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My son is a very loving child and fun to be with usually....ever since he turned 12 he is suddenly the resident expert in the house on anything from how to drive a car to how become president. You sense the sarcasm here?

He loves to argue and thinks suddenly that every rule is meant to be broken. We have always had strict discipline in our home so this should not be a shock for him when he has a consequence for poor choices, yet he acts appalled and says all sorts of hurtful things. His favorite phrase is "well how do you know?"

He is a smart kid but get only c's and b's. The teachers are constantly after him to make more of an effort. His room is a disaster, he thinks he only needs to shower one time weekly and I feel as though I have become a nag nonstop!

I know it's developmental, but how much do you let go and how much do you ride them for? I guess I never though teenage years started at 12! Any thoughts or suggestions would be helpful!

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Incidentally, I would rename this question to "How can I deal with my 12-year old son's behaviour", partly because it's easier to search for by other people with similar problems, and partly because you don't seem to have gone wrong very much. I'd also tag it with teen and discipline, as you might get more appropriate responses with those tags. –  deworde Nov 21 '11 at 11:50
    
@deworde: I'd agree with you, so I'll edit it. Did you know: Any user can edit any post. If you're below a certain reputation score, the edits are reviewed by a peer or moderator. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 21 '11 at 12:20
    
I did, but I'm hesitant to do it, especially to people new to the site. –  deworde Nov 21 '11 at 12:26

4 Answers 4

Adolescent behaviour (the official term for teenage years) can start as young as 10, so I wouldn't worry that this is more than that, especially as that's going to be enough to deal with over the next 6-15 years (yes, it'll happily keep going into the mid-late 20's).

There are millions of lines of text on how to deal with teenage misbehaviour, from the strict disciplinarian approach to the calm understanding. Start Reading.

The basics are generally to be consistent in your own behaviour, try to remember what it was like when you were dealing with your parents at that age, and don't treat them like little children anymore, because they're not, any more than they're adults.

Now, the breakdown of your specific issues:

  • The whole POINT of being a teenager is to start questioning the stuff you previously took for granted from authority, to get to the point where you can act as the authority. Making your own decisions and accepting the responsibility for consequences is all part of that. The key is to make it clear to him that if he wants the decision bit, he accepts the consequence bit.
  • For the schoolwork, the general advice is to praise hard work rather than intelligence, because it's been shown in studies that kids who are told that they're "smart" do worse than those who are told that they "worked hard". Beyond that, discussing with him why you think his grades matter and what you're hoping from him might help.
  • Making your room uncleanable is often an attempt to secure some privacy and keep the parents out. Point out to him that if he wants to have his room private, he needs to keep it above the biohazard threshold. That includes leaving the sheets out for laundry every couple of weeks, removing anything subject to decay (e.g. food, clothes, dead animals), and letting fresh air and light into it occasionally. If he's willing to do that, YOU MUST NOT INVADE HIS PRIVACY IN THAT ROOM (break this, and he'll never trust you again). Stick to your part of the deal, and warn him when you feel you "need to go in there just to clean a bit". If he doesn't live up to his end of it, you have a right to make sure your home is resellable at some point. Start doing a weekly purge till he works out that keeping you out of there is more important than avoiding an hour's cleaning a week.
  • The shower thing will vanish once he starts worrying about girls. If you want to speed it along, I recommend taking a family day out to the pool twice a week. As a bonus, keeps you healthy.
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Spot on with the room invasion point - really important to agree and respect boundaries. –  JBRWilkinson Mar 1 '12 at 0:39
    
+1 Enlightening. I will remember till my kid turns teen. –  Dipan Mehta Mar 9 '12 at 18:04

I promise you, its the age.

Alot of parents think "Oh, my kid is being so bad, what is wrong with him??" Nothing!!! Its the hormones! Its the "I'm going into high school, and I'm 12, and I like girls and blah blah blah." You have to understand, he's 12, there's alot going on in his life that he doesnt want to tell you, or he doesnt know how to handle.

When he stars to argue, just walk away. Thats what my mom did, she jsut walked away, and when i was able to calm down, we talked it out.

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+1 for walking away when they start to argue. I get that arguing is part of the teenage mind-set, but learning to speak appropriately is a general part of growing up and becoming an adult. However, I think it's important to communicate that TO the child so they don't think you're walking away because you just don't care. –  Meg Coates Feb 29 '12 at 13:39

I, myself, have a 12 year old kid. What my experience with him has taught me is that when I talk to him as if he were a grown up, he responds much better.

I don't tell him "you have to wash up." Instead, I say "when you finish your shower, please bring your clothes to the washing machine." When I want him to tidy up, I ask him to help me because I'm a bit tired.
I always compliment his appearance, such as: "oh, your hair is very shiny. I want to know how you wash your hair, because I want my hair to look like yours. Wow, today you look...." I never finish, but instead hug him. He acts shy, but he likes it.

What I am trying to say is that we know our children more than any others. We just have to improve our communication with them and move it to their level. We have to stop teaching them, and instead be their friend. Imam Ali said: "play with your children for 6 [years], teach them for 6, and be their friends for 6."

I hope that I have helped you.

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Part of the problem with a 12 yo that thinks they know everything is that it's hard to tear that down and bring them back to reality... that they're not the smartest person on the planet and that their situation is not unique.

My method of dealing with this is preemptive predictive statements and a reminder that I wasn't always just a parent.

Let me tell you a little secret: Homework sucks, no s###. You know how I know this? because i remember being 12. I remember sitting in Miss Albin's math class hating geometry and the fact that she had a mustache and no neck. I also remember that kid in Miss Nuhn's Civics class that always smelled like s### and had hair that looked like he cooked sausage on it. Oh wait lemme guess "i don't care what other people think"... which is crap, otherwise you wouldn't have been beggin me to get you that $400 phone.

etc etc... that's a fill-in-the-blank convo, but the point is you've been there, or someone else has been ther, and you know what it's like.

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