Respect for his dad but not for his mum

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Frequent scribe

Respect for his dad but not for his mum

I'm on a roll today....seeking help and support.

Back to my 16 year old son who I have mentioned in 2 previous posts.  He's been off school for a week and a half with mental health issues and we are thinking of withdrawing him from formal schooling as it isn't working for him.  He's half way through Year 11.  Diagnosis is depression, social anxiety and mild psychosis.  At the moment, he is quite unwell and back seeing his psychiatrist and psychologist on a weekly basis.  He is on medication (anti depressants and anti psychotics). 

At the moment, he seems to be lashing out at me....just verbally....although he did give me a good shove last week so that I lost my balance.  He unleashes all of his anger on me, his mum.  It's sad because we are so close and I am his biggest supporter....I can't count the nights I've sat up all night with talking to him etc. I've done everything possible to help him get better. We usually have a very close and loving relationship.  My husband says all the time that I have been too soft on him and I've raised him in this warm and fuzzy bubble and now he can't cope with real life.  Anyway, my husband is much tougher on him, very strict, and my son seems to have the utmost respect for him (although does whinge about him all the time to me....naturally I support my husband and don't side with my son).  My son is never disrespectful to his dad, always obeys him, and never shows any anger or rage towards him.  It is a different story with me...I seem to be his 'kicking post' at the moment.  I know that it is the depression, fear, unhappiness etc that is causing his behaviour so I try and look past the way he is behaving....but really is just isn't right.  Sometimes I wish my husband would support me and step in and say something like 'Speaking to your mother like that is unacceptable and won't be tolerated in this house'....but he doesn't do anything, he just stands and watches the abuse as he says that I have to learn to manage it myself and he can't always be with me sorting things out.  I agree with this...but sometimes it would be nice if he intervened on my behalf.  I think my son thinks....'well dad is just standing by and watching this and allowing it to happen, so it must be totally acceptable so I'll just keep going with it'.  Does anyone have any experience with a situation like this?  Thanks.

Community Manager

Re: Respect for his dad but not for his mum

Hey @lucille So wonderful to see you on this roll!! I'm so glad you're feeling comfortable enough to get this stuff off your chest.

 

It's a really tough dynamic that you're in, but if it's any consolation it's one that happens quite regularly in families where one parent is authoritarian and one isn't.

My understanding is that there are two forces at play here. One is that your son is mimicking behaviour that he sees works. So he watches you and your husband and sees who gets their needs met most often. Usually, in dynamics like yours, it appears that the authoritarian personality gets what they need either more often or faster than the other parents. Kids are very smart and they learn very quickly. If it seems to him that your husband's way of acting gets results then he'll take that on. I don't mean that your husband treats you like that but remember that your son is an immature, adolescent version. He's practising getting what he wants and he thinks standing over you is the way to get it.

 

The other is that you, as the warm supportive one, is a safe bet. If he wants to vent he knows dad won't stand for it. He knows that you'll love him no matter what and you'll put up with it. We've talked here in the parent's community about the same stuff. About how the safe option often ends up getting the short straw. But there are things you can do.

 

I think it would be wonderful if your husband backed you but, if that's not his nature, don't feel like it's a done deal. You can still have boundaries with your son. When he comes at you like that, disengage immediately. Tell him you'll talk when he's calm and then if he won't calm himself, leave. Maintain the position of 'I will only talk when you speak respectfully' and make sure you're upholding that in every conversation with everyone. Ultimately if he starts learning that behaving like that WON'T get him what he wants, he'll have to find an alternative.

 

Does any of this fit your experience? Does this sound like what's going on at home?

Frequent scribe

Re: Respect for his dad but not for his mum

Thanks so much for reply.  That sums up what is happening perfectly.  Thank you for your reply.  I have to run to basketball now but just wanted to check in quickly and say thanks.  We have just had a good conversation with our son about some of these issues.

Prolific scribe

Re: Respect for his dad but not for his mum

Hi @lucille . Oh boy this sounds familiar ! My husband is the disciplinarian too and my kids seek him out and are affectionate with him all the time !! Boy it irritates me ! 

I agree with @Ngaio-RO that you should disengage if he is verbally abusive or touches you at all . 

What I found interesting in your comments were that you back up your husband when he complains about his Dad however , when your son is disrespectful to you infront of your husband he does not support you . I understand what your husband is saying regarding you fighting your own battles with him but you are a team .May I make a suggestion ? 

Perhaps bring this up with your husband , during a positive relaxed time together and let him know how supportive and loyal you are about him when your son is being negative about his Dad , and say that it would be great if we could be a " united team " when it comes to discipline  as you both need help to moderate each other when it comes to the " best practice "  collaborative management skills  of your son . Say it would help you and make you feel supported enormously if he backed you up sometimes (Request rather than a demand ) As you said your son is difficult and has a lot of issues , and two heads are always better than one even with a child without mental health issues !  This may not have an impact immediately but you find your husband ponders on this a while and the next time the boy is lashing out at you you may get a more nuanced supportive response ? Just an idea...