Don't know what to do!!!

Home Welcome to the ADDitude Forums For Parents Behavior & Discipline Don't know what to do!!!

Viewing 15 reply threads
  • Author
    • #87420

      My step daughter 9 years old has ADHD and ODD. Her and I have a horrible relationship. I am her primary caregiver. Her mother is now starting to step up because I’m about to lose my mind.
      She constantly tells me she hates me, will not do anything I ask from eating her breakfast, to brushing her teeth, to simply putting her shoes on.
      At first her behavior was just towards me she could turn it off the moment her father got home. Now she’s showing the disrespect to her mother. Rolling of the eyes, saying no, not doing as told.
      She stole from me several times. The words I’m sorry never come out of her mouth. She’ll apologize to her father and her mother but not me. Lately since we changed the schedule up her father is noticing the nasty too. So much as she stole from him shes lying to him. She stole from a department store. I made her take the item back but she chose me to take her incase someone was arrested she wouldn’t lose her mom and dad. Her words. Shes been wetting the bed but a couple months ago I purchased an alarm for her to wear at night so if she wet the bed the alarm went off. She stopped wetting the bed but the other day found pee soaked shorts and pants in her closet mushed up in the clothes hanging on hangers. I decided room search then I found feces covered underwear in her books. I completely emptied the room. Everything needed to be cleaned it was nasty. That night my husband put her to bed. He stood in the kitchen he could see her reflection in the hallway. She got out of bed. He went in the room smelled so bad. He turned the light on she smeared feces all over the wall and door jam. He asked why she did that. Her response over and over was I didn’t do it and I’m not lying. Proof was all over her hands. We’ve taking away toys, t.v, make her go to bed earlier, make her write why she did the wrong and how to improve her actions. There’s nothing left to take. She is in therapy. She is on Adderall. We just started the Adderall because the non stimulants weren’t working. Her focus in school is not there. She’s a bully to the kids. We have 2 other children. My kids. Shes my husband’s and I know she gets jealous of them. But everyday is an argument and punishments. The other 2 don’t deserve hearing it they did nothing wrong. They are at the point where they want to be with their dad when she’s here. I just don’t know what to do. Also I have MS it takes a week to recover from the stress then she’s back again and it starts all over. It really doesn’t end for her because she’s acting out with her mother as well. We really don’t know what to do. Any help would be appreciated

    • #87422

      Have you discussed all of this with her doctor? Did any of these behaviors get worse after starting Adderall? My son does not have ODD so I can’t advise on that BUT when we were trying different meds one of them made his behavior a little crazy – he was doing odd things and could really come up with an explanation, like peeing between his bed and the wall and in other odd places along with some acting out. Changing meds stopped the strange behaviors so I’m just suggesting maybe the Adderall is causing or exacerbating her behavior issues. Trying other stimulants or combining with other meds like Straterra could be options you want to explore. Also, my son recently started taking Ripseridon for OCD related behavior but the doctor told me it’s frequently used for ODD so something else you might want to discuss. I’m a fan of behavior therapy but often you need to use medication to get the child to a point where they are more in control of their emotions and receptive to therapy.

      • #87423

        We’ve discussed with her doctor and therapist. Therapist wants her to work on expression cards. Basically cards with emojis on them to Express how she feels. Her primary doctor suggested the Adderall a long time ago but her mother was against a stimulant. Her behavior has been this bad for me but she’s showing more towards her mother and father. Before she could hide her behavior to her mother because she only saw her 2 days every 2 weeks. Her father recently is now seeing it. She could turn off the mean attitude when he walked in the door but the moment he would leave the room it was back to attitude and dirty looks. This has been her behavior for almost 2 years. It’s getting worse the past I’d say 6 months. This past week has been hands down the worst yet. Her therapist is on vacation until next Saturday. We can’t go another week like this last one. It’s too much.

