16-yr-old DS, being violent, really needs to move in with his father temporarily for all our sakes, but refuses

(50 Posts)
cinnamontoast Sun 05-Jan-14 17:18:31

My DS has (mild-ish) Asperger's and can be absolutely rigid in his behaviour. We have occasional blow-ups with him, particularly on holidays, but since he started sixth form I've been really pleased that our relationship has got closer - he's confided in me a lot about friendship issues and asked for support with schoolwork. However, the slightest thing can lead to a confrontation and this time it was asking him to write his Christmas thank-you letters (he does it every year; it would take him about 20 minutes). He delayed and delayed, lied about it, then outright refused. Eventually I confiscated his phone to punish him and he took up residence in our bedroom - at nearly midnight! - refused to leave, and started chucking stuff around. This has happened once before and my DH and I ended up calling the police; this time we called DS's father, who lives a few minutes away, and he eventually persuaded him, at 1.30am, to go back to his place. He also told him to write the thank-you letters the next day so we could consider giving him his phone back.
That was Friday, so plenty of time for cooling off and for letter writing. This afternoon I went to DS's room and asked for the letters - I hoped for a reconciliation. He ended up throwing a cup of tea at me, attacking me and DH physically and throwing a chair down the stairs at us. I really lost my temper and said that he wasn't welcome here any more, he could go and live with his dad; I've done this a couple of times before but he absolutely refuses to go. We called his father again, who is currently trying to persuade DS to leave and spend some cooling off time with him but DS won't budge.
It breaks my heart but I really feel I cannot have him in the house any more. Sometimes it feels as if we have spent our whole lives anxious to avoid another scene with him, and now he is bigger than us there is a physical danger. It's also very bad for my DD, aged 12, who understandably hates the situation. She blames us, which I find frustrating - though at the same time I can see that from her point of view we're the adults and should be able to control things. I feel an utter failure as a mother right now.
I am so angry with him - I won't list the hurtful things he says but basically he knows all the buttons to push. He also sneers at me that I don't see punishments through so they're meaningless. Actually I do most of the time, but it's so very hard to find a punishment that has any impact - there's very little he cares about and the only reason he was angry about the phone is that he got it into his head that I was going to text his friends. I feel that we must ensure he goes and stays with his dad but I simply don't know how to make that happen - any ideas? I am actually considering changing the locks, which seems like madness.
I know DS is stressed by coursework and impending exams, and he often behaves in an unacceptable way when stressed. But really, I feel a line needs to be drawn here, that we cannot just go on as before.
Sorry this is so long! Maybe just writing it down will help. Any advice? Please?

Technoprobe Sun 05-Jan-14 18:24:54

No advice but huge sympathy. Please don't see yourself as a failure as a mum: you have a lot to deal with smile

cinnamontoast Sun 05-Jan-14 18:30:08

Thank you, Technoprobe! I just wish I was dealing with it better. Have just been to talk to DD; she burst into tears and doesn't want anything to do with me.

headinhands Sun 05-Jan-14 18:31:49

Hi op, just a thought, it might be worth reposting this in the Special Needs area. There's bound to be a parent with an Aspie teen who's been through/going through similar who might have some good ideas who to speak to. One things for sure you're not a bad parent! You're just very upset and concerned and trying to juggle everyone's needs at the same time and you're reaching out for support.

thornrose Sun 05-Jan-14 18:37:25

Sorry I have no advice but I just wanted to say something! My dd is 14 and has AS, she has been very violent and aggressive to me, it's soul destroying isn't it?

Punishments and consequences have never, ever worked for us.

I've not done this yet but have you considered calling the police (terrifying as it may seem!)

cinnamontoast Sun 05-Jan-14 19:06:14

Thanks, headinhands, I considered Special Needs but there doesn't seem much activity there. And I never know with DS how much of his behaviour is Asperger's and how much just standard teen - probably a bit of both here.
thornrose, so sorry to hear about your DD's behaviour. Yes, soul destroying, and I really don't think I handle it well with DS. I'm sure I should be able to maintain some distance while he's kicking off, and I do try, but after a while I just lose it, and become emotional. Have just looked on the MN teen advice page and it says never, ever follow them into their room during an argument because that's where they lash out. Really good advice - that's often when it starts. And sometimes, when I can see he's about to hit or grab me, I say, 'Go on then, hit me if you must' and that stops him (probably because he won't do what he's told!)
^Punishments and consequences have never, ever worked for us^- God, yes, I could have written that. He doesn't give a damn about punishments - in fact he seems to actively invite them – and he won't accept that certain things happen as a direct consequence of his behaviour.
I did call the police last time, which was the hardest thing I've ever done. A lovely chap came round who was brilliant with DS and even got him to apologise to us - virtually a first. I threatened to call them again this time but ultimately chickened out, because they didn't take him down to the police station last time but said they would if it happened again. I know, I know - I should have the guts to see it through.

Technoprobe Sun 05-Jan-14 19:07:47

If it's any comfort, I have huge problems getting my non-Aspergers DC to write their thank you letters and they too know how to push my buttons.

