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Keeping skeletons in closet often OK
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Q: My ex-husband and I aren’t friendly. Ours was his second marriage. His first marriage produced a child, but when he and his first wife divorced, he renounced all parental rights. Our son is now 16. I always hoped he’d tell our son about his first marriage, his other son and how his alcoholism played the biggest role in our divorce, but he never has. I’ve had chats about the divorce with our son, but I’m wondering if I should tell him about his half-brother. I don’t want my son to find out later and then be angry at me for not telling him. What are your thoughts?
 A: Concerning issues of this sort (including adoption, out-of-wedlock births, previous marriages), my standard recommendation is that one should tell a child what he absolutely needs to know, when he absolutely needs to know. You’ve admitted that you and your ex-husband don’t get along. In that context, I can’t help but wonder whether telling your son about his father’s previous child would amount to a not-so-subtle expression of hostility on your part. I certainly don’t get the impression that your son needs this information. In any case, it’s not your responsibility to tell him about his father’s past; it’s his father’s responsibility. Let it stay that way.
Q: My 8-year-old son is a sweet, sensitive little guy with a really bad temper. When I ask him to do something like take a bath or clean his room he often flies off the handle. The same thing usually occurs when I try to discipline him. Tonight he slammed his door when I sent him to bed early for fighting with his brother, so I removed it from the hinges, remaining calm the whole time. Is this over-reacting? Why does he have such a bad temper?
A: I don’t know why he has a bad temper (and asking why is not going to advance a solution), but I can tell you that you are most definitely not describing a “sweet, sensitive little guy.” He sounds more like a self-centered little tyrant who is in great need of a significant altitude adjustment. Your reluctance to face facts is compounded by your reluctance to put the proverbial hammer down on his outrageous behavior. Taking his door off its hinges was under-reacting, not over-reacting.
Your son is suffering (and making everyone else suffer) from a bad case of toddlerhood-in-perpetuity. It’s high time he was forced to leave toddlerhood behind and grow up. You can accomplish this by issuing him what I call a “godfather offer” — an offer he can’t refuse.
Make a comprehensive list of his misbehaviors. Make it as specific as possible. Post it on the refrigerator. Suspend all of his privileges, and I mean every single one of them — after-school activities, television, video games, sleep-overs and so on — until none of the behaviors on the list have occurred for one month straight. In other words, if he has three good weeks and then throws a tantrum, the month-he-will-never-forget starts over again the next day. His complete rehabilitation may take six months. Just stay the course and be optimistic. After all, this has been in the making for six years.

Psychologist Rosemond answers questions at
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