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Dr. L
Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1165
Experience:  Psychologist, Marriage and Family Therapist
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My partners 16 yo son moved in with us at the start of the

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My partner’s 16 yo son moved in with us at the start of the year; I mainly agreed to this because I thought it would benefit him.

For several years I have watched this boy grow and nothing about his life was changing. He has no friends and his social skills appear quite limited with those in his own age range. And he seems to have no desire to have friends, preferring instead to stay in his room.

When he would come on weekends prior to moving, the stench from his hair and clothing was unbearable – which we have rectified. All other hygiene is as bad I’m afraid and even with repeated prompting, doesn’t change. For example; I have repeatedly asked him over a period of 3 years to press the toilet button, wash his hands after the toilet etc. but he does not take it on board. Last weekend when he went back to his mother’s I saw he had been picking his nose and just wiping it on the wall – which I found utterly astonishing.

My 25 yo daughter also lives with us and I thought this would give him some social interaction. Instead, he walks in the door at night and without speaking, goes directly upstairs to his room. He comes down when dinner is ready, eats, and goes directly back to his room.

When we try to have any discussion with him about his behaviour/social skills, I get the distinct impression he is saying what he thinks we want him to say so that we shut up. If not that, then he looks at me with a dead stare and answers me in overly exaggerated politeness which I find very strange and if I’m honest, a little creepy.

My partner seems to think that this is normal behaviour; but it isn’t anything I’ve come across before and after having 3 of my own children that were all very social – I’ve mingled with many teenagers.

He appears to have limited motivation although seems to be getting through school.
He is quite smart and creative.
He plays music and sport – both of which he seems to like.

I understand that not everyone raises their children the same and am trying to be mindful of that however, I feel as though there is something not quite right and it worries me that my partner is not addressing it.
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. L replied 11 months ago.

Dr. L :

Hello,

Dr. L :

I would like to respond to your question.

Dr. L :

Wow! This young man sounds like he lives a pretty good life...doing what he wants when he wants with little accountability to the people who are supporting him with a home,food, clothing, and so forth.

Customer:

Yes. Both of his parents are older parents. My partner is 59. His ex wife is 55 or 56 so they baby him and he actually doesn't have to do anything. I've attempted to put rules in place here but they seem to fall by the wayside.

Dr. L :

I have great compassion for you....letting this kid run wild with no responsibilities is not doing him any favors and is setting unrealistic standards for him.

Dr. L :

At some point,this young man will leave school and have to find employment and find his own way in the world. Mommy and daddy will not always be there to support him and to bend to his every need.

Customer:

Which is what I say but then we always seem to argue about it as he thinks I'm just picking on him. But I can't see him fitting into the real world as he is.

Dr. L :

While you went into this with the best intentions...wanting to provide stability and structure for him...you are up against 2 parents who are not holding up their end of the parenting scale.

Dr. L :

Yes...you are correct...he will not fit into the real world without basic social skills.

Dr. L :

The sad part here is that you can't make your partner parent...nor can you make this kid do anything he doesn't want to do.

Customer:

Yes you are absolutely correct and I have already understood that I will probably end up moving out and we will go back to "dating" because I am always wrong. My partner and his exwife make excuses continually and can not see the behaviour I think that is totally unreasonable - they see it as "boys will be boys".

Customer:

But even if I move out, the child will end up exactly the same - living in his little world of no repercussions... no expectations of good behaviour. I find it mind boggling really.

Dr. L :

For his parents to be labelling this as "boys will be boys" is nothing but pure denial. 16 year olds should know how to flush the toilet, how to use a kleenex to wipe their nose, how to engage in a simple conversation with an adult.

Dr. L :

Does this child see a physician routinely? Has he had an exam in the last year or so? Have you - or his parents - talked to his teachers about his social skills?

Customer:

Yes. That is what I say. I questioned him regarding the nose/wall and said that it was unacceptable behaviour but more importantly, I wanted to understand why he did it - if it was a swipe at me and what he considers my stupid hygiene rules etc - which he said "no" - but when I asked him if he would do this at home at his mother's house - he said that he wouldn't. Which would indicate that it was a thumbing his nose at me. I'm just not sure what to do about it really.

Customer:

I've pushed for my partner to talk to the school and also perhaps take him to talk to someone but this would require him admitting there was an issue - which he won't do. He said he spoke to the school Councillor about his lack of friends and that she didn't see an issue - but I'm uncertain how anyone could possible think zero friendship count is not an issue.

Customer:

Obviously I'm struggling because it is terribly hard to like a child that ignores you most of the time and then does things like the nose/wall etc which I gag over.

