General Question

tranquilsea's avatar

How do you keep your sanity with teenagers?

Asked by tranquilsea (17655points) August 2nd, 2010

I have a 15 year old that has been driving me around the bend and back again for the last 6 months. Ninety percent of what he says is either an attack on his brother, sister, father or me or a complaint about how hard his life is.

He’ll come home and tear into his little brother about how he thinks he is a lego freak. And then he’ll go on and on and on about it until the two of them are yelling. He doesn’t just go after him we are all fair game.

When I try to talk to him about his behaviour he shouts me down with things like, “I’m a terrible child and you’re all perfect”. He never apologizes for hurtful things he says calling us “too sensitive”.

I know much of what is going on is typical teenage stuff but some days I want to shove him out of the house and tell him to find some where else to live.

He does have glimmers of the child I know. He is very sensitive and is a good friend to his friends. I just wish he’d bring more of that home.

For all the parents here who have been there and done that: what have you done to cope? I have two more teenagers coming up the pipe and, although I know they won’t be exactly like their big brother the thought makes me want to move to a different country.

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33 Answers

Rememberme's avatar

Don’t worry! most of us will eventually grow out of it.

In my opinion as long as he isn’t physically hurting anyone, including himself. Try not to engage in these discussions that seem to be carried away. Be a good example of maturity. Try to stay positive and don’t make claims that are a matter-of-fact. In most cases its better not to say something than to say an innocent comment that leads to an argument.

For is little brother, maybe teach him to go to another room to play. Also try to arrange family trips (to the library, movies, zoo, hiking, beach, ect) and plan them in advance so there are no excuses not to go. That will help to make positive memories together.

tedd's avatar

May I suggest some kind of brute force? Not necessarily like “spanking” or some kind of physical punishment, but something to make it clear that type of behavior won’t be tolerated. And if you want him to realize his life isn’t that hard at all, make him volunteer or do manual labor. Make him get a job, etc, etc. If he mouths off to you, smack him. Its not going to hurt him, and you’re supposed to be in charge. If that won’t work or you don’t want to do it, take away privileges (such as TV or internet, or phone, etc). He can have all the freedom in the world he wants, just make sure he also has respect.

It is just a phase, because being only 15 he doesn’t know any better and he’s trying to find his identity. Help him find it by giving him challenges. The best way to figure out who you are in life is to deal with adversity.

Rememberme's avatar

@tedd I agree that its good to challenge him in things like sports, job, volunteering, ect but I have to completely disagree with the violence part. Violence will only lead to more violence perhaps he will accept hurting as an acceptable punishment and int he future will hit his children (her GRANDCHILDREN). Thats just no right. sorry

Rememberme's avatar

Have the attitude that until he talks to you with respect, you wont even talk to him.

wundayatta's avatar

You could try listening to him and finding out what he’s thinking and feeling. Right now, whenever you want to talk to him, I’ll be he thinks your agenda is his behavior. He’s used to being shamed every time you talk.

Maybe you could let it go to see if he will talk.

On the other hand, this could be a different kind of problem entirely. You say he is attacking all of you verbally whenever he is around. Perhaps he is have some kind of mental health problem.

Or perhaps he is bored to tears. What is he doing this summer? Does he have a job? What does he plan to do in the fall? Could he be apprehensive about that? Does he have a girlfriend? What will happen to the girlfriend in the fall?

I don’t think this behavior is normal “teen” behavior. I think there is something else going on, and I think it will help you a lot to find out or figure it out.

gailcalled's avatar

When I try to talk to him…That is the temptation, of course. You might change your tactics and ask him a question or two? And then listen. He is hearing “the lecture, again.”

I was always amazed at how well that technique worked, when I remembered to do it.

“Sweetie, what’s going on?”
“Sweetie, how would you suggest we make things more pleasant around here?”
“Luv, do you have any suggestions about keeping the peace? I’d like to hear them.”

ninahenry's avatar

discipline him, set a good role model, give him lots of love and enough attention to make sure he’s happy in life.

eden2eve's avatar

Kids are hard-wired to stop adoring their parents and to be obnoxious, else they would never want to leave home, and their parents might not want them to leave, either.

I agree with @gailcalled and @ninahenry. Their ideas, among others, worked for me, and I raised four teenagers to be successful and healthy adults without anyone killing or getting killed, or any of the common teenage crisis. And they like me now, and value my opinions and advice (given judiciously), so I guess I did ok.