    • #87424

      Unfortunately in my experience punishment alone doesn’t work because the behavior is out of their control. I’m not saying they don’t know right from wrong and that bad behavior shouldn’t be punished, but when a solution for helping them manage their behavior better hasn’t been found, stricter rules and punishments usually escalate the behavior, not mitigate it. Impulse control is a real things and they’re brains are not wired to handle it. Particularly at her age, they don’t have the maturity to control their impulsive behaviors or control their strong emotions. If there’s no doc on call or her pediatrician is unavailable sounds like you’re going to have to ride it out and even with med changes things may get worse before they get better. My only other suggestions as you go thru a transition period are for someone to be watching her like a hawk every minute and keeping her busy and engaged as much as humanly possible. Even if you think she should be able to play alone at her age. Even if you don’t feel you have the time – make the time. It was the times when my son was alone in his room or playing with friends unattended by an adult that he got in the most trouble. If she’s in school pull her out and do a week of independent study st home. Lower expectations for chores if you need to. Anything you can do to lessen the opportunities for her to act out will make it easier to cope until you can start working with her therapist on better solutions.

      • #87425

        Thank you for being a sounding board. I really do appreciate it.
        All eyes are on her since the last time she stole except when it’s bedtime. But thinking nanny cam since the feces smearing was when she was supposed to be in bed.

      • #87442

        We were trapped in a circle of increasing escalation until we backed off from the discipline and nagging, but ensured that no amount of her arguments, shouting or procrastinating would get her out of simple reasonable instructions, eg go have a shower.
        However small, find things to praise, “I love the way you… even tho it might feel like initially you are handing out the last piece of good behaviour for her to screw over. Also make time for each other alone…hair cut, manicure, coffee, op shopping, walk, swim, playground or bike, scooter, ride, places where she’s so busy and engaged she’ll have no chance to misbehave. I found that not asking questions about their actions also helped with the lying…but only if you are certain of your facts. “I saw you do … or I know it was you who took …” followed with a simple restatement of household rules, and finished off with a solution, eg “Here is something to clean up with” Or if she has returned the stolen item, show you have authority by giving it back to to her…within reason!! After that, resit the urge to get drawn into any arguments with her, but immediately change the subject of conversation, preferably to something she’s interested in and will give her a chance to engage with you in a positive way. Unfortunately, regular methods of punishment seems to feed the ODD “injured poor me”…and initially feels like she’s getting away with misbehavior. Truly a case of love conquers all!..but slowly you will find things to love about her…in onw week, she’ll be a different person!!

      • #87444

        We’ve tried the one on one alone time. But if let’s say my cat walks in the room she gets jealous over the cat. I try keeping my distance on Friday nights so she can have alone time with her father. But because I’m in the house not in the same room or acknowledging her presence she feels it’s not her and daddy time. Hard to take her to stores shes stealing now and has temper tantrums when she doesn’t get her way.
        It’s hard to praise especially after she disrespects or does something bad. We’ve been told to praise and change the subject get her to focus on something else but 2 other kids see we are rewarding for bad behavior.
        We’ve done prize charts saying if you complete such task you’ll earn xyz. She’ll earn it back for 5 minutes then do something horrible like steal, kick the cat, smear poo on the wall.
        I’ve walked away so there wouldn’t be an argument then while I walk away she will do something. Last time I walked away from the argument she craved “next time I’ll” into my table. She didn’t finish because she was caught.
        I have told her she isn’t good at being the bad kid she gets caught.
        Everytime I think it’s gonna be a good day she tanks it.
        It is a vicious circle. Every good we do for her she tanks it.
        Every new med we start over clean slate then bam!! Then med changes. This time it’s a stimulant.
        Nothing is changing for a good only bad.
        She recently said she was a princess and everyone had to obey her. It wasn’t a joke. Her father always says to her whose my princess whose my world. He had to stop calling her princess because she said it at school, home and the doctors.
        I just feel no matter what we try nothing will change except my kids won’t be here and I’ll have to leave. Growing up I was taught yes ma’am yes sir. Never ever disrespect your mother so were my 2 children. My daughter 17 also has ADHD. But she was never like this. Shes very kind and polite.
        I can’t reward bad behavior. That teaches nothing except it’s ok to do the bad things.

