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Respect, Freedom and Boundaries - 17 year old son

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Respect, Freedom and Boundaries - 17 year old son

Casual scribe

Respect, Freedom and Boundaries - 17 year old son


I'm new to this group.  I feel like I've been going round and round in circles lately with my 17 year old son and getting nowhere.  We are arguing all the time and something needs to change!


I'm a single mum of two - my son and a 14 year old daughter.  My relationship with my kids has always been good.  We have always spoken honestly and openly about whatever is going on in our lives however, over the past year my son has become more private.  I completely understand this, as a boy growing into his early stages of manhood - finding his boundaries, pushing the limits, wanting his freedom etc.  I have tried to let him have his freedom and make his own choices but also keep boundaries.  I feel now that it has become a huge struggle keeping those boundaries and that he is not respecting my point of view in most cases.  


He is in his last week of high school, has his first girlfriend, will be starting his apprenticeship full time as soon as school is over and I know he has a lot going on in his head as well as changes within his body.  I feel like I have made allowances for that however he has (in my eyes - I don't know how it seems from an outsider's point of view and I would love some feedback on this) become very disrespectful of me.  Whenever I try speaking to him about this, he always puts things back on me - saying that he is only talking to me the way I talk to him.  He feels that I should 'ask' him to do things, rather than 'tell' him and often says that he's not my slave!  He questions me about my decisions and I end up feeling so confused about what I started saying that I end up walking away or just giving up.  I feel like I'm on a see saw.  One minute I feel like I know what I need to be doing - to give him more discpline and come down harder on him, telling him that he just needs to respect what I'm saying because I'm his mum and the next I feel that I need to consider his feelings more and maybe I have been talking to him badly.  

A few months ago I met a man.  We haven't seen a lot of each other as he lives almost 3 hours away but he and my kids and have spent a few days together.  My kids think he's ok and he likes my kids so I don't feel that there's any dramas there ... but he has offered to 'step in' and give my son a talk about respecting his mother, etc the next time he's up.  My son has already expressed his feelings about not wanting him to take on that role (as other ex partners have done in the past).  He feels that no man (other than his father) has any right to talk to him about matters that don't concern him, things that are between himself and I.  I can see his point of view but I also feel that he needs a man's input.  I want him to see and understand that is what happens when two people are together - they help and support each other.  My kids' father is not very authorative.  He is more into feelings and allowing the kids to express themselves.  In the past when I have asked him to talk to them, he has not always taken my side and thinks I'm being too hard on them.  I am scared that if my partner does talk to him, my son will end up hating him which could cause more problems and I am also scared that if I don't get someone to talk to him, things will just get worse.

I'm just not sure what to do.  I feel sad, I feel like I'm losing the beautiful connection my son and I used to have and I am sick of arguing with him.  So many times I feel like telling him to go and live with his Dad but I feel that's only running away from the problem and I don't want him to go either.  I just don't want us to keep on being this way with each other.  


So, any words of wisdom, advice, suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated!!!

Thank you. Smiley Happy


Re: Respect, Freedom and Boundaries - 17 year old son

Hello @MumEJ


I can really relate to what you're going through. I realised over the past year that I needed to change the way I spoke to my (just turned 17) son. I stopped "telling" and started "asking" or negotiating. Just like your son, mine is now a young adult so the dynamic between us has changed.


It's hard sometimes when I feel like everything I say is being challenged and has to be justified. Hard not to just shout "Because I said so!!"


I wouldn't get your gentleman friend to speak to him, I don't think that's a good idea and think it could make things worse. It is nice though that he supports you.


What helped me was to think: if I was at work, how would I ask someone to do this?


The other thing with the arguing is: choose your battle! Is it really worth arguing over? Are you really listening to your son's responses?


I would get so angry with my son that I'd Google teenage adoption.


My son magically changed from surly to willing to listen the first time I said to him "I'm sorry. I shouldn't speak to you that way. You're a young man now. I'll try to remember that."


You  are a loving Mum; I can tell that from the way you write. I think you can work it out.

Casual scribe

Re: Respect, Freedom and Boundaries - 17 year old son

Hello Mitzi


Thanks so much for your words.  I do agree with you - it's about me making the change in the way I react to the situation.  Funny that you should say "choose your battle" because  that's exactly what a friend said to me yesterday.  

I apologised to him before and told him how upset I am about the way we are both treating each other and he said he feels the same way and said sorry too.  I guess it's a learning process for both of us but choosing my words as well as my battle is definitely something I can work on that I'm sure will make all the difference.


I appreciate you taking the time to reply.  Thank you!

Frequent scribe

Re: Respect, Freedom and Boundaries - 17 year old son

Hi @MumEJ and welcome to RO Parents! It sounds like you're a really loving and caring mother and have always worked really hard to maintain an open and honest relathionship. 


