MY PARTNER’S SON IS OUT OF CONTROL
I am divorced and in a new relationship with a lovely woman who has two sons of 14 and nine. Her elder son is delightful, but the younger is extremely loud, screams a lot of the time for no reason and is always demanding his mother’s attention. He often goes into meltdown, loses all control and shouts abuse, kicking his mother and calling her names. There is no particular trigger for this behaviour and he will even do it in public – he just doesn’t care. I think he should have outgrown this by now. I have talked to my partner and suggested that he needs to be punished, as well as being given rewards for good behaviour. She has tried to be more strict with him, but it isn’t working. I love her but I’m not sure if our relationship has a future as long as this continues. I would appreciate your advice. This is incredibly hard for you and the boy’s mother. It is difficult enough to cope with this kind of behaviour when you are the child’s natural parent, so I understand your uncertainty in taking the relationship further. However, what you describe is, I think, more than just a naughty child and perhaps one who is on the autistic spectrum, possibly with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and/or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). It is essential for him to get professional help. His mother should ask her GP for an urgent referral to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services or, if she can afford it, go privately to see a child psychiatrist or therapist who specialises in these types of problems. Children with ODD usually have an overwhelming need to control other people and what goes on around them. Being very strict with them rarely works. It is best to try to set a few house rules for your partner’s son, talk about the consequences if he breaks them and give him lots of praise when he does manage to behave. It is vital to keep calm, which I know is not always easy. A structured lifestyle will not only help the child, but also the whole family. As you love this boy’s mother – and if she is prepared to get help – you should give the relationship a chance to see if things improve. I am sure your support would mean a lot to her. But if nothing changes, it is probably too much for you to take on.