    • #87466
      Penny Williams

      What you’re currently doing isn’t working, so it’s time to change things up. Therapy is a must, and it sounds like you’re already doing that. Make sure to chat with the therapist about the severity of the behavior.

      I’m not a therapist, but I do see a pattern of this type of behavior when kids don’t know how to communicate their feelings and/or feel misunderstood (like no one is really listening to them). I highly recommend Ross Greene’s book, “The Explosive Child” — it can change your lives.

      The Truth About Your Child’s Lies

      Answers to the Discipline Questions You Were Too Exhausted to Ask

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Trainer & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #87728

      Update. Went to her therapist yesterday. He said the poo smearing was because she had absolutely no control of anything else and she could get attention from that.
      He also said shes acting out on me because she knows I’m not going anywhere. She can play nice for the couple hours a night she sees her dad and the couple of days she sees her mom. But because she knows I’m not going anywhere I get the attitude and horrible actions. She can’t hide it in front of me because I’m always here.
      She feels her mom will go away and her dad. She doesn’t want to disappoint them in the moments she sees them because she knows they will be upset. Which explains why the first 2 days she’s with her mom she’s respectful and does what she’s supposed to. But because we changed the schedule to where we have her one week and her mom has one week she can’t hold it in after day 2. That’s when she starts acting up for her mother.
      In 2 weeks we go back all 3 of us with my daughter. He wanted to speak to my husband but he couldn’t go to this past session.
      She knows dad will be here but will have to leave for a couple hours every night. So she can hold in the I’m good until he walks out the door. The therapist said she only feels safe with me. She knows I’ll never go anywhere and she’s purposely pressing my buttons to see if I’ll leave. So some how we gotta figure out how to get her to stop the behavior.
      I made her a quote book while she was at her mother’s last week. All kinds of quotes. She’s been carrying it around and reading it. It has 60 quotes all about family, respect, stealing, attitude and behavior.
      The therapist said I’m doing exactly what needs to be done and the other 2 need to get on board. I have both of their backs. If one throws a punishment I see it thru. They don’t do that. Which is an issue as well. Because they are forcing me to be the bad guy when they can’t handle doing it. For some reason they still hate each other. I’ve told them get over it. Especially to my husband. He should be over what happened when they divorced. My ex husband and I are a well oiled machine. We have forgiven each other and moved on and anything with the kids we have each other’s back.
      So there’s a lot of changing that needs to happen with these 2 before I see any improvement with my daughter. It’s gonna get worse and I have to sit here and take it until things change.
      So really I’m still screwed and there’s gonna be no change.

    • #87830

      I joined this just to respond to your post!

      I soooo feel you! My husband has custody of his two kids, who see their mother for a few weeks in the summer and a couple times a year, and our 11 y/o is ODD and anxiety, while his older sister is dx with adhd. We have two younger girls together.

      The ODD is soooooo hard. I have experienced the lying, which just as you mentioned makes no sense!! The number of school conferences we had, and honestly I’m the one who is able to be there because my husbands work is not flexible. He destroys things too, like toys and snow boots (most recent find), throws things away that don’t belong to him, and weirdly sneaks food ( which is totally unrestricted in our house but he sneaks it into his closet. He has a clear vinyl lunch box and backpack after some issues with things he took to school, and also has a minimalistic room 🙂

      I will say though that despite all this, I think we have a good relationship! What saved us is a book by Alan Kazdin called parenting the defiant child. The behavior stuff is not fixed exactly, but I feel like we can talk to each other and there’s some measure of peace in our home. He even told me recently about his first crush! If you’re not much of a reader or want a quick version, Alan Kazdin has a video series on Coursera, an app I put on my phone (all free!) and goes over all the parenting approaches there. I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you can get your daughters other parents to read/watch it too, I believe your child’s life could really change – and yours too, seriously. One thing I realize is that I can’t fix the hole in his heart and psyche, and my best efforts may be fruitless in the ways that I normally evaluate success, but if I can give our son a fighting chance of feeling worth something then he can have a chance! Best of luck balancing the impossible for your family.

