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Teen disrespect...?? Help

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

Hi all,


I am going to try to make this as concise as possible because a) I don't know how much time I really have (house to myself for now) and b) I just don't have the energy to spend half-hour or and hour writing it out.  So if I miss some relevant details, sorry - feel free to ask for clarification and I'll be back later.  I'm sure it'll still be long...


I guess I'll start with the stunts our teen (14, FWIW) is pulling...which basically amount to, at the last minute, telling us he's not coming on his scheduled days with us.  Now, we're absolutely willing to be flexible (and we've communicated this), but part of the problem is that he's tending towards...rudeness, at the very least.  If he bowed out civilly, and kept his word abot 'coming up with plan' to make the time up, we'd have far less problems with it.


Secondly relevant, is that he has emtional issues that we've struggled for years to get addressed  We've recently made good connections with a couple of local agencies, and we're hoping the treatment goes somewhere.  He's on meds (ADHD and an antidepressant - just started the latter recently) and is set up with a counselor.  Imention this b/c I wonder how much of his behavior is his 'issues' talking sometimes.


Third, we've gotten some feedback from friends that we basically just have to let him do what he wants, or we'll lose him totally down the road.  We're unwilling to do this for a couple of reasons, which amount a) We don't believe it's in his best interest and b) We beliee preserving our family is important.  FYI, it's not just DH and I - DSS has a little borther and one coming ina few weeks, so this impacts them too.


Part ofthe reason we don't believe it's in his best interest to 'do what he wants' with regard to moving between houses is that we have multiple streams of professional feedback saying that his Mom's house is a relatively unhealthy environment for him and ours is a healthy place for him.  


So anyway...how have we addressed this?  After the first series of such 'stunts', DH and I recognized that this was not healthy for us or our LOs.  We won't be able to function in a healthy way with this much stress and tension in house.  We had a calm conversation w/ DSS and set some limits.  One was 24 hours notice for non-emergency changes to the schedule.  We're still willing to be flexible - hainging out with friends is not the same as hiding out in Mom's house, e.g.  And we understand that 'friend things sometimes come up spontaneously.  It's the "I'm not coming over, I'm sleeping at Mom's" that we expect more than 30 min notice on.  We also said we weren't comfortable with much variation in the schedule till some of the time was made up.


Come yesterday afternoon - DSS called dad, "I've had a stressful day, I'd really like to hang w/ the guys for a while, and touch base w/ mom."  Fine.  He was reasonably civil, we support him being social (this has been an issue in the past), etc.  They talked again in the evening and worked out a pickup time.  DSS treid to do the 'I'm sleeping at Mom's" thing, DH reminded him of our boundaries, which DSS agreed last week were reasonable.  DH drove over to pick him up (I was in bed) and DSS stood on the porch for 30+ minutes refusing to get in the car and being rude.    DSS is a big guy; DH is bigger, and is concerned that if he pretty much touches DSS in this context, he could end up w/ assault charges on his hands.  


We believe that part of this is coming out of DSS emotional issues.  We believe part of it is him flexing his teen 'independence' muscles.  We believe it's in part a power thing (encouraged by mom, as long as it hurts us).


....I guess I need to vent, but we're also at a loss about what to do.  We are hurt and angry.  We've tried placing boundaries (as mentioned above) - and made sure to enforce them as best we could - and he flagrantly disregarded them.  I've been off and on in tears all day.  We see the impact of DSS 'choices' in LOs behavior.  What do we do?  How do we maintain the health of our family and make a space - a safe space - for DSS?  (Whcih reminds me - we also wonder, based on years of history, if we're the 'safe' household to say F-you to...)


DH and I are seeking emotional support for ourseles, FWIW.  It's a tool we expect to need for the next little while.


Thank for sticking through a long post...

Edited by SaraCate - 11/13/10 at 4:07pm
post #2 of 21


Gently: this is is between your husband, his ex and his son. This is not your burden to bear.