Dr. L :

It does seem that he is treating you badly on purpose.

Customer:

Yes, but with an extremely polite veneer over the top.

Customer:

Which I find a little creepy in truth.

Dr. L :

I think that comes from wanting to "kill you with kindness"...it's an old tactic.

Customer:

So how do I resolve it?

Dr. L :

When he does that then you can't be telling his father that he yelled, used foul language, and so forth. You see my point?

Dr. L :

You've already outlined one plan of action...to leave the relationship.

Customer:

Yes - that is exactly true. And trying to explain that it is the dead stare he gives me and the undercurrent - makes my partner think that I'm just picking on him for no reason.

Dr. L :

But that sounds like a very painful option and one that comes at great emotional cost to you.

Dr. L :

Yes...the kid is setting you up to make it look like you are the "bad" person here...that you are misreading the situation, picking on him, and so forth. The point is that he is highly manipulative! Dad & Mom can't see this as they plain don't want to deal with it.

Customer:

Yes it would come at an emotional cost to me. Unfortunately things have changed dramatically since I came on the scene - mainly because I need structure and planning in my life - and they do "on the fly". Prior to me entering into this relationship, my partner paid everything and was basically had his son whenever he was told to. I have changed this to "fair" things up; but the ex wife and child both resent me for it.

Dr. L :

Many highly bright and creative kids are also highly manipulative. To put it quite bluntly...this kid gets away with murder by his parents. Your own parenting expertise tells you that the kid is not "normal"...but his parents are unwilling to see reality. They may be a lost cause here.

Customer:

Yes manipulative is something both my daughter and I have mentioned in the same sentence with him.

Dr. L :

I see it to.

Customer:

Of course this has changed my whole world and life and I want/need it fixed in some point - which I don't think will happen. My partner is still paying his 25 yo's health insurance - so there is no end to this child living with us. If I thought it would only be until the end of year 12 - I could try to ignore if for 1.5 years - but my partner won't state that is the case.

Dr. L :

But his parents are refusing to see it...instead they just play into his hands and he can do no wrong in their eyes.

Dr. L :

Seems like the kids know how to use and manipulate their parents.

Dr. L :

So...back to your question about how to solve this so that you stay sane, your self-worth stays intact, and you live the happy/fulfilling/compassionate/loving life you want.

Customer:

Sigh. Yes. That is what I felt it was really. So I guess I'm never going to be able to fix it. Which I find kind of sad really.

Dr. L :

Let me put it to you this way...you have one,and only one life to live. You already are miserable in this situation and see no real change coming any time soon.

Dr. L :

You would like to see this young man grow up to be a healthy, contributing member of society. But you have no ability to ensure that this will happen.

Dr. L :

Meanwhile,you love your partner but his unwillingness to parent (I am saying he is a lazy parent) his children is harmful to your emotional life.

Dr. L :

It also harms the sanctity of your home as the child is disrespectful and does not appreciate his surroundings nor appreciate what you provide for him.

Dr. L :

It would be sad to leave the relationship for these reasons. But...in the end...your life and your health must be your top concern.

Customer:

You are actually repeating exactly what I have been saying to my partner - to no avail...

Customer:

Nearly word for word.

Dr. L :

If you have not considered couple therapy with your partner...that might be an option. But since he is in such denial...I have my doubts whether he would be willing to make such a commitment.

Dr. L :

I'm glad I could validate your own good senses. Yet...I'm sorry that he is unwilling to take the situation seriously.

Customer:

I'm not sure he would go for that really... So you don't think he has any sort of mental health issue - other than the fact that he is manipulative and his parents are too busy putting their head in the sand to acknowledge that..?

Dr. L :

I am wondering about a mental health issue...but his ability to manipulate rules out common issues like depression, low self-esteem, chemical use...

Dr. L :

In large part his approach to life can be associated with the lazy parenting, the lack of accountability, lack of discipline...and so forth.

Customer:

Our discussion the other day re friends, he said "I don't have the confidence to ask anyone if they want to do anything" - it was something I had heard my partner say previously about himself - and it seriously, didn't fit this child. He is actually over confident in his on worth; in that he seems to think he is extremely clever - I mentioned afterwards to my daughter that I felt as though he was just giving a line - and she agreed with me.

Dr. L :

He certainly could benefit from psychological testing to rule out a personality disorder...but I don't know how you could talk the parents into this as they are deep into denial.

Customer:

:) Oh they would never agree to psychological testing, that's for sure.

Dr. L :

Yes...he may think he is far superior than others and,therefore, can play by his own rules...the toilet,handwashing, nose picking...