    • #87833

      First of all, breathe. In the heat of the moment it can be difficult to know you are doing the right thing, but you know you are. The consistency is working in that she knows you will be there. That is no small feat.

      Second, you need a break. It is exhausting to constantly feel like your whole world revolves around someone else’s needs with no end in sight. Yes, your husband and his ex-wife need to get over it and move past it. Yes, it is trying when someone (especially a child!) constantly pushes your buttons and tests your patience. You have to take care of yourself. Join a support group, get into therapy, learn how to make your own bath bombs and take baths, drink a cup of tea, whatever works. Find something that helps take the edge off and then do it.

      The next steps are really up to your husband and his ex-wife. Your step-daughter sounds like she is hurting, deeply, and lacks the skills to express those emotions. Every kid is different, so until she learns how to express her hurts, hopes, and needs, this is going to suck but she will get through it. You ARE doing the right thing. She may feel her behavior caused the divorce, or pushed her own mother away, or even that your children are going to replace her because she is “bad”.

      If no one else is willing to change right now, you change. If she smears poop on the wall? Close the door, dad cleans it when he gets home with her help. You can take a bath while they do that. Tell her you love her, but that is not okay. Tell her that is not princess-like behavior, and talk to her about how princesses do behave (there are many positive examples). The social issues are likely a complete and total lack of confidence, so empathize with her. Did you ever have problems with friends? Invite her to have a slumber party with you and watch Lilo & Stitch, ask her how she would help Lilo make friends. Don’t react if she says something awful, just ask calmly how she thinks that would help. Watch movies with unconventional heros (think Mighty Ducks, Cool Runnings, etc.) that teach how hard work can pay off, take breaks to make popcorn or milkshakes and ask her about the problems the kids are facing in them. My guess is that she spends a lot of time with people talking to her but not listening to her.

      Can you befriend her mom? Have her over for a lunch you and your step-daughter prepare for her? I know that all of this sounds like crazy rewards for a defiant child, but at this point she needs to know that you won’t give her negative attention. Can you imagine being 9 and not knowing how to make friends, or whether or not your mom or dad would stick around? All of the adults tell you to take this pill and things will get better, but they just don’t? All of the things in her life right now reinforce the idea that she is bad. Don’t feed into that.

      You can do this. Yes, it sucks to be the bad guy all the time, to do the heavy lifting, to feel like a virtual single-parent, but that doesn’t mean you have to continue things the way they are because everyone else involved expects you to.

      Good luck!! You are in the right place, you are doing the right thing, don’t give up, just do differently. Never forget to take care of yourself!

    • #87834

      Correction: book title, the Kazdin method for parenting the defiant child. And the Coursera course title, the ABCs of parenting.

    • #87842

      I totally agree with JWK’s post. Focusing on the positives, being very calm and matter of fact about messes “I see you’ve smeared poo on the wall. In our house, we use the bathroom. Here’s a cloth to clean it up. If you need more supplies to clean, let me know.” Calmly walk away. Repeat as necessary.

      I know when my son is at his worst, what I want to do is wring his neck and my yelling reaches a peak by the end of the week. But what he actually NEEDS is real connection time and for me to back off of the discipline. I have to switch up our activities to set him up to succeed (ie: he is running laps smashing things in the morning after breakfast, so instead of being indoors we go for a bike ride to eliminate the opportunity for misbehaviour). I have to clench my jaw to hold in the frustration and anger as he tries to push my buttons and go back into the fray of things, but if I can hold out for a couple days and do what JWK suggests, by the end of the week I have my kid back.

