Advice needed: Child with- behavioral issues and living with mom and her boyfriend

Bob5000

New Member
Hello all,

My girlfriend and I have been together for 3 1/2 years now and during that time have been dealing with her 11 year old daughter's behavioral issues which include: severe tantrums in public (Screaming, throwing herself on the ground and refusing to move, etc.), talking back very rudely to her mother and refusing to cooperate as well as refusing to leave the house generally (Even for activities that she would enjoy). Most recently, since we moved in together, refusing to leave her room for most of the day when I'm home. She only comes out to get food and immediately takes it back to her room and refuses to spend anytime in general living areas. I'm told that she comes out when I'm not at home. I've tried to befriend her during all of this and nothing has worked.

In terms of her behavior, we've tried disciplinary actions such as taking away when she does not listen or acts out. That typically only heightens the tensions and emotional outbursts. We've also taken her to see a therapist, but when she gets there, she refuses to speak at all to them.

As mentioned, this has been ongoing through our whole relationship and was present before me being in the picture. It has begun to wear on mine and my girlfriend's relationship recently and we're looking for advice from anyone in similar situations.

Thanks!

Bob and Valerie
 

ksm

Well-Known Member
Has your GPS daughter ever been abused by someone, maybe a male figure in her life? Is she attending school in person or online? Has school been an issue in the past? Is there any family history of mentsl illness? Is the father in the picture?

I'm sure its difficult being in this situation...I wish I had advice...but only more questions... ksm
 

BusynMember

Well-Known Member
I am sorry about the trouble you are having. I am wondering....Has she ever seen a neuropsychologist? This is different from a neurologist or a psychologist. Neuropsuchologists are very good at diagnosing more difficult-to-diagnose issues that make some people struggle so hard. Puzzling kids and adults who have sometimes subtle neurological or developmental differences.

Sounds a lot like high functioning autism to me. The people have very low frustration levels and can't communicate well so they often shut down. They have high anxiety and often like to stay away from crowds, stay inside and/or do one thing over and over again, such as gaming. They often seem to prefer being alone. They can be smart but struggle in school and be unable to make friends. And they do tantrum. Even.teens and adult autistics can tantrum. Not always. Depends on the person and treatment success.

Mental health therapy doesn't work well for autism. They don't talk about how they feel. It's like they don't know how. Parents get frustrated but it isn't being done on purpose. There are many wonderful autism treatments now and the earlier they are started, the better. This is really worth a try. She sounds a lot like my autistic nephew. He is doing great now.

My two cents in general is that if the child is really upsetting your relationship, perhaps you should go to therapy alone to see if this is the right fit for you. It's hard to have a different young child and sometimes they remain difficult or get worse. A mother will usually chose her child over a spouse so this is something to think about. If you plan to have other children with her, things can get even more complicated. Autism if it's that tends to run in families. I do think this child strongly resembles high functioning autism.

Sending prayers and warm wishes.
 

Copabanana

Well-Known Member
I agree with Busy but not about the diagnosis. While this child may be on the autism spectrum there are other possibilities as well. Actually, to me, she sounds quite typical in acting out for this age group. Of course, most adolescents don't go so far, but many do. I think a lot of this is a power play. She exerts power in the way that she can. I call these "powers of the weak.." She sabotages, she withholds, she resists.

I was involved in a similar situation when I began a new relationship when my son was having problems which ended about 10 years later. My son was already much older, perhaps 19, but the patterns were the same. It never really got better. The only solution was to make distance. My ex hung in there and helped me a lot, including living together with my son apart from me. Because I was the one who was the most reactive and I continue to be.

I don't think that my son doomed my relationship. I think it was other things. But I will say that my son defined the relationship. My son was always the central topic. Dealing with him was always a major challenge.

I echo what Busy says about a child neuropsychologist for a good diagnosis, and to establish a team of support. You will find this at a regional children's hospital in their child development center. The team will include the neuropsychologist, a child psychiatrist, and a social worker, at minimum.

