Anyone dealing with an impossible teen?

I don’t know what went on to him the last year or two. He is still very good with his classes. But he is very nasty toward us, the parents. We can’t talk any sense out of him. He will not reason with us. With his college apps, he refused to show us his essays. He thinks he is entitled to everything, like us paying his colleges.

What would you do? Any suggestions? We can full pay but we are no longer willing to do so, given the money has a better use for his disabled sibling and our retirement.

It is very discouraging for us. We truly don’t want to spend $60k x 4 for someone like him. He said we threatened him.


Given the brief bit of what you have said so far, your S actually sounds fairly typical IMO.

I think it should be the student’s decision as to whether to show parents the application essays. Neither of us looked at D’s. Things turned out fine.

As for costs, there is no reason you should have to pay of all of it. You might tell your S that he will be responsible for $5500 per year of the cost. He can either take out a student loan, or obtain a merit scholarship to cover that amount.

Also, we asked our D to pay for part of her deposit once she decided among her acceptances.

So, the only specific issue you mention is that he won’t show you his essays. Is that the only problem?

A wise person recently said to me, “solve the problem”.

If the problem is that the essays may be poorly written, you can solve that by encouraging him to have someone proof/edit it for him. English teachers are usually very willing to help with college essays.

If the problem is that he’s not grateful enough for what you do for him as parents and no longer do everything you suggest, do you think withholding funds for college will solve that problem? Probably not. A better solution for that problem may be to adjust your expectations.

Oh, and just so it’s clear. I think most of us have been there.

This is called ‘fouling the nest’ which is what many teens do as the departure approaches. They get more and more unpleasant to live with until you are positively relieved to see the back of them.

Cut him a bit of slack for a stressful time which this is - but not to the point where he is rude to you. And no, there is no reason at all why he should feel that he has unlimited privileges where your bank account is concerned. Explain how much money is available for his education. The rest is up to him - he can’t borrow much, but he can apply for scholarships, do work study, attend a cheaper school, etc… That’s not threatening him. It’s just explaining the realities of adult life - we all want the Ferrari, but we drive what we can afford. So it goes with college. For many teens, it’s the first time they understand in a meaningful way that not every family has the same financial resources or values, and that ultimately, what they make of their lives is up to them. This is only the first of many lessons in adulthood that he will be getting over the next few years. Feel no guilt at all about it.

I think it should be up to him whether you read his essays.

Other than the essays, what specific things has he done? I certainly wouldn’t threaten to withhold college funds because my kid wouldn’t show me an essay. If you previously told him you would pay the full cost, IMO it’s pretty extreme to go back on that at this point. If he’s working on applications now he presumably made a list based on money not being an issue. So I would hope there’s a good reason to change the parameters now.

Teenagers can be annoying, especially to their parents. It’s not clear from what you have said if there’s more going on than typical teen stuff.

That said, if your retirement or your other child’s needs will be severely impacted by paying for private school then you certainly aren’t required to do it. But it doesn’t sound like that’s the issue.

I haven’t seen my D’s essay. It has been reviewed by an English teacher and her counselor so I am confident that it is ok. She showed me her common app for the first time two days ago. She wanted me to review it for errors before she pressed “send” for the first time. It’s her app not mine. I’m glad she’s being independent about this.

It sounds like there is some anger involved on all sides, so maybe talking to someone would help you, and then meeting together with a counselor would help you and him. Much of what you describe is quite normal, as others have said, but we don’t really know enough to comment helpfully. Many kids do not show essays to parents: it is sometimes their first independent act, the first of many to come. I would not withhold college funds as a punishment, , but if there are financial issues it is very reasonable to limit costs or hold him responsible for a doable portion- if out of necessity. We have all had moments of despair as our kids pull away, and all I can say it that it generally gets better in coming years.

Yes, both sides are very angry especially me the mom. It is not just the essays. Whatever we said would trigger a tsunami. Here are the two replies he often says “tell me something I don’t know” or “why don’t you say it earlier?”. Either way we are losers. We hate to talk to him. We are totally stressed out. My husband stops talking to him.

He doesn’t have close friends. Most of his time is spent in his room and the computer. He is extremely smart yet very sloppy with his works (due to he doesn’t spend much time on them). The last essay he showed me was very controversy to a point we are very concerned. It is about the violence (possibly due the recent events) and not well written. We told him to re-write. We want to see the essay again because we are really worried. NO one else is going to read his essay (he won’t let them).