      I don’t have ADHD or ODD, but I would have been described very much how your therapist has described your daughter. You are the one she can trust, so she lashes out at you the most to try and make you leave too. That kid was me. My parents were awful so I would act out to them, but also even more to the couple of adults in my school life who truly cared. (I knew they couldn’t/wouldn’t hit me or hurt me, so it was safe to be super awful with them). Pushing those people away confirms your fears that they’re going to leave anyways, and it’s easier to get that over with than keep on waiting and hoping they don’t leave you. I tell you this because what I needed was calmness, continued kindness and reassurance in spite of my behaviour. The ones who did this for me, despite my shitty attitude and nasty behaviour, became life-long mentors for me and helped me survive into adulthood. Try not to take it personally- it really isn’t about you, it’s about her deep-seated fears and previous experiences. You might just be that one person she really needs right now, if you can see past her behaviour to the very small, wounded girl in there.

      I don’t know how old your other kids are, but if they are old enough I’d have a chat with them explaining that she’s really struggling right now with some big feelings, but she is a very important part of your family and you are all going to be there and help her through it. You might explain that sometimes it may seem she’s being rewarded for bad behaviour, but you are actually focusing on good behaviour because it helps her feel better about herself and want to try harder. Or something more age-appropriate.

      Is there a hobby or talent she’s interested in or good at, that maybe she could participate in over the summer to give you a break? Or a Big Brothers Big Sisters program in your area that might provide a mentor?

    • #87861

      She just started summer school today. Due to her bad behavior and lack of doing her work in school she had to go.
      Her mom and I dropped her off, so she wouldn’t think it was a punishment from me. That it was because she didn’t do her assignments in school.
      Pick up was just me. I had a mom moment asked How was your day? Do you like your teacher? How did it go? I’m not allowed to ask those questions. I get short rude comments. Therapist told me stop asking her. She told me she hates when I ask it’s annoying. So out of instinct I asked. It’s habit. So all day I got attitude just because I cared to ask.
      It’s hard to not take it personal. It’s hard knowing I’m the only one she can Express this too.
      I am going away but she won’t see it. I’m going when she’s at her mother’s. Can’t go while she’s here because my husband will have no one to watch her if he gets a call in the middle of the night.
      I keep asking him to take a night off and I’ll go stay at my sister’s for the night so she can see I’m not always gonna be here. But he thinks she’ll enjoy it and not even acknowledge I left. He doesn’t cook or clean. He doesn’t make sure she gets a shower. If it wasn’t for me she’d never have any of that.
      I feel like I’m being taken forgranted not appreciated. I know it’s her and ADHD and ODD. But it’s hard really really hard. It’s hard not to feel this way. I try to step back and I get it I really do. How do I move past that? I am overwhelmed. I can’t even ask how her day was!!! What mom can’t ask their kid how was their day??
      I feel there’s no light at the end of this tunnel.
      Honestly I feel more like an under paid babysitter for my husband and his ex wife.

      • This reply was modified 3 years, 6 months ago by tlowens1998.
      • This reply was modified 3 years, 6 months ago by Penny Williams.
    • #87821

      Keep in touch with the doctor about the Adderall use. It seldom works the first time and usually needs to be adjusted up or down. Chances are when its (or a medicine like it) dialed in you will notice the difference. Also make sure you get the extended release (or something like Vyvanse which has a really long time of effectiveness) so it is working at home too.
      There are good links that you can share with the parents that they might pay attention to. This is a good example….

      Never Punish a Child for Behavior Outside His Control

    • #88017

      I’m sorry but while ur Grandaughter MAY have ADD, the behaviors she’s exhibiting here seem to go MUCH DEEPER Psychologically (emotionally) than ADD/ADHD.

