Teen with Bad Attitude Towards Mom

Updated on January 28, 2011
J.J. asks from Milwaukee, WI
12 answers

My 16 year old son has a total attitude problem and it's making it hard for me to even have a discussion with him without an argument. I can't say anything to him without him turning it around or putting me down. It is getting so serious that he'll totally put me down for anything possible when we're talking. I don't know how to handle this anymore. He's a good kid (except for this stuff). He has descent grades, doesn't get into trouble, smoke or drink. When he acts like this I take away his driving privlages and then he argues that I never let him drive and everything is my fault. He doesn't hear his alarm clock in the mornings (he goes in streaks with that). He has tried going to bed earlier this week and still didn't hear it. Then he makes everyone else late for school and we argue for his 15 minute drive to school every day. My 4 year old and 12 year old hear all of his negative talk and sees his rudeness every day and when I tell him that they see it and hear it he says they only notices because I'm saying something about it in front of them. I love my kids to pieces and I love all kids. I always made his friends feel like part of the family and I give them rides when it's cold or their parents won't. Yet he still says I don't do anything for him. I take him to school instead of making him walk down the street in the cold to a bus stop and I drive him to work and go back out to pick him up without complaining. I do get upset when he takes the bus to the teen center and then expects me to drop everything and pick him up. I think a lot of it is that he doesn't have respect for me because his father never did and I divorced him. His father still talks negative about me to him and I think that is why he feels he doesn't have to respect me. I divorced his father to get away from this negativity before it started rubbing off on my son but that didn't work. I feel like I still live with him when my son acts like this. Any advice? Please be nice I am very bummed out about this whole situation. I don't want to push him away further. I just want some advice on things I could do.

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So What Happened?

I am remarried for the poster that thought I was single. He doesn't act out very much in front of my husband and when he does, he gets called on it. I try to have those calm conversations with him but it all starts with him making fun of me for acting so serious or walking away saying I'm starting something or this is bull. I say something and then boom! He only has his temps right now but the real driving test is in two months. We do not feel comfortable handing over our keys to someone who doesn't give a crap or respect us. I threatened to post pone his test yesterday and this morning he started up again. He'll tell me to stop when I'm telling him what he said to me was unacceptable and I have to tell him in front of the children because I have to correct him when he does it and I cannot let the other children think it's right and that he got away with it. My 12 year old smarts off but I will take a privilage away and then talk to her about it when she comes begging to have it back. My son has a cell phone from his father and tells me I can't take it from him. The only reason I don't make him give it back is because I always need to get a hold of him with messages. When he takes the bus to the teen center there isn't a bus that runs late enough to bring him home and if I say I'm not coming he makes me look horrible to anyone who listens or will walk in the cold and remind me and everyone who will listen about how awful I was. They also think that they should be getting all of the child support I receive for them instead of using it for putting a roof over their heads and so on. My daughter needs braces and I said if your dad is ready to help with them we will do it for you. She said that's what child support is for and dad has no money left. They feel so sorry for him and don't realize he has a great job and a wife who works and that they spend money on extra things. I am going to sit her down and explain to her that we aren't rich either and had to find a way to manage our money for her brothers braces when I was receiving squat for child support. My husband sold some of his belongings to help with the braces payments when their father wouldn't contribute. I think maybe that's why she keeps going to my husband complaining about the braces thing.

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answers from Richmond on

Oh lord, I was that kid, only a billion times worse. He probably won't actually appreciate anything until he's older looking back on it. Once he's out of the house and on his own, he's going to have that 'oh sh!t' moment where he realizes he owes you everything and more. I'm not proud of the teenager I was by any means, but I learned a LOT. I was sooo difficult!! If you ever need to vent and get inside the head of 'that kid', feel free to send me a message, anytime. Best wishes, and I hope it gets better sooner rather than later!! :)

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answers from Biloxi on

Teenagers are monsters. LOL

My son is 14 and does talk smart to me much more than he used to. When he crosses the line I warn him, then I begin taking privileges. I also tell him he doesn't have to like my decisions but I am the adult in charge so he has no option but to go along. I think we all struggle with this when our boys get to be teens.

As for the alarm thing - been there, done that last year. I told my son that I leave the house at 7:15. If he was not out the door with me, he was going to walk to school. Period. He had two days to get it together. The 2nd day I was heading out the door at 7:14, he ran down the hall to get something as I was walking out - I have never seen that boy move so fast in his entire life. 30 seconds flat and he was out the house, in the car and strapped in.

