Attitude and Self-injury

Updated on June 01, 2009
M.R. asks from Columbus, NJ
20 answers

I have a 12-year-old boy whose academic performance has slowly deteriorated throughout this academic year and whose personal integrity has surfaced to insecurity. He is quite unorganized. He has a school agenda that is full of doodles rather than homework assignments. My son is not an excellent student, although I am told he could be if only he had the "right attitude", but up to now he has been passing with reasonable marks. However, this past term he has failed 4 classes. This past week at school his counselor informed me he put paint in his mouth in art class. In Spanish class, he cut open a small battery. In a third class he cut open a sore on his hand with a ruler. In fact, last week I found his chat room open. He had posted a foto of himself in which his calf was bleeding. My son had cut himself. I am home after school every day for him. The first thing my son does is connect to the computer to chat with friends he just saw a few minutes earlier. When I tell him to do his homework, or ask him to help prepare dinner or set the table - he is abrasive or ignores me or says "ah, it doesn't matter" or "it's not important". More often, lately, he responds rudely. I am learning to be patient and positive. I understand there is something troubling him. However, I have a hard time accepting rudeness. I am truely at a loss here.

My husband and I are gravely concerned. Our older son is also concerned. At the dinner table we talk to our son daily. We repeat the same words we've been saying for the past 10 years: sit straight, elbows off the table, chew with you mouth, and so on. We want to keep communication channels open as much as we can within the parameters of civility. But I am afraid of losing him. He is at a fragile age and I don't know who will break first - him or me.

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

Hello everyone!

I want to thank you all for your invaluable advice, reassurance and hope. I want to update you all on what happened to my son. I did take him to my pediatrician who recommended a specialist. I was not given an appointment immediately, I live in Europe. In fact I was given a day and time for September.

In the meantime through another mother at my son's school I found out that my son had a big crush on a girl in his class. This girl broke up with him and began "going out" with my son's best friend. These two boys got into a fight, my son lost and as a result - he began to cut himself and abandon school work.

My son is doing much better. He has not cut himsel and his attitude is much changed.

What have I learned? Keep communication channels open. Trust our children. Limit computer use. A mother said it before me and I quote her "using a computer is a privilege not a right."

Thank you all!

Featured Answers



answers from Philadelphia on

Get him professional counselling IMMEDIATELY (as in this week). Cutting is a SERIOUS issue & can lead to much worse destructive behavior. Teens are extremely private, they would never accidentally leave a chat room open. He wanted you to see that & get him help. Cutting is often a sign of depression, he needs professional help & possibly medication. Meds can work wonders. He can feel great again. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

You may want to get him counseled to get it under control before it gets way out of hand. My son did the same thing then got into others things as well which was not healthy. He started cutting himself in 8th grade until actually last summer. He is going on 18 now. He had hidden most of his cuts. he may be s tressing about something , has anything changed? like moving, or a death in the family?

More Answers


answers from Williamsport on

Good work recognizing VERY ALARMING signs! You are right, this age is crucial. He is garnering attention by being disruptive and hurting himself, which means he has a long building sense of self hatred, this did not start over night.

You need to remain patient and positive as the norm when all is well and as a human being, but he also needs REAL COMSEQUESNCES to his actions or he will never respect you or himself. It may be too late at 12, but it may not. If you are afraid to tighten up the discipline for fear of losing him, just remember, you definitely will lose him if you do not do it.

NO COMPUTER. The computer is an extremely dangerous tool in every way. No 12 year old needs to be chatting. Don't fear his wrath. No computer until his behavior is one hundred percent changed for a certain amount of time. As in, no smarting off, no unfinished homework, no bad behavior reports form teachers. If he never gets it back, so be it. All the safer for him and his friends. These games of exibition online spiral way out of control all the time. He obviously has no ability to control himselof right now, so get him off the computer. Remove it from the house if you have to.

This is DAD'S work (as well as yours, but mainly his)! Your husband needs to give your son attention and structure at all costs for the next 6 months to year. Your son must understand that NOTHING is more important to his father than his well being and character. Hard line discipline, lots of time together, positive experiences, time around other men exerting physical energy in healthy ways, building, construction, riding bikes, sports, whatever his interests are, and NO NONSENSE when he messes up. It's now or never. Don't waffle! MAKE THE TIME.

