Mom Angered by Son's Attitude

It's important to maintain some emotional distance in a mother-son relationship. Otherwise, both can get locked into an losing battle for control.
My 13-year-old son doesn't seem to care at all about his schoolwork. His priorities are computer games and his friends. His back talk has increased -- he is respectful to everyone but his own family. I have finally spelled out the punishment and rules clearly to him today: Homework is to be done immediately after school, or no computer, no friends, no phone calls. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt and let him be responsible, but he is failing miserably. However, it annoys me so much that I have to resort to this, that it totally ruins my day. I'm having a difficult time dishing out the punishment and learning how to detach myself from the anger. What do I do?
There is an adage in the counseling profession that the response you get is the message you send. You and your son are locked in battle for control and you are losing because it has become so personal for you.

Your words describing your son and your interactions also indicate how personally you are taking his not doing his homework. You say you want him to take responsibility, but you are the one taking on the responsibility.

Your message is brimming with anger at your son. My first suggestion is that you spend some time writing, without any editing, about the source of your anger and what would happen to you and how would you feel if your son fails. Are you feeling like you will be the failure? Take some time to write down all the good qualities about your son. What do you love about him?

Then I suggest that you step back, talk with your partner and your son about ways to renew your love and respect for one another and how to resolve this issue. Enroll in a parenting skills group; read the excellent books in your local library on how to set up boundaries, expectations and consequences. You are definitely on track with the idea of short-term and long-term consequences.

You might have to let your son fail his classes. Let him take responsibility for the consequences -- summer school, no sports, etc. You, as a family, decide what the consequences will be if he does fail. What are the consequences if he does all his work and he passes? What does he have to look forward to?

Whatever method you use to come together again is really not important. What is important is that you do so that you can enjoy your time together as mother and son. Right now both of you are hurting and losing the battle.

Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.

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