You have a young one and a baby on the way. Focus on nurturing them and let your husband deal with this. Maintain a welcoming home for your DSS, but don't be a party to (figuratively) dragging him over the threshold. Be a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on for your DH, but don't internalize this to the point where it affects the happiness of your home. You don't have the power to change this situation. You DO have the power to make your home a secure and happy environment for your little ones and your DH.





P.S. People always seem to assume that it's overnights-or-nothing. Why not make room in your budget for your DH to take his oldest son out to dinner a couple of times a week? To go fishing or hunting or whatever for a week every year? He might greatly prefer that to overnights. 

post #3 of 21

I agree with Smithie.  I also want to point out that when your little ones hit 14 they may be not so pleasant too.  Sometimes I think my dd13 is plotting to put me in the asylum.

post #4 of 21
Originally Posted by Smithie View Post


Gently: this is is between your husband, his ex and his son. This is not your burden to bear.


You have a young one and a baby on the way. Focus on nurturing them and let your husband deal with this. Maintain a welcoming home for your DSS, but don't be a party to (figuratively) dragging him over the threshold. Be a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on for your DH, but don't internalize this to the point where it affects the happiness of your home. You don't have the power to change this situation. You DO have the power to make your home a secure and happy environment for your little ones and your DH.






It seems that you have a lot on your plate right now. Maybe your DSS does too. How did DSS handle his new sibling being born and could he be acting out because there is another one on the way? Anti-depressants at 14? That right there worries me. He may need them. But it is very hard to get the correct type and dosage of meds and with his body changing so much as it is... perhaps his emotions are throwing him for a loop. Where is his mom in this? It is partly her responsibility to have him go to visitation, perhaps your DH should talk to her about it. 


I teach high school and one thing that I notice from kids that go back and forth between households is that they always feel caught in the middle. I have one student whose father and grandmother make her feel extremely ungrateful and berate her for skipping visits for band activities and hanging out with friends. They do this so much so that she doesn't feel comfortable visiting when she does have free time and instead ops to stay at home and rest or enjoy her other siblings.


I hope things get better mama. :hug

post #5 of 21

I am going to go against the grain here. I think you (meaning DH) is giving him too much freedom is choosing what he will do. If there is a CO, then there should be no room for discussion. "This is your time with your father and you will be spending time with him". I understand wanting to spend time with friends, and at that age it is important. But I do not agree with letting him decide which house to sleep at during DH's parenting time.


I am going to guess that the ex is shrugging her shoulders and saying to let him decide what to do?

post #6 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks, ladies.  I had a long post, which I deleted, and then a somewhat shorter one, when my browser spontaneously closed on me.  Going to bed now, will try to resp. tomorrow.



post #7 of 21

When I was a teen, I stopped visiting my father.  It caused all sorts of issues, and we didn't repair the relationship until I was in my twenties.  Looking back on it, if my dad had made a stink about my lack of visits and really expressed that he wanted to spend time with me, things would have been different.  I always felt like he didn't really care about me, and that was confirmed by his lack of effort.  At the time, I really needed him to tell me that it was important to him that we spend time together.

post #8 of 21

Is he self-administering his ADD medication? I ask because I have a teen who is on anti-depressants and other psych drugs. But originally he was on ADD medication that he was responsible for taking one pill a day. He's always been totally responsible with taking stuff correctly and just had the bottle with his vitamins and he took it every morning. When his mental illness started manifesting he hid it by self-medicating with extra ADD meds because he thought it made him feel better. Just trying to give some BTDT advise to check up on it. It can cause "rude" irritable behaviour and exaggerate the depression issues. BTW, it turned out he wasn't ADD at all, but had serious anxiety issues.

post #9 of 21

It sounds possible that when he agreed to your rules and boundaries, he was telling you he was ok with them because they did sound reasonable, but still might not address his needs in the situation. I don't think he should decide on a whim where he's going to spend the night that day, but maybe a talk about all of your needs and wishes behind the visitation schedule would help. If you're concerned about not being able to make plans, about constantly disrupting your and dc's schedules, and not getting enough time with him, presenting that to him might get the conversation into problem solving mode. If he's concerned about having more choice, maybe you can come to a place that meets those needs and yours.