If you listen, show respect, and require respect (for yourself and others), that’s pretty much what you will get. Being consistent and following through on any (reasonable) rules and discipline is so important. Kids need to know what to expect, and even when they are protesting, they are more secure when they know you will do what you said you would do. And remember that this is all only temporary.

Aster's avatar

Reward him verbally every single time he says or does something nice. Ignore a lot of it; take him with you to help the less fortunate once a week. Say, ” I love you” also.
Does he have an adult MALE he can spend time with, talk with?

tranquilsea's avatar

Growing up as a child whose mother felt free to slap me I could never go down that route. I have taken away his computer privileges, his tv privileges and even gone so far as to send him to his room (he actually goes which is a relief).

He is in a giant pissing match with everyone in the house. Some of the things he says to his father and me just stun me. Mostly because I would have been hit had I said anything close.

I have spent a lot of time asking him what is going on with him. I know the back story with his siblings and him. He’s mad (and has been mad) for years that they are closer to one another than they are to him. His way of dealing with that is to attack them. That hasn’t always been his way. He tried to get them interested in the things he was interested in and they would go along with it for a while until they were bored and told him they wanted to do something they wanted to do. He got frustrated and started to lash out. I have told him that the best policy is to just leave them alone and try to preserve the relationship instead of poisoning it now. I also point out when he’s done things with his brother and sister and they have all had a good time.

I have always been respectful when dealing with him. When he goes way over the line I tell him he needs to go and do something to calm down and that he needs to stop verbally attacking me or the kids.

I have always had an extremely good relationship with him. We’ve talked about every subject under the stars.

He has just finished a temporary construction job. He was working 3 days a week for 8 to 10 hours. That was quite an adjustment for him. He was tired all the time because he was on facebook until 1am even on the days he needed to be up at 6am.

He has a girlfriend and things are going ok for him but he thinks that the relationship is coming to an end. It is a long distance relationship so I didn’t think it had the chance of continuing for very long anyway.

I take him out for lunch and we just shoot the breeze about what ever he needs to talk about. About whatever he wants to talk about.

He’s not into drugs, he is a stand up friend and he is very good to his girlfriends.

We have had a very busy summer and it is about to get busier as we are going away soon. I’m anxious about the trip.

tranquilsea's avatar

@Aster He has his father. He has more in common with me though. They do go out and do things together but he doesn’t feel like he can talk to his him.

He did get along quite well with the guy he was helping in that construction job. They joked and laughed and had quite a good time together. I’m best friends with his wife so I know he is a good guy.

Aster's avatar

@tranquilsea It sounds like he’s going to be alright. You may have a tough few years ahead of you but when they do grow up they can be Great Blessings in your lives. I wish I had a son.

gailcalled's avatar

@tranquilsea: Aha. How about the concept of the construction boss acting as a big brother and listening post? That relationship and the other positive things you said sound promising. Perhaps he may choose not to go on the trip. Would you let him stay home if he could come up with a responsible and reliable plan B?

CherrySempai's avatar

My mom has the same problems with my older brother. :( he says hurtful things and doesn’t even care. I’ve learned to live with it, cause sometimes I am the same way, but I usually later regret what I say but am too stubborn to apologize. =/ I think it’s just a lot easier for most teenagers to be like that because they’re having troubles with themselves and changing, so it’s easier to accuse others of having flaws than to show how much you really care for them.

Just remember that he truly loves you, even if he is struggling with his attitude and actions. Things will get better!

(I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but my mom also got depression during the time my brother was a teenager, but things are much better now! Just try and keep your spirits up no matter how bad things are, becAuse this too shall pass! =])

haha, I’m actually a teenager myself, but maybe it will help having both point of views. =)

I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you!

tranquilsea's avatar

@Aster I know he is going to be alright (thank god!). It is really hard to see him being so hard on the people I know he loves. Perhaps I need to schedule more time that he and I can just chill.

@gailcalled The guy he was working for is really busy. He has 3 kids under the age of 5 and he is raising his nephew too. He’ll run into him now and again. Usually on Sunday nights as they have dinner over here, but that is on a hiatus for the summer.

This is our last big family vacation together. We are driving across Canada and he is actually really looking forward to it. I just hope he can keep a lid on his behaviour or I may just end up pushing him out of the car (I really wouldn’t but the thought does cross my mind lol)

@CherrySempai Thank you so much for your input. I know he would probably give the same advice he just can’t see what he is doing right now.

