Mom needs help responding to disrespect from 16-year-old son

<p>My son is just finishing sophomore year and is suddenly extremely disrespectful to me. My DH travels a great deal, so is usually away from home -- 75% of the time -- so I'm on my own here. Big brother is away at college -- and he did not go through the separation process in the same way, so I really have no experience with this level of scorn, derision, mocking, and disrespect overall.</p>

<p>I feel as though S cannot hear any advice I offer him -- This may be a gender issue, as he suddenly dislikes his female teachers, coaches, mom. He really wants to spend time with his athlete friends -- not the most academically oriented bunch -- and does not want to think about upcoming exams. Seems reluctant to drive the car -- I sense he feels anxious about growing up and prefers to avoid thinking about it. His grades are high, but his mind is closed, if that makes sense to anyone. He wants to remain carefree -- a kid -- and not think about taking on more responsibility or planning for next week. </p>

<p>Do I take a hard line, which I have been doing, or do I back off? I would welcome others' input here!</p>

<p>Because we are sacrificing to send him to a private school, I have told him that, with each incident of disrespect, he will be fined 5% of his tuition for the month (about $150, which will drain his savings pretty quickly). Perhaps this is too harsh, but I just can't make myself continue to work so hard for a hateful teen who is constantly telling me "Shut up," "You don't know what you are talking about," "You are out of your mind." Ouch.</p>

<p>My older son is a gem, so at least I got it right with one of them. Feel like I'm completely failing with younger son, however. :(</p>

<p>have you asked him what he thinks is feeding the bad attitude? What is going on with him? And if so, what does he say about it?</p>

<p>He says it’s too early for him and his peers to be burdened by AP and SAT subject tests, for which some of them are studying now. I know he feels anxious about this. I think his anxiety is rising because he is NOT studying, but when I encourage him to set aside some time, I receive the disrespectful responses.</p>

<p>His school requires the kids who take AP classes to take the exams, by the way, so this is really not up to me.</p>

<p>Read this book:
“Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall?”: A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager, by Anthony E. Wolf.</p>

<p>When my daughter was 12 years old, she said to me: You know that good little girl I used to be? THAT GIRL IS GONE! The book really helped me understand what was going on and how to react and how not to react, and sometimes not reacting was necessary, as well as avoiding punishments/consequences that were harder on me than they were on her. There are effective ways to express disapproval without going down the slippery slope that leads to banishment or murder!</p>

<p>Some different advice for parents of boys. Since I have no first-hand experience with boys, I can’t give a first-hand recommendation on that, but it’s an easy read. Available as an e-book via Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or for $4 used, including postage. Definitely worth $4! It saved my sanity.</p>

<p>Good luck!</p>

<p>It sounds a little like you are trying to give him a lot of school/college advice and he is interpreting this as you telling him what to do? My S did not do much studying for AP tests and refused to apply to any school that would require SAT subject tests. No amount of nagging from me would have changed that, so I let it be. It seems your monetary fines aren’t helping. Stop working so hard for him maybe.</p>

<p>Thanks, oldmom! I’m ordering it right now. The slippery slope – yes, we’re on it!</p>

<p>Oh,dear. Went through a little of this with my daughter at 14-15, and I think at any age, it’s a shock to be treated disrespectfully when we do so much–too much, actually–for our kids.
I don’t know if your approach of fining for rudeness will work that well, as you still find yourself in a power struggle. I guess I would say, if it’s working, great. But it sounds like he is still being disrespectful. I guess I would go more with limiting his access to the fun things he likes (seeing friends, entertainment) rather than linking it to school. He may just decide school doesn’t mean that much to him and start doing poorly. Some combination of grounding and rule making seemed to work for us. We actually put a chart of house rules up (like when she was 2), but we worked out the rules together. Do you think sitting down with him, along with your husband when he gets home, and having a calm, respectful conversation about some basic rules of conduct would be possible? Then come up, together, with “consequences” for breaking the rules. No Friday night movie with friends, for instance.
I wish I could say,“this too will pass,” but without drawing the line and making it clear that you’re not a doormat, I wouldn’t guarantee it. He needs to learn that you expect, and deserve, respect. But your husband needs to be supportive, so get him in on the action. I agree with those who say this isn’t atypical. It’s actually far too common. But you shouldn’t just let it go.<br>
Best of luck.</p>

<p>Sarabande, I have been through this so believe me, I know the difficulty. Some boys just go through the separation process a little differently than others.</p>

<p>When my son was disrespectful, I called him on it. I told him that this was not the behavior that a mature person would present. I let him know when my feelings were hurt and why.
I always communicted my feelings (even if a little loudly sometimes! :0) )</p>

<p>I did not condone his behavior, but must warn you, that did nothing to alleviate the situation. You can demand respect, but that doesn’t mean you are going to get it from a person who is essentially a boy fighting to be man. </p>

<p>Yes, there were punishments and groundings, it was rough going. But I stood my ground (and he stood his on too many occasions) and gradually, the maturity set in.</p>

<p>I am now his confidant. He comes to me with girl problems, school issues and the like. We have deep and meaningful conversations. He is beginning to mature into a wonderful young man. </p>

<p>Oh, he still has his moments. And I still call him on it.</p>

<p>I guess I am just trying to tell you to hang in there. There is light at the end of the tunnel. It is frustrating and infuriating, but hopefully you will have the same outcome that I have had. Just try to keep the lines of communications open - even if it seems one-sided sometimes.</p>