Keep this kid busy! Idle hands are the devils' playthings. No hanging out with friends and chatting online. Time to mow some lawns, reach out in the community, earn some money, learn some skills, and go to bed tired. Get some good male role models for movie nights with dad-John Wayne, whatever. Keep his influences positive, and let him earn some privileges that are frivolous as he starts to make you proud.

Hard time accepting rudeness? You should not even be attempting to accept rudeness. Disrespecting parents is a capital offense. Treat it as such. I would not have still had computer privileges as a child if I had even given one of my parents a dirty look. Once. Buy accident.

Command respect to yourself while setting a good example. Actions speak WAY LOUDER THAN WORDS, don't reason with him. Don't repeat things a billion times. ACT. Bad table manners? Too LATE! (no harm trying to fix it, but that one's iffy) But as he improves his happiness and behavior in general, he'll be better at the table too.

Figure out with dad what to take away -COMPUTER-and what to add to his life-ACTIVITIES WITH DAD- for his own good. His life literally depends on it. I don't have to tell you what all the self injury is a sign off. You already know. All you can do is your best, so DO IT! BOTH OF YOU! Best wishes, my heart goes out to you!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Some of what you are describing sounds like normal behaviour for a boy who is growing up. The cutting is not. Get him help immediately. Talk to the school and or your health insurance company to get recommendations on a counselor.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

First let me completely disagree with the advice that "listening and understanding and keeping him busy will solve this problem."

Self injury is serious and if it is not addressed by a PROFESSIONAL, it can last a lifetime, escalate and intensify.

Please IMMEDIATELY get professional helpyour son. Cutters feel emotionally numb and they desire feeling pain and reality but often have been conditioned to or have taught themselves NOT to feel pain or unpleasant emotions. Cutting gives a pleasurable sensation of finally feeling "something."

I had a niece go through this. Thank God it was caught early. There was some peer influence as well in her case. There are kids that are part of the "emo" culture (an offspring of punk rock) and if your son is falling with these kids, that could explain some things. Just a thought.

You cannot and should not try to handle this yourselves. I'm not trying to sound preachy but it would be best to get him some professional help. Best of luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I definately think he needs to see a specialist. Him cutting himself is scary. The quicker you do this the better.. u dont need him cutting an artery and bleeding to death. some kids just go through a dark period in their teenage years.



answers from Pittsburgh on

Your son needs to see a child psychiatrist ASAP. Although the other behavior you describe may be upsetting but within the normal range for a pre-adolescent (and in and of itself could be addressed with discipline and wihtin the family), self-mutiliation is a sign of more serious psychiatric problems. He really needs you as a parent to love him and get him help. I can understand your frustration and anger, but please don't show your anger toward him... he is crying for help, whether he knows it or not, and he needs a family that will help him through this. But please PLEASE do get him a psychiatric evaluation, and let him know through the whole thing that you are doing this because you love him.


answers from Allentown on

Hi M.,

Take away all his benefits except his survival needs.

(food, water, clothing, etc.)

Get you an appointment book with 4 columns and put each of the family member's name at the top.

Stick to the routine for your son. When his attitude changes for 3 months, then add one privilege at a time.

Give him choices like do you want to wear this shirt or that shirt. Something really basic.

Change your table style by giving him choices. If you want to sit at the table, chew with your mouth closed. If it is not done, send him away. When he wants to come back to eat, ask him how he is going to eat with his mouth closed.

I do recommend him getting an assessment by a psychologist.

He needs a discipline routine so that is so important. We have forgotten how to discipline our children because of the "new age" philosophy.

We have put our children first instead of ourselves. This is the result. The more you give to a child the more they want.

Hope this helps. I am a Voice of experience.

