Need some help

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-06-2003
Need some help
10
Fri, 06-06-2003 - 1:41pm
I need some comments and advice to what I am going to say. I never had problems with my son until he turned 16. I am a single parent and we have always been very close. It has been 9 months of hell. He doesn't drink, smoke, do drugs, sneak out. He works 30 hours a week at a part time job. In all other aspects of his life he is fine except with me. He will do nothing I ask. For the past month he hasn't done any school work (and he is bright and gifted) because I told him his work has to be done before he does other activities. He said his school work is none of my business and to prove it, he won't do it. He is finishing his junior year and wants to go to MIT or Harvard. But with what he is doing I doubt that will happen.

If he does anything I tell him to do (chores, picking up after himself, schoolwork) he either won't do it or will wait until I take things off of him. He is very stubborn and will go weeks without tv or computer so that he doesn't do what I ask of him. ON top of that he is very disrespectful, will swear and call me names. Tells me he hates me, hopes I have a heart attack in my sleep, wishes I would die.

The last thing I should add is that mother has been a big problem. She hates me and has always treated my badly around my son. That is why I won't have anything to do with her anymore. She talks to my son about me and tells him that I am mean, abusive, etc. But he has gotten disgusted with her and has refused to talk to her for 2 weeks now.

So I guess if anyone has any suggestion, that would be great. But we have tried the consequences route - no tv, no computer, etc. That hasn't work. We have tried a therapist - that hasn't worked. The last one said that I should not expect my son to cooperate with me. (My parenting style has always been kind of middle of the road. I have always been willing to give him more priveleges as he shows more responsibility. I wasn't permissive but I wasn't strict. But there were certain ways to act and behave).

But my real question is my feelings toward my son. God help me but I have started not only seriously disliking him but having feelings of hatred at his treatment of me. I feel like just leaving and never returning. I have a hard time looking at him with love. Yes I love him but I can't take it anymore. Has anyone else had this emotion? How do you deal with it?

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
In reply to: maml
Fri, 06-06-2003 - 2:05pm
Please don't give up on the therapy route - keep looking until you find a therapist who will help you. Maybe a counselor at your son's school could talk to him about the importance of his schoolwork and that Harvard, MIT or any other selective school is interested in only the very top students. Are there any men in your son's life that he looks up to? Spending time with a good male role model might help too.

Good Luck,

Lynne

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-06-2003
In reply to: maml
Fri, 06-06-2003 - 2:14pm
Thanks Lynne. No there really aren't any good role models in my son's life. My son was going to see the therapist on Tues to discuss how he and I could get along for this next year, but then refused to go. He said he doesn't care if he gets along with me or not.At this point I am such a loss. Taking priveleges away (tv, computer, gaming sys) doesn't work but if I let him do these things, I feel like I am abdicating my responsibility as a parent. It is so bad I would love to send him to boarding school. Isn't that just awful for a parent to say - especially about a child who doesn't get into trouble.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
In reply to: maml
Fri, 06-06-2003 - 3:28pm
No, that's truly not a horrible thing to say about a kid who doesn't get into trouble. Learning how to maintain, and grow into a meaningful and balanced relationship is VERY important!

I recall your posts from awhile back, and I'm truly sorry that your circumstances haven't changed. It is AWFUL to live with a child you know that you love to death but is hard to *like* - and yes, even without the resistance you're meeting, there were times I felt I did NOT like my dd's attitude when she was growing up. You can love and not like, absolutely.

As I recall, your mom's influence over your son and undermining YOU to your son was a real issue. Has this resolved at all? I would still encourage you to put your foot down regarding that at any rate - you DO have control over how much contact she has with your son and you have the right to expect your MOTHER to respect and uphold your authority and to not put you down to your SON. By allowing her to do that, you're showing your son *how* to disrespect you through how your mother gets away with it. And trust me, I do know how very very hard it is to not allow your mother to affect your life in ways better left undone ... but I also know that once you take your first steps in being firm about this, the inner quaking you're going to feel starts to subside and you Do grow in strength of conviction that what you're expecting and not settling for less on DOES grow. And much more quickly than you'd expect. Even if, for whatever reason, you can't prevent him from seeing your mom elsewhere, you CAN restrict her calling your home or coming to visit. That alone will start to show your son that you will NOT put up with being disrespected in your own home because he will know, even if he hears stuff from her elsewhere, that in the areas that you do have control over, that you WILL take the reins, so to speak, which is at least a starting point with your son.

