I am struggling to be nice all the time

(25 Posts)
fallopiana Sat 14-Jun-14 10:59:43

We have been bringing up my husbands nephew since 2010. He came to us when he was 12, before which he was brought up by MIL. He is now 16. Our relationship is OK if rather transactional (money, clothes, food, etc.) which I imagine will resonate with my other mothers of teens. I make a huge effort to be nice to him and have lots of internal 'methods' for resetting my attitude. However, they are not working very well at the moment. He has done his gcses and is now around the house all the time, which has changed the dynamic a lot. He doesn't really understand personal space to stands very close to me and talks at me constantly, until I respond, then he picks apart what I say. I understand that he is just trying out his newfound knowledge but I can't take it without getting wound up.

I know I am awful, but I just feel like screaming at him. He is so insulting about everything I do, particularly the way I bring up our 4 yo, commenting constantly if he gets a new toy or is allowed to do something. I am equally generous with each of them, very generous in fact. I don't think it's jealousy, I just think he likes to criticise. He is very thick-skinned.

I am absolutely committed to bringing him up as well as I can, but I am struggling. I don't know if counselling would help. I have tried it before and it felt good, but ultimately I am ok, just frazzled and perhaps in need of a rant.

Some may remember my story and I have posted a lot in the past. The problems I have now are a vast improvement on the past issues as he is doing very well at school, looking forward to college and then university.

I feel I have given everything I can and I now just feel fear at the next two years. He is so big and tall and just everywhere, he dominates the atmosphere with his comments and sarcasm and I'm afraid I'm going to end up saying something very negative. I already 'get at him' over lots of niggling little things, like the mess he leaves etc.

<RANT>

sad

Minorchristmascrisis Sat 14-Jun-14 11:06:05

It is hard with teens, I felt like this with dsd sometimes (and she didn't live with us full time) I don't think you have to be nice all the time - particularly if he's being rude. Can you try telling how he has made you feel if he criticises? Eg. "You know, that hurt my feelings" He may not acknowledge he's in the wrong but, on some level, it may make him think twice next time. Teens are very self-absorbed and know everything! I remember your earlier threads and the fact that he is preparing for Uni is testament to how well you have done bringing him up. It's immaturity and, in my experience, will pass. Rant often on here or to a good friend and keep doing what you're doing, it's obviously working.

Floundering Sat 14-Jun-14 11:09:18

You can be nice and still be firm.

Don't let him undermine you, if he stands too close ask him not to, if he criticises reply with a firm "well we like it done this way" or a hollow laugh & " yeah I'll remind you of this when you're a dad!!"

What is he like with your DH? Can he have a word with him or back you up?

TBH yes he is just being an annoying teen & its bloody hard work at times but you have to stick to your guns & they do start being nicer eventually!

fallopiana Sat 14-Jun-14 11:27:19

If he stands too close and I ask him not to, he will say something along the lines of, god, you can't even bear to have people close to you, or, great way to make me feel welcome' - which obviously floors me with guilt.

mummyhuggles Sat 14-Jun-14 12:50:03

Dear op, this is my first post on MN. Why does this troubled young man happen to be in your care? I would suggest that he is very definitely jealous of your ds, perhaps a constant reminder of what he does not have.
Has he ever had counselling/therapy? Unfortunately teenagers are a nightmare! Let alone ones not in the care of their mum/dad. I think you deserve a medal for looking after this young man!

Perhaps you can have a 'house meeting' in the presence of your dh and set down some house rules. Sorry to say this, but he is trying to intimidate you, which is not acceptable.

chocoluvva Sat 14-Jun-14 14:51:12

Apologies if this is completely irrelevant but is there any possibility that he might have aspergers?

lljkk Sat 14-Jun-14 15:01:39

I think that I remember OP, or at least there seem to be a lot of people on MN raising nephews with own small child in house.

"I just think he likes to criticise. He is very thick-skinned."

Ah, DD & I were discussing this today. Sounds very familiar. Like it was with my brothers, DD can't cook anything without big brother interfering. Teen boys either hide & barely grunt at you or come out with a long list of how the world should change. (sigh).

It's very annoying. But I think it might be quite normal. I don't have a solution except to keep restating what you think is pleasant way to treat others & what isn't.

MsPickle Sat 14-Jun-14 15:07:42

Push back reasonably. So, "please don't stand so close to me" "god way to make me feel welcome". "Well actually it's because I want you to feel welcome that I want to explain how I can be most relaxed around you. Personal space boundaries are remarkable for being about the same for most people and by invading my space I feel tense and am more likely to snap. You are a bright person, you work out who could change faster-me by resetting my personal space which is a complex personal and social construct or you remembering to step back if I ask without taking offence at me being honest."

