My son just turned 12 a few months ago, and boy is he a handful!

He does not obey anything I say, curses at me, calls me names, throws tantrums, and hesitates to go to school every single day.

I have no clue what to do at this point. Is it boot camp? Or am I just giving up to easily? Any suggestions?

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    How long has this been going on? And did anything change at the time this started? Jan 12, 2015 at 10:12
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    Please consider restating the question in the topic to be more precise; as of right now it's by far the vaguest question possible. At least add an adjective to describe the behavior.
    – Dariusz
    Jan 12, 2015 at 14:38
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    That is pretty much exactly what a 12 year old is supposed to do. PLEASE DO NOT DRUG HIM OR PUNISH HIM FOR THIS! My child is in prison right now because I was not given custody and his mother couldn't deal with normal things like this. She drugged him up and there wasn't anything I could do about it. Now he's in prison, and there's not a damn thing we can do about that either.
    – Jasmine
    Jan 12, 2015 at 19:58
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    Have you considered whether your son could be being bullied in school? This is often a reason for not wanting to go. Of course, teenagers (for which purposes 12 counts) also don't want to get out of bed, and do want to stay at home all day playing Minecraft, so we shouldn't always assume bullying, but it's worth bearing in mind.
    – Jon Story
    Jan 13, 2015 at 10:52

9 Answers 9


At some point in your child's life they will do things not because you tell them to, but because they are the right thing to do. For example, a 40 year old pays their bills because in this society we pay our bills, not because their mother called and reminded them to pay their bills. As a parent, one of your tasks is to escort your child from the toddler stage, where you tell them to eat, stop eating, wear these clothes now, sleep now, wake up now and so on to the stage of adulthood where they decide what to do and they do the right thing because it's right.

If the only reason your 12 year old goes to school is because you say so, then as you've seen, it's simple enough to throw off your authority and not bother going to school. And if you assert your authority more strongly, they can throw off your authority more strongly, including name calling and tantruming. This can escalate indefinitely but you won't get what you want that way.

Instead, back up a bit. How many decisions does he get to make for himself every day? (What to eat, what to wear, whether to do homework first thing on getting home or after a little playtime, etc.) Can you grant some more decisions to him? Not in an "I don't care what you do, eat or not, it doesn't matter to me" way, but in a "hey, you're not a baby any more, I trust you to look after your bodily needs" way? If so, you may meet some of his desires for independence. As well, if you simply reduce the number of things you tell him to do each day, you will reduce the number of times you're disobeyed which should make you feel better even if the instances of obeying don't increase.

And of course, talk to him. Why doesn't he want to do whatever it is you've just asked him to do? Is it because you're asking him to wear something he thinks is embarrassing, or because he hasn't yet learned that parents don't enjoy chores either, or because his homework has suddenly become very hard for him, or because something unpleasant is happening at school and he wants to avoid it? You can't just ask a 12-year old these things straight out: they often don't know and if they do know they don't want to tell you. But you can talk to them about day to day things and start to build up a picture of what's going on in their heads. If you're doing a chore together, it's a nice time to chat and way less pressure than "come and sit here, we need to talk." Doing chores together is also a way to make sure they do them, and stirs less resentment than sending them off to do it alone while you do something else.

Try to model the behaviour you want from him. For example, if you react to being called a name with white hot anger, you're showing him that getting really angry when people say something you don't like is how adults behave. If you react by saying calmly "I know I'm not stupid/selfish/lazy and it's rude for you to call me that" then you're showing him a different way to deal with name-calling.

This is a really hard few years. But it doesn't sound from your short question like it's time for you to give up and try to have someone else turn him into an adult.

  • +1 for the accurate and enlightening description of a teenager! This all should be obvious but really isn't.
    – MD-Tech
    Apr 26, 2018 at 11:02

I don't see how boot camp will help you. Unless it is solved relationally any improvement will probably only be temporary at best and fear driven at worst.

Regardless, he needs to respect you. That's a simple fact. He's clearly trying to push you away, and it's a season where you have to not reject him and just stand firm in your love for him so he knows that he can't make you reject him. You need to put boundaries and clear consequences in place. Chrys had a very good point where he suggested to allow him more independence, and part of that is creating an environment where his choices really matter, and part of that is communicating clearly and calmly how his choices affect you, because you're a person too!

As part of relating, children are much more comfortable sharing positive feelings than negative ones, so start asking him how he's doing when it's going really well, and then progressively more negative times. He's still little; 12 is very little so often won't understand what he is feeling let alone why.

As far as the discipline goes, you are going to find that if you put clear boundaries in place which are clear, what's required is clear (doing washing, being on time for school, speaking kindly to mum) you'll find that he may calm down. You just have to not take it personally and that is the hardest thing. Just keep going and don't give up. The school teachers are there to help you too, so talk to them as they spend 6 hours a day with him. Love doesn't always look like kisses and cuddles; part of it is discipline, but it is part.


"He does not obey anything I say, curses at me, calls me names, throws tantrums.."

What this tells me is that your relationship with the kid still hasn't developed strong enough for the kid to trust you and open up to you about this problems. Rebelling is easy for kids because they don't know any better. The way to deal with this situation is to get the kid to open up. The only way that's going to happen is by you earning his trust. Earning trust is going to take a lot of patience on your part and time. Spend more time with him doing chores, make an effort to understand what's going on in his school and social life. Talk to him about anything and everything he brings up and let him know that you are there for him. Have a family dinner with him everyday (A good time to talk to him about what's going on at school and understand his problems and challenges). Build up a relationship which makes him understand that he can open up to you and share his feelings. This is going to be difficult and requires a lot of effort on your part but it's imperative as doing so will greatly improve your relationship with the kid. You shouldn't do this to either make him listen to you and obey you. You should do this so that you can start teaching him how to become an adult and he is better of knowing that he has a parent who is loving, caring and is there when he in need. But the end result will be that he will begin listening to you.

