Teenage Son Testing Me to the Limits: Can you Help?
My son is driving me crazy, one minute he is a great kid then next he is mouthy and sarcastic. I don't know what to do with him - he couldn't care less about being grounded for the things he does. When he gets angry he picks on his brother and is just a pain. He gets mad because he doesn't get what he wants all the time and is very selfish. My husband caught him stealing £20 so I had a chat with him and it was like it went in one ear and out the other.
Normally he can be such a great boy but these past few months he has had a chip on his shoulder and I don't know what it is. I need some ideas to help in setting proper punishments for this age group and somehow understand what he may be going through. Is this normal for boys of 13 to keep testing their limits?
As you evidently realise from first-hand experience, dealing with teenagers can be trying. It's a real shock to the system when your well-behaved, slightly boisterous young boy suddenly starts answering back, arguing and generally being a pain in the posterior. Luckily, your question suggests that you already know what the problem is: he is literally 'testing you to the limits'.
As you will probably remember from your own adolescence, teenagers have to push back against authority to find their own place in the world. This is a natural part of the process that sees them eventually leaving the nest, but it isn't particularly pretty - especially when the anger is aimed at you and accelerated by a cocktail of teen hormones! To try and ease the situation (and stay sane yourself) try out these simple tips:
1. Though it's hard, try not to criticise on a personal level. If he's behaving poorly then you should tell him - but try not to make it sound like an intimate attack. Be honest, but don't use comments you wouldn't say to a close friend. Though outwardly cocky, teens are self-conscious about their appearances and so can be deeply hurt by criticism.
2. Try to offer him a choice that helps him take responsibility for his actions. For instance, let him choose between coming home at 8pm or 8.15pm - but be clear it won't be 11pm quite yet.
3. Tell him you love him and will always be there for him. However angry teen boys are, they all want a Mum they can turn to with their problems and who won't judge them for their mistakes.
4. If he doesn't care about being grounded pick other punishments that hit him where it hurts. From limiting time on his console to taking his favourite meal off the menu, sanctions can work well in halting bad behaviour. Make it clear that bad behaviour will lead to punishment. You've both got to work together as a team on this one!
5. Get support. Whether it's a friend on the phone, an Internet forum or a professional, don't bottle up your problems, but talk it out with others to relieve your own stress.
6. You are not a failure. In twenty years time your son will be deeply embarrassed by his teenage behaviour and will probably tell you so. All parents go through this troubling stage - and most see their son pass through it into a productive adulthood. There is light at the end of the tunnel, I promise!