Floundering Sat 14-Jun-14 19:02:23

HA MsPickle good reply but most teens would be going "wha?" after the first line!!!

MsPickle Sat 14-Jun-14 20:00:41

That's kind of my point! It's something dad used on me when I was being particularly obnoxious! You think you know it all and are ready to be adult? Bring. It. On.

I was still obnoxious but I think it helped him cope smile

Claybury Sat 14-Jun-14 20:22:48

My DS has been pretty unpleasant and critical to me around age 14-15 and I do sympathise. However it sounds like he is treating you like many boys treat their mums which is a good sign that you have a good relationship, if that makes sense ?
The post GSCE period brings a new host of problems, which I am also worried about, however the good news is teen boys do improve with age and my DS is almost unrecognisable in his dealings with us at 16 and a half compared to just 6 months ago.
What you are doing for this boy is wonderful and I suspect you are doing an excellent job, it's just a very tough one.

Maryz Sat 14-Jun-14 20:32:22

He sounds like a teenagers to me - actually he sounds like a rather well-communicating teenager. dd is like this, she wants to talk at to me all the time; ds2 on the other hand hates talking to me.

If your dn has just finished GCSEs he will suddenly have time on his hands and won't know what to do with himself, hence following you around a bit.

I think you need to be very practical about this.

Get yourself a den. A tv and a comfy armchair in your bedroom perhaps? I escape to my room with my iPad sometimes if I want me time.

Get him more activities, especially in the evening. Even if it means loosening up on the xbox/tv/wifi rules (if you have any). Maybe get him to join a gym, and dump drive him there a couple of evenings a week; let your dh pick him up.

Finally, develop a dispassionate, disinterested "oh yes" voice which you can bring out when necessary, and learn to feel slightly superior at the naivety of his criticism grin

You (if you are who I think you are) have come an awful long way. flowers and congratulations to you all.

MRJJ007123445667687876 Sat 14-Jun-14 21:42:52

The guilt is your weak point - that is how your nephew can 'get you'.

Don't be guilty - sit him down and explain about boundaries and personal space and how his friends will dislike it when he does that with them. Same explanations about criticism - explain how much he would hate it if you would constantly criticise him.

Start to jokingly criticise him and be too close to his body - he'll soon get the message.

Most of all - stop feeling guilty!!

fallopiana Sat 14-Jun-14 22:26:33

Thank you everyone smile.

Thank you mspickle for your post, I will definitely try the intellectual sucker-punch grin. I try to respond in very even tones and follow the how-to-talk-so-they-listen rules, but of course he knows how to push my buttons and sometimes, inevitably, I rise to it. I could never criticise him back - I have once or twice and he crumples. Big issues to come out at some point in the future. He has that special sort of thick-skin that goes hand in hand with extreme over-sensitivity when it comes to him.
I did explain about personal space and emphasised that no-one likes space invaders but he carries on doing it. DH deals with it much worse than me as he needs a 10 metre buffer zone at the best of times.

If he was my 'own' child, who had never doubted his place in the family, I would be comfortable to tell him to back the heck off, but everything is much more complicated when you have a child in your care who has lost so much, words like back off become much more loaded.

I suppose the reason for this post is that although i understand our situation and know pretty much what to do, he is so 'in my face' at the moment that I'm harbouring resentment before he even starts, and he won't be unaware of that I'm sure.

Maryz yes it's me who else grin [waves madly] can you believe it's 4 years now since he came to us? Great advice. He does have a gym membership (and goes most days). We live in the centre of a pretty good town so no transport issues, and I am pretty free with the cash. Sadly, he is quite anti-social and would die before he did any activity organised by me. But you are right that we have come a long, long old way - it is definitely a success, but one that may leave me a gibbering alcoholic wreck..

scouseontheinside Sun 15-Jun-14 08:17:47

fallopiana I had a friend in school friend in school who had some issues with social boundaries. One is that she would stand uncomfortably close when talking to you. Myself and other friends explained many times how uncomfortable this made us feel. Yet she would still do it every single time. Eventually she started getting hurt as felt rejected - said we never asked anyone else not to stand so close.

What eventually stopped it was we did an exercise in PE about boundaries where we had to pair off and then move closer and closer and closer to each other until we were right in each others faces. She got it. Since that day, there has never been a problem.

Maybe he just needs a demonstration?

zensational Mon 16-Jun-14 08:51:15

He does it in other ways too, particularly if we're on holiday, he walks so close to me in the street I have to keep stopping and ducking behind him to get some space. It was worse when we still had the pushchair for DS as I kept scraping his ankles and even that didn't stop him.

