I'm afraid this may be quite a long post. I'm having a difficult time with my oldest son who is 16, nearly 17 years old. I really feel like I don't know what I'm doing anymore, and that I'm failing as a parent.
One of the biggest issues with him is the way he treats his brother, who is 2 years younger than him. He is always putting him down and finding fault with him. Now that DS 1 is nearly 17, I thought his attitude towards his brother would be getting better but it's not. Here's an example.
My boys are horse riders and each have their own horse. My oldest son's horse injured himself in his paddock about a month ago, and wounded two of his legs quite badly. The vet has asked us to keep the horse mostly penned while his legs are healing, as the more he moves around the more likely he is to keep opening up his wounds. Now DS 1 has had a heart problem and is supposed to be resting until he sees the cardiologist again. He can't take care of the horse himself, so DS 2 has volunteered to do it for him. Every day, he spends hours cleaning out the horse's stall, bringing him feed, hay, fresh water etc. He has been doing this every day for a month. Not once has DS 1 thanked him. DS 2 often does nice things for DS 1 and never gets thanked. All he does is find petty things to critisize. I have pleaded with DS 1 to thank his brother for what he is doing for his horse. He can't bring himself to do it. When I try to talk to him about why it is that he can't bring himself to say thank you, he tries to paint this picture of his brother as a bad guy, and tells me I can't see him for what he really is. When I ask him what his issues are with his younger brother, he brings up stuff from the past, petty things, like his brother accidentally breaking his radio months ago. When I tell him that these things are not an excuse for not thanking his brother, and that he has to let things go, he gets angry with me, and starts lashing out verbally at me. I get accused of playing favourites, and told I'm crazy because I don't see things the way he does. He gets completely irrational, I can't reason with him, yet he acts like I'm the one with the problem. We've always had a no-swearing rule in our house, but when he gets mad, every second word is the f word.
Another thing is the accusations he makes. Any time something goes missing, he accuses his brother of taking it. When he finds it, he never apologises. The other night, he couldn't access his facebook page, so he accused his brother of changing his password. Ten minutes later he was able to get in, it was just an issue with facebook. He still didn't feel the need to apologise.
I'm just in despair. I don't know how to get DS 1 to change his attitude towards his brother. Anything I say just results in him getting angry, and I don't want that happening when he is healing from a heart condition (inflammation in the heart muscle caused by a virus). I don't want to ignore things that shouldn't be ignored either.
The intolerance, the anger, the inability to see reason, all make me worry that he has a disorder of some kind. If he's just being a teenager, shouldn't he be growing out of this sort of thing by now?
My initial thought was that it could be something to do with jealosy?? Is ds1 jealous of ds2 bc ds2 is well and he isnt? How is ds2 handling it? I can imagine how hard that must be for you mum, how heartbreaking. How bad is ds1's health and how long has all this been going on? Has he always been like this with ds2.
Im also thinking of the dynamics in an abusive relationship. It sounds like ds1 is very frustrated with something in his life he's not able or willing to discuss with you and he's taking it out on someone who doesnt deserve it. Thats gotta be just so hard for you and ds2. Ds1 sounds like a rather angry young man, councelling is an option. Also taking ds2 aside and really find out how he's coping with it. Helping him handle it in healthy ways.
Sorry I couldnt be more helpful. I wanted to subscribe bc I have a dd who can be on the nasty side to her brother.
It sounds like ds1 is very frustrated with something in his life he's not able or willing to discuss with you and he's taking it out on someone who doesnt deserve it. Thats gotta be just so hard for you and ds2. Ds1 sounds like a rather angry young man, councelling is an option. Also taking ds2 aside and really find out how he's coping with it. Helping him handle it in healthy ways.
This was my first thought too. It's possible that your DS1 is angry and frustrated about his health issues and looking to assert control over his life wherever he can. If so, and he can't let you help him deal with his emotions in a less destructive manner, then some counseling may be in order. When a child shows that much resistance to parental guidance and suggestions for behaviour, it sounds like he's dealing with major control issues. Since his health is beyond his control, he may be digging in on the smallest things (not saying thank you, bullying his brother) just because he can. There's the added bonus of getting even more of your attention while he's doing it.
