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Fiance's Son Is Violent
Q: My fiance's son is very abusive and out of control. He hits and swears at his mother, talks about killing me with a gun, and kicks his two younger sisters. His mother refuses to discipline him because he has ADHD and was sexually abused. Am I wrong in thinking this is just encouraging him to misbehave more? What can I do personally, and what can my fiance and I do together?
A: You mention that he has talked about killing you with a gun, which raises the first question: Is there a gun in the environment? If so, the priority must be to ensure that he does not have access to it by any means.
Next, threatening to kill people is not a symptom of ADHD. Discipline may seem like an obvious way of controlling conduct, but it likely won't be effective unless all the adults involved agree on a strategy and apply it consistently.
This situation may be past the point that discipline alone will be a solution. You note that your stepson is violent toward his sisters. I realize you and your fiance don't have full-time custody, but when the kids are with you and their father, he has a clear responsibility to protect the girls - and you.
It seems an unreasonable expectation that you can play some immediately decisive role in a situation in which two other adults bear the primary responsibility. Is the boy receiving professional counseling or other treatment? Have you and your fiance met with a psychologist about this? I would strongly urge you to start with these steps.
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Gavin de Becker is widely regarded as the leading U.S. expert on the prediction and management of violence. His work has earned him three Presidential appointments and a position on a congressional committee. He is currently co-chair of the Domestic Violence Council Advisory Board, and a Senior Fellow at the UCLA School of Public Policy.