    • #88018

      Really feel for you! Someone needs to get inside her head and work out what is going on. But how? Does she have a good relationship with anyone who she trusts and respect? Are there any psychologists in the area who have a reputation for treating ODD ?
      Yes she has ADHD ,ODD and the trauma of a divorce; but is there anything else going on ? Bullying? sexual interference? etc Sometimes we get blinkered because we already have a multitude of explanations for behaviour patterns.
      Lastly this is something you’ve walked in on, this is a responsibility that should be owned primarily by her mother and father. Just my opinion but your workload in this should definitely be less than 33 % of the total.
      Kids with ODD have a real risk of transition to Conduct disorders At 9 this could be a matter of urgency and you can’t do this by yourself!
      Although I am a retired GP I have no special expertise in this area nor an intimate understanding of this case so please treat my thoughts as just that.They could well be wide of thew mark, if so my apololgies

    • #88039

      I realize this is easier said than done but you may consider getting a new therapist. Child psychiatrist (vs psychologist). I’m not saying your doctor is wrong or ineffective but it sounds as though his treatment suggestions are just not working. Often, when things are this complicated, having someone new look at the case and the issues with fresh eyes can bring a perspective and new suggestions. I suggest a psychiatrist because they are a medical doctor and can be more skilled at medication effects good or bad and can dig deeper into psychological and physical issues than a psychologist or behavioral specialist can. I’m a big believer that if what you’re doing (in any situation) is not working, you have to change what you’re doing. If changing therapists is not an option, or maybe in addition to changing, you should start seeing a therapist of your own. It will give you a place to release the stress of your situation, and help with your own mental well being which is just as important as helping her. They say you can’t change other people,you can only change how you react to them. Seeing someone for yourself can also help you deal with the strained relationship with her mother. This is hard an kudos to you for trying so hard to make things right.

    • #88013

      Dear tlowens1998,

      I feel your pain. My son, who I adopted 7.5 years ago, exhibited extremely similar behaviors for several years and it was beyond frustrating. We were also given the diagnoses of ADHD and ODD. What I later discovered was that these were just symptoms of a much larger problem of reactive attachment disorder (RAD). Kids with RAD missed out on some critical brain wiring stages in the first three years of life due to traumatic experiences – these are typically abuse or neglect, but can also be associated with an early life spent in the hospital with a medical condition, such as prematurity or another problem that involved the baby being exposed to a lot of pain. One thing that helps these kids a lot is neurofeedback. It has very much helped my son. I would recommend checking out the website for the Institute for Attachment and Child Development (IACD) to see if the articles that are written there ring true for you ( They use neurofeedback extensively to help traumatized children’s brains rewire, which calms their anxiety and helps them to begin to control their impulses.

      One thing that’s really important for you to understand is that you may be becoming a victim of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder yourself due to the difficulties of dealing with this situation. IACD has articles about the “nurturing enemy” syndrome that might be helpful for you to read. Unfortunately, my experience has been that most therapists don’t have a clue about RAD, and often give poor advice. The articles at IACD may help you to feel validated about what’s been going on in your household and may offer some ideas that could help you to move forward.

      Know that your step-daughter is lucky to have someone as caring as you in her life. All the best.

    • #89168

      Update after today’s appointment

      Doctor said we need to take her to a pediatric psychiatric facility for outpatient evaluation.
      The poo smearing is a whole new level and won’t get any better without going.
      This past week she was with her mother and her mother finally saw for herself how bad things really are. She had several tantrums in one store. Where Ib would have left after the 1st one her mother stuck it thru and let it go on and on. She screamed at her mother the next day at the top of her lungs which she’s never done before to her. It’s frequent that I get that side.
      Her therapist told her to do random acts of kindness see if we notice. She has not done one random act at least here.
      According to her pediatrician the adderall is forcing out more of her ODD behaviors and it’s past the point where she can help. So we are on a wait list to get in to see this facility. So pray for us as we wait. It could be months

Viewing 15 reply threads

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.