Well, he’s sitting in his room again because he told his dad to f**k off when his dad asked him to find the leg to a table he’s been playing with. sigh

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
YARNLADY's avatar

I sometimes tried the “I can’t hear you” game. Every time an unacceptable word came out of their mouth I said “I can’t hear you” or “Your mouth is moving, but I don’t hear anything coming out”. They hated that.

Another thing that seemed to work was the repeat everything game. They shout ”(expletive)” and you shout it right back, back and forth, until they voluntarily leave the room. The first time I did that, my son was so shocked to hear that word come out of my mouth, he just stared at me, then walked away.

tranquilsea's avatar

@YARNLADY I’m trying hard to ignore him when he gets into a tizzy. Where I do have to step in is when he lays into one of his siblings.

I have to say 15 is turning out to be a LOT like 3…only with a bigger vocabulary.

YARNLADY's avatar

@tranquilsea Maybe the truth would help, quietly say “I need your help here, I’m having a lot of trouble dealing with your outburst. Do you have any ideas?”

MaryW's avatar

Plan something to do with him and enjoy doing it. It can be anything, a job, a trip to the store, a household project, a treat stop at a sit down cafe.
Take the time with just you and him and do it at least twice a week. It will help you get to know him and also make time for discussion.

perspicacious's avatar

I don’t think it’s completely normal if his response is always that he is a terrible child. Where does that come from? That’s what I would be trying to figure out.

filmfann's avatar

Have you heard my theory on dogs and cats?
When you come home from work, the dog greets you at the door, excited you’re home.
A dog comes when it is called.
A dog plays with you when you want to play.
Feed a dog, it will eat.
Dogs think you are the smartest, most wonderful person, and they love to show you their affection.

When you come home from work, the cat doesn’t care.
Call a cat, the cat ignores you.
Try to play with a cat, and it ignores you, till it gets angry and snaps at you.
Try to feed a cat, and it may or may not eat. It often just ignores you.
Cats think you don’t know anything. They think it’s best if they pretend you aren’t there.
Cats figure you are at best an incovenience. If they choose to show you any affection, it is probably only for their own personal gain.

Children are born dogs. When they turn 13 or 14, they suddenly turn into cats. They stay cats for 5 or so years, then fade into a middle ground between dog and cat behavior. They never fully become dogs again.

MissAusten's avatar

My kids aren’t teenagers yet, although my 11 year old daughter is starting to show unpleasant signs of attitude and extreme sensitivity. She already blames it on some specific hormone she learned about in health class at school. She is also very hard on her younger brothers. When she starts to lay into them, constantly correcting them, bossing them around, or just in general being snotty to them, I ask her to take a break in her room for some peace and quiet. Other times, she is her usual wonderful self. I truly dread the day she gets PMS.

Anyway, it really sounds like you are a wonderful mom and have a great relationship with your son. I, personally, feel like kids of any age take out all of their frustration and confusion on the people they know will still love them unconditionally. It’s funny how you compared it to parenting a 3 year old. When I worked in daycare, it was very common for kids to be angels all day, then act out for Mom and Dad when they got home. It was like they needed to blow off steam from the day and saved it for the people they most loved and trusted to still love them at the end of the day. Maybe it’s the same for teens, in a way.

I’ve read some great books about parenting preteen and teen girls, and I’m sure there must be books out there about boys as well. Maybe take a trip to the library and see what you can find. It can’t hurt to take a look at them, find things that you think will fit with your parenting style and son’s personality, and use what works for you. The best thing you can give your son is time and a nonjudgmental ear, and from what you describe he has that. Hang in there!

YARNLADY's avatar

I just thought of another ploy that often worked.

“Honey, I am so sorry you are under the influence of out of control hormones right now. If there was an Easy button for hormone overload, I would use it, but there’s not. Would you settle for a hug?”

tranquilsea's avatar

@MaryW Thanks for the suggestion. Taking him out is a great idea, one that I have used through rough periods and not-so rough periods. Our July has been extremely busy so I haven’t had any extra time for him. He’s been really busy himself.

@MissAusten we went through an extremely rough time with my youngest son when he was 3 to 5. It was so bad we all headed to family therapy. My eldest son was the biggest help with him as he effectively practised the strategies we put in place. It took three or four years of working with my youngest to get him to a place where he could semi calmly cope with things. Perhaps I need to dust off all those coping strategies now. Thanks for the reminder.

@MissAusten and @YARNLADY he has often said, the day after a big blow up, sorry for last night….I’m 15. Which makes me laugh. So, sometimes, he does have some inkling of what is going on.