Might be an idea to tell your DD that you do understand how difficult it is for her and you're doing your best? smile

headinhands Sun 05-Jan-14 19:12:13

Special Needs children is by far the busiest op. The thing about alerting the police is that because it will be on record accessing support from other agencies would be clearer, I would imagine anyway. It might be that the police could kick start the referral. CHAMS or whatever the equivalent is maybe? The people over at SN would know more I'm sure.

thornrose Sun 05-Jan-14 19:22:23

Well done to you for following through and calling the police. It's a shame they couldn't escort your ds to his dad's.

headinhands Sun 05-Jan-14 19:23:35

Sorry, that should be CAMHS. I wouldn't worry too much about how much is Aspie related, either way the behaviours are upsetting for all of you and you want support to help you all deal with it.

Palika Sun 05-Jan-14 20:49:19

I am sorry to hear this - it sounds awful.

I have read a bit of research about violence against parents. It is a very recent phenomena but rising fast. Apparently it happens in around 15% of all two-parent families and in 30% of single-parent families. (so you are far from alone!)

There are two charities in the UK (google them) who give advice to parents with these problems.

Kleinzeit Sun 05-Jan-14 20:53:49

One book that often gets recommended on the SN boards is The Explosive Child. The main focus is on kids who are a bit younger than yours but the strategies are adaptable. Explosive Child is good for kids who are very rigid, blow up over small things and have to have things their own way, and who don’t seem to respond to consequences. Which described my DS (Asperger’s diagnosis) perfectly! DS is 15 and while we don’t have big issues with aggression any more I do re-read it now and again. And although things are calmer there are still lots of “normal” things I don’t do because I know it would lead to DS kicking off, so I know what you mean about how wearing it can be to feel you’re always avoiding a scene. But the Explosive Child book did make me feel more in control of things.

Could you get your DS to go to his father’s for a fixed time, so you’d at least have a break? I imagine he’s quite scared of the idea of staying elsewhere, it might be less scary (and maybe he'd be more willing) if he knew when he’d be coming back?

Palika Sun 05-Jan-14 21:22:14

TThis one of the charities - it's called Family Lives. They have a helpline and and online chat

http://familylives.org.uk/advice/teenagers/behaviour/teen-violence-at-home/

I can't find the other the other charity but I remember clearly reading an article in the press of two charities in the Uk who deal with this problem.

cinnamontoast Sun 05-Jan-14 22:14:52

Thank you so much, everyone, for your support and advice. I'll look at the Family Lives website. The Explosive Child book sounds exactly what I need, Kleinzeit - I'll order it. Tiny triggers just kick things off and I find myself trying to map how on earth we got to crisis point from something so trivial.
We did get annual visits from CAMHS but were effectively signed off a couple of years ago. I wasn't sure if they'd been a victim of cuts but I've just checked online and they're still there.
Relations with DS's real dad have been terrible for years but actually he's really stepped up to the mark with this crisis and been very supportive - so maybe something good has emerged after all.

AliceInSandwichLand Sun 05-Jan-14 22:29:36

I don't for a moment want to imply that your son's behaviour is in any way justified or that these confrontations could be avoided, because I know full well that if you have a teenager that reacts excessively it may be triggered, it seems, by almost anything, and I feel really sorry for you. I do wonder, however, if it would help to let small stuff go a bit. At some stage he will presumably be rresponsible for his own life choices, and it seems to me that thank you letters are not worth a confrontation in a sixth former. You can choose to pick your battles to some extent, and I am sure the people who were owed thank you letters would rather not get them than have you put into such a stressful situation. If he won't go to his dads then would it help to back right off in terms of trying to control non-essential things? I have no sons but suspect most sixth form boys would resent being told to write thank you letters. Again, I realise the problem is bigger than this one incident and I am not trying to imply that it is easy to deal with.

headinhands Mon 06-Jan-14 07:54:56

Morning CInnamon. I'd see if you could self refer yourselves back to CAMHS. It might be a mere blip but it wouldn't hurt to have that iron in the fire should you want it.

cinnamontoast Mon 06-Jan-14 08:48:09

Alice, there's probably a lot of truth in what you say, and I will take it on board. The trouble is, these things suddenly blow up and I often have no idea how we got there - it's impossible to predict what's going to cause a confrontation.

FunkyBoldRibena Mon 06-Jan-14 08:54:43

I've not written a thank you letter since the 70s.

Is there another way he can thank people - using modern technology?

gamerchick Mon 06-Jan-14 09:23:16

All this over letter writing? What's wrong with an email?

Are you so stern about other small stuff as well?

If my teen was violent he wouldn't have a choice.. its that or social services supported housing. Earn the right to live in the home that is the most comfortable but really.. stop battling the small stuff.

