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Dealing with a Disrespectful Teenager

Question:

I am having a very hard time with my 13-year-old son. Ever since I had his 6-year-old sister, he has changed. I have always given him everything he has ever wanted. I never follow through with his punishments.

We battle every morning over getting ready for school. His father has been married five times, and he is not a full-time parent. When I ask him to help, he just says “beat his butt.” I don’t want my son to feel that I love his sister more than him, but she is the total opposite. I never have to punish her, and she never asks for anything.
 

Answer:

It is tough to be a teenage boy. There are physical changes taking place and all kinds of pressures in his world. When he was your only child for seven years, he undoubtedly was spoiled with your attention. He didn't have to share you with anyone else. When his sister was born, the majority of your attention was on her, and rightly so since she needed your care.

The problem is that he feels that since he is no longer getting the attention that he is used to from you, he has started acting out to get your attention. Even though he has misbehaved, he has still received material things he has demanded from you. He just hasn’t received your undivided attention. 

He very likely will continue to misbehave, and he will possibly increase the severity of his behavior in an attempt to get your attention. You said that you have always given him everything he wants, but then you listed material possessions rather than your attention. Then you admitted that you never follow through with consequences, which is another example of not giving him the attention he is seeking.

If you truly want to increase his good behavior and decrease his bad behavior, you are going to have to make a commitment to give him attention by teaching or disciplining him.

Let's take the example of the difficulty that occurs in your home in the morning. Think about what you want him to do. Come up with a good reason for doing it that way. Make sure it is a reason that shows the benefit to him, not to you. Then role-play what you want the morning to be like. 

Before you present this to him, make a list of his privileges so that you can point out what privileges will be available to him if he follows through with the plan. If he does not, he will lose some of his privileges for at least 24 hours. He will have a chance to earn these privileges back the next morning by following the plan.

Before you have this talk with him and take advantage of the teaching moment it presents, purchase an alarm clock for him. Teach him how to set it, and then actually have him show you that he understands how to do it. You will no longer be waking him up in the morning!

Remember that it has taken him six years to form the behaviors you are now seeing, and those behaviors will not disappear overnight. Don't give up on him. Be consistent with your expectations and your consequences. This is truly how you will show him how much you love him.
 

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