My stepson - the saga continues (long, semi-rambling)

About 4 years ago, my then 12-year-old stepson decided it was time to start having sex. My wife had gotten a call from the girl’s mother informing my wife about what had happened. Luckily he used a condom. He ended up getting a “good talking to” from his (generally useless) father :rolleyes: . The girl ended up going in for a full gynecological exam. The mother wanted to teach her a lesson in having to deal with the consequences of her actions.

When he was 13, we discovered he was smoking. He still smokes. I posted a thread about it here some time ago.

About a week and a half ago, my wife answers the phone at 3:15am. It was the Tybee Island police (Tybee Island is a small town about 15 miles east). The stepson had been stopped for going 50 in a 35 zone. He also admitted to the police officer that he had been drinking. My wife had to go pick him up. Why the police officer didn’t arrest him for underage drinking, I don’t know other than not having actual proof.

Last week, there was a lockdown at his school (where my wife teaches) and the drug dogs were brought in (even though it’s a private school, they request that the police do this randomly throughout the year). Well, Officer Fido finds some pot seeds in my stepson’s truck. My stepson has an attitude problem and had been suspended from school a couple of times and this was the last straw. He was expelled on Friday.

My wife tried to get him enrolled in a nearby public school, but they wouldn’t take him because he had been expelled. She is now trying to get him into another private school.

When she and I got married, we had agreed that we would share the disciplinary responsibilities. Unfortunately, this lasted about two months. When he (or my stepdaughter) did something they shouldn’t have been doing and I stepped in to mete out a punishment (go to their room, no TV or video games, etc), I would find that within a few minutes, she had rescinded the punishment explaining that she didn’t like having conflict in the house. This effectively de-balled me in the eyes of both children. She insisted that she would take care of the discipline since she had done so in her previous marriage. I tried to explain to her that by letting the kids get away with even the smallest thing would backfire on her.

Now it is doing just that.

I told her about my younger brother (I’ve posted about him before - married 4-5 times, has 5-6 kids (depending on the DNA), has numerous DUIs, been in jail a couple of times, etc) and how my mother babied him in exactly the same way and how I thought the stepson would follow the same path. She insisted that I was wrong. This was different. This was her son.

I reminded her today about our arrangement had she said, “Well, I never said you couldn’t discipline them”.


I said she effectively told the children in no uncertain terms, that they didn’t have to listen to me because she would go behind my back and reverse whatever I had said.

The stepson now realizes the error of his ways :rolleyes: or so she would have me believe. I ain’t buying it. He’s only sorry because he got busted. Unless some sort of miracle ensues, the next call she gets at 3:15am is gonna be from the police to bail him out or the morgue asking her to identify the corpse.

Now it may look like I’m some sort of hardass. I’m far from it. I just believe that, if you don’t teach children from an early age about the consequences of their actions, they’ll be in for one helluva shock when (or if) they become adults and mama ain’t there to fix it.

I am nearing my wits’ end on this subject.

I sympathize with you, Mr. Blue Sky. I’ve got stepkids who were raised by an overly-permissive mother, and their lives are mostly messed up. I’m just grateful that (1) they’re all legal adults, so I don’t have to be involved, and (2) they live a long, long way away.

I fear for your marriage.

It sounds like it’s too late to do anything about him. He’ll have to learn by himself. I really, really don’t envy you. But I wish you all good luck.

Send him to a tough love camp. (I don’t know anything about this one, It’s just an example)
My Ex’s nephew turned his life around after 6 months in one.
The one my ex husband’s sister chose, was a wilderness camp. It was like survival school. There was no corporal punishment. Instead, the kids were responsible for each other.
Anyway, just a thought.
Good luck.

That’s a real tough situation you find yourself in.

One thought I have is whether your wife would be willing to go to a counsellor with you to discuss your son’s issues and to learn some parenting ‘tips and tricks’. The reason I think of this is that she may only come to realise that her parenting style is not working if she hears it from a professional.

Naturally, you’d sell it as ‘why don’t we both go together to learn some new techniques and get some good suggestions’ but you could ring ahead and talk to the counsellor and advise the specific issues you have around the difference between your two parenting styles, so that the counsellor can really hone in on that.

We were just talking and she admits it will probably take some major event to make her see the light. She’s going into default “I cannot believe this about my child” mode.

So – none of this is enough? Yikes.

No advice here, sorry – just hang in there.

She’s always been overly optimistic.

I, on the other hand, am very much the realist.