And I agree with Ksm about exploring and being open to the possibilities of traumatic experience, or other hurtful and harmful influences. You don't speak of this child's father. Was there a divorce? What is the status of her relationship with her father? Does she see him? Does she resent your presence, instead of her Dad's? As a child, I had a stepfather and I longed for my real father, who in effect had abandoned us. Maybe this child is harboring a deep sadness about her situation and this has really nothing to do with you, except that you are there.

This child may need to talk. A good therapist can deal with silence as long as need be. It's no big deal that a child doesn't speak for a while. Another option is art therapy. And another option is equine-assisted therapy. Often there are clinics that are free or sliding scale. I believe in sports, if she is interested, especially the softer martial arts, like Capoiera or even Brazilian jiu jitsu. Really, I do. The mestres or teachers often have a profound influence on children like this girl.

What I am trying to say is that there are many ways to support this child, but you are deserving of support and respect, too. You are the one who has to insist on this for yourself. I would not accept less. You deserve care too.

Finally, there are "family systems" therapists, that work on the entire family unit, rather than one identified patient. Right now this girl is the identified patient, which means she is the carrier and she is acting out all of the distress and problems of a larger system, the whole family/household unit. Just as it is not fair that you be disrespected, it's not fair that she be in the role as the wrong, bad or sick one, when she may giving voice to a far broader issue. If this is the case, she needs to be listened to and responded to, and her voice respected. That way the whole family can heal.

I think by zeroing in on a serious diagnosis for her, as the only approach might foreclose this kind of healing. Although I also agree with Busy and Ksm that all options for evaluation and understanding need to be on the table.

I am glad you came to us. I hope you keep posting. It helps.

I will say one more thing. You are not a lesser person in this family and household. You should not be boycotted. You should not be scapegoated.
 
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Bob5000

New Member
Has your GPS daughter ever been abused by someone, maybe a male figure in her life? Is she attending school in person or online? Has school been an issue in the past? Is there any family history of mentsl illness? Is the father in the picture?

I'm sure its difficult being in this situation...I wish I had advice...but only more questions... ksm
She hasn't suffered from abuse. She is in online learning right now, and working with teachers from the school. They have zoom calls with classmates regularly. She has a few good friends she talks with on the phone. She generally likes school and gets good grades. Yes her family does have mental illness that runs in the family, primarily major depression (her mom, my girlfriend-has been treated). Her great uncle was recently diagnosed with Aspergers. Her father, who also likely has undiagnosed depression infrequently visits, often only an hour or two when she is at her grandparents (his parents). She stays with them at least once a week, and has a good relationship with her grandma and grandpa on that side.
 
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Bob5000

New Member
I am sorry about the trouble you are having. I am wondering....Has she ever seen a neuropsychologist? This is different from a neurologist or a psychologist. Neuropsuchologists are very good at diagnosing more difficult-to-diagnose issues that make some people struggle so hard. Puzzling kids and adults who have sometimes subtle neurological or developmental differences.

Sounds a lot like high functioning autism to me. The people have very low frustration levels and can't communicate well so they often shut down. They have high anxiety and often like to stay away from crowds, stay inside and/or do one thing over and over again, such as gaming. They often seem to prefer being alone. They can be smart but struggle in school and be unable to make friends. And they do tantrum. Even.teens and adult autistics can tantrum. Not always. Depends on the person and treatment success.

Mental health therapy doesn't work well for autism. They don't talk about how they feel. It's like they don't know how. Parents get frustrated but it isn't being done on purpose. There are many wonderful autism treatments now and the earlier they are started, the better. This is really worth a try. She sounds a lot like my autistic nephew. He is doing great now.

My two cents in general is that if the child is really upsetting your relationship, perhaps you should go to therapy alone to see if this is the right fit for you. It's hard to have a different young child and sometimes they remain difficult or get worse. A mother will usually chose her child over a spouse so this is something to think about. If you plan to have other children with her, things can get even more complicated. Autism if it's that tends to run in families. I do think this child strongly resembles high functioning autism.

