Now my son is very selfish, rude, and angry at the world, and he is non-sociable. His world is restricted to video games on the internet. He has a very high IQ, but he is overweight, and while in school, he was bullied, which drove him almost to suicide. So I took him out of school, and decided to home school him. He didn’t learn any social skills.
I am disabled, and I am overweight as well. I am trying to save enough of money to get us an elliptic stepper exerciser, but they are expensive.
Now I have a selfish, angered, lazy son who is rude to me; he wants things and does not want to give. How can I teach my son to be respectful, show he cares and to love himself?”
You have plenty of challenges in your life without beating yourself up about the past. At this point, you need to focus on each day and look to the future.
Let’s look at four reasons teenagers and children at any age tend to be rude, disrespectful and uncaring, and what to do about each one:
1. The parent lacks self-respect. A parent who demonstrates little self–respect receives little respect.
Self-respect involves valuing yourself and not allowing others to treat you poorly. You need to value what’s best for your long-term fulfillment and work each day toward improving your own life. You also need to expect respectful treatment, and have appropriate consequences each time your child is rude to you.
For instance, when he demands things, say something like “If you want something you need to be respectful and contribute to this household.” Then make sure you give him what he wants only if it is necessary, he is polite, and he contributes to the family (chores, etc.) It’s important that you as the parent make such demands respectfully so as to set a good example.
2. The child knows no boundaries. The second cause of rudeness in children is parents’ over-indulging them and neglecting to set boundaries. The parent needs to be able to say “no” and mean it, but without a condescending attitude.
Parents who need to be liked or become their child’s friend find it difficult to have reasonable expectations and set boundaries. Indulgence and lack of boundaries intended to prop up a child’s self-esteem do the opposite—they cause increased distress and anxiety in the child.
In contrast, parents who set reasonable boundaries and give reasonable consequences are teaching their child self-discipline in the face of instant gratification and temptation. Self-discipline is what enables children to persevere in the world despite set backs. Self-esteem is built on a foundation of perseverance.
3. The child needs more autonomy. All children strive for independence and separation from their parents and need to push the parent away if the parent does not encourage the development of independence.
If you give too much advice and keep them too close, they will not feel good about themselves and they will lose respect for you, often becoming rude, surly and more demanding. Over-protection angers children because implies that they are incapable and it restricts their ability to grow. Ironically, over-protection makes the child more vulnerable and incapable of taking care of themselves. As a result, over-protected children end up craving independence while fearing it at the same time.
In extreme cases when a child is at risk of suicide, there needs to be intervention and counseling. But continuous over-protection will only increase their vulnerability when they do have to venture out into the world.
In general, when we allow our children to deal with the normal difficulties of life, they develop their abilities to deal with the risks, dangers, and bullies that life has to offer. The parent has to realize that the child will get hurt, but will develop ways of dealing with painful incidents if given appropriate amounts autonomy. Ideally, autonomy, good decision-making, and self-preservation develop gradually as a result of the parent gradually giving the child more independence along with more responsibility and accountability.
4. The child seeks power. The fourth cause of rudeness is a need to lash out as a way to experience power because the child does not feel self-empowered in any other way.
A healthy way for a child to become self-empowered is to develop the ability to set goals and achieve them, which again requires perseverance in the face of difficulties. Parents need to have reasonable expectations that their children become more responsible and face reasonable difficulties on their own, while they also hold them accountable for their actions.
In summary, a parent sets the stage for a child to develop self-respect, a precursor to being caring and respectful, by doing the following:
1. developing their own self-respect,
2. setting reasonable boundaries and issuing consequences,
3. giving the child gradually-increasing amounts of autonomy along with responsibility, and
4. expecting the child to work hard, challenge him- or herself, and treat others well.
At this point, I would focus on improving your life, expecting more from your son, and not being afraid to say “no” to him. Avoid argument while focusing on daily improvement of your life.
Rather than buying an elliptic stepper exerciser, you may want to consider going for regular walks. Walking is free and it gets you outdoors in fresh air and among other people, which encourages healthy interaction with the world. You may want to download books from the library onto an mp3 player, which will make it easier and more enjoyable to take longer walks. By demonstrating to your son that your are learning, improving your life, and that you can leave the house frequently despite the discomfort you feel in doing so, you will role model your ability to pursue challenges on your own. I would also encourage or require your son to go back to school and/or work, or some other social environment where he challenges himself to grow and engage with other people.
by Dr. Alison Poulsen
Read “Angry Adult Child:
‘The years of terror from my mother has made me make sure that my son knows I love him. I fear, more than anything, his total rejection. HOWEVER, he often seems angry at me.’”