I don’t understand how a *public * school could refuse to admit anyone. I’m assuming you’re in the US, if not, my apologies. Maybe other places have different rules, but in NJ, if you are under the age of 18, the public school has to provide you with an education. If for some reason it can’t be done within the normal school setting, some alternative must be provided. Private schools, OTOH, can pick and choose and will often refuse to admit someone with any kind of problem, be it behavioral, mental, physical, or any other special need.

To further this, I’m also assuming you’re in the US, and if the local public school won’t admit him, the district i]must* provide you with an alternative. Most likely your district has an Alternative High School of some sort.

I was a big delinquent as a kid (though admittedly not as bad as having sex at 12 or pulled over drunk at 16 :eek: ), and my high school threw me out, the district sent me to just such an alternative school.

Straightened my ass right out, school-wise, I tell you what. Didn’t work for all the kids. Hell, it probably didn’t work for half the kids, but…they will (IME, anyways) teach the kid there’s definite consequences for his actions.

At least a couple time a month, there’d be kids in my school who thought it was cool to assault teachers. (No, I was never that bad, and “assault” could be just spitting at a teacher…which I am fully aware is horrid enough)

They call the cops for any illegal infraction, be it drugs, assault, or even just acting out physically (one kid got arrested like once a month for having fits where he’d pick up and throw desks). The kid goes to jail. Period. You don’t pick your kid up at the principal’s office, you pick him up at Juvie.

Sounds like maybe he could use a lesson or two of that sort, imo.

This kinda baffled me as well. I’ll have to find out how they can do this.

I’m astounded your marriage is still together after the end run she pulled re discipline. This kid’s run is far from over. Hold onto your saddle.


I would suggest marriage counseling for you and your wife, not only to deal with the stepson but to come to an agreement that you guys are a team.

If she won’t make the hard decisions, you need to do it. The next time the phone rings at 3 in the morning, take the keys and tell your wife that your son will sit in jail until you are good and ready to get him. Stay calm while she screams and rants. Once he realizes he no longer has a safety net it might wake him up.

I’m sorry for your troubles. I hope you and your wife can come together to help the boy.

They can in Illinois. I went through some very tough years with my son. He got kicked out of school and they wouldn’t take him back. What they MUST do is provide the opportunity for the kid to finish their education. For us, it meant going to a privately run, state funded little school for problem students. This option, however, didn’t work out for us and as far as I could tell, didn’t work out for most of the kids. They’re hanging out with ONLY problem students, which just feeds the fire as far as I’m concerned.

My son ended up getting his GED. Like I said, it was a long hard road, but he’s doing much better now. Self-supporting, working, socially involved. Sometimes it takes a while. As others have said, hang in there. It might not happen overnight, but things will probably get better.

We generally work well as a team in nearly every other aspect of our marriage.

As for the keys thing, I doubt I’d be able to stop her. I told her not to look to me to bail him out of jail or even to go down to the jail (if it comes to that).

I don’t want it to come to a “make your choice - our marriage or your son” decision. That never works out well.

That’s not what I was saying. Your problem is your wife won’t help your son. Oh, she thinks she is, but you know she’s not. And since she won’t be the Heavy, you need to be. Not because it’s a choice between the boy and the marriage, but because someone has to rescue this kid, and if things keep going the way they are, he’ll be lost forever.

Which would your wife rather have, a college graduate with a good job and a loving wife and myriad tricycle motors to spoil, or a felon she can only talk to through a glass window? She’s not helping him down the right path, so you need to do it.

I think a good start would be marriage counseling. Then together, as a united front, you can get him back on track.

I’d tried that before, but she would still intervene and rescind whatever I had said to him. He knows that he doesn’t have to listen to me (“you’re not my father!”).

She continues to insist that she can fix him. With her current methodology, I don’t think so and I’ve told her as much. She insists that “he’s a good boy, but makes stupid choices”. I counter this with “that’s because he’s never really had to learn the negative consequences of those choices when you come to the rescue”.

While it is certainly possible that he can turn himself around, I have to be realistic and think it’ll get a lot worse before it gets better. What makes things worse is that his father is a total sack of shit.

You’ve been hamstrung from the get-go. With all due respect, MBS, I suggest you put your foot down firmly and don’t lift it up again. I don’t live in your house, and I don’t live in your skin, and after so many years of marriage I expect this will be extremely difficult.

I fear this will not be solved by a few suggestions made by your fellow Dopers. You and your wife need counseling. Now. As in, 8am Monday morning call and make an appointment.

I wish you luck. Someone has to help your step-son and your wife sure isn’t doing it.

At this point, I really don’t think it’s going to help.