and he responded REALLY, INCREDIBLY well, as if i were a family friend. we had pleasant times in each other's presence.

he no longer lives at home for various other reasons that had nothing to do with me. but i very much believe that if he had remained in our home, he and i would have continued on decent terms.

save your sanity. focus on YOUR kids. your ss has two parents that are responsible for him. your own kids have two parents that are responsible, and with your dh not working i wish with all my heart he'd step up as a parent at least in the homework aspect. and sometimes you just HAVE to completely and totally let go of anything step-related until you can find your own footing. be responsible for your kids only, do what you feel *you* want to do in your own home, and let go of anything else. if the bio-parents care less than the stepparents, the steps WILL lose the battle EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. caring more than the bio's is a complete exercise in futility, guaranteeing a future of torment and hell (sisyphus, anyone?)

been there, done that, got the t-shirt.