Hi, Dr. Meg.
We have a teenage son who repeatedly breaks rules around the use of technology. He uses it in his room when he should be sleeping on a school night. (He has been told to not have devices in his room.) He also uses social media accounts that he was told he was not allowed to have.
We changed passwords and confiscated devices, and then the school issued a laptop for “homework.”
My wife doesn’t like confrontation in general so I feel it has become a case of “good cop, bad cop.” She has communicated the rules and expectations clearly and consistently with what I communicate, but she is not keen on following up on the breach.
This continues to happen and has become a trigger to my frustration. I am seeking independent, professional assistance as I take responsibility for my part in this.
Are you able to offer any insight so we may finally get some traction?
Dear Weary Dad,
Having a teenage son who won’t respect you or your rules is a serious problem—not only for you, but also, most importantly, for him.
In order for your son to succeed in his work and personal life once he leaves home, he needs to know that he must be accountable to others. If he won’t listen to you, how will he hold a job and do what his boss tells him? And if he disrespects you, he will disrespect his wife, children, and friends.
In short, you and your wife are teaching him that his desires trump everyone else’s and that he is accountable to no one. This will end in disaster.
Teen boys need to learn self control by setting rules for themselves, but the only way they learn this is by first having rules imposed on them. Over time, they learn to impose rules on themselves. If your son refuses to obey your rules, he will never learn self discipline, and he can’t be happy without this.
Refusing to listen to you and respect your rules may seem like a small deal, but there’s a much bigger issue here. Your wife doesn’t like confrontation, but who does? That’s a poor excuse. Parents who aren’t willing to get into the ring and battle with their kids in order to make sure that they obey aren’t willing to love their kids well.
LOVE MEANS DOING THE TOUGH STUFF, NOT JUST BEING A NICE GUY ALL THE TIME.
Kids who grow up with parents who are too afraid to lay down the law when necessary raise self-centered adults who don’t respect anyone (especially themselves) very much.
If your wife won’t do the work, then you must. Here are the rules I would implement:
Your son can only use electronics in the room with you present.
If he refuses, then he can’t use the laptop.
If he doesn’t get his homework done, then he gets an F.
When bed time comes, everything electronic stays in the kitchen. Period.
If he has temper tantrums because of your rules (and he will at first), oh well.
REMEMBER, YOU HOLD ALL THE CARDS.
Your son will have major fits when you get serious but once he realizes that you are serious, you will see a transformation. He will begin to respect you, and he will become more relaxed and nicer to be around,
Finally, he will become closer to you (not his mother) because teen boys grow closer to adults whom they respect. By the way, there’s nothing “bad” in parenting well, so get rid of the “bad cop” language.