Son's apalling behaviour - have we made a monster?(24 Posts)
This may turn into a bit of a rant/cry for help but a little background first.
I have two sons, one just 18 and one just 16. 18 yo born with Down's Syndrome and other 'fun' stuff, but now happily in a supported college place (yeah, suck on that, Iceland).
The issues we are having is with my younger son, just turned 16, and in the final run up to his GCSE's.
16 yo boy has perhaps been slightly 'over indulged' so as to not make his think he's being left out.
However, as a consequence, we may have been more lenient on his behaviour over the years than we should of. This also partly due to a nasty case of bullying in his last year of primary, which even briefly involved the Police, and left him with quite noticeable social anxiety.
He has wanted for nothing in terms of the stuff in his life. He has been bought several musical instruments, gone on holidays and school trips, good clothes and is chauffeured everywhere by myself of his mum. (We do this as perhaps his social anxiety stops him form using public transport, but this notion is being challenged.)
Since he turned 13, his behaviour has gone from bad to worse. Initially we gave him the benefit of the doubt, as we felt guilty about the bullying at his primary - which we were unaware of at the time. However, as he's grown older, things have degenerated to the point where he is not only continually rude and sulky, but also physically threatening at times. Even to the point where a simple 'hello' from us in the morning received the instant reply 'f*ck off!' and it generally goes downhill from there. He has absolutely no respect or even social tolerance for either of us or his brother.
He has been in a relationship with lovely girl for the past three years, whom we have included on our holidays over the years. She is fantastic and polite at our house. And the Lad is by all accounts lovely at her house with her parents. He just reserves all his anger for us. And when not with her or doing something else, he shuts himself away and sits on his damned game console all night. Despite this, his teachers tell us they are generally happy with his school progress, but as ever, 'could do better'.
So what's to be done? How can we restore some civility to our relations? Is this hormonal? frustration? My wife is at her wit's end about this, as am I. I'm even contemplating getting him to move out somewhere else, which just before his GCSE's is that last thing we want to do.
Any suggestions or pointers welcome.
Don't do his washing, don't make his meals, don't pay for his phone, switch off your router (or change the password) and no more lifts. If he can do his chores and be civil at home these things will be restored. One false move and they'll be withdrawn again.
Do NOT make him move out.
(And you've been inviting his gf on holiday with you since they were 13 - that's idiotic. Make sure he has condoms.)
Pick a time when he is calm. Ask him whether he thinks telling you to fuck off when you say good morning to him is reasonable behaviour. If he thinks it is, ask him why it's reasonable to behave that way to you but not to a teacher or a person in a shop. Try to be neutral and enquiring about it rather than having a go at him or having an agenda. Try to ask genuine questions that lead him to come up with his own answers. Stay away from loaded questions like why did you tell me to fuck off?
He's a teenager. Read 'get out of my life but first take me and Alex into town' for ideas on how to set boundaries but build relationships as well. Or 'blame my brain' about the teenage brain. '
So he doesn't like you or his mum at the moment. That's not uncommon and my priority in your shoes would be to try to understand what's not to like! Ultimately, he behaves well at school, so it can't be just about expectation of discipline.
I personally would plan a day to do something he really wants to do (and try to ignore the utter sense that he doesn't deserve it!) and then use this time to rekindle the relationship before attempting a 'discussion' as to what has gone wrong.
Sounds awful for you all. . The way I looked onto your post was that maybe your younger ds has anger /disappointment issues towards not having a standard big brother during all the bad stuff he has had going on - the bullying for example where siblings call upon each other for support or a hand(or fist) in such matters. - you have compensated him as you say to not being left out - when maybe he wanted a different sort of relationship with his brother and not material benefits. I hope I haven't been disrespectful or spoken out of turn in my response.
I second the suggestion to read "get out of my life but first take me and Alex into town". It is a brilliant book to give you perspective because and you will probably recognise half the conversations they use as examples.
The books very cheap on kindle through Amazon.
Thanks for the input so far. Just to add a bit of clarification.
Yes, we have withdrawn games, console, lifts, washing, etc., and he slowly gets a bit better for a time, before relapsing.
Yes, we've had a long "discussion" about contraception and suchlike. They are well chaperoned (at least in my house) and we've been very clear about the risks and the relationship stuff.
Yes, one of us has read all the books - "Get out of my life, etc." being re-read even now.