Sending prayers and warm wishes.
We took her to a child therapist and a child psychologist, but not to a Neuropsychologist. Neither the therapist or the psychologist diagnosed her. I'll have to look more into that one for sure. I thought Autism as well, but some then to disagree due to the fact that she's very social in school and has good relationships with friends. Maybe talking to someone for myself is a good idea as well. Thanks for the input.
 
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Bob5000

New Member
I agree with Busy but not about the diagnosis. While this child may be on the autism spectrum there are other possibilities as well. Actually, to me, she sounds quite typical in acting out for this age group. Of course, most adolescents don't go so far, but many do. I think a lot of this is a power play. She exerts power in the way that she can. I call these "powers of the weak.." She sabotages, she withholds, she resists.

I was involved in a similar situation when I began a new relationship when my son was having problems which ended about 10 years later. My son was already much older, perhaps 19, but the patterns were the same. It never really got better. The only solution was to make distance. My ex hung in there and helped me a lot, including living together with my son apart from me. Because I was the one who was the most reactive and I continue to be.

I don't think that my son doomed my relationship. I think it was other things. But I will say that my son defined the relationship. My son was always the central topic. Dealing with him was always a major challenge.

I echo what Busy says about a child neuropsychologist for a good diagnosis, and to establish a team of support. You will find this at a regional children's hospital in their child development center. The team will include the neuropsychologist, a child psychiatrist, and a social worker, at minimum.

And I agree with Ksm about exploring and being open to the possibilities of traumatic experience, or other hurtful and harmful influences. You don't speak of this child's father. Was there a divorce? What is the status of her relationship with her father? Does she see him? Does she resent your presence, instead of her Dad's? As a child, I had a stepfather and I longed for my real father, who in effect had abandoned us. Maybe this child is harboring a deep sadness about her situation and this has really nothing to do with you, except that you are there.

This child may need to talk. A good therapist can deal with silence as long as need be. It's no big deal that a child doesn't speak for a while. Another option is art therapy. And another option is equine-assisted therapy. Often there are clinics that are free or sliding scale. I believe in sports, if she is interested, especially the softer martial arts, like Capoiera or even Brazilian jiu jitsu. Really, I do. The mestres or teachers often have a profound influence on children like this girl.

What I am trying to say is that there are many ways to support this child, but you are deserving of support and respect, too. You are the one who has to insist on this for yourself. I would not accept less. You deserve care too.

Finally, there are "family systems" therapists, that work on the entire family unit, rather than one identified patient. Right now this girl is the identified patient, which means she is the carrier and she is acting out all of the distress and problems of a larger system, the whole family/household unit. Just as it is not fair that you be disrespected, it's not fair that she be in the role as the wrong, bad or sick one, when she may giving voice to a far broader issue. If this is the case, she needs to be listened to and responded to, and her voice respected. That way the whole family can heal.

I think by zeroing in on a serious diagnosis for her, as the only approach might foreclose this kind of healing. Although I also agree with Busy and Ksm that all options for evaluation and understanding need to be on the table.

I am glad you came to us. I hope you keep posting. It helps.

I will say one more thing. You are not a lesser person in this family and household. You should not be boycotted. You should not be scapegoated.
I agree with the part of it being a power play as well. I think she feels like her ranking in the household may have been "bumped down" when I came into the picture. I've tried to talk to her about that and it always ends in emotional breakdowns from her.

Her dad left when she was a baby and she now sees him through visits at his parent's house (her grandparents house) once in a while. He's very infrequent with visits and often keeps them short.

She's not much into sports but LOVES art and all things creative. She applies a lot of her free time to making things. I'm actually a professional artist myself and tried to get her to work on fun projects with me but she chooses not to.

Thanks for the input as well. My girlfriend, Valerie and I are both reading these responses and they've been really helpful so far and I really appreciate the encouraging words.
 

BusynMember

Well-Known Member
Female Asperger's is different than males. You really need a neuropsychologist to diagnose it. You can have high functioning autism and still have friends, although if she is a social butterfly and loves lots of crowds and parties then she probably doesn't have it.

