Disrespectful teen

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-17-2003
Disrespectful teen
Thu, 04-17-2003 - 10:12am
I'm a newbie, so please bear with me. For the last year or so, my 14-yr-old son has been showing a lack of respect for his teachers, coaches and us (mom and dad). He is very condescending to anyone that he feels is "beneath him". By that I mean, he believes he is smarter than everyone else. Unfortunately, he is sometimes correct. He has been identified as "gifted and talented" (especially in math) and therefore does know more than quite a few people (including teachers). You can't win an arguement with him, because his rationale is usually correct (even though it may not be exactly on the subject)!

Now let's add a twist to this...he also has extremely, extremely low self-esteem! If we get on him about anything, then he argues and cops an attitude - "he knows more than we do - mom and dad are idiots". If we praise him, he refuses to believe it and goes on and on about how terrible he is, how stupid he is, etc.

How about another twist...in school, he does the least amount of work possible and gets A's, but not high A's. And he is cool with that. However, if he does not perform absolutely perfect in basketball or baseball, then he goes ballistic about how awful an athlete he is. When we try to explain to him that noone is perfect and to keep trying hard, he gets mad at us. He says he will never settle for anything less than perfect! He focuses on his mistakes saying this is how he will learn to not repeat the mistakes. However it is all so negative and that worries me to no end.

He is never happy or satisfied with anything or anyone. I want my smiling, happy boy back! I am so upset and don't know which way to turn. He has flat out refused any type of counseling - and I mean vehemently refused!

Please help. I would love suggestions on any part of this complicated mess. Thanks.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Thu, 04-17-2003 - 10:26am
I would take him for counseling anyway. My ds is seeing a therapist now and he also refused to go. Said he didn't want to be Tony Soprano. LOL! But you're the parent and you make the decisions for him because he is a minor. There is no logic to that argument, it is fact. Good luck
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Thu, 04-17-2003 - 8:22pm
There is *intelligence*. And there is *wisdom*.

My guess is that your son, like many naturally gifted intelligence-wise people, is struggling with social skills. Hence the reason he'll freak if he doesn't do excellently in sports - something so many kids find praise worthy over kids who get good grades. His PEERS find sports more praiseworthy than scoring high grades without effort and right now its his peers he's feeling conflicted about.

Unfortunately, having an attitude that he's smarter than many people isn't the way to win friends, but it's also the only thing that HE feels he does well without huge effort. Plus, having an attitude with *TEACHERS*, parents, other authority figures will go hand in hand with wanting peer approval more than adult approval.

It's soo hard to find a balance, esp when our teens' lives are so full. They are changing, friendships are changing, what's considered something worth wanting, pursuing is changing; they are becoming more aware and learning more and challenging the adult world is part of the growing up phase. Friendships/relationships of all kinds are *teens'* focus, way over and above grades' focus.

What he needs to figure out along the way is the difference between someone who is intelligent and a wise man. A wise man never makes another person feel inferior nor do they *need* to make someone else feel inferior as they have learned the old adage, that there is always someone smarter, better, kinder, prettier, whatEVER more than you and less than you. And hopefully he will grow into this with maturity and time.

Meanwhile, for *now*, what to do ... if he refuses counselling outright, I have seen several parents insist their kid go to a counsellor and it was just a disaster. One girl had the psychiatrist AND psychologist wrapped right around her finger and believing whatever she told them. Others just refused to talk for session after session. I suppose there is the odd kid who will eventually capitulate but that's hard to see. I think I'd talk with the guidance counsellor at the school (if you like him/her and you believe they are effective - the one in my dd's school is pathetic) or speak to some teen outreach centers to see what resources there are for helping a teen to find a balance in their lives and something that helps to develop social skills.

Self esteem is built on choosing to do what is right over the easy way or the wrong way, even when choosing to do what's right is tough to do. It's built more on that than it is on praise. When self esteem is built on praise, it's then dependent upon other people's perceptions of a person rather than upon the individual's perception of self. One stands the test of time; the other falls prey to the changeable environment that a teen lives in. Who is popular and who is not; what is acceptable and what is not changes as easily as their feelings change. Right now, your son's perception of himself is that getting good grades comes easy, that must mean so many around him are "stupid"; yet those around him who *care* about easy good grades are not the ones he wants to impress. His perception of himself needs to change for him to see himself in a balanced view. Perhaps there are books or groups or activities that would come recommended to help him eventually see this. You never know what you might find when you start researching options and resources by talking to people who work with all kinds of teens in all forms of settings. I'd just start talking, calling, asking and the more knowledge you gain, the better you'll understand what is best to do to help your son.

Good luck. He sounds like a very driven kid with a lot of potential. Learning how to steer him in the directions that will best benefit him won't be easy but it'll be totally worthwhile ... and the worst that'll likely happen is he'll be too hard on himself and others for awhile until he grows up a little bit more and gains some wisdom enroute. HUGS.