He doesn’t need to stand out on his essay to gain admission to a state school. He is well above the average kids there. I can’t live with something that dramatic. Am I failed as a parent? My story in a short version is that I may not give him all the attention early on because I work from home and have another child with severe disability. He uses this excuse to haunt me. I really don’t know what to do.

I am thinking of working with a mental health worker. If he refuses to join in, is there any good to it? I can’t take it anymore.

Sorry it is kind of confusion.

What dramatic thing can you not live with? A state school?

My son is very smart but had less than stellar grades so he is at a nearby state school. His grades are still less than ideal but he’s getting along and enjoying himself. I do wonder sometimes if something could have motivated him more so he’d have more options, but that’s on him at the end of the day. My D has my h better grades and could have lots of options but she may very well choose our flagship.

I think going to a counselor can be helpful even if he won’t join you. It would be better if he would but if you start maybe he will come around later. Even if he doesn’t it might help.

To me the whole “paying for college” discussion is very much cart-before-the-horse if you are dealing with a teen who isn’t respecting you as parents. Not quite sure if you’re describing typical teenage moodiness, or a teen who has truly decided he has absolutely no need to show respect and politeness to his family members. We all have a bad day, or a bad week, but CONSISTENT lack of parental respect/ politeness demands to be addressed before worrying about Where The College Money Is Coming From.

So, I’d be tempted to have a heart to heart about “your future” and what’s going to happen for the next 10 months until that (presumably) college-oriented future arrives. First I would compliment him on his hard work and keeping the grades up, and anything else he does that you’re pleased with. Don’t take his good qualities for granted. Then, bring up the nastiness/lack of respect, and point out that (other than having a bad day) you don’t expect family members to treat each other with a lack of respect. Also that YOU will treat him with the respect HE deserves, including letting him handle his own essays unless/until he asks for input.

Be specific about what you expect politeness/respect to look like.

Yes my teens have bad days and will backtalk at times. Each and every time this happens, we ask them to cool down, rethink how they’ve phrased things, and later have a discussion. They are usually able to apologize or rephrase their feelings at that time, or we hash it out if we’re not in agreement. We as parents apologize to them for any times we think we’ve been unreasonable or over the top. We’re not perfect. We have family meetings in the evenings several times a week to discuss anyone’s issues. That keeps the lines of communication open.

If the nastiness continues unabated, I would tell him to make plans to attend community college until he “matures” a bit more. (Bear in mind though that if this is a habit that you’ve allowed him to continue for several years, it may take a rough patch of back and forth, and reiteration of parental expectations, until he improves greatly) Conquering the nastiness is essential if he wants to be able to function in adult society with adult relationships.

Good luck! Teens are tough.

So are middle aged parents, sometimes, lol!

Ask him to show you all application materials for 2 safety schools. The rest of his applications will be up to him.
If you suspect mental health or drugs issues do not send him far away. Preferably chose a school where he can commute.

The violence part in his essay got me worried. He is critical about things in general.

Can you be more specific about the violence? There seems to be so much going on with him. You also said that he doesn’t have any close friends and that he spends most of his time alone on the computer. Plus your disabled child’s effect on your family.I sense a really long story that you would rather not go into, but this sounds like such a serious situation! People here want to help, I have found, but the more information you provide the better your answers will be.

If you are worried about violence, or that he’s contemplating things like that in a serious way, then I would definitely get a family and/or individual counselor involved pronto! That’s more important than worrying about college applications, he can always take a gap year if he’s got serious issues that need to be addressed.

I am sorry, OP. Some seniors get that way. At least he is still doing well in school.

You could have a big talk with him about how much you can afford to pay for college and warn him to be sure and apply to a safety—an admissions and cost safety. But you can’t make him show you his essays and I would stop trying. It is fair to tell him someone else should read them for grammar, sense, etc.

The other stuff, the disrespect and being alone, is tougher. If I were the mom, I would tell him that I love him and am concerned that he is behaving differently and that he can talk to me. Then let it go. Don’t nag or lecture. It may get worse before it gets better. A counselor would help, or even another adult who he still trusts.

We had a battle for control at our house between S2 and H. I was in the middle, trying to explain to S2 that his dad was still the boss and to H that he couldn’t micromanage S2’s life. Ugh. Having been apart for a few months, they get along again.

It doesn’t sound like you can work through this on your own, so yes, seek counseling. You can also write out what you will pay for college and what you will not. If he goes to the flagship, state what you will pay. If he goes to a $60k school, show what you will pay, what you’ll expect him to pay, how often he will come home, etc.