My nephew is in college.now, something we never dreamed possible before his diagnosis and treatment. He lives in a dorm but comes home weekends. He does not have meltdowns anymore but is not easy to get along with. He gets very upset very easily. That can cause some physical fighting. It even happened at college. If he does it again he has to live at home.

I think exploring the reason for her behavior with top notch professional diagnosticians is important. I prefer neuropsychologists.

Again, take care of yourself and make sure you want this. You will be the outsider. She has a mom, dad and grands. It works sometimes but is hard to be the step under the best circumstances. I have a few siblings in step situations and blended families. Both families struggle but are still together. It is not easy though. Lots of drama.

Please get therapy before getting married. It can't hurt. Your peace of mind and happiness matter as much as theirs.

More prayers and hugs. Update us please.
 
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KTMom91

Well-Known Member
Speaking as the mom of a difficult child (who is now almost 30!)...I remarried when Miss KT was 8. The teen years were hell on earth. She resented my husband, fought bitterly with both of us, and generally felt that she was entitled to behave that way. Not, mind you, because I allowed it or accepted her behavior. Had my husband not been outrageously patient, kind, and understanding, our marriage would not have survived.

Your girlfriend is in a tough spot - in the middle. She will not be able to please both of you, and she will most likely hate that she can't. At least I did. I wanted harmony but was pulled at by both sides. Counseling can help, reading books on how to deal with difficult children can help, but please make sure you're on the same page, and don't try to discipline her. That led to holes in the walls, a broken tile countertop, things like that around here anytime my Hubby stepped in to help.

I could write an entire book about Life with Miss KT. If you have any questions for me, I'd be happy to answer them. I check in several times a week. Sending hugs and lots of strength, and rhino skin (so the insults just bounce off). I've been there, both as mom and stepmom.
 

Crayola13

Well-Known Member
I think she's taking out her anger on you--anger over the divorce and because her dad basically desert her. Some kids have very serious behavior problems when a new boyfriend comes in the picture. I think she feels like everybody else is making decisions for her. She needs an activity and to continue therapy. I'm hoping that eventually the therapist will be able to break that wall.
 

susiestar

Roll With It
I have a few different thoughts. So this might be long.

As you are her mother's partner, you need to step way back from any sort of discipline, punishment or consequences. I know it is hard, but having you do any of that will make her resent you even more. She probably has a lot of anger and no idea what to do with it other than be horrible and rude. This is sort of normal for some preteens. It usually gets worse with the teen years. I had good luck with Parenting with Love and Logic by Fay and Cline. Also, encourage her mother to do things with her and without you. She may very well feel as though she is losing her mother.

As for her being in her room all the time, that could indicate sensory integration/processing problems. Even if she likes being social, she may also really NEED that time alone. Sensory Integration Disorder is when your brain doesn't process input from the nerves in the typical way. You will have VERY strong preferences if you have this. You may refuse to eat certain foods, or need your food not to touch or mix with other types of food. You may really need to be alone and quiet, especially if you are overstimulated by noise. You can become visually overstimulated in some settings or even some types of lights. You might only be able to tolerate slow movements, or you might need certain types of movements and positions and pressures. Some sounds or volumes might be intolerable, or you might really need those sounds or volumes. The feel of certain fabrics or textures might draw or repel you. This can be very difficult to handle.

I didn't know what this was until my oldest was 13. I have Sensory Integration Disorder. I simply cannot eat certain foods. They literally will make me vomit. I am the pickiest eater most people have ever seen. Lots of bright lights or flashing lights, and the sun are actually painful for me. Certain pitches are very difficult for me. Loud noises are something I avoid like the plague. It honestly feels like the entire world is assaulting me sometimes. Every single sense can be terribly raw. Sometimes after a particularly difficult day at school, a day when it felt like the universe was attacking me through every one of my senses, I would have to spend a few hours in the back of my closet in the dark. If someone needed to talk with me about something, I often reacted with a lot of anger and frustration. I just was completely out of the ability to cope with anything. I still run out of the ability to cope if I get overstimulated. I have to be careful where I go and what I do.

