After picking your battles, how long until you get cross?

(22 Posts)
Spaghettio Mon 06-Jan-20 14:25:19

DS is 14. He's generally a pretty good kid if he's getting to do what he wants with minimal requests for his time/effort/chores etc.

He thinks he know everything (don't they all?) and argues at everything I say. Most of the time I let it go because it's not worth the argument, and it's usually pretty minor stuff.

I have a big issue with him not listening to me. If I do not specifically say his name and speak directly to him, he doesn't hear a word I say.

For example, if he's eating dinner with his brothers I will say to them all that I want them to bring their washing to the machine after dinner. The brothers will do it, but he won't because he either "didn't hear me" or I "didn't tell him".

Many times I've asked him to listen, but unless I'm speaking about football (unlikely) or taking him somewhere, he just doesn't listen to what I say.

Today he did something (v v minor) that I'd asked them all not to do. His brothers have managed not to do it, but he "didn't hear me" because "I wasn't speaking to him".

I asked him again today not to do said thing, and he argued about it. I then took him aside and asked him to listen to me, so that I didn't have to repeat myself. He then argued again, speaking over me, asking me to justify myself, and at one point sarcastically clapped me and said "yeah well done".

So, he's lost his phone for the day and he's not going to his girlfriends house. He obviously thinks I'm massively unreasonable. I think I've cut him a lot of slack, and I finally snapped and wouldn't let it go if he's going to be openly rude to me.

Am I right? Should I have let it go again? Have I been a complete bitch?

Teenagers are so hard - I wish they were toddlers again!

OP’s posts: |
Herpesfreesince03 Mon 06-Jan-20 14:29:52

I think you’re too soft that after him repeatedly ignoring/disobeying you that you’re only just now punishing him. As long as I know they definitely heard what I said and that they know they’ve broken the rules, I remove my children’s phone for the day every time that they do it. They’re old enough to know better at that age. And if they cheeked and back chatted me the way your ds did they’d have no phones and be grounded for a week. As a result it’s extremely rare that they put a foot wrong, and it not like these are particularly harsh punishments imo. I only ask them to follow a couple basic rules and to have a bit of respect

Mintjulia Mon 06-Jan-20 14:39:10

If my ds had hand clapped me and said “yeah, well done” he’d be grounded for a week with no phone or other devices. And I’d be on his case for another week after that, making sure he did exactly as I asked if he wanted his phone back.

You’re much more tolerant than me. I hate that sort of rudeness.

Spaghettio Mon 06-Jan-20 15:10:01

Thank you! I do feel like I've been way too tolerant and he takes the piss. DH thinks I'm always on his case and should back off (which is what I've done). He is generally a good kid and is great with his siblings, but I really feel like I'm the one who cops the bad attitude. DH treats him more like a mate, but DS doesn't act the same way to DH.

But I think the not listening and the disrespect is a step too far.

OP’s posts: |
lljkk Mon 06-Jan-20 18:02:46

Treat him like you would a distracted 4-5 yr old. no shame or emotional investment in how you do this, but make eye contact when you make a request, & get him to repeat back to you what you've requested.

Smirking from the other lads when you do this may cause the teenager to magically recover his hearing.

Spaghettio Mon 06-Jan-20 20:28:18

@lljkk I like your thinking!

Part of me thinks I should just do that, but his whole argument is that I should speak directly to him if I want him to listen.

So I can speak to his siblings as a group, but I need to address him directly. I told him that's not how anyone communicates! It's absurd! (Plus I don't want to give in to his demands.)

OP’s posts: |
lljkk Mon 06-Jan-20 20:42:40

It's calling his bluff though.
Reality is he wants to be lazy, what he says about not hearing you is just excuse to be lazy.
Make him own his desire to be lazy or realise he can't get away with it.


Khione Mon 06-Jan-20 20:54:50

but his whole argument is that I should speak directly to him if I want him to listen.

"No - you are old enough to know to listen when I am speaking, when you are all together. If you aren't old enough for that then you aren't old enough to ..." have a phone; have a girlfriend; use the internet; whichever is most appropriate at the time.

AND follow up, every time

I'm sure he listens to staff at school and doesn't insist that each teacher repeats instructions specially for him.

He wants to be treated like an adult. he needs to learn to act like one.

Spaghettio Mon 06-Jan-20 21:04:22

@Khione I like that. He thinks he's so mature, but apparently he can't listen when I speak. Even my two year old can listen when I speak!