What matters to your son? If tv, computer privileges, etc. don't matter, what does?

How does your son respond to your responses to his behaviours against you? What do you do? Begging, pleading, trying to appeal to his sense of fairness, sharing/opening yourself up to him by telling him how he makes you feel may well not be what works ... in his mind, he apparently already thinks that your feelings are easily dismissed. In order to change how he responds to you, you need to change how you interact with him FIRST. Trust me - this is the ONLY way you can change how someone interacts with you. If you've begged, pleaded, etc ... stop. If he comes and asks you for something, tell him that you aren't willing to discuss anything with him until he apologizes and comes up with his OWN way of letting you know he understands what he's done. Then talk. Don't try to make him understand you ... right now, he doesn't care. Make him accountable. If taking away privileges doesn't work, give him physical work to do in compensation; you might as well get something OUT of the consequence while he's still being mean and thoughtless with you. If he refuses to clean his room, for example, calmly tell him he has *x* number of hours to do it or you will go in and whatever you find on the floor and of place will not be picked up but that you will bring a box or garbage bag and everything will be placed in there until he shows a change in attitude and earns it back. No matter WHAT it is. Don't put a time frame on the consequences. Make the length it's in place be dependent upon HIM. Tell him it's not going to be retrieved or earned back, either, until there has been a consistent effort IN SPITE OF not getting back what he wants. Get him to do yard work, clean the garage, the basement. Physical work has multiple benefits. If he refuses, walk away, refuse to be drawn into an argument or pleading. Next time he wants something, tell him he has to do whateer he's refused to do and then sure.

You need to set your own limits with him - limits YOU stick to that you DO have control over such as *how* you choose to respond to his attitudes; when you give in to something; how you allow your mother contact with him (big starting point) and where. If you're feeling like something is starting to come to a boiling point, turn and literally go out the door, get in your car and go somewhere for a couple hrs, return home and find something to do that gives YOU pleasure. The times he says horrible things like he wishes you would die in your sleep, give him a very long, level look of complete censure and walk away. Again, next time he wants something - ANYTHING - he needs to think about what he's said or done on HIS OWN and acknowledge the wrongness of it and find a way to make amends - all steps that are important here - before he gets anywhere with you.

Good luck maml ... this is a very heartbreaking situation for you to live in. Believe in his inherent goodness but be tough ... don't parent from your heart alone. Teaching someone how to do the right thing takes effort and knowing where YOu stand first, clearly and unequivocally; and knowing what your OWN limits are.

Sending him to boarding school ....... well, who knows ... a boot camp seems to have its role for some teens. Only you will know what you can and can't do and live with and back up. Just be as consistent as possible, as calm and UNemotional as you can be - he has figured out how to elicit emotional responses from you that then leave you less than effective in your own self, just as your mom apparently has ... close those doors to him AND your mom. That kind of knowledge of another human being is NOT open to those who cannot treat it with respect and compassion. HUGS.

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-06-2003
In reply to: maml
Fri, 06-06-2003 - 3:42pm
Yes my mother was a big problem. I know when she talked about me, he told her to stop and that he didn't want to hear it. And when she would tell him I didn't have the right to do these things, he asked her to stop. He, on his own, has decided not to answer her phone calls (he has his only line ring). He has also decided not to return her messages. Before I would have made him, but now I don't.

As far as what I have tried - everything I could think of. I have tried discussing, demanding, pleading, being a tryrant. The kids has a stubborn streak that could serve him well if he would use it the right way. He likes computer, gaming systems, etc. I have, in the past taken them off of him, but he still didn't do what he needed to. He would stay in his room and read or sleep - sleep a lot. We talked about depression and it isn't that. He just thinks he should have the right to make his own decisions. Here are our arguments:

1. He thinks school work should be his responsibility and if he doesn't do it then he will be hurt, but it isn't my concern. He wants me to lay off. First I told him it was my concern but then I figured maybe he needs to learn the hard way - even though I hate to see him hurt himself with college. So then I told him I would not tell him he had to do school work, but until he did he couldn't do anything else. He said that wasn't fair because I was still telling him he had to do something that should be his business. He once went 3 weeks without computer, tv, etc.

2. As far as cleaning up after himself (removing glasses and dishes from rooms, picking up magazines and papers, putting dishes in dishwasher, etc)he says those things aren't important nor a big deal but I make them a big deal.