There are ways to help with sensory issues. First is to have an Occupational Therapist evaluate her for sensory issues. They can help guide you to the types of sensory input that she needs, and tell you what some sensory inputs that are not good for her.

Second is the sensory diet. This means providing the sensory input that she needs. And helping her avoid the sensory input she does not need. This will help keep her from getting overwhelmed. When my youngest was in pre-K, he could not handle a full week at school. He only attended about half the time that year. He was so overstimulated by school that 3 days a week was the most he could tolerate. My oldest son could handle a full week of school, but no more than one on the way home trip a week. If that trip was to the grocery store, the park, a team practice or something else, he often could not behave appropriately on the 2nd trip. Even if the second trip was something he had been looking forward to for weeks, it always ended up with a child who is unable to cope and acts out of anger and frustration. Both of my sons need to be left completely alone after they are overstimulated. I am the same way. Managing the sensory diet can make a BIG difference.

Third is brushing therapy, also called Wilbarger therapy. You use a soft surgical scrub brush over your child's body in a specific order. Then you go to her joints and compress them in a certain order. You need to be taught the technique by an Occupational Therapist because if you brush certain parts of the body, you can cause real problems. I do not know if your daughter would be considered too old for this. Our Occupational Therapist was sure that over the age of 12, brushing would not help. As long as we did the routine we were taught, it wouldn't hurt either. I had a child over age 12 and I was WAY over age 12 at this time. I found that brushing my son did help him cope. I also found it was extremely helpful. If you want to learn more about Sensory Integration Disorder, read The Out Of Sync Child by Kranowitz.

A common pattern in kids is to use all the energy they have to deal with the school day. When they get home, they are just out of resources to cope with anything. And they often lash out hardest at the one they trust the most. Your partner's daughter might want to be social, but it also could take all the energy she has. She comes home, has no ability to cope, and she is rude to her mother. She might say mean things. This is because she trusts her mother to always love her. But it still isn't fun for her mother (or anyone else).

She might have autism spectrum disorder. Girls do not present in the "classic" way. Girls are also better mimics. I know as a kid that I often had no clue why my classmates wanted to do some things, but I did them because it seemed like what I was supposed to do. Playing with dolls never made sense to me. I was completely confused about how dolls of any kind were fun. But I went so far as to save up for dolls periodically. I thought I was supposed to do that. Many women grow to be adults without realizing that they are somewhere on the autism spectrum.

Clearly she is unhappy that you are in the house. She may not like you, or she may be jealous that her mom is spending so much time with you. She might even be afraid that if she starts to care about you, that you will leave too. If you can support her mom, but let her mom be the disciplinarian. She has had a lot of changes in the last few years. 3 years is 10 percent of your life if you are 30, but 3 years is over 1/4 of your life if you are 11. It is going to take time for her to adjust.
 

Nomad

Well-Known Member
Apologies for rushing a bit through this very important question...
over the years...I've seen some things that have been helpful.
It might make sense to seek the advice of a family therapist. Perhaps at least a few appointments. It will be vitally important to find someone very good with experience. perhaps a private therapist? Consider testing. It could be depression. Anxiety. Low self esteem. Possibly autism. Avoid labels. Ask a professional...pay attention. Dont label. Don't judge.
Does she have any role models that are older? An aunt? Grandparent? A family friend? Someone you know for a fact is sober, responsible and kindly...that she admires? That might be willing to speak with her? Perhaps be almost like a big sister? Take her out once a month for an ice cream...whatever....
Additionally, if she has ANY interest in ANY hobby type thing...now is the type to explore it. Immediately. Drama, singing, sports, drawing....
Watch, listen...think. Ask the mom. Pay attention.
See if she wants lessons. Join a team. If she feels better about herself and gets involved with people with like interests...it will likely help. And things tend to get worse in High School. This might circumvent worsening of issues.
Lastly, if she is struggling in any subjects...get her a tutor. Do what you can afford. Even if it is only every other week and an extra session before big tests...whatever.
Getting crummy grades in school is a real downer.
yes, some of these things might be costly...but the costs accelarate as they get older.
 
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