So, tell your son that if he cannot get it together in the morning he will be taking the bus to school. Period. Let him take the bus home or to a the teen center. If he goes to the teen center you pick him up at your convenience. Don't make things too easy for him. They do get to a point where they take us for granted - that's normal, but then it is time to show them how all the little things we do them make their life easier.

As for the Father denigrating you - you may need to have an honest conversation with your son about this. Tell him that you know Dad talks badly of you and you would hope that he would be grown enough to hear your side.

As for arguing in the car in front of the other children - just don't do it. No matter how annoyed you are with the 16 year old - wait until evening then talk to him alone. Arguing in front of the others is giving the power to the 16 year old - and you simply don't want to give him *your* power.

You could also try therapy - if your son is having difficulties balancing Mom and Dad, etc. this could really help. I have done this with my son and it really did help us improve our communication and helped him deal with other issues he was having. You could also seriously offer to have him go live with father. When mine thought he could get his way by saying he didn't want to live with me I offered to pack his things and drop him off at his Father's while I was picking up the phone to call his Father and let him know I dropping the boy off. He backed down very quickly from that one.

Mostly, be consistent. From what I hear they outgrow this and began human again in their 20s.

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answers from Appleton on

Get him into counseling. It would be best if you can go to a mother/son counseling situation. You don't say how he feels about his dad but his dad is an emotional abuser and blames you for everything and your son has learned that behavior. It will take time for him to see he has to take personal responsibility for his life and decisions. Hopefully through counseling he will see what kind of person he wants to be and will learn positive behaviors.
About the alarm clock, buy two for his room, one near the bed and another across the room so he has to get out of bed to turn it off. Sometimes we hear the alarm go off and roll over turn it off while still sleeping and don't remember doing it.

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answers from Dallas on

I'm sorry you are going through this. I had some problems with my daughter in middle school, but it has gotten better since she's went to high school, maybe boys are a little later. He's growing up and wanting more control over his own life, and I remember as a teenager thinking I knew a lot more than my parents did. Not that I gave them any trouble then. Obviously, your ex behavior did get pass along, we don't realize this when our children are younger that we do impact them as much as we really do.

I do suggest talking to your son one on one. I know this is hard sometimes to do because they don't want to open up or really talk with their mother. I have an almost 14 year. Sometimes he's in the mood to talk, but lately not that much. Tell him your his mother and he needs to respect you. Prepare him for the actions you are planning to take if he disrespects you. Let him know it can be real great around the house or miserable and he has control over which one. Let him know in the morning, you are tired of the fights, if he doesn't hear his alarm clock then you will call the school let them know he is still sleeping in bed and will probably not be there as an unexcused absence. Leave him a note that you already called the school, and he doesn't get the car for 1 week or 2 weeks, which ever you chose to ground him for. When he starts to fight with you in front of your younger kids, then say, let's going to your room and have this conversation. Just as he has picked up from his dad, his siblings will pick up from him. As for wanting picked up from somewhere, make it clear right now, if you didn't approve for him to go somewhere prior to going there, don't expect you to pick him up either. My daughter tried to do this a few times to me with her friends. She was at her grandparents house and had them drop her and her friends off at the mall. Then she calls me to pick them all up. I said, no, I didn't take you there and I'm not picking you up from there. She assumed I would do this, knowing I don't jump when she says to jump. I told her to take the bus home or have one of their parents pick them up. You have to be the parent, not his best friend. Write down everything you want to talk to him about. I know you are a single parent, but if you could maybe take him, only him to dinner and have a good talk with him. Let him know how proud you are of him, how much you love him and wants him to continue to develop into a good man.

Things will get better, it may just take a few years... Hang in there momma!

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answers from Chicago on

Bingo you hit the nail on the head..If his father is speaking negatively about you that's why he is acting out..Undermining you and disrespecting you. I think some counseling is in order. You need to keep showing tough love and action and consequence. He also sounds like he is very angry and needs to deal with these issues to.

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answers from Portland on

I hate it when that happens! I have several go-to books that I recommend all the time for parents dealing with 'tude in their younger kids. This one in particular can get remarkably good results even with teens: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Faber and Mazlish. .

A new one that I'm reading now (and have mostly only scanned so far, but I love what I've seen!), is Parenting Without Power Struggles – Raising joyful, resilient kids while staying cool, calm and connected, by Susan Stiffelman. It gives a great deal of information on how to feel positive and confident while you're interacting with your children.

