16-yr-old DS, being violent, really needs to move in with his father temporarily for all our sakes, but refuses(50 Posts)
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?
Kleinzeit, I think part of the difficulty with this sort of parenting is that we expect stress to manifest itself in a particular way but often the bad behaviour seems far removed from the source of stress - it's only looking back later that you can pinpoint it and realise that actually they were going through a difficult time. When DS was younger, there was a lot of talk about overload - he would hide under a table at primary school, for example, if it was noisy. I think I probably thought overload was a thing of the past but now it's just manifesting itself in more aggressive ways.
Yes, my DS too often seems more 'normal' as a teenager - which makes the explosions all the more shocking when they occur.
After a particularly bad holiday, I phoned the NAS helpline, where they get a parent who's been through similar difficulties to phone you back. When I said we'd had a terrible holiday, the parent laughed and said, ''You still take him on holiday? We gave up on holidays years ago!" Which wasn't very reassuring. We still keep trying though ...
Thank you for the kind words maryz. I’m impressed how you stood by your DS through such bad times. He must have had a very hard time at school and that can only have made things worse at home. (I don’t know if you’ve seen the documentary about the Jackson family with 4 boys with ASCs – there’s a great bit where a teacher says “often Johnny copes with change at school much better than we expect” cut to his mother saying “I can always tell when anything has changed at school, Johnny comes home and hits me” ) We’ve been very lucky with my DS’s schools and they’ve treated him with nothing but tolerance and understanding. In his first year of secondary he swore at one of the catering staff (disagreement over a fork!) and afterwards the catering manager said “I used to work in a special school, I‘ll talk to the staff and make sure DS is OK” ! How cool was that? The schools’ attitude has made a huge difference.
And it's great to see how all our teenagers who must be so different in many ways have so much in common too. I had the exact "I don't think that is fair" talk with DS this week (and he even mumbled "sorry" which was a shock to me).
Though my DS is actually easier to live with as a teenager than he was at primary school. When things are going well he can seem very “normal” and I can do a lot of ordinary-type parenting . But then it gets easy to expect too much . When I stop and think , his strops are almost always caused by an ASC issue like communication, or anxiety, or change, or a disruption to his routines. (Which is why holidays are so difficult – a holiday is a big change of place and day-to-day routine, everything is different and unexpected. Takes him time to get used to it.) Then it’s back to Aspie strategies and Explosive Child til things calm down.
And it's very comforting for me to know there are parents out there who’ve been through really hard teen stuff and come out the other side. We still work hard just to keep things stable, so far we’re doing OK but if things go wrong I’ll know who to ask for advice
Alice, my husband is quite keen on trying that tactic! I wish we had tried it the other night - then maybe we'd have ended up laughing rather than crying.
So glad to hear things got better for you over time. It's good to know there might be light at the end of the tunnel.
I too have resorted to physical contact with naked husband to get rid of ranting daughter in our bedroom at midnight, in the past! It does work and at least has the advantage of being non confrontational. Your comment about the bin emptying struck a chord with me, too - I used to find the lack of gratitude for household tasks and the assumption that everything domestic is entirely my affair very difficult to deal with, but I have found that changing my response and expecting nothing, not even gratitude, has meant that I occasionally get thanks. OP, I recognise a lot of your son's view of the world in what my daughter has said in the past, almost word for word. My daughter found it really irritating when I got upset about things she said. I have also found that abandoning conventional ideas of expectations when parenting has been the most helpful approach. For us, things have got much better with age - I used to be in tears almost every day at the worst, but that seems like a distant nightmare now.
Maryz, that must have been a terrible, terrible time for you, and congratulations for getting your younger children through it relatively unscathed - you must have been a much better parent than you gave yourself credit for. Your DCs sound amazing. It does give them an insight, doesn't it? When DD was at primary school there was a little boy that everyone thought was 'difficult' but she told me that actually he was really like DS in his behaviour and that he couldn't help it. Unfortunately, the teachers didn't seem to have the same insight.
Hope your DS is back on track now and no longer involved with drugs.
That's a wonderful letter.
I still have one ds sent to a teacher "I'm sorry that you felt that making yourself upset was a good punishment for me" or words to that effect.
It's funny, with hindsight. Not so much at the time when faced with a furious head teacher.
Can I give you one glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel, though. At one stage I thought my younger children's lives had been ruined by ds1. He was violent and involved in drugs. He attacked ds2 once seriuosly, and threatened and attacked them both more than once. He also went into really frightening psychotic rages at times. I was a wreck, a really bad parent to my younger children for about five years.