3. Basically he tells me I treat him like a baby and should let him make his own decisions. I tell him that I will when he shows me he is responsible enough to handle them. He tells me he doesn't drink, drugs, etc and he doesn't get in trouble so he is acting mature.

The real issue is how he feels about me (he has the right to his feelings) and how he treats me. If I leave him alone (don't make him do work or tell him he has to do it), our relationship is fine and he is actually respectful to me and it is like before - he tells me things, we talk, laugh etc. But the minute I tell him what to do, he changes. What do you think about this?

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
In reply to: maml
Fri, 06-06-2003 - 4:30pm
Hmm ...

I could be soo wrong, but here's my gut reaction.

I think I would do the following (the points are in direct reference to each of your three points ...)

1. There's only so much you can do to make a person do what they *should* be doing. In one way, he's right - if you say you've agreed that schoolwork will be HIS responsibility but then you decide to restrict something till it's done, you haven't made it his responsibility, that much IS true. I totally understand that you have felt responsible for trying to make him realize how important it is, trust me ... but you HAVEN'T actually made him responsible for it yet.

So ... how about if you set a time limit in your mind. The time limit is for YOUR peace of mind and not something he should even know exists. For example, starting *right* now, tell him 'you're right; by telling you you can't have *whatever* till your schoolwork is done, I'm not leaving it to you. So. Starting NOW, your schoolwork is your responsibility. If you don't do it, you know the end natural consequences that happen that have nothing to do with *me*. If you decide to show everyone concerned that when it's your responsibility and you can soar with it, then I know you can do just exactly that. It's in your court now."

Then ADHERE to that. Clamp your mouth shut EVERY time you see he's not doing something. My 'gut reaction' is telling me that he will likely push this to the outside limits to see if you REALLY mean it before he capitulates and does it. Maybe even for an entire semester, so when he brings home bad marks, he'll see for himeslf if you are STILL going to stand back and let him fall or learn to soar. He obviously is very stubborn and so HIS limits are going to be greater than the average teen's. So, just be prepared. And remember, maml, there is very little that is irrevocable. The worst that would happen is he has to do courses over, and that really IS something that HE alone has to deal with. If he makes comments along the way designed to elicit something from you to prove what he's expecting from you about this, just smile and say nothing. Or say something obtuse, like, 'it's your choice, your responsibility. You are who has to live with whatever the end result is, not me." If you can set a time limit in your own mind for how long you're able to do this, try to set it until at least halfway through the second semester. Do NOT give in the impulses to say *something*, ANYTHING because you feel you are responsible to do that. If a kid is determined to fail, he WILL - no matter how great a parent is or how great their parenting skills might be. Just as a kid determined to succeed WILL, in spite of the worst parenting. Separate yourself from the responsibiity of this as everything you have done to date has NOT WORKED ... and when something isn't working, you have no choice BUT to change it. If this is the one way you haven't tried yet, do it ... and yes, if he falls, he falls. And yes, maybe he'll be hurt. But it sure won't be because of a lack of trying on YOUR part to date, right? Some kids are just VERY VERY tough to teach, lead, guide, and those are the kids who HAVE to learn the hard way unfortunately. Every kid arrives at what I call the 'age of accountability' at a time specific to *them*. My dd arrived at it at 17 in ways I'd NEVER have thought she would or that I'd ahve to 'turn over' control and yet, she was ready adn she was determined. Everything else did not work. This did.

2. CLose his bedroom door and don't say a word about the mess in there. Anywhere else that affects YOU, tell him calmly that while HE may not think it's a big deal, it does bother you, and that EVERY relationship he will ever be in will require that he learn to show respect for a difference in opinion whether he *likes* it or not. It's a matter of learning to do something not because we *feel* like it, but because it's the right thing to do, and/or it's a natural offshoot of love: to *want* to please the other person in some ways. So, he has two choices: he either picks up after himself everywhere else in the house outside of his bedroom OR if you pick it up you will put it away until such time as he shows he will respect the REST of the house first. My dd *hates* cleaning. I gave up on her bedroom; I decided she could have ONE space that was hers alone. It's taken a few years, but she's finally starting to clean it voluntarily from time to time. I was the same way till I was MARRIED - so don't despair :-) Perhaps, over time AND consistency in this area, too, he will come to see that this is NOT you trying to push your wants onto him since he will have his own space to do with as he sees fit without interference from you, and that separate from what affects him alone, he needs to learn to compromise. Don't argue. Just pick his stuff up, with a sufficient time warning ('I'll be tidying up tomorrow after work ... just remember that whatever I pick up that doesn't belong to me will be boxed as we've talked about.")

