Dear TAI (Talk About It),
I am a single mom with two boys. My oldest is 13-years-old. His disrespect for me is and has continued to grow for more than a year. I know and remember all the emotions and changes that took place in my teenage years. If a boy made fun of me or said something to me that hurt my feelings, this 30 seconds or so could ruin my entire day. But things are really getting out of hand. He basically lives on his computer playing this Wizard 101 game.
If I try to talk with him or remind him of his chores while he is on his computer his response is almost always, 'hold on a minute.' If I wait 15 minutes or so not to push too hard, he huffs, puts down is computer forcefully and walks past to begin what he needs to do.
He is exceptionally bright and could make all As if he applied himself. I do praise him but I don't push the fact that he doesn't make all As. He comes home from school claiming he has no homework. He won't introduce me to his friends but just wants to leave the house and go play with his 'friends.' I never liked this idea and do not allow my youngest one to do this before meeting my youngest son's parents but the stress and tirades with my oldest son in the house have gotten so bad that it's a refreshing break to have him outside, knowing he has an hour or 90 minutes to return.
He won't pick up his clothes in his room unless asked. He won't put his dishes in the dishwasher unless asked. Sometimes, he even leaves dishes unrinsed and leaves bowls right side up in the dishwasher, leaving me to actually rinse the remaining food out and place the dish, bowl, glass where it belongs.
I actually put together a list of chores and both the boys and I sat down and talked about the chores. Each boy picked out the chores that each one would promise to do on certain days. It hangs up in the house near their rooms. There is also a white board of the 'basics.' 1-Put shoes and coat away when you come home. 2-Do homework. etc.
As far as punishment, I have taken his computer away from him. I have taken his Ipod that his father purchased for him away as well as PlayStation - no electronics. He is rude. He is arrogant. He tells me he does not respect me. He has told others in front of me that he does not respect me. And his younger brother has begun acting up as well.
We have had heart to heart talks, where the two of us sit down calmly and I ask him to let me know how we can communicate better and get along better. I have asked him what he needs from me to help me respect him while he needs to respect me. The latest answer was a suggestion from my son to submit a note telling him that I had a question to ask 10 to 15 minutes prior to asking the question. I asked if this would work for his grandparents, his father or his teachers. He said, 'no.'
Time and time again he promises to be polite, nice, say hello to guests when they visit. Time and time again, nothing changes. I'm completely spent and want to go to my own room and shut him out completely. What can I do to find my son again?
Trapped by a 13-year-old
Dear Trapped by a 13-year-old,
Let me first say that being a single mother is such tough job. And from what you share, I can promise you that you are not alone.
I would also agree that this is NOT a situation where anyone can say, 'kids will just be kids.' As I can only go by what you write and am not a professional psychologist, I wonder if you have thought about seeking counseling for both you and your son.
Additionally, there are many free parenting classes that are often available through various churches and non-profit organizations. With a little online research, you may find a way to connect with others dealing with the same problems you are.
One thing concerns me a bit. It's the fact that you have given in to him and broken your own spirit by allowing your oldest son to leave your home to wander off to who knows where even though you never let this happen before, just so you can breathe easier for an hour or so. This sends mixed messages to your youngest son. It also tells your oldest son that he really does have the upper hand and is in charge and can get what he wants.
If talking to your ex-husband to ask for help is not an option, I seriously encourage you to find some type of support system, whether it's counseling or a parenting class or whatnot, to make you feel like you are the parent again.
And try not to beat yourself up too much. Parenting does not come with a manual. Each child is completely different from the other.
Talk to your friends who have children, find some group or organization that can give you some support and useful ideas to apply that will help you be the parent in your teenager's mind and in your own as well. But more than anything, know that it's alright to reach out instead of staying locked up in your own home trying to some how 'make it' from one day to the next.