I live with my wife in her house along with our two children and her other two children. The problem is that we found out that her oldest son is a thief, but I can’t discipline him. In addition, two weeks ago he tried to sexually abuse his younger brother. Their mother knows about everything but doesn’t do anything. I want to get out of the house but I’m afraid of what will happen to my children since I can’t afford to take them with me. What should I do?

Dear Friend,

We are very glad that you asked for our advice, but there is some information that you have left out. You don’t say why you want to leave the house. We don’t know if you are having marital problems, or if you are afraid of the older boy. Since you are an adult, we have to believe that you can protect yourself from anything that the older boy would try to do to you.

Even if you are having marital problems, this is no time for you to abandon ship! Your children need you in their lives every day. If there is any danger, they definitely need you there to protect them. And your wife needs you in the home to make sure that her older son does not continue to steal from or to abuse anyone. Only a weak and frightened man would leave the home now. Is that how you see yourself?

You say that you can’t discipline the boy, but you don’t tell us why. Is it that your wife doesn’t allow you to discipline him, or is it that the boy doesn’t obey what you have told him? It is always difficult to know what is best when stepparents are involved, but that doesn’t mean that you should give up on the entire family! Even if you can’t discipline the boy, you can protect the other three children.

One of our sons went through a rebellious period when he was a teenager. He stole things from us and made it necessary for us to put keyed locks on the inside doors of our house. You may need to install locks in your home to prevent further theft.

The issue of sexual abuse is extremely serious. However, we have no way of knowing exactly what happened, or if it could have been a misunderstanding or even a lie. Just in case there is any truth to the accusation, please make sure that none of the other children are left alone with their older brother, and that he has no opportunity to try something like that again. If he does, then he needs professional help. His mother should know that her obligation is to protect her younger son, and that if she doesn’t, that younger son may feel that she sacrificed him to his older brother and thus he may resent her for the rest of his life.

This is the time for you and your wife to ask God to change your lives from the inside out. Ask Him to forgive you for the ways that you have broken His laws, and to give you a clean heart and a fresh start. With His help, your family can get through this difficult period in your lives. He can give you the strength and wisdom that you need.

We wish you well,

Linda and Charles