How can I get through to my 9 year old stepson and get him to care again?
My stepson (who is now almost 10) moved in with us full time almost 2 years ago. He doesn't have any contact with his mother - her choice. We know that this must me excruciating for him but he doesn't talk about her at all. Last year when he was in 2ND grade, he was diagnosed with ADHD and we chose to go with the pediatrician's recommendation of medication. This seemed to work wonders on getting him to focus in school. He started 3rd grade good this year but right after Christmas break, things went down hill fast. He stopped putting effort in his school work. Has all but refused to finish simple homework assignments. He's not doing the simple chores at home anymore - we've even decreased the amount of chores that he is responsible for, thinking that we were putting too much pressure on him. Did not make a difference. We have a younger child at home (6 years old) and he has no problems doing his chores and the homework that he brings home. I'm trying really hard not to compare them but if a 6 year old can do it - why can't a 9 year old! We've tried grounding him, spanking, time-outs, taking toys away, etc - NOTHING WORKS! We've done the parent/teacher conferences and now they are worried about him moving to 4Th grade where the expectations are higher. I don't know what to do! We have stopped allowing him to play sports until his grades/effort in school improves but that doesn't even seem to motivate him... I NEED help because I feel completely helpless now!
Its really great that you're taking the time to reach out for some help on how to get through to your stepson. It sounds like the young boy has been through a lot in his young life (uninvolved mother, ADHD diagnosis). It has probably been tough on him, and on you and his father as well. In the face of a really difficult and confusing situation, you really are doing a great job of opening up and reaching out. Taking this step really shows strong parenting qualities.
As we mentioned earlier, your stepson has been through a lot in his young life. Having been through what he is, it would not be surprising if all of it is taking a toll on him and affecting his behaviors, feelings, and thoughts. When these types of things happen, it is always a good idea to think about getting some outside help; especially if you feel as though his behaviors are beyong the scope of what you can help him overcome as a parenting. From reading your post it sounds like you've tried some really great parenting strategies but just haven't found the right "recipe" to help him make a turn in a positive way. A counselor could really help with that- and taking him to a counselor does not automatically mean he will be given another diagnosis or medicine. Rather, focusing on behavioral modification should be the goal of these sessions.
Also, don't forget to "catch your stepson being good." When a child is struggling with an extended period of misbehavior it can be relatively easy for the parents to focus all of their attention on the negative behaviors while ignoring the things he does right. Don't fall into that type of parenting behavior. Rather, praise and reward his good behaviors, as well as providing firm and consistent consequences for his misbehavior.