Normally, I'd start with suggesting some natural consequences (DS2 stops helping DS1), but in this case there is the welfare of the horse to consider.
You may also want to look at resources for dealing with bullies. There are a few for what to do if your child is the bully, as well as giving your DS2 some help about being bullied.
Thanks for the replies. I think it's possible that both jealousy and a need to control are both playing a part here. If he's jealous of his brother, which I hadn't considered before, the only reason for it that comes to mind is that DS 1 has a learning disability (dyslexia) and his brother doesn't. When DS 1 was eight, he was having a miserable time at school, being bullied by kids, and a teacher who didn't realise that DS 1 was dyslexic, and thought he just wasn't trying. The teacher kept yelling at DS 1 and humiliating him in front of the class. This is when we made the change to homeschooling (for both kids). I took DS 1 to an education psychologist, who diagnosed his dyslexia, which we already suspected. We have always made sure that DS 1 knows that his dyslexia is not something to be ashamed of, and we have always celebrated his strengths. However, DS 2 has always had an easy time learning the things that DS 1 struggles with, and I wonder if the resentment that DS 1 feels towards DS 2 could be due to this. The relationship issues have been there for years, and I didn't worry so much when they were younger, as I have always viewed sibling rivalry as being a common issue and something they would grow out of. However as DS 2 has matured, he has been trying to be friends with his brother, and it's become clear that DS 1 has some fairly major issues with DS 2.
Regarding his illness, it has been a very worrying and stressful time, but the cardiologist feels that his prognosis is good, and that the issue will resolve with time and rest. DS 1 is hating to rest, as he is a very physical person. He has always taken great pride in his physical accomplishments, and in his fitness and strength, to the point where I have worried about him overdoing it. He was in hospital for 10 days, and at times he caused me great distress by threatening to get up and walk out of the hospital even though he knew he had a heart condition that was being treated very seriously. He was being monitored 24/7 as his heart rythms were really messed up. In spite of this, he kept telling me "I can't stay in this bed another day. If they don't let me go, I'm leaving anyway." I know this was partly due to his needle phobia (they had to keep doing blood tests and changing the needle in his arm) and he had a sore back due to the bed. But it was still really disturbing to hear him talk that way, and that was when I really began to worry about his mental health. I have had concerns on and off, over the years when he has had aggressive episodes with me and his father, but when I sought the opinion of my GP he assured me that it was just normal teeanage behaviour. But as time goes by, I am becoming less and less sure of this. I told him recently that his behaviour was causing a great deal of unhappiness to himself and to the rest of the family and that he needed to see someone about it. He was very derisive. Told me "Don't you pull that crap, there's nothing wrong with me, it's you that has the problem."
You start your first post stating, "I really feel like I don't
know what I'm doing anymore, and that I'm failing as a parent."
and the second post ends with your quoting your son as
saying "Don't you pull that crap, there's nothing wrong with me,
it's you that has the problem." Maybe he just senses the
trouble you're having relating to him and might actually be
asking for you to do better.
Perhaps this is partly sibling rivalry. You may appear to DS1
to favor DS2 even though you are not favoring either one. A talk
wherein you are ambidextrous and your two sons are like your 2
arms and questions of which one you love more are crazy as you
love each more than you can understand. Your sons are different
people so your relationship is different with each but you loved
DS1 before he was born and will love him after you die.
I think men/boys don't need to give or hear "Thank yous" from
each other and DS1 may feel like he's in grammar school being
asked to write a thank you note to his own brother when he thinks
he's old enough to be deciding that sort of thing and you are treating
him like he's a child (which he is). I'd drop the thank you thing but
tell him that when he's mean to his little brother, for you it's like
the one hand punching the other - they both hurt. He's capable
of great generosity - please don't be mean.
Where's their father?
"Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make
for our children." ~ Tatanka Iotanka
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