Unruly, Disrespectful and Angry
I have three children. I have been divorced from their father for seven years. I remarried 18 months ago. My oldest is in college. The two younger children ages 14 and 13 still live at home. I share joint physical custody with my ex-husband. The 14 year old chose to live with me full time. This has been for the past 6 months. The 13 year old stays with her father Ĺ of time and with me Ĺ of the time. This is weekly. My son is very introverted. His sister is very social. He is extremely smart. He takes all advanced classes and could very likely receive a full paid scholarship based on his grades alone. His sister isnít as smart but she is very outgoing and very social. She has a lot of friends. He has a few. There interests are completely different. They are as different as black and white. My son who is fourteen has never given me problems before but within the past two months has become unruly. He would like to boss or control his 13-year-old sister. He seems to think his ideas on discipline are better than mine. He refers to his sister with slur comments, which I donít condone and correct him for often. I have verbally warned him and this didnít help. I resorted to grounding him but this doesnít seem to be effective either. When things donít go his way he becomes angry and destructive. He recently broke my storm door. This evening he got upset because his sister left on lights after going to bed. Something I felt was unworthy of addressing or should I say being grounded for or receiving harsh punishment. He called his sister a bitch and claimed she gets away with everything. I disciplined him for his language and grounded him. He became angry, saying he hated his family, we made his life miserable and commenced to throwing a fit and tearing things up. Before the night was over he had opened his window, kicked out the screen and proceeded to leave. This was about midnight. I gave him the opportunity to come back in the house but he refused saying he was leaving. I assumed he was walking to his fatherís house but didnít know this for sure and I donít think it is safe for any child to be out walking the streets at midnight. His father lives approximately 5 blocks from me. I called the police and my son was picked up. After a lengthy conversation with the officer, he suggested I file a charge in juvenile court for my son being out of control. Iím not sure this is the correct route. Honestly every time the court system has been involved with anything it turned into a red tape mess. My agreement with my ex-husband has never been enforced. If I want to force the issue you have to go back through the court system. This requires not only money but also time off from work. Itís like an endless cycle. I donít have any faith that the courts will help me in this situation either. I considered counseling. My ex-husband has the insurance coverage under his work plan but refuses to give me a copy of the insurance card. This was an issue addressed in our last agreement but to date he hasnít complied with providing me with a card. I did find out the name of the insurance and thought I could call to get a referral. I was told even though I am the mother of the children because of HIPPA laws the insurance canít provide me with any information. So I am at the mercy of my ex-husband. I took the children to counseling after the divorce. I donít feel it was effective but it gave them an out. I feel stuck. Obviously grounding isnít the answer. Verbally warning isnít the answer. What is the answer? How to you effectively discipline? I have tried to talk with him privately about his language, slurs and anger. I have asked him why he hates his life and feels miserable around his family. He has never given me a real answer. Is this normal behavior for a 15 year old? I never went through this with my oldest child. I fell I am out the end of my rope with him. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.
While court intervention can be helpful in drastic situations (with life-threatening behaviors such as drugs) I don't think that you're close to that point yet with your son. You'd likely lose more than you'd gain.
He's obviously angry, but "why" is the question. Counseling is the answer.
Ask your husband again for a copy of the insurance card, telling him that this situation is near-critical. If he refuses, tell him that unless you can start your son in counseling you guys may be facing a catastrophe that would then be on his hands. Failing that, get a lawyer to file an emergency petition for the insurance information.
In the interim, ask your son for a truce until you guys can get to counseling. Tell him that you're unhappy and he's unhappy so it's time to sit down with a neutral party to sort it out. In the interim pick your battles very carefully. As you've seen groundings typically don't work, but having him earn his privileges (phones, computer) with acceptable behavior is a better way to go until you get this sorted out.
Good luck and keep us posted.
Dr. Mike Bradley