AliceInSandwichLand Mon 06-Jan-14 11:17:54

I know what you mean about the unpredictability of triggers, but I think the old mantra that you can change yourself but not him will apply. It can be very hard to monitor the shifting boundaries of where good parenting becomes inappropriate control as children become adults, I think. When I had confrontations with my daughter (not that things were physically violent ever, which is a ddifferent ball game, I realise), I found it helpful to ask myself if the issue really mattered. For me and her, if the dispute was not over something dangerous, something she might seriously regret in the future or something that would seriously affect other people, then we painfully worked out that for me to impose my codes and wishes on her after a certain stage was inappropriate control, even if I was sure I was right. Sometimes I was wrong, sometimes the issue really didn't matter and sometimes I was right but it was not worth trying to win the day, because for her the freedom to make her own mistakes was more important than the issue itself. I don't know if you can talk to your son and see if he can explain what drives him to these episodes or if attempted discussions would make things worse. One thing I found hard to do but which did help was to sometimes admit I was wrong in the middle of an unexpected flare up about something. Eg - "fair enough, I still think it's rude not to write thank you letters but you are old enough to be rude if you want to. Maybe auntie Mabel will still send you a present next year and maybe she won't, but that's up to you and her now and I'm not going to get involved any more, and I shouldn't have tried to make you do this."
Don't know if that helps at all?

Kleinzeit Mon 06-Jan-14 17:46:49

You’ll appreciate Explosive Child then cinnamon. It is filled with examples of trivial situations that blow up in no time at all, starting off with a crisis that starts over waffles for breakfast! And some pretty helpful explanations for why it happens, and the different kinds of things that that might trigger different youngsters.

Alice I see what you mean about choosing battles. Explosive Child divides issues into 3 “baskets”. What goes in each basket is the parents' decision, depending on what you think your child can handle. Basket A is the stuff that you decide to enforce no matter what (like physical safety, staying within the law); Basket B, things that you negotiate over, and Basket C, things that get ignored altogether, at least for the time being. Writing thank-you letters would probably be Basket C, or maybe B.

JessMcL Tue 07-Jan-14 01:18:30

Can I ask- does your DD fully understand about your sons condition? I only ask because my nephew (14) has Aspergers and I know things have never been properly explained to my niece (who is also 12!) because she is "too young to understand". If you feel she doesn't- maybe you could read up on some information together and try to explain that although you do loose your temper and sometimes things get very heated- that it isn't anyones fault. Maybe you need to talk to her more about her feelings as well and ask her what she "really thinks". She is still young yes- but she is getting to an age when she should have the emotional maturity to deal with these things and maybe her opinion can help you make a decision.

cinnamontoast Wed 08-Jan-14 10:49:18

Gamerchick, I would be perfectly happy for him to send an email or make a phone call but he chooses to write letters. He doesn't mind doing thank you letters in theory - the problem was that this time he kept delaying and then lied about it. I AM stern about lying - it's the one thing I've always told them is unacceptable.
Alice, that's really good advice, thank you. I do try, although sometimes he seeks the confrontation, not me. I have had to lock myself in the bathroom to try to put an end to a situation before and he will hammer on the door relentlessly. This time, I was cross that he'd lied to me, so I said my piece, then went to my bedroom - he followed me in and refused to leave. It's at that stage that things blow up, particularly when he starts throwing things. I simply don't know how to deal with this, because once he's set on that course nothing will change him. I hate making him sound so awful. Obviously he is at times like this, but the rest of the time we actually have a good relationship, impossible though it feels at the moment. He can be bright, articulate and funny. But also rigid and self centred.
JessMcL, that's a good point. Yes, DD does understand but, thinking about it, understanding it doesn't make it easier to live with and she still looks to us to maintain order. She's right, we should be able to.

cinnamontoast Wed 08-Jan-14 11:16:59

Btw, Gamerchick, it's all very well to say your teen wouldn't have a choice about leaving if they were violent but what would you do if they refused to budge? We made it very clear to DS that we wanted him to go and stay at his dad's for a cooling-off period and he absolutely wouldn't go. We have no means of enforcing it, short of changing the locks, which would be utterly inflammatory.

Maryz Wed 08-Jan-14 19:38:24

I can tell that this isn't really about thankyou letters, but about control, and I suspect for him if he is really stressed about some things (college, assignments, whatever), the letters were just the last straw.

With hindsight, were the letters worth it?

If you were still with your ex and there was no dad to go to would you have handled this differently? Not that I'm saying don't send him, just that you can't send him every time you have a row, and then have him sent back every time they have a row, it's not sustainable long term.

I think you probably need to step back and reassess what is actually important. I'm a few years ahead of you (things went horribly wrong for us) and although I try not to blame myself I do know that the house would have been much less awful if I had acted the adult more.

And by acting the adult I mean deciding "is it really worth it" and if it isn't walking away.

Your son's and other family members' happiness is far more important than some thank you letters which are of no significance to your son and are probably seen by him as an attempt by you to control him unnecessarily.

My advice would be to let this go, move on.

And keep a diary - record what he does that's awful, and what he does that's good. See how often different behaviour from you could have stopped things escalating, and then decide whether or not that escalation was worth it.

They say kids with AS mature to about 2/3rds of their chronological age, so your son is an 11 year old in a 16 year old's body, he is struggling with life with AS as well as with the angst that every other teen faces.

If you were to step outside the box, is there a better way to deal with this?

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