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Teenage Problems/12 year old step son behavior problems


Hello Diana,

I need some advice on how to handle my 12yr old step son.  I've been married to his mom for about a year now and he is her only child.  His real Dad left his mom when she was pregnant.  Before i came into the picture about 2 years ago, my wife was living with another man, who was a good father figure to my step son, for about 3 years.  The ex cheated on my wife and she kicked him out and they split up.  So, I understand that my step son has gone through a lot.

But this past year, since we've been married, he has been getting worse and worse when it comes to his behavior.  His school is constantly calling us and saying that he talks back to his teachers and makes a mess in the lunch room and just doesn't listen to anybody.  His grades are slipping and now its to the point where he lies and doesn't even show up to school.  He also doesn't listen to us when we tell him to do simple chores around the house.  My wife is ready to send him to some type of boarding school or military school to straighten him out.

What do you suggest we can do about this situation?  is a boarding school or military school a good idea?  She tried a psychologist a while back and it didn't do any good, because he doesn't want to listen to anyone.

Your opinion and time is greatly appreciated.



My initial response is to say, "show me ANY teenager who doesn't do what you are claiming and I would be shocked."  Your stepson is at an age right now where he is stuck between who he is and who he wants to be.  This is a very crucial age of discovering their identity.  You are going to see a lot of personalities until he finds his fit.  You have to allow your child self-discovery but with limits.  Example:  I allowed my son to get a hair cut of his choice but I did not approve of him dying his blonde hair black.  There still has to be parental supervision over his choices and lean more toward guidance.  Also at this age, boys need their fathers.  That's their connection to manhood, someone to emulate. He is a developing young man and before he is 25, he will have made a lot of choices he will wish undone.  However, during this time, it is best to try and understand what is going on.  If he is talking back to adults then he is not coping/cooperating with authority. If I knew nothing else about your son but only heard the following: disrespect of authority, lies, bad grades, skipping school, disobedience, and "laziness,"  I would say to have him drug tested for marijuana.  Something is influencing him to not care about his behavior.  I think he should have a counselor to talk to just to bounce his concerns to.  Parents should never take on the role as a counselor.  I would do a drug test #not the kind you buy over the counter# at a local facility for about $20 bucks.  Then step two is to determine the influence if not drugs.  In males, his attitude will heighten by the age of 14-15.  All I can say is, whew!  Be prepared.  Sometimes, you have to allow for the emotions and attitude to unravel but again, with supervision and consequences for his behavior.  Ideally, you should take him to his primary care physician and rule out internal factors that may be organic in nature. Rule out any health disorder/disease.  Rule out environmental factors.  Then under the advice of your physician, determine your child's needs.  Personally, if I had several dads in my life and then have them disappear, I cannot imagine trying to bond with another one.  I can understand the displacement and the unwanted feeling he must feel. Then again, may not have any impact whatsoever.  Maybe taking him fishing may lighten his mood.  He is a growing boy so growing up also means growing away.  Pull him back in for some nurturing and understanding of his emotions and behavior.  Just keep in mind, teenagers are SUPPOSED to get angry, SUPPOSED to cry, make bad choices, etc.  It is the 'coping' they do not possess.  This is where parental guidance enters the room.  Help facilitate alternatives.  If he is angry, have him work through some decisions.  Baylor University has an interesting tool for problem solving.  I will see if I can locate it and re-post. Try not to be too harsh and approach with kid gloves.  Teens often feel overwhelmed and their solution is always short-sighted.  Good luck.

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Diana Dickinson


I specialize in Juvenile Crime (Property Crimes - stealing from home, shoplifting, autotheft, joyriding, burglary, etc.) Juvenile Drug Use/Abuse (Prescribed or unprescribed ADHD, Xanex, Weed, etc.) Methamphetamine and Suicide Prevention. I do not provide legal advice, however I can point you to the laws in your state regarding consequences of your illegal actions or someone else's. I work face-to-face with juvenile offenders, both pre-adjudicated and adjudicated. I am the gap filler of statistics otherwise unheard of by the justice systems. I am the fly on the wall, seeing and hearing things that teens do not share with their parents. I then point them in the direction of helpful social services.


I am a statewide director of programs to address criminal issues that juveniles encounter. I find programs and implement them as well as provide training to professionals. I also work with youths throughout the various stages of their lives.

Extensive history of training by the Department of Justice, local universities, and Office of Juvenile Affairs. I am also a Certified District Court Family & Divorce Law Mediator. (I am NOT an attorney. Please do not confuse the two.) I am also certified in the area of Domestic Violence and a certified trainer for Healthy Relationships. If you reside in Oklahoma, and you are interested in training or free services, please contact me.

Awards and Honors
Oklahoma County Juvenile Justice Center's Volunteer of the Year for 2009.

Past/Present Clients
Court referred clients as well as walk-ins from the general public.

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