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Dr. Z
Dr. Z, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5063
Experience:  Psy.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology with a background in treating severe mental illnesses.
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My 15 year old son lives with his after about an hour and 15

Resolved Question:

My 15 year old son lives with his after about an hour and 15 minutes from me. His father and I split up when he was 7 months old, and he lived with me (visiting his father every other weekend) until he was 12 when he decided to move in with his father. His father is remarried and has 3 step children. I now see him only every other weekend as well. Not that I actually see much of him as he is pretty much gone all day visiting his friends when he is at my house. I don't really have a problem with that as I realize he is at an age where hanging out with mom is not something he really wants to do. My problem is that he just seems to be mean, selfiish and disrespectful. Every time he doesn't get his way about something it's, "I think I will just not come to your house anymore". I have told him this is a very hurtful thing to say to me and have asked him how it would make him feel if when he makes me mad I told him that I don't WANT him to come to my house? And then I tell him that it's his choice if he doesn't want to come. At the end of last school year he said he wanted to move back home with me. As I no longer live in the school district he attended when he lived with me, I contacted the local school district (it's an urban school district and large) where I now live and got all the information in order to enroll him in school. He then told me that he didn't want to move in with me if he had to go to that school. There is another local school district that is smaller and closer to the same type of school he had attended prior and they allow open enrollment. He decided that if he could get into THAT school, then he wanted to move back with me. So, I contacted that school and got all the information to get him enrolled there, including a trip on my lunch hour to pick up the necessary paperwork. Not too long after that I caught him in a lie about where he was and grounded him, so then he said he wasn't moving back home with me. So, a waste of my time on both of these issues and not even a thank you or an apology for either. Now I had an eye exam scheduled for him this weekend (which he knew about prior because I had scheduled it for another date but that didn't work so I rescheduled it) but he just had a fit about going because it would take time away from him spending time with his friends (I had been out of town the 2 weekends prior). He wanted me to cancel it and reschedule it again. Again, no thanks, XXXXX XXXXX please. I told him I would cancel the appointment but if he wanted to go again he would have to call and schedule it himself. Of course that mad him pretty mad too! So again, maybe he will just not come to my house anymore. I asked him if he wanted me to come get him, his response was he doesn't really care what I do. I just am at my wits end, I feel he takes me for granted and doesn't care about me at all. I am not sure if this is something he will outgrow (hopefully!!) once he is past this age?? Or is there something else I could/should be doing? He was a very sweet boy so this just makes it all worse...
Submitted: 12 months ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Z replied 12 months ago.

Dr. Z :

Hello I believe I can help you with your concern

Dr. Z :

I am so sorry that your son has been treating you this way, I can imagine how distressing this must be for you

Dr. Z :

It definitely sounds like your son does not respect you and is actually trying to "blackmail" in a way by saying that if you do not give him what he wants then he will not come to see you anymore. This is not uncommon behavior among children with divorced parents and is especially apparent when they are teenagers

Dr. Z :

Usually they grow out of it, but he must have consequences for this type of behavior from you and his father, so that he knows it is not appropriate behavior overall. May I ask how does he behave with his father?

Customer:

Well, I think he gets an attitude with him as well. I haven't really addressed this with his father at this point so I am not totally sure how "bad" he is with him or not? I also think my sone is more "afraid" of his father than me. My son is much bigger than I am of course, so obviously I am not much of a threat. Not that he ever threatens me physically or anything like that, I think he just knows that there isn't much I can do to make him comply with me.

Dr. Z :

Well I think he is trying to hold leverage of not coming to visit you or live with your permanently in a purely selfish way to get what he wants, and this can be problematic behavior for the future, but like I said usually teenagers outgrow this. I think it would be wise to address this with his father, if you two are on amicable terms, and if you both feel like it is a major issue then family counseling may be ideal. Your son may be afraid of his father and is taking his frustration out on you because he does not view you as a threat, so that can be the issue as well. Family counseling will help with your son's ability to communicate better with both parents instead of using these coercive tactics to get what he wants.

Dr. Z :

Also you are his parents and you are setting firm rules for him, but as a teenager he is seeking more independence and this is why he rebels against parental authority, so this is another reason why he uses these tactics to his advantage as a form of rebellion because he thinks he can

Customer:

Yes, his father and I try to back each other up when it comes to our kids. When there is punishment at one house it applies to both houses, etc. I know also that he doesn't like his step mother or step sisters much. I also think part of the reason why he did't move in with me again (over and above the grounding issue) is that he also has a girlfriend at school. I think a lot of the reason he stays there is because of her. I think other than that he seems not very happy to be there...

Customer:

Yes I agree that he thinks these tactics will work because I will "let" him get away with it. That is why I am not sure if the next time he says something like that if I should just not go get him? I don't want him to feel like he is that unimportant to me, but I am also tired of the way he is acting.

Dr. Z :

Well that is good that both you and his father are amicable for your children. His frustration and acting out with you may be because he is not happy living at that house. Many teenagers are still emotionally immature and typically lash out and displace their frustration to "safe" targets, like yourself, because he will always know that you love him. I agree that you should not let him get away with it, but instead of not getting him or not allowing him to come to your house, you should bring up how life is with him at his father's house and let him vent his frustration. Again sometimes family counseling for him can help him let out his frustrations in a more assertive and appropriate manner. If he continues with his behavior though, then you can challenge him and call him on his bluff about not coming to visit you anymore, most likely he will not follow through.

Customer:

Ok. I will talk with his father and see what he has to say also. And yes, I doubt he would not actually come to my house, and not because he wouldn't be seeing me, but because he wouldn't be seeing his friends! I will also try to get him to open up about what all is going on at his dad's house. He usually will tell me, but I am just not sure what I can do for him with that regard? I have tried talking to his dad on behalf of both of my kids about how they feel with regard to his wife. It's unfortunate that she just doesn't seem to like my kids and they dont really have a good relationship. My daughter actually quit going to visit her father at about age 15 when I told her I wouldn't MAKE her go any more (as I had been making her go for quite some time).

Dr. Z :

I am sorry that your children do not like going to their father's house because of their step-mother. With that regard there is not much you can do, but if you and his father agree with family counseling then it is possible that he may see that the way his wife treats your children is problematic and he will be more assertive to help change that behavior for the sake of your children. But right now, the best you can do is be supportive of your son and help him deal with his frustration more assertively regarding his home life at his father's house. Here also a good worksheet you can provide to your son and work with him on to help him be more assertive and express his anger/frustration in a more positive way.

Dr. Z :

This may help him better deal with the situation over there at his father's house so that he does not lash out at you as much.

Customer:

Thanks so much. I am hopeful things will improve!

Dr. Z :

I am hopeful too, and I think they will change for the better soon as you help your son better address these issues. Is there anything else I can assist you with today?

Customer:

Me too!

Customer:

I think that is all. Thanks again for your help.

Dr. Z, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5063
Experience: Psy.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology with a background in treating severe mental illnesses.
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