But my younger two have grown up to be extraordinarily nice and empathetic children. Since they were about 10/12 I have been open and honest with them about ds, I have always told them the truth. I have told them he can't help his behaviour, but that doesn't make it right.
And now they are 17 and 15 they have massive sympathy for him. They are 100% loyal, they know that the way we are doing it now is right. They never (apart from a bit of muttering) say "ds1 was allowed to (whatever) when he was my age". They make tv/food/bedroom allowances, they recognise the triggers and always remain calm.
Ironically dd wants to do nursing - she wants to work with people with autism and other SN (she has done volunteer work in an adult respite centre).
ds2 wants to teach, specifically troubled children.
So having an older brother like ds hasn't harmed them as much as I was afraid at the time (though I've promised I will pay their counselling bills when they are adults )
And, PPS (sorry!). Maryz, landlady/tenant relationship - yes, absolutely! He emerges from his room occasionally to says things like, 'I don't understand why the bin in the bathroom hasn't been emptied for some time' - as if he's complaining about the staff. If ever I express emotion, or say that something he's done has been upsetting for me, he looks as appalled as if I'd taken my clothes off and run naked down the street. (It did occur to me, when he refused to leave our bedroom at midnight, that maybe I should just undress ...)
PS, Thornrose, it is a huge weight off my mind that you've told me to 'remove any thoughts of "normal" parenting'. I felt I was failing so badly at that, but it really hadn't occurred to me that perhaps it just wasn't applicable here.
Kleinzeit, Thornrose, Maryz - I am hugely grateful to you all. Thank you so much for coming on here and helping me try to turn things around. I often feel quite isolated because I don't know anyone in a similar situation to mine. You've clearly been through it and come up with some strategies. I got DH to read this thread and we have both agreed that we will try backing off completely, not enforcing small things, and not giving DS a response when he kicks off. I love the point about not imposing a punishment because that gives him something to blame - I simply hadn't looked at it that way. Significantly, on the occasion when I did flee from him and lock myself in the bathroom, although he banged on the door for ages he actually apologised afterwards which is incredibly unusual - so there must be something in what you say about avoiding conflict.
Kleinzeit, interesting that holidays are a trigger for you too. We usually spend half the holiday vowing that we'll never take DS on holiday again, but by the end it's fine. We've had two good holidays without scenes but both times I was so tense waiting for trouble that it's only retrospectively that I can enjoy them.
DH and I have both said despairingly in the past that the only way we can deal with his scenes is to do nothing - but that felt like total failure and a licence for further bad behaviour. It's really reassuring to know that in fact we've only got a chance of 'winning' if we allow ourselves to lose. I think we needed permission to do that.
When he was 13, we had absolutely the worst holiday ever. When we got back, I made him - in the days when I could occasionally make him do things - write a letter apologising to his sister for upsetting her so much. A SENCO, I think it was, had said that it was important to make him write stuff like this down, so he'd be less likely to do it again when confronted with a bit of paper (as if that was ever going to work). I've still got his letter - a masterpiece of evasion: 'Dear X, I apologise for whatever adverse effects, direct or indirect, my behaviour over the holiday may or may not have had upon you.' That's what we're up against! I just hope he has a great career as a politician or a lawyer ahead of him.
I have ordered The Explosive Child (is there a companion volume, The Explosive Parent? Might come in handy too.) Kleinzeit, thanks for your suggestion about DS's dad. I think it would be helpful if he was more involved but he sticks strictly to the appointed times (Weds nights and Fri or Sat nights). In the past, if I've asked him to have the children at any other time he has accused me of taking advantage of him or using him as a babysitter . I will suggest it to him though. He refused to take DS on holiday for years because he said he was 'too difficult', but did take both of them away last summer. I'm hoping he will again this year.
a fully functioning family of dysfunctional people I LOVE that!
Whaddya mean a dysfunctional family maryz – we’re like the Royle Family, a fully functioning family of dysfunctional people
cinnamontoast I got the impression your DS’s Dad hadn’t been much involved with DS until recently? I do think it would be great if your DS could manage to stay with his Dad some of the time. Maybe for a week or two, or maybe regularly once a week overnight. You and your DP and DD do need respite. It may be difficult for all of you at first, including DS and his Dad. DS may kick off before he goes, or while he’s there. But if it could become a regular part of DS’s life, or a treat he looks forward to, then it would be healthy for him and good for everyone else. Is that something you could see happening?