Good luck. D.



answers from Philadelphia on

12 years old is not too young to be suffering from depression. It sounds like your son needs some help and I would suggest getting him to his pediatrician right away for an evaluation. The fact that he has seemed to change so much sounds like something more besides just an attitude adjustment. Teenage years are tough as it is besides having to going through additional troubles. I would really have him looked at.



answers from Allentown on

Mommy M.,
You have described a lovely ,old fashioned dinner setting .
a father , a mother , a sibling , ettiquette[sp] , talking, real food and so on .
your son is truely blessed with a family , support, kindness etc.just blessed. good job mommy.
hencefoth, your son is in a crisis . You are probably not on this page yet [ your life is lovely , I am not being rude], your family is moving along as planned ;than can age 12 in 2nd child .
red FLAG .
the 2nd child is the ' child' who generally inherits the ' gene' which can be ocd, drug, alcho, eating dis- order, cutt'n , etc ... mommy ; it just happens [ more so in a son ]
you were 'told' by 3 teachers an o-d-d- issue concerning 12 yr. in 3 classroom settings.
you and dad have noticed o-d-d- behavior .
MOm, someone has to get strong now . your family has to work as a unit [ you seem to be great]
your 12 yr son ' n-e-e-d-' s an intervention . asap .
he may be a cutter [ pain creates pleasure] ,he may be ill in other ways that your family can not fix . your 12 yr. crossed the l-i-n-e- of normal somewhere in this year.
you as a family , must get him help this summer .
start with the family dr. [ state you suspect cutt'n]
he will direct you as to the next step.
lehigh valley [catasauqua road bethlehem] has a youth behavior unit. take him to the e.r. if he worsens .[ can stay up to 28 days]
mom; no matter what [ sadly] your son 12 is going through ... it is life long .... he must get any kind of help this summer to start the healing process [ which will be forever also] mom; this is not your fault . your son is showing you signs of ' crossed over ', he is in that ' dark place'
he needs love[will fight you] , he needs family[ he will object] , he needs good group sessions , he may need medication [ now and forever]
I am sorry I wrote this answer , hence, I know where this will painfully lead .
please, even if you are wrong ... take him for a dr. appts .
ps= if he is cutt'n ,the summer will give it away . no shorts , no short sleeves ...he is hiding his body .........
pay attention . this is a crisis . get a plan for the summer to 'save' your beautiful son .
your family is in my prayers ,
kindly ,
a mommy
ps= he is 12 years old . you as a parent ; have the right to read his sites,read text messages, ck his room for odd things and try to peice this chapter together .look for a journal .



answers from Harrisburg on

Hi M.,

There's this organization called "To Write Love on her Arms". It's about people cutting and causing harm to themselves. Their website is: You may want to check it out.

I really feel your son is shouting for help. There is something bothering him and if he doesn't get the help the self destruction could get worse.

It is good that he has his family trying to help him and it sounds like you all are doing a great job with the resources you have, but this may be bigger than all of you. You should look into some outside help. Maybe someone who has gone through this themselves and would know some of the feelings your son is experiencing.




answers from Harrisburg on


I only read a few posts, but they are SO right. I would get your son to a counselor ASAP. I have the name of a wonderful one in Hershey if that would be a good location for you.

Good luck.




answers from Pittsburgh on

My 16 year old is finally coming out the other end of this Stage- though not sure it can be called a stage if its an issue for 4 years. Things that have helped- youth group at church- they love her no matter what and are a positive influence, reminding her that yes it does matter. The hard part is finding a group capable of this measure of love and acceptance. Second- The Power of Positive Parenting- a book that has helped my in so many ways. It teaches to have real conversations with your teen which have nothing to do with grades, sitting up straight, chewing with your mouth closed, etc. You should say positive things to your teen- which for one mom could only be "way to breathe son", and give hugs on a regular basis (min 10 a day! which it turned out was hard for me). Finally, you should discuss the behaviors you do not want to see, and why, and outline specific consequences and rewards (including not cutting). They do recommend ignoring rudeness as this is often a diversion technique which kids use to get you off the real issue. I'll tell you, it is rough. I have thought about sending her away to school on more than one occasion. I've had a hard time loving a daughter who is so glum and broken, often not as put together as I'd like, doesn't smell that good. I thought she had no reason to be this way- we give her everything, but I started to see through this book and my own spiritual growth that I was not giving the love and acceptance she craved.



