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Letters from Homes:
This Boy is

Dear Stepcoach,

I am in a step husband had custody of 3 kids and we have them full time. I love my husband and being married is wonderful. The problem we have is with my stepson. Yesterday he asked if he could go to the neighbors to play with their 2 boys. We gave him permission, but said he couldn't stay if one of the parents weren't there. Later, my husband went there to get him. When we asked about supervision, he said the neighbor boys' mom left shortly after he arrived. My husband and I have been furious. He KNEW that if the mom wasn't there he was to come home and he didn't. We have told him that he isn't allowed to go anywhere until summer.

He seems to do whatever and he always uses the excuse, "I didn't think.". He DOESN' T think either.. His job is to take out the newspapers. They were piled up by the door to the garage, and my husband also placed a water bottle on top to be taken to the garage for recycling. What did the boy do?? He picks up the papers and leaves the water bottle (it's just too much work for him I guess...)

I keep thinking that I can't wait for him to graduate but we have another 6 years of his "attitude"...I don't know how we'll do it unless his heart changes...any advice??

Going Nuts!


Hi Nuts,

That's just a boy for you! Boys are wired differently from ... most anyone else! They can be very literal. For instance (not defending the boy, just looking at him) Dad told him he could only stay if one of the parents was there - one was there when he arrived. Granted they left, but you hadn't told him EXACTLY, WORD FOR WORD what to do if one of them left, had you? Just like with the water bottle - no one told him to take a water bottle anywhere. His instructions were, "take out the papers," and he did. 

Part of it is male (we're waffles, remember) and part of it is his age. At 12, the prefrontal lobe of a boy's brain isn't wired in yet - literally. Look up "adolescent cognitive development" sometime and become enlightened to the fascinating world of the brain dead teenage brain!

They are literally, physically unable to use higher functions of their brains until they hit 18 or so (some later, some much later!). The brain "comes alive" in stages from birth to maturity, and the part that understands that if a bottle is sitting on the papers, you pick them all up together, just isn't engaged yet.

So what do you do? You give exact, complete instructions, very slowly until he manages to memorize (a higher function) the chore or task you have in mind. Remember this. It will save you LOTS of frustration. 

I'm researching this heavily because my next how-to manual for stepparents will deal with brain development, obedience, rudeness, and all the exciting adventures of raising humans as a hobby. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, keep in mind that even very good, very well meaning children are capable of only so much cogitation. Keep it simple for them and it will be simpler for you!

Bless them every chance you get!


Bob Collins, CDM


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Letters from Homes:
Did Not! Did

Dear Stepcoach,

"My stepson is very irresponsible and disrespectful....We have a conflict with him almost daily (he's a preteen)....he just takes things without asking....lies about things...doesn't accept responsibility for his actions....We have set house rules on the refrigerator..After one argument, I told him not to get sassy and he again said..."I was just asking a question"  both my husband and I told you didn't ask a question...instead you TOLD us...I get really frustrated."


Dear Frustrated Stepmom,

Isn't it fun!!! >sigh< I remember a similar exchange I had with my stepdaughter when she was 14. "You can't divide fractions!" she said.
I replied, being helpful, "Yes, you can, here let me show you."
"NO! there's no point I just can't understand it! You can't divide something that's, like, I mean, it's, well, YOU JUST CAN'T!!!"

We battled about that for about an hour. I'd show her examples, she'd argue, over and over.
Later that night I overheard her on the phone to a friend say, "Yeah I got my homework done. It was easy. I tricked my stepdad into doing it for me. He's so stupid!"

If they can get you entangled in the argument, they win. 

If I may suggest, the next time he says something like, "I was just asking a question."

Don't let him win by getting you upset, just give a simple, "OK." Then let him wander off to fume. Allow him the privilege of getting upset if he wishes, but you can be free of it.

Then get back on track. You and your husband had a frustrating evening, the whole family was up in arms, all because a 12 year old was given the steering wheel and allowed to choose the race track to play on. Sometimes they just act like kids! don't they? Don't follow. 

Is that allowing him to be sassy with you and get away with it? Maybe. Or maybe it's you taking charge and keeping your discussion on track.

On to page 3!

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