If he's having problems with depression, of course his behavior is going to be erratic. Depression and being a teenager are a terrible combination.

post #10 of 21
Thread Starter 


Edited by SaraCate - 12/15/10 at 10:40am
post #11 of 21


"We've been married 4+ years, together 8+.  That informs some of the intensity of my reaction - DSS is one of our kids - not just "DH's son."" 


It's normal to feel that way. It's admirable, in fact. But your DSS doesn't necessarily feel that way. HE may feel that he has two parents who don't live together and Dad has a young second family with another woman, and that he's more involved with that situation than he'd prefer to be at this point in his life. It would be normal for HIM to feel THAT way, and while I don't think your DH should be willing to lose contact, all this talk of "he needs to come to US" and "WE have rules" and "WE'RE setting boundaries" would drive me crazy if I were a teen (or the mom of a teen) who didn't want to do a 50/50 custodial split anymore. You are the stepmom. It is not your role to have rules and boundaries about visitation. Your role is to be glad to see DSS when he walks through the door. 


Your desire to see DSS, and the stress he's putting on you with his choices, should not be piled on his shoulders as a burden. Those are things to talk about in counseling, not with a sporadically medicated 14.5 year-old. His job is to articulate what works for him, and your DH's job is to figure out how to give him some portion of that in a way that won't be against his long-term interests. 


A final note of hope: lots of surly teenagers who don't care to be around babies turn into very loving and involved adult siblings. Don't assume that your younger kids will lose out on having a brother if you stop enforcing the 50/50 split. No matter WHAT y'all decide to do right now, you are very likely to end up with a 20-year-old who is much more fun to be around, and much more able to give back emotionally, than the adolescent you are currently parenting.


post #12 of 21
Thread Starter 

FWIW - we don't see him half the time.  We have also been as careful as we're able about not 'putting extra stress' on him.  But *DH* has communicated that we all try to treat each other with respect.  We don't do anything intentionally disrepectful to each other - and that if DSS feels some negaive way about something that we believe is benign, good, or whatever, we can't read his mind.  We (at least I) can't be 'good' for any of us with the current level of stress.  That's why we're seeking support...unfortunately getting that set up/those relationships undewya/ etc. takes time.  All *I* can do until that support (whatever it ends up looking like) is consistent and doing whatever it is we need it to is the best I can....and I acknowledge that may not be good enough right now.


It'd be great if he articulated what worked for him.


Also FWIW, *DH* has the conversations about making up time, etc. etc. etc. ...but he (DH) won't have those conversations without talking to me. About the only further way we could remove me is to put me out of the room any time they happen to be talking.  This is okay - *I understand* that I'm not mom, have no legal standing (where we are, at least) etc., etc.  I was trying to articulate in that point about what's going on *inside me,*



Part of me feels like there's more inside here to say, but I don't know what right now, so I'll leave it at this for the time being.




post #13 of 21

"...but he (DH) won't have those conversations without talking to me." 


Maybe that's something that can change as you work on this issue together with a therapist. Not that you should be in the dark about decisions - but again, little one at home, very very pg, surly adolescent DSS pushing your emotional buttons - no wonder you're feeling depressed. You DH can, and should, shelter you from friction of this custody back-and-forth. It's not wrong, not is it a rejection of your DSS, to shift your emotional energy away from this phase of the blended-family situation and let the parents duke it out. Everybody's got limits, and you've got a LOT going on inside you right now (literally and figuratively). You can trust your DH to carry the load for awhile, and I'm sure that counseling will help you articulate that and help him understand it.


Don't worry, the wheel will turn and you'll be front-and-center dealing with your DSS' problems at some point in the future. You obviously adore him and have been parenting him for years. 



post #14 of 21
Thread Starter 

"Maybe that's something that can change as you work on this issue together with a therapist"


Maybe you're right.  I'm not sure what that would look like...and honestly, I'm not sure what it would *do* - I *think* for me this is as much about my level of involvement internally as about the external pieces.  But it's worth looking at.


