My son is 14 years old. I have read your book and try to use what you teach. It has been such a tough year. I feel so drained so much of the time. He has missed about 3 weeks of school and failed most of the subjects in his last term. He constantly challenges me. His father is more strict than I am and he seems to listen to him more. I am a bit more compassionate. I try to relate to where he is coming from. I give him a little and he takes and takes. I often feel manipulated and used. He is ADD and has been seeing a councellor off and on since he was 8. When he missed so much school this year, he told me he was involved with a group of kids that were a gang. I think they were probably just a bad bunch. He did sit down with the school administration and his father one day and told them this. My husband came home that day and saw him home and took him to school. The previous evening he had told his father and I he was "in a gang". I was pleased he talked to the school about it and he seemed to be on the way to doing better. He goes to a tutor twice a week now and has been improving. He has also just started medication for ADD. We bought him a new video game but told him he couldn't play it daily until after supper. Then tonight he refused to go to bed and flipped out about not having the game after school. His father took it with him to work today so he wouldn't find it in the house. Trust is an issue at this time. He started screaming at me and swearing telling me we don't trust him. I told him he needed to regain our trust at this point but that he is a good kid and things will get better. Then he went into how he was going to drop out of school and that he hated me. I remained calm and said, it's late, we can talk about this tomorrow. His father had gone to bed so he wasn't around for any of this. I just don't know what to do any more. I want to cave on the video game but I know that isn't the right thing to do. How can I deal with this. This stuff only happens with me, his father has very little problems. He just says no and walks away. My son has a fit of rage but that's it. Am I doing something wrong? What can I do?
Read your own letter and you might see what is going on. Your son's brain tells him that tantrumming with Dad is a waste of time, so why bother expending the energy? Dad never changes his mind. However, Mom sometimes does cave in to tantrumming, so why not try that every time he wants something?
The key here is consistency. So first stop taking your kid's behavior personally. Like the mafia guy says, "It ain't poisonal---it's just business." His brain is simply conducting the business of getting what her wants. Second, be sure that the rules you set for your boy are fair ones that you can support.
And then become DEADLY consistent and DON"T EVER cave in to tantrums. After awhile, your kid's brain will say, "There's no point in tantrumming with Dad OR Mom---they never change their minds on a rule."
Let us know how you make out.
Dr. Mike Bradley