answers from Allentown on

So sorry you are experiencing this with your son. As parents, we naturally want the power to make it better. Have you tried casually chatting with him about school and friends? Maybe when your in the car together? Getting through to a preteen can be very difficult but you have to make sure he does not feel attacked. Keep the conversation casual until he leads you somewhere. Don't be afraid to ask him personal questions. Make him feel safe and that he can chat with you without feeling defensive. I would also have to agree that you should seek outside help as well. You could start with a good therapist..someone to help him talk out his feelings. Hopefully then the therapist could recommend the next course of action. He is 12. It sounds like he is screaming for attention from his parents. Help him get the right attention. You will always be his best advocate! Hang in there mom. You sound like you have a together family. Stick together and you can pull through. Just make sure everyone is onboard with helping your son and not critizing. Good luck and be strong!



answers from Scranton on

M., sounds like a heart wrenching situation. Take your son to a child psychologist. Ask both your pediatrician and the school councilor for recommendations. You may need to try more than one psychologist - your son needs someone he feels comfortable confiding in, which may not be the fist psychologist he sees. Good luck with such a difficult situation. Please do no wait to see if extra discipline is the answer; it may help in conjunction with therapy but it is not the whole answer. There is nothing wrong with structure and discipline, but cutting is a very serious sign that something is troubling your son. good luck with this difficult situation.



answers from Philadelphia on

It sounds like your son is going through something that might be over your head. I am a 7th grade teacher, and some of his actions are definite warning signs that he needs guidance. Has he seen a mental health professional? I would highly recommend finding someone good... if you find someone that could connect with him, they can mke a world of difference. I have seen it with some of my students.

I wish you luck... I am sure you must be so upset!


answers from Philadelphia on

You are a mama lion. You see your baby (he'll always be your baby, regardless of age) needs help and you know you are the one to find it for him. There's lots of good advice that's been given here, but be careful to recognize the weight of this situation. Because you mentioned how your family is trying to keep the same structure (which is probably very good parenting instincts) with dinner table manners, etc., I think some of the advice addresses those issues as if you had a pertinent child on your hands. You don't. You have a child who is suffering in relative silence and feels he is alone. He is reaching out to those he feels may understand by posting the photo of his cutting, hoping other cutters will reveal themselves. Please don't confuse "rudeness" with crying out. Address the big issue here, as many have already suggested, by seeking professional advice and following whatever course of action someone TRAINED in child psychology suggests. Please don't just address the rudeness, as if he were a 4 year old expressing his stubborness. You know in your gut it's more than that. I wish you and your entire family luck and with the proper professional help I'm sure you will have a happy, healthy child back. (PS, mama lion, I am also surprised the school counselor hasn't taken more action in this - if it were me I would address that as well. But first take care of your son. Best wishes!)



answers from Philadelphia on

Hi, I went thru a rebellious stage with my son last year.But this sounds very serious and if this were my son I would first talk to his pediatrician(If you feel confidant in them and they will probably reccommend therapy for your son)Also I would get him off the chat room ASAP .It is very easy to take that away especially if he is doing porly in school.But I think you need outside help . Good Luck!


answers from Pittsburgh on

Hi M.. Get some counseling for your son NOW!! Get him off the computer and to a doctor he is screaming for help weather he realizes it or not. You know that...your family knows it...follow your gut. Call you family doctor to get a recommendation or talk to the school counselor, I'm surprised she/he didn't recommend it when they talked to you about his behavior in school!! Best wishes.



answers from Pittsburgh on

I, too, think you should seek counseling services. Maybe ask the school counselor or your son's doctor for recommendations.

As a side note, my SIL started something with my nephew when he was 10. She gave him a notebook and told him whenever he had something to talk to her about that he felt uncomfortable saying face-to-face he could write it in the notebook and slip it under her pillow. She would respond and slip it under his pillow. I don't know if they are still doing this (he will turn 13 at the end of summer) but I remember her telling me that that had some interesting "discussions" this way and that she was glad she gave him this method of communicating with her. This obviously isn't going to change everything going on with your son, but it may provide an alternate mode of communication should you need one. Best wishes to you!

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions

Related Searches