Its just that we'd expect a base level of civility - even just to communicate on basic stuff like coordinating times, and not expecting him to throw a screaming fit when his "assuming you can give me a lift" cannot happen at a certain time due to other commitments. He doesn't even grunt at us much except to ask for food.
Its true he is very sensitive - he got 'The Teenager who came to tea' as a joke and HATED it, so it must have struck a nerve. I'm thinking he knows he's coming over as a surly arse but he cannot help himself. That's what I think at these times being charitable. That, and maybe we have spoiled him rotten.
This type of behaviour isn't the result of being spoiled, in my opinion. You could well have spoiled him rotten, but he is old enough to be making decisions about what sort of person he wants to be, however indulgently he was brought up.
My very well behaved ds morphed into a "fuck you" teenager at 13. Dh and I were stunned.....the day after ds told me to fuck off, he behaved like nothing had happened - I couldn't, I was so hurt and I told him I couldn't pretend like nothing had happened, swearing is crossing a line that we have agreed not to cross. The next angry outburst happened not long after, again he behaved as if nothing had happened again and I was hurt and explained how I was feeling - not in an angry way, calm and honest. The third time he had an outburst and I explained how I felt and this time he cracked - said he had no idea why he felt so angry that it was being unreasonable...finally getting through to his feelings has really helped, he is much better at expressing himself when he's angry and we listen and respect his feelings.
He still occasionally gets angry about small stuff but I read the signs better, I don't bite back instead I try to understand what's driving it and it rarely escalates - we separate ourselves until the emotions have calmed.
And when I feel our relationship is getting a bit tense and ragged, we organise a bit of love bombing, which helps us all remember who we were before the teenage years arrived.
Another vote for the 'Get out of my life...' book. It is just the thing for this situation.
It will explain the behaviour, help you adopt a consistent approach to dealing with it, and most of all it will reassure you that you are not to blame and that you are not alone!
I think Bensyster's onto something with the love bombing. It sounds counter intuitive, but most teens don't like themselves when they're like that, so it's worth going the other way to try and break the cycle.
Would he go for a walk with you, or is there a longish car journey where you could talk? Sometimes that sideways time takes the pressure off big talks. Tell him you honestly want to ask how he feels; so about how things are at home and between you. I'd bet if you find the right time, he will admit that he knows it's awful too. If you can get him to that point, you can get him to agree what's acceptable and what's not. Ask him how he thinks you should react, etc? Ask what his triggers are from you and try and meet him half way. Give him specific examples of what's acceptable and what's not and see if he'll agree. It's got to be worth a try!
The love bombing is very effective but I also think the way you parent has to change.
The controlling nature of parenting a pre-teen has to change. Teenagers need to be guided not controlled, they need you to be there, they need your unconditional love, they need your approval but they also want to feel like they have made their own decisions...sometimes it feels like herding cats. I keep reminding them that we are here to help them - we only want what's best for them but sometimes they know themselves better than we do.
GCSE decision making was a case in point. They'd get themselves all geared up for an argument, but all we wanted to do was to talk about the information we had on subject choice and then get them to explain to us why they had made a choice....they were battling against us - it took us ages to convince them that we really were going to trust them to make a decision about their future but they needed to hear all the facts first because that's how adults make decisions.
Breaking the parenting habit of controlling was hard not just for us but for our teens....they battle for control, a voice that's heard and listened to...they battle to be treated more like an independent person, not a child. We have tried to move on our relationship and treat them more like adults - resolve issues like adults, it doesn't mean we are their besties or there are no rules, we are trying to teach them how adults respectfully agree and disagree, that tantrums and explosions are the way toddlers get what they want - not adults.
Thanks for all the answers and for giving me the opportunity to get a lot off my chest.
This isn't to take anything away from your situation, but just so you know it's not just you going through this, my second son is like this too and in fact always has been let alone as a teen (he's fifteen now).
Last year he stabbed my daughter and he's regularly spontaneously and randomly violent with and/or spitting at me and his siblings. I get all the F Off reaction every day too.
Just this week he's smashed his brothers iphone unprovoked and put condoms in my washing machine which obviously wrapped around the pump and broke it. I don't even wanna start on his behaviour at my sister's funeral last year, but you can imagine.
It's not always about the failings of the parents, I think if it was something I'd done surely my other three would be the same but they're nothing like this at all.
