Teenagers: A Mom's Lament

A mom was lamenting to me about her 13 year old son. He used to be such a nice kid – totally respectable and responsible, and extremely trustworthy. But things changed in the last year. His parents got divorced, surely a huge shock to his world. And with the divorce came a lot of changes. Both of his parents moved into new relationships, and suddenly he was spending his time at both houses, breaking up his own free time into two equal parts. He won’t talk about what he’s feeling, and seems to be acting like he’s fine with all of it. But my friend is confused now by what seems to be either teenage angst, or results from her and her husband’s divorce.

This kid, we’ll call him Steven, has suddenly become more withdrawn. He answers his mom in a series of grunts, or even blatantly ignores her. He doesn’t want to spend as much time with her. And he has become more secretive. She doesn’t suspect drugs or anything like that, but she has noticed addicting behavior with his game system and his computer. Steven will stay up till 2 or 3 in the morning playing his video games, chatting it up with people all around the world. She had no idea this was going on until she caught him. She ended up taking the game system away for a week and removing the power cord to the computer from his room. Steven retaliated by sneaking the laptop out of his mom’s room at night while she was sleeping. When he was caught, the games were taken away until the end of summer. After a weekend away at his dad’s house, she tucked him into bed and then turned the modem off in her room to curb any internet temptations from him. But at 1 in the morning, she caught him once again sneaking in her room to turn the internet back on.  Apparently he had already found a power cord to replace the one she took, and admitted without remorse that this had been going on for awhile.

Frankly, she’s at a loss. She could keep punishing him for his sneakiness, but it’s obviously not working. And she’s hesitant to overly punish him for this when a)there might be a bigger issue at hand and b)this is hardly about the electronics but more about trust. She’s frustrated because he’s not listening at all and has made it pretty clear that he is going to do whatever he wants. And he just doesn’t seem to care.  She is afraid that the behavior is only going to get worse, and fearful that it might result into bigger issues if it can’t be curbed now.

Is this just a case of being a teenager, or does it seem that his behavior is a result of the rocky year he’s just experienced? What should Steven’s mother (and father) do? How should they handle this? What is your take on the situation, and how can one help a teenager understand the importance of trust?

Leave a comment, or join the discussion in the forums.

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4 thoughts on “Teenagers: A Mom's Lament”

  1. Hello there –
    You could agree to set Parental Control limits on the games so he has some playing time, and a lot of time away from the computer. Is the game World of Warcroft? My son was doing the same thing, and we agreed to limit his playing time to a few hours a day, which I still think is excessive but that’s our compromise. Good luck – Mom of Teens

  2. I am mother of two teens age 17 and 19. What I have observed with my kids and their friends is that they all go through the same stuff. Most parents I believe did the same stuff but now don’t see it. It starts in jr high when they have to start dealing with the pressure of fitting in. The only thing that matters is their social status. I think that this is the hardest chapter of our lives, and the hardest part of being a parent. I’ll take the terrible two’s over a teen anyday! The most important thing is understanding that just because it isn’t important to us, it might be to them. Pick your battles. Talk to them even when they don’t want to talk. Take time to know their friends. I know they say that you can’t be their friend and their parent, but you really can be both. A overly strict parent leads to a kid sneaking around and hiding, and usually doesn’t stop them from doing it. If its a matter of safety you should stand strong and explain your reasons. They may still be mad, but at least they will understand your reasoning for your decision and makes them think about it from a different perspective. I also praise them for doing the right thing or being honest with me, even when they don’t get what they want. If you respect them, they will respect you. Thats really what trust is. And eventually, they do grow up. Thank God!

  3. Sounds like pretty normal teenage behavior to me… My brother & I spent all of our free time on a computer writing or game-playing (or chatting, in his case) at 13. We spent less time that way at Dad’s house because we felt respected, trusted, and understood; Mom often treated us like small children. Your friend might want to talk to his friends’ parents about what they let their kids do, to make sure he isn’t reacting to being overly restricted.

    Anyway, we were never interested in drugs/alcohol/cigarettes because we had friends & the electronics. Trying to sneak them back when we got in trouble was a teen rebellion thing, not addiction… In contrast, here’s a good symptom list for psychological addiction:
    http://tr.im/psychaddiction

    That said, Dad’s live-in-GF’s son started out with similar behavior, but then became sullen — and soon started getting in in increasingly nasty trouble. They eventually sent him to a 6-week psych camp for troubled kids, then kept all electronics in the living room & required he spend evenings out there with them. He came back a happy/good kid (he loved the camp) and thankfully stayed that way.

  4. RE: pumpykinmom

    I have to put my vote in for the friend/parent combo. My parents (especially my mom) always talked to me and was very open with information about the world, including the ever famous S,D & RR. The dangers and negative sides of these things were explained to me, and I things like alcohol weren’t forbidden — there was some in the house and if I wanted to try it, that was fine. Not being off-limits, it never even tempted me. My mom and dad both talked to me about the hijinx THEY got up to back when they were young. My mom and I would often hang out and talk for hours or go on walks together and chat about life.
    And, when it was necessary, she would put her foot down and discipline me for bad behavior. I never saw her as some push-over that was more concerned with being my friend than being my mom, but she was also someone I could talk to about pretty much anything and could trust to answer me honestly…it made me want to be worthy of that honesty.

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