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He's Not My Child

by Anonymous

I am a 28 year old female who has been in a long term relationship with someone I really love. He had a son when I met him, and about two years ago his son's mother died. His son who is now 14 lives with us. I'm not sure this is where my anger started but it sure has made it worse.

He is not disciplined and constantly gets into trouble at school. Punishment, counseling, and talking to him does not work and has not worked. (He got kicked out of kindergarten). When his mother was alive she constantly struggled to keep him out of trouble. His father is not consistent with disciplining him and that's not helpful either. His son also never does anything you tell him to do especially around the house. He has no chores, no manners, and no rules.

I grew up in a very structured environment and this drives me crazy and I am sure that it's not right. I had tried to help but would always be left feeling as if I was the bad guy when I tried to make some changes, so for the past few months, I have been like a ghost in my own home. I come home, cook dinner, go to my room and don't come out.

Of course I would be the bad guy when he keeps getting into trouble or doing the wrong thing and I am the only one who has the guts to punish him. I felt as if I stayed away from it all, there wouldn't be any problems. The thing is I am asked to be "mother" only when someone needs something.

This last incident is the type of thing that happens all the time. I told his son to do the dishes. His father of course never ensures that he follows directions or helps with the parenting. I woke up this morning to a dirty kitchen and made him get up (the son) and do the dishes before I left for work (7:30am). I told his father that the next time I told him to do the dishes and he didn't he would be grounded for a week. His father shrugged me off and sucked his teeth. This always happens, where it is made to seem as if I am making a big deal out of nothing. I got angry.... and threw my perfume bottle (at the last minute) to the wall.

I have been to counseling in the past for depression and don't think I am depressed. I just need some help channeling my anger and dealing with my this boy in my home.

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Thank you for writing on this site, where others might benefit. I think there are many people who find themselves in your circumstances, and it is always difficult. If you were married, you would be a step-mom, and it is very common for step parents to find that the biological parent does not discipline their own children, and if the step parent tries to without the biological parent's support it backfires. I'm telling you this to let you know you're not alone, and to validate your feelings and perceptions.

The boy's father needs to step up and take responsibility for his son, which apparently he's not doing. I wonder if you're angry at him about that, but not telling him about it. If so, then that anger towards him is adding to the anger you already feel toward his son, making it way too big.

If you truly love this man, and it sounds like you do, then you want this relationship to work. If he also wants it to work, then he needs to be committed to doing the right thing for you and his son. The real burden for lasting change is on him, but there are some things you can do for yourself as well, that will really help you.

Here's what I recommend:

1) Start out by writing about your past traumatic experiences, in case you have unresolved trauma that is being triggered by your current situation. You will find some help with this journaling process on this page. Write about each painful or difficult memory in detail, until you feel some release or relief. This will help you see where some of your anger is coming from.

2) If it feels right to you, consider using these communication tools to talk to your partner about your feelings. If you feel that your anger is too big to use this communication process in a calm and respectful manner, then practice some anger management (see "Techniques" on left side menu). Ask him to read the page on communication skills link as well, copy and print out the skills, and the two of you sit down and try to get some resolution.

Keep in mind that, as I said above, you have good reason to be angry. Your situation is very challenging, and would be for anyone. Your task is to make it work for you and not against you. Look for opportunities for growth and learning on your part, to make sure you find out what's in this for you.

Believe in yourself. Picture yourself and your relationships as you want them to be, and try to keep your focus there, as if you were on a road trip, and that was where you were going. Make up your mind to do this, and you can.

I wish you all the best,

Dr. DeFoore

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