3. In a way, your son has a point. On one hand, you're doing what any parent would do: earn your privileges before you get them; show maturity before you tell me you're mature. But your son is obviously not the normal teen this way either. 'extraordinary things require extraordinary measures'. I think I'd tell him, okay, treat this like this: let's pretend we're in a classroom; I'm the teacher, you're the student. We start off with my saying, you are starting out with an "A+". It's up to you to keep it." Then give him a full semester worth of school, at least, to show you he's capable of making his decisions. Tell him that you will do your best to let him have that space but that if you fall into old patterns, that you're asking that he ALSO grant YOU the courtesy of asking you in a NICE way, a respectful way, to remember your 'deal'. Tell him it'll take time to figure out the new roles you are both in and that you both need to cut each other some slack while the new roles take on form and strength. Tell him that respect is a 2 way street and is completely separate from roles changing or not.

I think these ways because of how he stood up to your mom in the end, maml. I think, deep down, he does NOT want to disrespect you, but he's chosen some pretty awful ways to let you know that in trying to make HIS points.

Good luck. I really hope things will truly turn around. There HAVE been steps forward, even if it feels like there haven't been - i.e. how he took his own stand with his grandmother is a very telling one. HUGS.

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-06-2003
In reply to: maml
Fri, 06-06-2003 - 4:45pm
They were really good points thanks. I guess I have to get over the feeling that I am not being a responsible parent if I let him alone. I keep feeling like I am abdicating my responsibility as a parent. So I have to get over that. Even my priest said that my son has a free will and is exercising it and I can't control his free will.

Right now, I just want to get over his disprectful treatment of his, his calling me names and his swearing.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
In reply to: maml
Fri, 06-06-2003 - 5:25pm
Yes, getting past the feeling you're abdicating parental responsiblity is a really tough one. I'm still working on that from time to time in the one area I gave over to my dd and said she's now accountable for herself in it. There are still ways one parents; *how* is often not so much determined by the parent over the course of time, but by *who* your teen is.

As for his disrespectful and hateful attitude - I totally empathize with you. No, I could NOT stand that. I know that. But perhaps if you take these steps - and give over some of the responsibilities that he's asking for, truly give them over for an extended period of time - he will start to change his attitude towards you. If, after a fair trial of time has gone by where for the most part you've been able to stick to letting him make certain decisions, that hasn't changed, then come back and we can help you to re-evaluate what to do at *that* time. Perhaps these two issues are inextricably entwined right *now* and won't become separate issues where you can see if one has to do with the other until that time. You need to deal with ONE issue at a time. If we try to deal with several overwhelming issues all at once, we are bound to fail to some degree and feel helpless and hopeless again. So just set yourself, and your son, on one course. Tell him that respecting you isn't negotiable. If you're showing respect for him, then he needs to learn to try.

Good luck...

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-06-2003
In reply to: maml
Fri, 06-06-2003 - 5:54pm
Thank you so much. I am going to try letting him make these decisions for himself. It will be hard but I will be praying for God's help. Right now I know he hasn't done his math work (he got an Incomplete - takes the class at community college- because he was sick and only has until next Friday to make it up and he won't be able to do it) but I am going to let him learn on his own. I still pray it doesn't hurt his college chances. I will give him 6 months and see what happens. Again, thanks.

Maryanne
Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998
In reply to: maml
Sun, 06-08-2003 - 2:59am
Hi maml, I also remember you from before. I'm glad that you found your way back to the boards because the support and advice here can be so helpful.

There are some striking similarities between your description of your son's behavior and demands, and my dd17 (and to a lesser degree my ds19).

The homework/chore wars: We would restrict privleges like TV and going out until the things were done. Both of them would either just stay in their rooms or sneak onto the tv or computer. My ds would sometimes do the chore or whatever so he could get his privleges but usually not. Dd almost never did it, she would just dig in her heels harder. There was a lot of friction here and I was always stressed out with them. Someone here on the boards described their behavior as passive-agressive.