@perspicacious The comment that he’s a terrible child has come partly from an extremely rough 2 or 3 months of him going on the attack as soon as he walks in the door or very shortly after waking up. He gets corrected with “Stop it.” Some days I can imagine he is sick of hearing that. He has this idea that he gets punished and the other two don’t. He wasn’t around when the other two were punished but they are also in a much different place than he is right now. When he was 8 through to 14 he hardly got punished at all. He’s pushing his boundaries now and often stepping way over them so he’s getting punished more now than he has for 6 or 7 years. Well, if you can consider “Stop it!” a punishment. I’ve only sent him to his room a couple of times in the last six months.

He is, very much, in his “always and never” phase. He uses those two words a lot.

perspicacious's avatar

@tranquilsea—- As an outsider here I can see that he is possibly saying he is terrible for reasons you are not aware. I don’t think he would refer to himself that way if his punishment has simply been “stop it” or “go to your room.” He may be dealing with guilt or shame about something else.

tranquilsea's avatar

@perspicacious When he says it he is saying it in a way that screams “yeah, right” if that makes any sense. He doesn’t believe it, he’s trying to make a point.

perspicacious's avatar

@tranquilsea Well, you as parent, know your child. I was simply suggesting something that may not have occurred to you. Good luck. I’ve been there.

tranquilsea's avatar

@perspicacious Thank you for your perspective. I do appreciate it.

Bahamianthing's avatar

I am a parent of a 16yr old, this is totally unacceptable behavior, and I would tell him as such, my daughter took me through it for 2yrs, but she knew where and when to shut her mouth!!! at this age he knows better, if he treats his friends good, then I’d say her is just being a brat!!! Don’t let him run your house,try to pay no attention to his rants and raves and see how soon they stop!! He knows it’s bugging you out, so it’s like a game to him.

snowberry's avatar

At this point, your question is a month old. How’s it going?

Your son sounds like he has no respect for authority, or he’d not be treating you like he does. He has also become a control freak. If he can’t be the center of attention, or have everything go his way, he’s going to control everyone with his temper. You and your husband need to show a united front, (meaning you and he need to sit down with the boy together and lay out the house rules, with firm and consistent consequences).

Although there are many excellent books out there, these are ones I have found helpful with my own reprobate son (who is now 28 and doing well). One I found very helpful is the Boundaries series by Cloud and Townsend (they have one called Boundaries with Kids. Another is one of the ToughLove books (there are several).

I’d also mention that I have come to love these sayings:

“We teach others how to treat us.”

“What do you say to yourself to make it OK to treat others that way?”

“What just happened to you 5 minutes before you walked in the door?” (This indicates that you recognize that it’s not about you, or his siblings, or anyone else but him. Even if he doesn’t get the message, it helps YOU to keep things in perspective, if nobody else.)

Properly placed in a conversation, these comments can help bring about a breakthrough.

I doubt this problem is not going away by itself, and will likely get worse before it gets better. Get him some help. I’ve been through it backwards and forwards. Let me know if I can help.

tranquilsea's avatar

We’ve had bad episodes and then good ones. We spent most of August and part of September travelling across Canada and the northern U.S. and he was, for the most part, good. When we got back the same behaviours crept up. Things came to a head five nights ago when he spent a half an hour arguing with his dad about going to bed. It was midnight and he had been told to shut the computer down.

My husband and I talked and drew out a game plan. We sat him down the next day and told him that the disrespect was unacceptable and that he would be punished if he stepped over the very well defined line. I told him that I would give him two chances to change his behaviour, when it manifested, and then he would be grounded….from everything for a week.

Since that talk he’s been trying, and succeeding, to modify his attitude. What a relief!

@snowberry Thank you for the post.

snowberry's avatar

Do you live in the US? If so, everything, I mean everything he has is legally yours, including the clothes on his back. So you can take everything away, if you need to (of course, you’ll have to give him SOMETHING to wear, but it doesn’t have to be his…)

Once my son’s room was so filthy, it smelled like something had died in there.

I took a garden rake and scraped everything off his shelves, on his floor, and on his bed into the hall. I loaded everything into garbage bags, and told him if he wanted to keep any of it, he’d first have to make his bed with clean bedding, clean the floor and all horizontal surfaces. Then he’d have to NEATLY put each item he wanted back in his room, clean and organized. I gave him two hours. He got the message.

He got the message.

You might also see about having a juvenile officer take him on a tour through their facility, and have them explain what life is like for those kids.

Oh, and another great one: We teach others how to treat us.

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