I did ask him if he speaks directly to all of his friends on turn and he said that I was being ridiculous! The comment about his teachers would get the same reaction I imagine.

I'll try your tack I think. I'm sick of being ignored if I speak, and I think he's taken it too far now. I'll speak to DH this evening to get him to back me up as well.

OP’s posts: |
Peterspotter Mon 06-Jan-20 21:08:44

Well he’s flexing his ability play mind games really isn’t he. And the clapping thing was really disrespectful.

He can’t be treated like he is an adult because he isn’t one.

Dd 1 now 24 used to go on a six month cycle. She’d be a complete arse so I’d really buckle down on her then she’d get better then I’d let things slip because of previous good behaviour then we’d be back to the start.

Firstly I’d tell your dh to mind his own business. Your son is being rude to his mother and your dh should support you in it.

I’d have a sit down with him 1-2-1 and reach out to him how his behaviour is making you feel. Non accusatory. Just a talk. I’d also tell your dh how it’s making you feel and tell him you want his support.

"No - you are old enough to know to listen when I am speaking, when you are all together. If you aren't old enough for that then you aren't old enough to ..." have a phone; have a girlfriend; use the internet; whichever is most appropriate at the time*.

AND follow up, every time


lizzie0712 Mon 06-Jan-20 21:10:45

What a shame if next time he needed a lift, or pocket money, or clothes washing, you "didn't hear him" .......

Aquamarine1029 Mon 06-Jan-20 21:10:53

You are WAY too soft on him. He is being willfully disrespectful and disobedient. Your are the parent, you make the rules, and if those rules are not followed, or you are met with rudeness, serious consequences need to be enforced. Every time for every child. You are doing him no favours by getting away with this horrible behaviour.

RippleEffects Mon 06-Jan-20 21:17:03

D9es he use home WiFi a lot? I find device control a very powerful tool. It's amazing how turning off the internet returns civility to tone when they want to know why it's not working. Most hubs have phone apps so you can name all the regular devices and just block one child's, put time limiters on etc.

No dishes out to the kitchen, then off WiFi, quick realisation that's why WiFi privilege gone and an appology turn it back on. No apology push the time out by an hour.

Toddler on the time out spot stuff just made more teen relevant.

citychick Tue 07-Jan-20 10:27:34


Just playing devil's advocate here...

Do you listen to him? Do you connect with him?

I found that once I'd made eye contact with my 13 yr old and engaged in a conversation where I deliberately used subject words he used, he realised I was listening to him.

DS is now much nicer to be around and the exchanges are much more pleasant.

Good luck, I know it's hard.

Spaghettio Tue 07-Jan-20 12:06:33

@citychick I see where you're coming from. I do listen to him and engage with him when he's chatting (even if it's something I know nothing about). He is charming and lovely and actively discusses things with me - if he wants to.

My problem comes when it's something he doesn't want to do (or can't be bothered). Usually some small chore or issue that he thinks is pointless, but makes a difference to me and the rest of the family.

I have been trying extra hard to listen and maintain a non-combative relationship. But sometimes I just need him to do stuff, and that's when the issues arise!

OP’s posts: |
WeBuiltCisCityOnSexistRoles Tue 07-Jan-20 12:24:56

Oh god the clapping "well done" is very much like something my own Sir StropALot would do - plus rolling his eyes into the back of his head hmm

"You didn't tell me" "I didn't hear you" "I didn't think you meant me" etc etc angry (To make it worse I have working memory issues, a few teens and can't always recall 100% saying it!) so with this is mind (and thinking how I would have dealt with it at work) I decided to put it in writing (bear with me...grin)

I created a family group on whatsapp and when I want something doing, if course I still tell them F2F but they're not always there at the same time so for things like "bring your plates down from your room", "be back by 4 on Friday" "no more food upstairs because you don't bring your plates down" wink I'll also put it on the group chat. I also use snapchat but it confuses me sometimes blush

It has been great because they can't deny seeing it, and I know I've said it, but also we often aren't all together now (young adults too) so it's been a fab way of sharing stuff not related to chores, if someone has news about an exam result or a boyfriend has done something silly, or there's a good photo to share, or to see if everyone can be in on a Friday night it works really well. They are also fond of sending gifs/memes and we actually laugh a lot as well as talk about plates in capital letters.

No doubt this may horrify some people as a terrible form of communication but it's been really good for us.

waspfig Tue 07-Jan-20 12:25:19

Do you have discussions more generally around everyone contributing to the household? The fact that in a family, everyone needs to do their bit so all can enjoy a happy, healthy, safe home?