The fact that you asked this question here shows that you are serious about finding answers.


I've been using Nonviolent Communication (NC) for some months and it works. I have a son who is 13 and a son who is 9 and mentally handicapped.

NC helped me a lot and daily life is much more relaxed now.

Here is how I apply it in my life:

  • listen to his feelings
  • don't judge: There is no "wrong" or "right". Only different opinions.
  • If you want to give advice or hints: don't. Be silent, and LISTEN.
  • Ask how you can help. Don't ask "Should I do x to help you?". Ask "How can I help you?" There is a big difference between the two.
  • If your son sees no sense in school, then talk about what he wants to do instead. The son of Marshall Rosenberg felt the same way. And he supported him.
  • Don't get angry. Open your heart, let your tears flow if you feel like it.
  • Love is like a butterfly. You can't force the butterfly to stay. You can only try to have a warm and friendly relationship.
  • If he does not want to talk to you when you first ask, ask if he has time in the evening or tomorrow. DON'T FORGET TO COME AGAIN! If you do, then you seem to be overloaded. Most people can't listen if they are overloaded. You need to relax. Check your priorities: Family vs Job vs ...
  • After reading my hints ... If you tell your son that he is overloaded, then stop it! Go to step one: listen.
  • Don't tell him about NC today. He won't listen, since he currently doesn't listen to teachers. You can do it in one year, if it was successful.

Please ask if you don't understand something.

  • 1
    @anongoodnurse for me "overload" means "stress". Since there are several kinds of stress, I looked at the matching wikipedia page and think that this part fits best: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – guettli
    Jul 17, 2016 at 19:22
  • @anongoodnurse do you think a different word for "overload" should be used? If yes, which word would match?
    – guettli
    Jul 17, 2016 at 19:28
  • No, it's clear now. :) Jul 17, 2016 at 22:21

My son (12) gives me reason for head scratching on a daily basis. My mind goes from hormones to bullying, to drugs or abuse. I also have a 22 yr old son. People are SO different.

If there has not been a diagnosis of ODD or any mental challenge, I suggest the reminder of: They mirror our reaction. It's so hard to stay calm, I've wanted to strangle mine!! But they are really just trying to get through life. My son can't stand me right now. Sometimes I think the parents who don't give a sh-- seem to have better behaved kids! Although mine is an angel for everyone else!!

Deep breath, hide behind a closet door, wait till you are calm, then say, "if you want or need to talk, I'm here. I'm always on your team." Praise in public, punish in private.

This age is such a challenge!! I don't mean to diminish the pain and frustration it causes with a few ideas, I've nearly contemplated divorce or suicide over it. The feeling of failure is overwhelming. Talk to anyone you can, truthfully. Guilt is pointless. Where do you go from here?


My daughter is doing this same thing. She doesn't curse at me or her step-mom but it's close to that. One thing you have to consider is the length of time that this has been happening. When did it start? Why did it start? Was there a moment in time that was better and why was it better? Go back to that time and work from there. See the things that you do now that you didn't do at that time. Once you find this out and definitely take the advise of the others who have written before me but also use my advice of thinking back. Sometimes looking backwards and taking a few steps back is the only way to move forward. Most people don't realize that getting to the finish line isn't about going directly to the finish line. It's about back tracking and then moving forward and then back tracking some more and then finally reaching the final moments and then reaching the finish line wherever that may be. Keep strong because I feel children are wired to make things difficult and to create these uncomfortable moments so we as adults may grow along side the children and make our legacy stronger.


My 12 years old daughter is doing the same thing, but with violent outbursts. I know that at times my communication is the trigger of the bad behaviour. I have noticed as soon as I get irritated at anything it sets the scene for a latter tantrum. Equally now it has got to the point that when she wants something she is not allowed or wants an excuse not to do her homework she creates a tantrum situation.

I think that something like bootcamp will help, because when she goes away for her sport training she comes back totally calm and happy as she got rid of her anger and missed me. The problem is we slip into the same patterns. Until I as a parent change and learn to hold the space for her to grow and learn without taking things personally and reacting with emotion of any kind I know nothing will change.

I think the biggest issue is that they seem all big now, but really they are still tinny people who are finding it really hard in this overload world and we are just do not have the tools to help them because we want the best, but are still learning too.

Love your way, I know how hard it is! I think the answer is to change ourselves and the kids will follow lead.


i would have to say that something may be bothering hime, or simply hormones. Like my 12year old who i constantly defying, is in that stage of wanting to be alone all the time in her room and does not have any interst in going out. There are a great range of books relating to pre-teens and behaviour from BOOKTOPIA and can be beneficial for getting some great insight to a teens world of thinig and behaving. Hang on in there and be positive. Always let hime know you love him and you are always there for him. If it continues and keeps getting worse, then i would look at seeking professional help. We are going through this now and we are just starting to notice when the our daughter's behaviour is erratic and weve been able to see that our living arrangements and other issues that my husband and i have been dealing with is part of the reason why our daughter is behaving the way she is. Try to see whats going on around him first, your living arrangements and any crisis around the home, may be contributing to his frustration or behaviour.


You need to spend a lot of time with the kid doing things that he/she likes to do. In that way you build up a relationship. You build up your love account. At some point you will need to withdraw from that account by demanding that he do things that he does not want to do. For example, homework and go to sleep on time. Without the Love Account, you will need a very respectful kid to get your way. Most kids just are not that respectful. Put yourself in his shoes. Do you obey someone (other than at work) with whom you do not have a big love account? Hey, love conquers all -- but love comes at a cost.

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