Or maybe his Dad could take him away somewhere during the February or Easter break? It might seem like rewarding bad behaviour but if you don’t present it like that – if he’s doing it “because he’s the oldest” or “a break from exams” or something – then it wont have that effect on him. And it would be nice for the three of you at home, wouldn’t it?
If at all possible it’s better to build in regular short breaks with his Dad rather than have DS shuttling to his Dad’s house when you can’t cope and then back to yours when he can’t cope. That’s a very insecure feeling and Aspies hate insecurity.
(thornrose I am nodding along to your posts, and maryz, and the others here!)
cinnamon Have you had any counselling?
I really believe that if you could remove all the thoughts of "normal parenting" (if there is such a thing!) and find your own path you might not feel so conflicted.
I believe that no child would want to behave so violently towards a loving parent. I believe that dd has no choice when she behaves this way. I could take her (precious) laptop away and make her/our life, hell on earth. I could take every one of her possessions out of her room for a week and her/our life would be hell.
Next time she lost control, threatening to take her laptop or all her possessions would not be enough to stop her. No threat, punishment or consequence is stronger than her anger, in that moment.
Regarding your ds taunting you, I've had this too. I told dd in no uncertain terms that I have taken control, by choosing the path I want to follow, not what the books tell me. I told her I have chosen this path because I love her and I believe it's the right one for us
and she's bloody lucky
My dd has no choice but to accept it isn't my fault because it's the truth! I'm not being flippant but she has a logical, black and white mind. She can say I annoyed her, or pissed her off but ultimately she cannot say it was my fault. She can try and if there's a shadow of truth in what she says eg."I made her feel useless/small/stupid" I will say " I'm sorry that you felt that way but why would I want you to feel useless etc, what on earth would be in it for me?" "What could I possibly have to gain from doing this?" She's starting to get it.
The difference is your ds is clinging onto the fact that your punishment caused/triggered this. If that was removed from the equation perhaps he would have to take responsibility?
I am "lucky" in some respects as dd has no siblings. I appreciate that must make things a whole lot more complicated!
I don't know what it is about this thread that makes me write such essays, sorry. I hope you don't mind me sharing my experiences, I don't get to "talk" to like minded people often.
One other thing (sorry).
He HATES it when I over-invest emotionally. He can't understand why I would say "it upsets me when you don't clear up/are rude to me/break the rules" - he can't understand why what he does makes me upset, as far as he is concerned my upset is my problem.
And he also HATES it when I care too much. We get on much better in a landlady/tenant relationship than as a mother/son. Not that any landlady would put up with him [sigh]
Kleinzeit, your posts on this thread are great. I'm going to go and stalk you elsewhere to see what else you are saying, as it's great to get so many people's perspective.
You and Thorn and Flow and others make me realise that my family might be dysfunctional but I'm not the only one
Yes, his entire life has been a double life, I think.
Talking to him now some of the things he says about when he was young are so, so sad. What teachers said (or at least what he heard them say, they might not have actually said it but that's how he remembers it) and how he was treated at school are awful to hear.
To be fair, if you are worried about controlling manners, things can't (be honest) be too bad.
Have think about it, and come up with the unbreakable rules (at our worst they were "no drugs in the house, no violence", but whatever rules you know you can enforce and that are necessary). Try to back off on anything else.
And it's much better to talk outside the actual time of the issue. So for me, if I come in and go mad that the house is a mess, he rolls his eyes and disappears. If I quietly clear up, and then later say "it wasn't really fair that i had to clear your mess", the next day tends to be a lot better.
Yes it's a bit pathetic.
Yes, he gets away with murder.
Yes I spend a lot of time biting my tongue.
BUT things are much better, we can talk (sometimes), the younger kids are happy, he is slowly growing up.
Like thornrose I don’t think in terms of “winning” and “losing”. My DS is not rude and aggressive because he thinks it’s the best way to get what he wants. He is rude because he has become agitated and he is no longer thinking straight, and he gets aggressive when he has lost sight of all the other options.
And even when he sounds very logical my DS may still be totally irrational. Something I picked up from an Aspie-temper-management book - I make my point twice and then I stop talking. My DS must always have the last word but he still takes in what I said even when he’s still arguing fiercely against it. Whatever he says in response is just venting his feelings even if it sounds like law or science or child psychology. It means nothing.