How would he respond if you explained WHY these little chores need doing (e.g. clearing things away so there is a safe space for toddler, clearing dishes so him and his brothers can work on a project etc)?

He is old enough to think of others as well as himself and I would be thinking about how to encourage that selflessness more widely in his life (charity giving, volunteering, helping grandparents etc).

citychick Tue 07-Jan-20 14:34:44

OP, hi

Keep up with the listening.
He sounds very disconnected with the family unit. There's no excuse for bold behaviour, but try and find out what's upsetting him so much so be so nasty. There's clearly something going on ( as well as teenage angst).
If you can " get him" as in say to him
"It seems that there's something making you unhappy ", eg, he might open up a bit and tell you what's wrong.

In short

Listen deeply
Reply using his words to confirm that you have listened
Note verbally to him how you think he's feeling
Don't get pulled into an argument. I use " this conversation has ended"
Tell him you love and support him ( he's maybe just not feeling that ATM)

I'm no psychologist but I've been using these tactics and we've been much better behaved. All of us.

Earlier today ( I'm in a different time zone) DS was having a bit of an exam meltdown and cried. I hugged him, asked him if he was feeling emotional ( seems obvious but I think he needed to hear me say out loud what he couldn't articulate) and told him we love him and that we're here to support him.

It was interesting and heartwarming to see how this exchange helped calm him down.

Good luck.

Spaghettio Tue 07-Jan-20 15:44:58

@WeBuiltCisCityOnSexistRoles I LOVE THIS IDEA! All of the kids are in their phones to friends and on WhatsApp chats, so this is a great way to ensure they've seen/read/heard a message.

I'll obviously continue to actually speak to them grin but they do love to send funny gifs and memes so this might be a way to harness their attention to their phones.

I'm going to maintain the open chats about stuff, but I am going to say that if he disrespects me like that again, or fails to listen when I'm speaking then there'll be much more serious consequences.

OP’s posts: |
WeBuiltCisCityOnSexistRoles Tue 07-Jan-20 22:30:29

Oh I hope it helps a little @Spaghettio! Honestly your OP of picking your battles then still being angry grinreally sounded so familiar to me, and the group chat has helped us amazingly. For example, we still have cereal bowls left in bedrooms and instead of RL shouting blush I take a pic and put it on the group chat (we call this #BowlShaming grin) and whilst it's lighthearted they do realise I'm pissed off and they're being slatterns. If there are no clean towels left I post there will be a towel amnesty until 9pm then any towels still on floors will run off with their mobile phones.

The biggest change has been that we laugh so much on it, and I've realised how easy it was to fall into a cycle of being ignored, shouting, then being ignored again and everyone being grumpy (plus I've been ill and some days just think that towels on the floor isn't the worst than can happen, tbh). I still lose my shit and shout in caps and shout in RL but we all seem to get on so much better. Maybe it's just part of them growing up as well <she said hopefully>

I used to try and follow the MN advice of "bored police officer" but this just doesn't work as well on teens as they get older. Plus having young adults too has made me realise how quickly they grow up and how your relationship changes to a more "equal" footing, and how some might not be living here soon for me to shout at sad. I've just looked at our recent chat and (we aren't all next to each other on the sofa doing this, btw, some are out wink) have discussed whether trainers or converse are the best, how naughty the cat is, how shit the buses are, photos of the cat, are we all in for Sunday dinner, gifs about the cat, as well as me typing furiously in caps about not cleaning the bath after you and recycling McDonalds wrapping.

Honestly I highly recommend it.

RB68 Tue 07-Jan-20 22:36:54

I bet he hears you if you offer them all cake....

Its selective hearing and then arguing the toss in my book but yes I also agree you are quite lenient.

My teen is generally pretty good but I def get to call her out on being lazy and bowls in room etc

lovethebubbly Thu 09-Jan-20 09:07:37

We also use family group chat for general instructions, questions (anyone need anything from supermarket, is everyone home for dinner on Friday?) as well as random memes and in-jokes. Teens can engage in their own time and it's all there in writing as evidence!

I have found the best way to get washing brought down is to ask a couple of times and if ignored to sweep through bedrooms picking up anything that looks/smells like it needs a wash. If that includes something that was wanted to be worn - too bad! It's also amazing what else I spot as I search for hidden vodka bottles sweep through, and the fear of having privacy invaded usually gets mine motivated.

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