There are so many pieces to this that I haven't even articulated, or only in passing...family is always complex, blended families even moreso, I know.  I needed (need) a place to articulate some of this with others who might have some insight/understanding - and get some feedback - while other support pieces get in place.  Thanks for the continued 'conversation', Smithie.

post #15 of 21


No problem. Thanks for not getting mad at me for the pushback.


FWIW: in my offline life, I have a couple of dear friends who are constantly on the emotional wringer in their stepmom role, to the detriment of all involved as far as I can see, especially when a few months go by and something else entirely unrelated comes up where stepmom is best equipped to deal and THEN mom and dad want her to take point!!! So that deeply informs my stance on this. When it's not your fight, it's not your fight. Don't worry, you will be tapped back into the ring. 

post #16 of 21

Wanted to jump in and offer advice.  I don't have a step-situation but I do have a teenage boy who challenges authority.  After reading your post - it felt like to me that your dss was more likely being a teenager who is unhappy and using frustrating ways to show it.  Mine did the exact same thing.


He would simply refuse to do things we asked him to do.  The problem we had that got us into the mess in the first place was that I was constantly trying to explain and bargain with him.  Once we sought counseling and really learned how to parent the situation, things changed dramatically.  He is almost 17 now and I could not ask for a better kid.  He was about 13 when this started.  His uncle had committed suicide about 6 months earlier and he had a lot of anger and sadness.  Sounds like your dss is angry too. 


You related that your dh was standing on the porch telling the son to get in the car and the son refused.  Girl!  I have been in that exact situation and my dh and I felt so powerless.  We had unknowingly given the power to the teenager by being afraid of escalating the situation.  What we started doing was laying out in simple sentences what our expectations were.   Like this:   Get in the car in the next three minutes or you will lose your cell phone for two days (or whatever the carrot is that powers your dss - you have to find the carrot).   Then walk away.  That is the key.  When you or your dh are standing over top of the kid - you are threatening and making the situation worse.  You have to walk off and let your dss make the decision to get in the car or not.  And if he walks back in the house - take the phone (or call and have it suspended since you don't want to wrestle with the boy).


I don't want to suggest that your dss anger and issues shouldn't be confronted - they should be talked about and worked out.  But the behavior is just a sympton and it needs to be addressed as well.  I get that your hubby doesn't want to put his hands on dss.    That makes perfect sense.  We did manhandle junior.  But at 13 my son was about 5 ft 4 and around 90 lbs!  When we told him it was time for school and to get in the car...if he refused...hubby put him in the car!  Gosh - that was hands down one of the suckiest times of my life.....


After sessions with a pyschologist for me, hubby and ds - I cannot tell you how great things are.   Basically it was me and dh that needed guidance and help.

post #17 of 21
Thread Starter 

Deleted cause things have gotten REALLY stupid.  Please send hugs, good vibes, prayers, healing energy, or whatever you happen to do.........

Edited by SaraCate - 12/15/10 at 10:36am
post #18 of 21

I would consult someone who specializes in his special needs to find out how to handle this (since you did not post the diagnosis, unless it was on a later post). I do wonder if the other parent is backing things up. Does she just cater to the boy when he does this and give him video games and play time when he skips out, or does she take away priveleges? Not much you can do if she simply is supporting the boy.


On that note, it might be best if you bow out on this. Protect your boys and don't have him around the brother so they are not set up for the hurt. Don't tell them that brother is coming over on X day or will spend the night when you know the brother is unpredictable. Work to give your own children a stable life and leave brother out of it.


Good luck!

post #19 of 21




This a "good thoughts" candle. I'm sorry things have gotten even more difficult!

post #20 of 21

It's time for tough love.  Also, you need to have your husband talk to his mom because she needs to be on the same page.  How do you know she's not in the background guilting her son into staying with her or saying things about you that make him resent you (been there).  If you can get on the same page where he is set to come over and his mom says, "no, you can't stay here tonight, it's your turn to see your dad," it will be easier than her enabling him to rebel.  Keep up the fight and take away privilages if necessary.  It may be a rough few years but when he's an adult, he'll see that you were trying to help.

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