I don’t know what I did wrong but somewhere along the way I missed an important step in parenting. My 15-year-old son has no respect for me. He is a fun, popular, athletic kid who does well in school but when he is home he is truly not a nice person. When I ask him to clean his room he says it’s my job. If I’m late to pick him up from sports practice he will sulk and ignore me the rest of the evening. I’m not stupid, I know nothing about our relationship is functional but I don’t know how we got here. I feel so beaten up at this point I don’t know how to fix it.
Lara L, Ithaca, NY
You say that your son is fun and popular at school so you must have provided some guidance related to social behavior. However, you failed to require him to respect you and assume responsibilities at home. Do not waste any more time. He needs to know how to interact appropriately with all adults and especially women. If you allow him to mistreat you, you are signaling that it’s ok for him to mistreat all women.
Additionally, do not assume he knows what behaviors and words are appropriate. Clearly identify specific rules for communication and responsibilities. Establish the consequences for his noncompliance. Avoid a power struggle and negative jabs at his personality and character. Yet, be firm and rational in a way that positively builds his character. Model the behaviors you expect of him. For instance, emphasize that you anticipate a courteous greeting when you pick him from school. And, be mutually respectful by apologizing for picking him up late from sports. If you cannot arrange your schedule to pick him up on time, let him know that you will be late so that he isn’t sitting outside waiting in what would be a very embarrassing situation for a 15-year old.
Recognize that boys this age generally feel inadequate because they desperately want to be independent and grown-up and, in doing so, they test their assertiveness. This often comes across as aggressive and rude. Remind him again about using respectful words while sensitively listening to what he is trying to get across to you.