The first thing I lightened up on was the bedroom. The rule became that they had to clean it on the 1st and 15th of each month, or else they lost the privleges. Once it had been cleaned I didn't care if it was a mess again until the next cleaning date (the rationale was to keep the sheets and carpet from getting irrepairably soiled). That worked better, sometimes it didn't get done and there would be up to 2 weeks of no privleges but sometimes they did it on time. I didn't nag, they would just get no for an answer if they hadn't done it. More recently it escalated into a big problem with dd. We no longer require her to clean it, just the most basic safety issues--bring out the dirty dishes, keep the electrical outlets clear and a clear path to the fire exits. It is an incredible mess but at this point I have to laugh it is so bad--after awhile I stopped caring much. Sometimes SHE gets fed up with not being able to find things and does some cleaning-LOL.

The schoolwork issue: I pushed my ds through 11th grade. When he started 12th grade I figured that he needed to get used to pushing himself since I would not be at college with him so I stepped back. His style was (and still is) to procrastinate. I can't tell you how many times he started a big/important assignment at 10pm the night before it was due, worked all night but got it done. It probably would have been better quality if he had spent more time on it, but oh well. I was nervous for him on several occasions but bit my tongue. The only time we pushed and restricted that year was for the college application deadline. I am happy to tell you that he graduated with a good GPA and attends a very good university. He still has the same habits but since he's 500 miles away I don't have to worry about it!

Then there's dd. Even though she is extremely bright she was never very motivated to go to college so dangling that carrot didn't work. She is much more stubborn than ds and the type that will "cut off her nose to spite her face". It seems like if we suggest or tell her to do something she won't; I think it is a control issue and she likes to win every competition/confrontation she enters. Like your ds, she is open and pleasant to be around when she is getting her way! We tried both negative and positive incentives, etc--she wouldn't buy into it. We finally stepped out of the schoolwork issue with her late in first semester of 11th grade. We insist that she attend school but we don't make her do homework. My dh cannot step entirely out of it so there are some restrictions based on report card grades. Unfortunately she didn't bother to do a lot of the work so her grades are awful. She did take the HS Proficiency exam and passed it so now she has the legal equivalent of a HS diploma in our state. Her plan is to bypass 12th grade and attend community college next fall in a vocational program, we may or may not allow this. This has not been an easy route for the parents. My dh especially had a hard time accepting that she likely will not attend university, and who knows how that may affect her future. We are very disappointed in many of the choices that she makes. To some it may seem like we abdicated our parental responsibility but we feel like we have done the best we could given her personality, we made clear to her our concerns and the pitfalls of her choices, and this was the best way to proceed for all of us.

Other chores like dishwashing we would not back down on, since we compromised on the school and bedroom issues the kids became more agreeable about them and we rarely have problems with those.

The part about letting your son make his own decisions--besides school and his room, what decisions does he want to make?

Letting your ds fail in school would be very painful but would not be the end of the world, for either of you. Hopefully when he realizes that it is up to him alone, he will decide to do what he needs to. If he chooses a rockier path, he will learn to deal with it.

I don't know if this novella helps you at all...except to let you know that you are not the only one with a kid that does this stuff. I will also add that there have been plenty of times that I have disliked my kids. I always love them, but don't always like them or want to live with them! With the distance my relationship with my ds has improved; also the fact that HE is growing up. Now if I can just make it until dd grows up!

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-19-2003
In reply to: maml
Sun, 06-08-2003 - 7:53am
I've read most of the responses and just wanted to add my two cents. First of all as you say he is a good kid. Doesn't do many of the things that a lot of teens do at that age. He works 30 hours a week? Sounds pretty good so far. But he attacks you with his hate. I think you've got to lay off a bit to rebuild this relationship. Obviously, what you are doing isn't working. I think teens hit a stage where they feel adult and then they come home and mom or dad treats them like they can't take care of themselves. So this is where the resentment builds. My daughter is 17 and although things are much better than they were a year ago I know what you go through. She will applaud behaviour from her friends that she will detest from me. If I ask her what's wrong, I'm stupid. If they notice she's down they really care for example. So in the last year I've learned not to ask so many questions. As a result, she now tells me more. She wants to confide in me but she doesn't want me nosing in her business. I would work with your son by appreciating all his good qualities. Lay off the pushing about school work. If he doesn't do so good he will be disappointed and work harder. Just don't say anything unless he asks for your advice. when he does good tell him you are proud of him. Try the positive reinforcement route. And don't worry about his room. Honestly, it's not a priority for him, it's his space. Once in a while like say ever couple of months say hey do you think today you could clean up your room. If he does he does. If he doesn't don't fret! My sister in law was the biggest slob. She would have plates with old moldy food on them. Today at 43 she is a corporate lawyer and she won't have a thing out of place. Just close his door!

Good luck! Hang in there!