Just posting this to say am in solidarity with you and anyone going through it
I don't agree that this behaviour can't come from being spoiled. It's not so much being spoiled in terms of luxuries, but spoiled in terms of attention, affection, admiration etc... Such kids can -not all- become very arrogant, pompous, resulting in them being rude and disrespectful.
Not saying that is the case with your DS OP but it is a possibility. Unfortunately, if that is the case, tough love is usually the best remedy, but personally, I don't know if I would have it me to go ahead with it by fear of losing them for good. It has worked amazingly well with my OH though. His mum kicked him out of the house when he was 18 after growing more and more respectful of the rules. He left and didn't talk to his mum for almost a year, however, he learnt his lesson and learnt it well. It really made him realise what a brat he'd been and he apologised to his mum. He turned into the most perfect adult son!
Sympathies! One thing: you won't be alone in having a teen who behaved like this. Sometimes I think that when they are growing up they are half desperate to be independent and grown up, and half terrified. And they take it out on the people they are having to seperate from, their parents, because they resent being so emotionally reliant on them, and are afraid of seperating from them, all at her same time
What was the bullying at primary school centred on?
This thread has made me feel less alone, going through similar at our house. What upsets me the most is DS being horrid to his little sister. Have just received another glowing school report, at least on the behaviour front, attainment much patchier, but that's OK as he is trying. My sister says how charming & mature he is when he visits her, being surly and shouting is definitely reserved for me and DD at home. Thanks for the thread and for all the advice everyone, I will definitely get that book. I am finding that going for walks with him helps. Or I walk and he cycles, he cycles off and then comes back for s few minutes when he feels like it and we talk. It does take the pressure off. Also just leaving him to himself and backing off. Anyway good luck OP, I'm hoping it will improve over the years.
About the original bullying. In the last year of primary, he developed a bit of a crush on a girl, and in year 7 she became his 'girlfriend' but she treated him quite badly when he was at a crucial stage of his emotional development. She essentially led him on, then organised her little gang to serially pick on him, and it moved into cyberspace for a bit. We even had the Police take an interest, but no action was taken. It has left him with a bit of a lasting anxiety about going out into town by himself, which still affects his social confidence at the age of 16. However, he was always 'trickier' as a child, as I've been recently been reminded.
His real problem is that he is never really happy in himself, and has not seemingly been so since he was about 9 or 10.
I don't think love bombing would help as he gets plenty of opportunity to do this. We have organised long trips out to see his favourite bands, etc. His mum has read 'Love Bombing' and has tried but he's just not interested in doing anything with us unless he can bring his GF and these days he won't even want to do that. We have very much become a family of 3 that goes out and does things without him. We don't expect him to be with us all the time by any means, but he seems to want nothing to do with his family at all.
The only thing I can think of is that he is (as someone may have pointed out above) at the same time horribly afraid of the future approaching too damn fast, scared of the upcoming GCSE trial, desperately wanting to grow up and shack up with his GF, but having no real clue as to how to set about it - in short, he is in a 'funk' as my old Dad would have said. It is likely since he is going to to college locally that he will be living at home with us for many years yet, so we all need to get along with one another. I'd dearly love to help him out with advice and emotional support, but neither his mum or I can do any of this if he won't actually talk to us about anything.
We know we are not the only parents going through this. Thanks for all the supportive comments.
He sounds like the classic kid from "Get out of my life but first take me and Alex into town" I suggest you buy the book - if nothing else it will make you feel better!
Decide what is important to you.
My middle son (15 - has a severely learning disabled nearly 18 year old brother btw) swears at me all the time. It doesn't actually bother me (we're quite a sweaty family) so I just tend to shout 'language Timothy' & walk off. If he swore at a teacher or adult outside the immediate family I would hit the roof.
What does bother me is the expectation that I will take him somewhere/drop him somewhere if he has just been rude to me. Or if he is sexist. Or dropping something on the floor & expecting me to pick it up. Or an expectation that I wil just hand over money to him. And a whole load of other things that I see as basic respect within a family.
I have found that having a brother with a learning disability has made him more mature in some ways - and he responds well to a discussion about expectations & what is appropriate, rather than e just going off the deep end. I also do a warning 'I need to discuss x with you. I will be back in 5 minutes' - gives time for his brain to get into discussion mode & more often results in a sensible, useful discussion - with him coming up with the ideas I wanted him to have - rather than escalation to irritating teen shouting match.
We still have lots of annoying teen moments but have re-established some good dialogue within it (whereas it was all going pear shaped for a while).
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