I can deal with DN, I just can't deal with myself. I want him never to doubt that he's welcome and this is his home, but I fear I'm failing.

BeeBlanket Mon 16-Jun-14 09:00:25

I did a parenting course (disclaimer: not that this makes me an expert... still struggle) but I remember one of the things they said was that's fine to say what you feel and what you need - and in many ways better than just barking out orders.

So you can say "You may feel it says bad things about me, but I need a little more space around me." "I am tired, and would like a break from chatting." "I need half an hour on my own now." He can criticise, but this is a statement of fact, about you, and you have a right to it.

With the child-rearing criticisms: "Thanks but I have made this decision, and it is mine not yours to make, you can make similar decisions when you have your own kids. I would like you to stop telling me how to raise my child." And repeat.

No one can survive being constantly stood over and criticised - you need your own space and at 16 so should he. Doesn't he want to sulk off to his room and play records (showing my age there, I mean music...)? Maybe if you put your foot down and explain you don't like x y and z behaviour, he will take a sensitive huff and do that a bit more.

Effectively you are his parent so there's no need to treat him any differently to "your own".

BeeBlanket Mon 16-Jun-14 09:04:29

"Welcome" doesn't mean he never gets any home truths or told how to behave – if you're bringing him up, you need to do that.

Sit him down and explain the personal space issue and ask him if he gets it. then set out some consequences - he backs off and gives you space when asked, or link it to allowance or whatever other sanction will mean something to him. It is not OK to behave like this, so he has to learn. You'll be doing him a favour surely, it will be hard for him to get a romantic partner or do well in a job if he doesn't learn about personal space.

I know it's bandied about a lot but could asd be an issue? He sounds quite like my BIL who has aspergers.

zensational Mon 16-Jun-14 11:06:34

Definitely not ASD. He is very emotionally literate. I have talked to him about the space issue but I suppose it will take a while to sink in.

I can't treat him like he's my own, because he came to us too late for that relationship to develop. This is true for him and it's also true for me. I feel a level of annoyance at his normal, teenage behaviour that his mother, had she lived, would not have felt and I need to work on that.

BeeBlanket Mon 16-Jun-14 11:11:58

zen... I bet she would. Really. He is behaving in an annoying way, and parents don't not get annoyed with their teens just because they're related.

KittiesInsane Mon 16-Jun-14 11:19:24

No no no, Zensational, if you were his mother you would feel just as irritated plus be frantically wondering what you did to him to make him this way... trust me!

DS2 has a good friend who is autistic and stands right in your face. His peers have had to be quite specific to him about backing off a bit: 'Arms length, Ben, arms length!'

Could you just grin at him and say 'Step back a bit, I'm getting a crick in my neck looking up at you from here'? (Or does that only work if you are a foot shorter than your teenager, like me?)

tabulahrasa Mon 16-Jun-14 11:20:36

"I feel a level of annoyance at his normal, teenage behaviour that his mother, had she lived, would not have felt and I need to work on that."

Oh god, I find my teenagers intensely annoying...I love them dearly, but they are very very irritating at times.

DS has just finished school and is going to college after the summer, so he's here, all the time, he luckily spends a lot of time in his room because I am finding it hard going with no time to myself, I'm not used to it anymore, lol. If a friend pops in he appears to talk to them, my friend, not his, it's like having a nosy toddler again.

DD is younger, but she'll follow me round talking at me and can be massively critical - because she's at the she's always right stage.

So no advice, but, it is so normal to find teenage behaviour annoying.

Idontseeanyicegiants Mon 16-Jun-14 11:30:47

Teenagers are Fabulous at playing on adult guilt, I'm sure they get lessons in it somewhere!
Mine did it a lot with the whole You spend more time with the baby than me when his sister was small.
What I found was that you can talk until you go blue to a teen but sometimes they need a practical demonstration - when he complained that I was doing something with the baby (a nappy I think) and he wanted to talk to me I got him to help me. Would similar work? If he stands so close while you're busy in the kitchen for example hand him a cloth and say while you're here make yourself useful and wipe up? That could work if he gets critical as well in an 'ok smarty you do it' in a good humoured way.

Can he get a job for the Summer OP? Then he'll learn about personal space, responsibility, communication and all sorts of other useful skills, which might rub off at home? And he'll be out of your hair for a while.

zensational Mon 16-Jun-14 14:20:35

Thanks everyone smile. I wish a holiday job was an option but I think he's too shy. He never spends any money so refusing to fund him isn't going to have much effect.

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