Your holiday story is familiar – my DS still gets very spitty when we travel, and when he was younger we always had a full-blown meltdown soon after arrival. On the second morning of every holiday I usually think, DS is horrible, we’re all miserable, why did we bother. Then DS starts to get to used to it, calms down, cheers up, and we have quite a good time for the rest of the holiday. Travelling to a holiday is a high-stress time when I know DS will be on his worst behaviour and as well as doing everything I can to lower stress I will have to let a lot of rudeness go to avoid an explosion, and what happens on the travel day, stays on the travel day, I try not to hang on to it. So I think you handled the holiday very well.
And thornrose, I would love to hear my DS say that something was not my fault but it’s not happened yet! But DS has apologised without prompting 3 times in his life, and I treasure every one
Funnily enough, “Explosive Child” was originally for kids with ODD and my old edition doesn’t even mention Asperger’s but quite a few of us use it for kids with ASCs and it’s been a great help, so I don't care about the label. I think the new edition covers the endless “no” problem too, I’ve been meaning to download the new version myself.
Oops, sorry, on a mobile. Meant to say, once I completely forgot about them and he was very indignant and insisted they needed to be done. So yes, reverse psychology may well be the answer.
Maryz, I wonder if your DS is leading a double life as my DS - those are almost exactly his words about his behaviour.
I will try really hard to disengage and walk away - it certainly seems the only option left to us. So hard though, because we have so much wrapped up in caring for them. As you say, their behaviour is a measure of our success and we want so much to be good mothers that we take it personally if everything seems to point to the opposite. I'm not a pushy mother - DS freely acknowledges that - but I do feel I need to control certain things, such as manners. I will try letting to all go and see what happens. When DS was a toddler he always kicked up a fuss about teeth cleaning. One I com
Oh, and punishing never, ever worked.
He wasn't sorry for his behaviour - as he told me a lot later, if he had done something bad it either (a) was an accident (or out of his control in some way, for example if he was furious, or pushed to do it) in which case why should he say sorry or (b) he had intended to do it in which case he wasn't sorry, so why should he say it.
It's hard to understand, but that actually makes sense if you think about it.
Things didn't start to improve in this house until the day I decided that it wasn't a matter of me losing and him winning if he did/didn't do something that was in the house rules.
Before that, everything was a fight. Absolutely everything.
Once I stepped back and stopped engaging, he suddenly became more conforming (well not conforming, exactly, but a hell of a lot better than he had been).
As parents we take our children's behaviour as an indication of how good we are as parents. So if we have a child running wild, skipping school, rude, resistant, etc, we take it personally. If we can take the emotion out of it all of a sudden it becomes easier.
So a child who is angry - if we can accept that life for them is shit, and they are just angry we can cope. If we take it personally and feel they are angry at us it hurts - and when we are hurt we rarely react in the most appropriate way.
I had to learn to walk away and just let him be angry.
I head to learn not to issues instructions that I knew he wouldn't follow.
I had to learn to ignore what other people said, and realise that I had to parent him differently because he was different - treating him like other kids wouldn't make him like them, it would just destroy us.
I wish I had "given up" earlier.
Thornrose, the kind of thing you describe is very, very recognisable to me. Yes, the punishments just tend to make things worse - but the alternative seems to be letting him get away with it - I just go round in a loop of despair about this. It's DS's refusal to accept that his behaviour has consequences that I find difficult to cope with and I am finally coming to the realisation that I have to let an awful lot of things go. On holiday last year, there was a massive blow-up on the way to the airport - it was just terrible for all of us - and DS spend the first three days of the holiday in his room (his choice). In the end, to salvage the holiday, I just had to sweep everything that had happened under the carpet, forget about trying to get him to take responsibility for his behaviour and go and plead with him to come downstairs and let me make him a sandwich. A couple of days later we were more or less back on track, but I couldn't help feeling that he 'got away with it'. I also fear that if I am so conciliatory he will take it as an admission of guilt on my part. When conflicts occur, he taunts me with being ineffectual and unable to see things through (he has read all the parenting manuals and uses their language to have a go at me!). Yesterday I tried to talk to him and said we had to move forward from the incident at the weekend, but that in order for that to happen he had to acknowledge that his violent behaviour was unacceptable and mustn't happen again. He accused me and DH of being violent, said he was a better person than I was and said his behaviour was completely okay (his behaviour included pulling my hair so hard that it still hurts even now, and throwing a chair at DH). He was utterly unrepentant.
How DO you get your DD to acknowledge her behaviour? DS has done a couple of times before but on the whole he just won't. Often he blames us for the whole thing because, after plenty of warnings, we enforce a punishment, like taking away his phone - he then bitterly resents us for the punishment and refuses to acknowledge that it's happened as a result of his behaviour and that if he didn't want his phone taken away or whatever, he had plenty of chances to prevent it by doing what he was told.
