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Question
Posted by: Martin | 2012-05-14

need guidance: problem with son &  My Wife his step Mom

Dear Doc

Im 41 currently, My son , he''s 19 now , came to live with my wife and i when he was 6 and we looked after him and sent him to school and paid pretty much everything dispite the divorce settlement requireing both parents to pay equally..My sons Mom has never had a permenat employment her whole life and it has been endless problems getting money out of her.She remarried and has two further children. She now has a 4th child from another Man.

My son ran away from home in Grade 7 .This broke my heart.Three years later later he asked to stay with me as he was not doing well at school.His Mom never checked on anything he did. I agreed to help him get through school , grade 9 and 10.During Grade 9 he ran away again.Eventually 6 months later he returned and then restarted Grade 9 after i had to beg the school to take him back.He went for counceling etc and stayed with my dad who sent him back home stating he had no initiative in helping .The family councelor found nothing wrong with him He is intelligent but lacks drive.Im presuming he has some major mother issues as she hardly ever phones him or gives him anything.She even told him she cant afford a bus ticket for him to visit her.

My son has finished school now and works about twice a week as a barman. According to my wife my son doesnt show her any respect.He doesnt shout or swear but he never does things that an appreciative child should.He expects to be treated as an adult but doesnt act like one. His room is a mess and even on Mothersday he didnt wish my wife happy mothersday.She has put so much time and money into my son and i can understand how she feels.She is very sensitive and feels used.Making him food daily, washing his clothes and giving him pocket money where his mom never did.

I dont know what to do.I dont feel its right to throw him out onto the street.At the end of the day im responsible for him until i die.My sons mother has no money to look after him.Ive been pushing my son to look for a permanant employment but he spends most of his time online chatting to friends and girls.When he works he goes out afterwards to party.i did that when i was his age so its difficult for me to be so hard on him.Ive tried talking to my wife but she gets so angry saying i allow him to act that way and let him get away with doing nothing.

She doesnt want to cook for him or do his washing.Ive asked her just to do these two things for me and thats all.Daily we end up fighting and she threatens to move out all the time.She wants me to take away his internet access and TV satalite.My son has said he wants to move out next year once he has a permenant job.But now its so tense i dont know what to do. I cant discuss anything with my wife without her getting upset and taking things personally and saying im taking his side. I do understand how she feels but i cant throw him out without helping him find employment. I need your honest opinion!!
Your reply is appreciated.
regards,
Martin

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Your Ex sounds distinctly feckless and perhaps personality disordered, and that might not have been helpful as far as her genetic contribution to your son goes, and apparently her bad parenting skills may also have contributed to the problem. Anyhow, it sounds useless to expect her to contribute anything to the solutions here. Maybe the boy's angry about how she has been towards him, and who could blame him ?
But children are usually much more malleable than folks think. IF the way parents and elders respond to them is planned and rational, they can become pleasant and well-mannered kids, and enjoy being so.
If the boy behaved as you describe and a counsellor found "nothing wrong with him" then either that's a dumb counsellor, or he relied on what the boy tolkd him, believed everything he was told - and that's dumb, too.
Read up about Tough Love, which may be what is needed here.
Don't expect gratitude from him, not yet. But do expect good behaviour - if he wants to live with you and freeload, he must keep to the house rules. You can't check into a hotel, repaint the room, and fail to pay the rent.
I wonder whether you and your wife have been wringing hands and HOPING he'd do the right things, without necessarily being clear exactly what you expect and indeed demand, and what the consequences will be if he fails to meet those expectations.
Among the rules, which need to be clearly spelled out to him - unfailing courtesy towards both of you, warmth when he can manage it. Specified chores done on time and done properly.
NO pocket money whatsoever - he must earn that, in his job or by keeping to the rules. No cooking or washing for him if he doesn't keep to the rules and do chores.
Maria's suggestions dovetail nicely with mine. He has to keep to minimum rules to stay at all, and has a warning qwith some 2 months notice, to come up with a better plan, to pay rent and behave properly.

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3
Our users say:
Posted by: Martin | 2012-05-15

Thank you Cybershrink and thank you Maria. I really appreciate the time and effort to respond to me. Like every situation there are always other factors not mentioned that complicates matters even more. Ive been able to get my wife to talk to me again after letting her read your replies..thank you :) We will try the tough love approach and see where it takes us.Thanks again !

Reply to Martin
Posted by: cybershrink | 2012-05-15

Your Ex sounds distinctly feckless and perhaps personality disordered, and that might not have been helpful as far as her genetic contribution to your son goes, and apparently her bad parenting skills may also have contributed to the problem. Anyhow, it sounds useless to expect her to contribute anything to the solutions here. Maybe the boy's angry about how she has been towards him, and who could blame him ?
But children are usually much more malleable than folks think. IF the way parents and elders respond to them is planned and rational, they can become pleasant and well-mannered kids, and enjoy being so.
If the boy behaved as you describe and a counsellor found "nothing wrong with him" then either that's a dumb counsellor, or he relied on what the boy tolkd him, believed everything he was told - and that's dumb, too.
Read up about Tough Love, which may be what is needed here.
Don't expect gratitude from him, not yet. But do expect good behaviour - if he wants to live with you and freeload, he must keep to the house rules. You can't check into a hotel, repaint the room, and fail to pay the rent.
I wonder whether you and your wife have been wringing hands and HOPING he'd do the right things, without necessarily being clear exactly what you expect and indeed demand, and what the consequences will be if he fails to meet those expectations.
Among the rules, which need to be clearly spelled out to him - unfailing courtesy towards both of you, warmth when he can manage it. Specified chores done on time and done properly.
NO pocket money whatsoever - he must earn that, in his job or by keeping to the rules. No cooking or washing for him if he doesn't keep to the rules and do chores.
Maria's suggestions dovetail nicely with mine. He has to keep to minimum rules to stay at all, and has a warning qwith some 2 months notice, to come up with a better plan, to pay rent and behave properly.

Reply to cybershrink
Posted by: Maria | 2012-05-14

Your son needs tough love. You can''t have the attitude that you''re responsible for him until he dies, then he will just keep sponging off you and will never become a responsible, independent adult. Feeling sorry for him and mollycoddling him because of his mom''s rejection will do him no favours in the long run.

Tell him that in two months'' time he must start contributing to the household financially. He must pay rent, broken down into amounts for the roof over his head, food, laundry, internet, satellite tv. If he is not able to contribute the amount you ask, he will have to lose some of these privileges, and pay in kind by e.g. doing his own laundry. He should anyway be doing his share of the chores, simply by virtue of the fact that he is a member of the family and has benefited from being with you for most of his life.

Reply to Maria

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