Thursday, April 21, 2011

Recent Teenage Defiance

Knowledgeability Clarity of Response Politeness 
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Comment: Thank you for your response. You have eased my mind.

Questioner: Dave

Subject: Recent Teenage Son Defiance

Question: Hi there,

I’m sure you get this type of scenario all the time, but as I spanned through all the previous questions, I just couldn’t pinpoint my exact situation. To make a long story short, my ex-wife and I got a divorce in early 2007. My youngest son, Daniel (15), choose to live with his mother because she would let him do whatever he wanted. My oldest son, Matthew (17), wanted to live with me.

When it was just Matthew and I, he was the greatest kid...helping around the house, hanging out with me, doing things, happy, smiling, etc. Then one day, Daniel decided to live with me, too. When Daniel moved in, I noticed a change in Matthew, most likely because he hated his brother at the time due to a fist fight they were in once. As I coached them to forgive each other and get along, things got better. They played football together, talked more often, etc. They are still amiable to each other for the most part.

However, I noticed recently (the past 3 months) that Matthew’s behavior has become very defiant. He won’t do his chores as I ask, he talks back and is disrespectful (more towards me than his brother), I’ve caught him in several lies (which used to be unlike him), and he doesn’t want to get a job. He doesn’t want to do anything except hang out with his friends, go to sleepovers, and play on the computer. He doesn’t want to eat with me, hang out with me, or talk to me. I’ve stopped giving him his allowance partly to punish him and partly to encourage him get a job. I work 9-5, come home to no chores being done, and when I demand an explanation, I get smart-ass answers and a “whatever” attitude. I tell him I love him all the time and that I want to spend more time with him, but he doesn’t want the same in return. When I ask him what’s wrong and why he’s acting the way he is, he just says “I don’t know” and walks away. Daniel can be the same way, but not nearly as bad. I know this behavior is common in teenage boys, but I don’t know what to do. Matt used to be so well-behaved and open with me. How do I find out what has caused this total change in behavior and what can I do to get my old son back?



Answer: Dear Dave:

You are right and some of this behavior is normal for teens. However, some is just rudeness.

Here is my take on it. Your son is 17 years old. He is treating you how you allow him to treat. Think about how your respond to him. It is great you tell him you love him however he also needs to know relationships are a two way street.

Who wouldn't want to have sleepovers, hang out with their friends and play on the computer while someone else is paying the tab. While he is almost an adult, the key word here is "almost."

Sometimes teens are just afraid of growing up and making it out there on their own in the world. Probably more so when they are well taken care of at home.

As for him pushing you away that is what teens do. The developmental stage is for them to separate. It sounds like your feelings are hurt that he doesn't want to hang with you. Remember he did chose to come and live with you rather than his mother. Sometimes parents take this as "they love me best?"

His behavior right now is not about you. It is all about him. If he is not doing his chores and behaving badly stop lamenting about wanting to hang out with him. Would you want to hangout with your friends if they treated you this way? (I am not saying you should spend time with him, just stop making such a big deal about it.)

He may have become accustom to the his lifestyle without earning any of these privileges? Does he have to earn time on the computer or time out with friends by doing chores? Chores are a given in any living arrangement. My fear is that he is almost 17 and this is just now an issue.

You need to let him know that chores are not negotiable. Everyone, adults too have to pitch in to keep a house clean. If he wants free Internet, cable, cell phone service and whatever else he wants he needs to participate around the house. Say it and mean it. When things are not done CUT his services OFF. You don't have to be mean about it just think in terms of actions and consequences. If you don't show up to work does your boss keep paying you? If you don't make your house payment do you get to keep your house?

I wouldn't worry about him knowing you love him. Sounds like he knows it and is taking it for granted. You need good boundaries with him as he will take his attitudes with him out into the world with his future family and friends and they will not be so kind about accepting his behavior.

As for his change in attitude with you. You may have this experience with him for awhile. Most parents do feel the distance and the separation for awhile. However, the more independent they become they usually start to respect you more and seek out your company more (maybe not like their best friends, but not sooo distant anymore). I tell parents they are really neat people somewhere between 26 & 30.

Remember the younger son is watching and learning from you two so it is important to do this well.

Best Wishes!

M Kay Keller

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