Kids don’t get to expect you to just be a bank account. You have a right to expect him to be part of your family, to talk, to participate in order to get his share of the family money. If he doesn’t want to be part of the family, he can make other arrangements for his life. My kids know that if they aren’t a family member, they don’t get family benefits. Being part of the family requires a certain amount of activities and definitely requires respect be shown to me.

However, it didn’t happen overnight. There were years of saying please and thank you for the simplest things like a ride to school, a gift, a favorite treat from the grocery store. I can’t tell you how many of their friends I drove places and never received a thank you, and it was pointed out to my kids. Mine know better.

It sounds like he is unhappy with the situation too, and would really benefit from counseling. Hope it works.

This can happen with teens even when they’re not stressed-out seniors applying to college. I read the best book about it called “Get Out of My Life, but First Can You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall?” It’s an older book, revised over the years, and the author has written a newer follow-up. Note-this book and my experience is just about having a mouthy teen who thinks parents are on the stupid train and that teens know it all.

Just had a moment with my own senior. After being mouthy all afternoon, I said, in as calm a way as possible, “I don’t know why you’re acting this way today, but you need to dial it back.” And she did, because she genuinely hadn’t realized how nasty she sounded. With her older sister, that didn’t work, and things got so contentious that we DID end up in counseling. It was very helpful having a neutral 3rd party help us use non-threatening words to hash out differences. It didn’t make things magically perfect, but it helped.

It sounds like you’re not a native to this country, OP. Perhaps some of the hostility you’re experiencing is your son wanting to be more independent than you’re used to and he’s frustrated with the differences between you. That doesn’t excuse rudeness, but it does possibly explain it.

I agree with the above suggestion to have a heart-to-heart, calm talk and explain what you will and won’t pay for regarding college. Remind him that his essays play a part in where he goes, and that he should have SOMEONE look them over. Then drop it. Hand him a list of the in-state public colleges you can afford and that may not even HAVE an essay component (many in my state do not) and tell him that unless he does a good job on the essays, his options may be limited.

I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but when they act like this, you just love them even more. It’s when they need you most. Maybe he’s scared to leave you alone to care for his sibling. Maybe he doesn’t actually want to go far away. Maybe he is being pushed to major in something that he doesn’t want to do, or go someplace he doesn’t want to go. Maybe a bit of all of that. When teens, especially boys, get scared and/frustrated, they lash out at the people closest to them. I don’t think seeing a therapist is a bad idea.

The good news is that they eventually come around and become nice people again. My son was a different person after his time in the military. He grew up so much between 18-25. MY older D was a bear between 16-19 but at 25 she’s a sweetheart and we’re very close again. MY youngest is a different kind of kid, but even SHE has her moments. Be firm with love and respect-it will all work out. Good luck.

I think counseling for you sounds like a great idea even if your son isn’t interested (he’s probably not.) But you’ll feel better if you have someone you can talk to, you can get some objective feedback and maybe some new perspectives, you might learn some additional strategies for coping with your son when he’s being unpleasant, and it will take some pressure off your spouse/partner to be your sole support and back-up here. Hopefully, your health insurance will cover some of this, in which case there is no downside.

Being the parent of a special needs kid is very, very challenging. It complicates the family dynamics significantly. No reason at all why you shouldn’t have someone in your corner to help you sort through all of this. View it as a gift you are giving yourself because you deserve it.

I feel like I’ve been in your shoes, and I am paying for the expensive school, and it is finally getting better, now that my son is a senior in college. He was very bright, had great test scores, and probably could have been accepted to even better schools, had his attitude and our relationship been better at the time. Things were so bad he didn’t even apply to his number 1 school, even though they gave him 2 extra weeks to complete his application. (Saved me some money, but it made me sad too). I love sseamom’s words “when they act like this you just love them even more.” I have let my son treat me like “I’d never let anyone treat me,” (we really mean all those things, until we are trying to figure out how to just survive sometimes). I guess I’ve tried to lead by example. For some period of time I would threaten not paying for his school, and then I realized that wasn’t doing any of us any good. The thought of having him home longer wasn’t very pleasant, that’s for sure. I didn’t read his essays, and he wrote some of them the night they were due. In our case, we were lucky to have a couple of pretty darn good school (GT and Case Western) acceptances pretty early, so it eased some of my stress. If your son doesn’t complete applications, or get in at four year schools, there’s always community college. There’s more than one path to success. Please remember that at the end of this, your relationship is more important than his acceptances. Sorry I’ve been rambling on. Maybe there’s something useful here.

You are right to be concerned about the violence. Counseling is required here, if only to test the waters, then, fine.