He's got his first mock AS level this afternoon and is in his room revising now. Usually I'm very supportive when he has exams - drinks, treats, helping him with his work. I hate the fact that I can't do that now - clearly it's upsetting me more than him. If I took him a cup of tea, though, I would feel servile. At the moment it would feel like pandering to an abuser.
Phew! My post too long now. Kleinzeit, yes he has always been like this. If you say don't do something he will immediately do it - it's almost as if he can't help himself. A SENCO tried to tell me once that he had Defiant Oppositional Disorder but he had so many labels at that point that I absolutely refused another one for him. It might help to phrase things positively rather than negatively but his gut response to anything is always 'No'. Just a single word, every time, and you know there's no way on earth he will change his mind.
I always warn him rather than just giving a punishment out of the blue but very often that just provokes him to immediately do the thing he's not supposed to do.
Hm. Just a thought.... Is this something he’s always done, or is it new? Is it the threat of punishment that makes him do the opposite, or is it the being told not to? Most people are better at handing positive instructions “put the stick down on the floor” versus “stop waving the stick about”. Young children are very bad at following negative instructions, and so are people who have a processing delay – including many with Asperger’s. It’s as if they don’t take in the “stop” properly, all they take in is “wave the stick about” and they really can’t imagine what to do instead. I’ve been doing the “positive instructions only” thing for DS for so long it’s almost automatic now, but I think he still needs it especially when he’s angry or upset
because then his brain seems to fall apart.
Whenever my dd has a violent outburst I go back over it with a fine tooth comb. I would say in the majority of instances there was a trigger I could identify. It's usually something I could've done slightly differently.
I'm not taking all the responsibility and I refuse to walk on eggshells but I will try to avoid conflict where possible.
I had some counselling which helped me realise that I could parent how I wanted to, in a way that worked for us. I used to think dd had to have consequences or punishments even though it NEVER worked and usually made things worse.
I stopped feeling she had "won", or that I needed to win. My mum and people around me used that expression all the time. She's "getting away with it", she's "won" etc. Not true, there were no winners.
Hours after an incident or even the next day, dd and me talk about what happened. I make sure she "owns" her behaviour. I need her to acknowledge it and take responsibility otherwise I start getting resentful which is not good for me and the way I relate to her.
We both acknowledge the way I reacted or words I used may have upset her/made her angry/more angry. BUT, a big but, this does not give her the right to act violently towards me. This was not my fault, that is very important for me to hear her say.
This consistent approach is starting to sink in. I can sometimes actually head off a rage now. I speak very firmly, without anger, and quite repetitively. Like kleinzeit my dd cannot bear to speak angrily and "perceived criticism" is a huge trigger. If I can get her to admit what is really making her feel angry before she starts calling me names we're onto a winner!
And yes I agree with Maryz there is a big gap between actual age and emotional maturity.
I hope things improve for you, I am sorry this is so long
Thanks, Kleinzeit, that is useful. I always warn him rather than just giving a punishment out of the blue but very often that just provokes him to immediately do the thing he's not supposed to do. Threatening a punishment the next day might help things cool off a bit.
Interesting about being an 11 year old in the body of a 16 year old - that would explain a lot.
My DS is (weirdly) very sensitive to any criticism or open expression of anger from me. Just by itself that can trigger him into aggression.
And one thing I have learned the hard way with my DS, is never to make up a punishment “on the spot”. Instead, I always have to give a warning and tell him what the consequence is for doing it again. So for me, if I did want to use a punishment (and I wouldn’t necessarily do that, I might just let it go, or discuss what the problem was instead!) it would have to be, “write the thank you letters by the end of tomorrow or else tomorrow evening I will take your phone away until they are all done”. Unexpected punishments that have not been laid out in advance– even tiny ones - are a trigger.
And when my DS does something new and dreadful then I have to manage things very carefully indeed! If this was the first time he’d lied I might not even punish the lie, just make sure he got no benefit from it. Or I might say “… and if you lie to me again, the punishment will be….” Or “...you lied to me, I need to think about what to do about that…” and come up with a punishment later on when things were calmer.
(I have no idea if this is useful to you, just sharing experience.)
And outside the box (away from the letter/lies conversation) have a conversation about violence.
Any violent or threatening behaviour, you should call 999. You have to tell h im and you have to mean it and you have to do it.
I bet once will be enough.
Calling his dad for an argument is not the same thing. Most kids with AS are black and white - once he knows you will call 999 he will most likely walk away too, unless you are (in his view) provoking him.
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