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Lori Gephart
Lori Gephart, Licensed Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 259
Experience:  20 years of experience as a Psychologist and Parenting Coach. Parent of 2 grown children.
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Hello! I need help big time. I have my 8 1/2 yo stepson living

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Hello! I need help big time. I have my 8 1/2 yo stepson living with us full-time. He was born VERY premature, and now has definitely learning and developmental disabilities. He was identified as being ADHD last spring. His ADHD is pretty strong, I would not call this a mild case. We tried medications, and I am also doing many other things, investigating if he has allergies, dietary changes, etc.

That being said, here is my problem. He seems to be getting worse, not better. I LOVE this child, but I am completely emotionally drained. Taking care of him requires so much, that the other 3 children are not getting the amount of attention they need too. And add to that that I think we're all starting to feel resentful of the situation, myself included. Don't misunderstand, I am not mad at this child. I am just so incredibly overwhelmed and I don't know where to turn for support/help. If he's by himself, he's pretty easy. But when all the kids are around, here are just some of the problems; compulsive liar, he probably lies 30 times a day I just don't catch all of them, he is becoming a bully (the example set for him by his mother and sister, they treat him like crap), he has huge tantrums where he will hit or throw things at the other children, he can't follow a simple direction because he is so incredibly distracted, he can't sit still, he doesn't sleep well at all, if he gets really excited playing with the kids he will be so distracted that he has been known to wet his pants (he's almost 9).

I don't have any friends dealing with something like this, and even though I am a former teacher, I am literally running out of tricks and ideas! My husband and I feel like all we do is yell at him and punish him. We literally can't go for 30 minutes without a major problem with his behavior and it is completely hurting the dynamic of our entire family. Help!

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I am sorry to hear about the problems you are experiencing with your stepson. You are in a difficult position as you are dealing with symptoms of ADHD as well as the learning and developmental disabilities on top of regular parenting issues. Keep in mind that any behavior that gets attention is likely to continue happening. It has been called the law of the soggy potato chip in that if a child thinks that he has a choice between a soggy potato chip or no chip at all, he will choose the soggy chip. If your stepson feels that he has the choice between negative attention or no attention at all, he will choose the negative attention and so he will act out until he gets it. The only way for this pattern to stop is to begin to catch the good behaviors and reward them with attention, and to calmly and matter of factly give consequences for the negative behaviors with as little attention as possible. A very good book on this subject is Win the Whining War & Other Skirmishes: A Family Peace Plan by Cynthia Whitham MSW. The more consistent everyone involved is with this positive parenting, the more secure your stepson will begin to feel and the more his behavior should improve. However, due to the ADHD and other disabilities you cannot expect for all of the behavior problems to necessarily be eliminated. You may try talking with the psychiatrist who is prescribing his medication for help with this as his medication may need to be adjusted. Also, he may be eligible for in home behavior specialist who may be able to help. I hope this answer is helpful. Please let me know if I can clarify further.

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