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answers from Minneapolis on

This may not be what you want to hear but here it goes. Family Therapy.
My son is 12 and he was doing the same thing minus the dad thing(his dad is not involved.) His lack of respect for women is awful. Well we had a woman in home family therapist and wow did she put him in his place regarding me as his mother. We were only involved for less then 6 months as only that long allowed thru insurance. He still does a little of this but she gave me the tools of empowerment as the adult for him to see that parents, regardless of gender need to be respected. I hope this helps


answers from Dover on

My son did this a bit too so I can definately relate. You need to have a serious conversation w/ him without the other kids around. Tell him that he is ALMOST an adult and you would like to treat him as such but both of you need to show the other mutual respect. Specify exactly what that involves...listening (not necessarily agreeing) to each other and acting like adults are two quick examples. Tell him how his negativity and disrespect makes you feel and that you do not appreciate or deserve that especially from one of your children. Tell him exactly what you expect and that although you plan to treat him like the young adult he is, he is still your son and you his mother and you not tolerate being treated disrespectfully. Disagreements can still be handled respectfully and kids do pick up on what is going on around them even if they don't comment.

As for the alarm, tell him that if he can't hear it you can look for a louder one, he can set it 15 minutes earlier and then when the real wake up time comes you will wake him up but you have to leave on time so he has to be ready on time.


answers from Detroit on

Not quite there yet but I have heard it said that the teenage years mirror the toddler years. It is an in between stage in development. They're no longer children, yet they're no longer little kids (for toddlers- no longer babies yet not quite the big kid). You have your terrible twos and now it's terrible teens.

I have no experience based advice except to tell you that continue to guide him. My mother said, she just prayed that I survive my teens without the real scars of drugs, alcohol and babies. When I hit my 20s, she let out a sigh of relief *literally* and things did change. I was not perfect (still not ) but was definitely a lot better.



answers from Provo on

I also have a 16 year old son and I just figure that life can teach him a whole lot more then I can. He is so much more hormonal than my 20 year old daughter ever was. I told him that he has to get a job, pay for his insurance, and eventually get his own vehicle. If he keeps up his grades then he gets a discount on his insurance. He turned 16 at the end of Nov. and I have not seen much difference yet. I am going to think of another way to turn up the heat soon. Maybe your son treats you bad because you do everything for him. My son has an attitude once in a while but my attitude is pretty big and then he thinks twice. I am also a single mom and it is really hard on us. My son's dad also has no respect for women and I wish I got his help but he is still helping by demonstrating how not to do things. I think if you stopped doing things for him then he would see how much you do for him eventually.



answers from Los Angeles on

I have the 15 yr old female version at my house. I feel your pain. We are in counseling and that does help. Her counselor at least can reassure me when I feel like I have done so much yet feel so unappreciated. It's true they do not appreciate you until they are out of the house like my 19 yr old daughter is now. The only thing I can suggest is to calmly call him out on his behaviors as they come up - talking back, being disrespectful, not doing chores, not waking up early, etc... Warn him that the first time you say it, thats the first warning, the second time there is a consequence. Then stick with the consequence - take phone, grounding, take car, etc... In time, he will figure out its better to shape up after the warning so he doesn't get the consequence. Good luck - motherhood is tough and probably the most unappreciated job until your kid learns to appreciate you.



answers from San Francisco on

As I was reading your post, I was wondering where his father was in all this. I hope you're not feeling any sort of "guilt". You shouldn't. Sometimes you have to just use tough love. Sixteen is such a crazy year for kids. Teenager years...are just a huge, long roller coaster ride for everyone. I'm sure his father influences him in some ways.

You've tried sitting down with him and talking about what's going on? Maybe you have, but he probably wouldn't even sit down, right? The arguing starts before you guys can even sit down and talk calmly? Maybe you can tell him, I'm not too sure what's going on with you and maybe I'm the last person you want to talk to about anything or somethings, but just know that I'm here for you when you do feel like talking. I might be busy, but if you do need to talk to me, just say~ Mom I need to talk to you- YOU SAID that I could. When you hear those magic words..stop whatever you're doing. (This is what I have instilled in my two older children, it's worked).

Sounds like he doesn't have any respect for you either and that needs to change ASAP! If anything else....have him talk to a counselor/therapist. He might not be open to it, but hey...maybe it might just help. Good luck! Keep me posted if you can.

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