<p>@mamabear, yes he does want me to back off, no question about it. I’m just not confident that he will not ride off the rails with some of his rougher friends if I oblige. I feel like I have a choice of asking him to tow a strict line (I’ve always asked for a respectful household!) or truly backing off and praying that it will all work out for him somehow.</p>

<p>I would continue to use the hard-line approach and get on top of this. No way should any teen be telling Mom to shut up. I think the fine penalty for each incidence of disrespect is an appropriate penalty. Are you grounding him, taking away phone, losing computer privileges? Most kids have many things provided by parents that are privileges. If the kid isn’t holding up his end of the bargain, those things should be withdrawn.</p>

<p>Also, Dad needs to be involved here in getting this in hand, while he is home and by phone or text while away. I would also recommend a few counseling sessions with a child psychologist to help you deal with him and to advise you in setting up better rules and boundaries. </p>

<p>I would not back off in any way. Your house, your money paying tuition, I imagine your money paying for his cell, internet, TV, food, etc.</p>

<p>We had my stepson living with us from age 19-21 and did not take a firm approach with him and it was a disaster that nearly ended our marriage. I learned a lot from that. Stepson is fine now–the U.S. Navy straightened him out. He has apologized many times for his poor behavior to us in those years.</p>


If it were me, I would say, “Please explain to me why I should continue to sacrifice for your luxury private school when you treat me like that. If you cannot do so, back to Public High you shall go.”</p>

<p>Give him a couple of days and have him sit down with you and your husband to do it. Maybe he really wants to go back to public school, without the pressure, without feeling inadequate. Maybe he’s lashing out at women for some other reason. But you can save your own sanity by refusing to “give it all” to a son who is a snot to you.</p>

<p>Be strong. Don’t react to insults. Don’t return the insults. Also stop cooking, cleaning, driving and being his slave in general until his manners return. It’s loaf of bread, bolonga and bus pass time until he learns a little appreciation.</p>

<p>Thanks for your thoughts, moonchild. Yes, we’re still in a power struggle. He mocked me at breakfast – imitating a couple of my sentences with some powerful derision in his voice. So, that was a fine. But yes, my strategy might be very flawed. It’s hard to explain how painful this is – but I’m relieved to have some company here and to know from others that this is survivable. I gave up my career to raise my sons – and this level of anger makes me feel that I have been well and truly “doormatted!”</p>

<p>Thanks for the encouragement, mythreesons. He is, in all ways, a “boy fighting to be a man!”</p>

<p>Another thought: I didn’t think of this at the time (my kids are both done and out now), but if my kid at 16 were to give me a lot of trouble today, I’d require him to get a job. Working three days a week after school and one day on the weekend would make him appreciate your efforts a lot more, as well as teaching him a lot. He needs more responsibility.</p>

<p>At a time when everything is calm and quiet I would explain to him that you will no longer allow him to back talk you.</p>

<p>Tell him exactly what behavior you will not deal with. Then tell him as soon as he exhibits this behavior you will be turning off his phone. If it costs money to reactivate the phone he will have to give you the money and then you will reactivate it if his behavior is good for x number of days.</p>

<p>He will stop.</p>

<p>Kids this age need to feel the punishment immediately. Internet access, phone, car etc are the quickest , easiest and most painful ways to get the desired behavior.</p>

<p>Then do it.</p>

<p>Good Luck</p>

<p>You mentioned that your husband travels 75% of the time. When he’s home, does he “parent,” or does he leave it all for you to do? Your son needs to know that both his parents feel the same way about his behavior.</p>

<p>ETA: And when your husband is home, does he treat you with respect?</p>

<p>Sorry you are having this issue. If mine mocked me I would be very hurt too.</p>

<p>I guess my initial reaction comes from having had a dictator mother - everything had to be done her way. This did not engender respect from me. I think parents need to look at how they are speaking to their teenagers too. What worked when they were younger may no longer produce the desired response. It does sound like a family discussion is in order.</p>

<p>Well, ariesathena, sosomenza and others, you are giving me some much-needed affirmation concerning what I have felt intuitively. Thank you very, very much. I am going to continue to expect respect and accountability – and yes, I will see if my husband can join in by Skype once a day. And maybe big brother can help in giving him some guidance as well. Counseling, yes – that, too.</p>

<p>Sarabande, my son now tells me that he was very happy that I stood my ground and did not put up with his disrespect. </p>

<p>He also tells me that even though it seemed like he wasn’t listening to what I was telling him, that he heard my advice and it did eventually sink in.</p>

<p>I wasn’t easy on him, but I made sure that he knew I was always there for him and had his best interests in mind.</p>

<p>I think the Slippery Slope Book is a good read as well.</p>

<p>Don’t worry - you will get through this!</p>

<p>One final word - watch out for those friends that are lacking in ambition. My son had a few friends like those and when grounding was necessary, activities with those friends were the first thing to go.</p>

<p>sax, great point about the immediacy of the phone having more impact. I know my son’s phone is the center of his social world.</p>

<p>Veryhappy, my husband is gone so much that he has a big problem setting strict limits. He wants to be friends with our sons. I want to parent them toward a successful independent life. So, our parenting styles are very different. My older S did not exploit the gap. But now. . .</p>

<p>My husband does treat me with respect, BUT is not quick to back up my rules. I have to ask for the support, which is exhausting, frankly. And maybe I have become a “dictator mother,” as mamabear mentions, partly because the parenting is 100% my responsibility and I feel as though I’m alone on the front lines.</p>