Customer:

I actually think he just doesn't have an interest in other kids.

Customer:

Exactly.

Dr. L :

And since his parents don't put down rules...he can continue to live in fantasy...

Customer:

When I dug deeper, he said he didn't have an interest in anything they do.

Dr. L :

His bravado actually could be a defense mechanism. That is, inside he feels like a misfit/odd, but when he puts on this facade he doesn't have to face those feelings.

Dr. L :

Saying he didn't have an interest is a way for him to put the blame on others...

Customer:

I'm not sure what he is like when he is with kids and I never see any. My partner says he seems to get along with them okay while at sports or music things.

Dr. L :

That is, if they were more interesting I might like them...

Dr. L :

I don't think your partner is a credible witness.I wouldn't believe any perceptions he has.

Customer:

Yes. Which is why "I don't have the confidence..." didn't strike me as true.

Dr. L :

Those are just an easy excuse to get you off his back...

Dr. L :

There really isn't an easy way to handle this situation.There is pain if you stay and pain if you leave.

Dr. L :

You will have to make a choice that is in your own best interest.

Customer:

No. Because he will twist anything to the point of ridiculous to make an excuse. You don't actually pick your nose, fall down and accidentally wipe it on a wall and in my world, there isn't any reason on the planet why you would. Yet he seems to attempt to justify it - boys are gross (strangely, my 2 were never that gross).

Dr. L :

Certainly that's what your partner has been doing all along by not supporting your conclusions about his son and not accepting your genuine desire to improve this boy's life.

Customer:

Yes. I suspect I will move out at the end of the lease and go back to dating - then he will no longer be my problem.

Customer:

I've spoken to my partner's brother and sister in law about this and they actually said that they had always felt he was a strange child. So it really isn't just me.

Customer:

Of course I can't say that to my partner.

Customer:

Anyway, thanks for the talk. I think you helped me to see that I'm not mad. I guess now I just have to work out where to from here.

Dr. L :

And from what you have described...I would agree that there is something "off" here. At 16, he should have far better manners and be able to engage with you.

Dr. L :

You are not mad! Trust your gut here! As the mother of 3 children - two of them being boys - you are well equipped to know the difference between normal childhood development and poor development.

Dr. L :

Also...you have recognized the lazy parenting of your partner and his ex. Kids need structure, accountability, and discipline. This child seems void of those experiences.

Customer:

It is a strange mixture. My partner (and I suspect his mother) treat him like a small child with no responsiblity - ie, can't clean up after himself or do anything he doesn't want to, or catch a train - but have no problems with him watching shows that I find are unsuitable for a 16 yo - there seems to be no restrictions "adult" traits - but no treating him like an adult.

Dr. L :

Classic behaviors of lazy parents!

Customer:

Part of why we moved him here is that every school report noted he was chronically late. I was horrified. His mother was a teacher at the same school but bought him late every day....

Dr. L :

And, in the end, the kid grows up unprepared for life and the parents have to live with the consequences!

Dr. L :

How strange! Wonder how she kept her job if she was always late too!

Customer:

Yes. Well I don't think I want to live with the consequences. I find it upsetting that what I say has no baring; almost as though it's none of my business - yet I have this child more than his own mother does - so I'm tipping if I'm washing, cooking and cleaning up after this kid - I should have my say.

Dr. L :

But again...it shows that he has had little to no rules placed upon him and has been "taught" how to be disrespectful. Sad.

Customer:

Yes I used to ask the same question of my partner. It is such a lack of consideration for the other teachers - the class... And if we are going anywhere, my partner will have to yell repeatedly - hurry up!

Dr. L :

That's a very valid point to bring up to your partner...if you have the responsibility for this child then you should have some say over his life.

Dr. L :

Is there any last comment you would like to make before we end our chat? Has this been helpful?

Customer:

I've tried that, but we tend to go around in circles. He said to me the other night "you just don't like him!" and I shouted "what's to like about some kid that picks their nose and wipes it on my wall????"

Dr. L :

Your partner is being rather juvenile here by blaming this on you and your inability to like the kid. Please don't fall for that nonsense.

Customer:

It has been helpful thanks. XXXXX not going to get anywhere here and I'm not prepared to spend my life like this either. I can't really force him to show his true colours so I'll have to work out what to do. Thanks....

Dr. L :

You are very welcome!

Dr. L :

If you should ever want to chat again, just ask for me by name and I will be notified.

Dr. L :

Take care!

Customer:

thanks.

Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1165
Experience: Psychologist, Marriage and Family Therapist
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