It's hard to know how best to proceed but some of the other parents with similar experience will be able to offer some guidance. I think it's important to remember that your son has expressed he doesn't want someone to take a father role and up until now he has always respected your wishes so perhaps it's not a mans opinion he needs? I say this as a man who had a very close relationship with his mum.


It sounds like he is just testing the boundaries as we all do at that age (we can be so rotten at that age!) so perhaps if you show him you respect his wishes while being a little harder leaning on him he will respect yours.

Prolific scribe

Re: Respect, Freedom and Boundaries - 17 year old son

Hey @MumEJ, how are things going with your son this week? Have you had a chance to try asking/negotiating instead of telling? If you have, how did it go?

Casual scribe

Re: Respect, Freedom and Boundaries - 17 year old son

HelloSmiley Happy reading your post struck a cord with me as well. I also have a 17 yr old son who I have raised alone. I am remarried however, I have raised my son with no help from his biological father and my husband of 17 yrs or my current husband.
Like you my son and I were closer than most mothers and sons and we were inseparable. I began to notice and expect some show of Independence around 15-16 and as I expected it appeared! It has been difficult as the only thing I have done for the past 17 yrs is make all decisions for him and protect him and love him and now it seems as though someone flipped a switch. I'm supposed to just stop hovering... lol well.... it seemed to happen overnight for him but it's taking me a bit longer to let go of my little boy. I keep reminding myself that he needs to be a man and self sufficient and responsible one day and it's my job to help him accomplish this. Like you everything has become a negotiation and sometimes I don't feel the love and it makes me sad. VERY sad... lol my mother tells me that he will come around once his friends all go there ways and he realizes that the only true thing is ME! So with that in mind.... I choose to pick my battles, remind him how much I love him, keep an open line of communication (on his termsSmiley Happy) and support him in every way I can. As long as he is doing the right things with regard to school and his job and enjoying himself I just love him and wait with open arms every day. It the hardest thing in the world it seems but we will get through this and one day they will be young men and have their own lives. We can only learn how we fit into this new chapter.❤

Re: Respect, Freedom and Boundaries - 17 year old son

Oh boy @MumEJ I can relate to this so much ! I feel that my daughter disrespects me and has an answer for everything ! She is 17 . She will argue until she is blue in the face and will NEVER back down . They can be right fighters at that age because they have not learnt that negotiation , compromise and owning your part in the problem is part of being an adult and  the best way to navigate successful relations . 

I was also that way for many years until my husband pointed it out to me and I realised that seeing his point of view did not mean he was right and I was wrong , it was a vehicle to reconciliation. Arguing was not about winning it was about finding a solution . By recognising and validating his view , it did not mean I was agreeing with him, it just meant he was less defensive , less combative and more amenable  seeing my point of view too without necessarily agreeing with it .  Geeze took me until I was well into my thirties for that darn lightbulb to go on . 

I started quite early with my kids apologising if I felt that I had lost my temper , reacted badly or just didn't handle the interaction well . This had never happened in my childhood .  I have found that over time they are now reflecting that behaviour back to me more in our relationship . 

Letting them know what kind of impact their words have on you is a good technique too . I will say if I am hurt or upset by their words without getting aggressive or demanding anything of them . 

Yet my daughter can still press my buttons !!! I tend to let her have the last word because I know , I have to take the higher  moral ground and  be responsible for not letting the situation escalate , or   it can get  ugly and regrettable.  I don't let her get disrespectful and she doesn't get her own way but the argument fizzles out instead  if I don't take the verbal bait . Otherwise you get down to their maturity level and argue at their level . That is never productive . 

At 17 they feel they are adults and to a degree we have to start the process of treating them like one . Showing respect for their thoughts, opinions , and  autonomy is important . This is the beginning of their  adult life and learning to separate is difficult but we create a new mode of being with our young adult children , that helps them to move forward with confidence and the knowledge they are capable of navigating their own lives , but we are always here to support, love , and we are a soft place to fall  when they need it . 

Super contributor

Re: Respect, Freedom and Boundaries - 17 year old son

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Hey @Ashley Thanks so much for your post!! I think what you have gone through and are going through is very common, especially for single parents.

It would be so wonderful if you would start a thread about that issue specifically. Would you be cool with that?


If so, just click here and it will take you straight to the spot.


Re: Respect, Freedom and Boundaries - 17 year old son

Thank you for really great words of wisdom. What you say really works! Another thing we tried is to talk each evening about the day, instead of constant nagging we ’collect’ our arguments. This way the ’less important’ arguments get lost, while potential positive recollections of the days events get their opportunity to be discussed as well.
Your fantastic response was greatly helpful!
Thank you Smiley Happy

Re: Respect, Freedom and Boundaries - 17 year old son

My 17 yr old is out of wack. Poor grades. Disrespectful, poor communication. No chores. It's crazy