My 16-year-old son says the most awful things to me. I feel he is deliberately trying to upset/provoke me constantly. For example, last night at the dinner table he said,

"I am not going to try to get into a good college because if I got into a good college - that would make you happy."

He is very oppositional. I feel that anything that I want - he wants the opposite.

I try to encourage him to go out with friends, but he consciously refuses to have friends, because it would make me happy to see him with friends.

I try to encourage him to go to the gym with me, because I think it would help him with the stress of school and give him energy. He refuses and actually tries to overeat. He tells me that he wants to become obese and then comes 3 inches in front of my face and says "I want to gain a whole bunch of weight then nobody will want me around."

This behavior has been going on for at least four years. I remember bringing treats to his 7th grade class to celebrate his birthday and he refused to eat any or participate with the class. He just sat there with a smirk on his face the whole time. Later on he let me know that he knew that I would be upset and that is why he acted that way.

I keep thinking this is a phase, but it feels like it has gone on too long. He is sabotaging himself to spite me. I just don't understand the logic. I really don't understand why he has it out for me when I just want him to be happy.

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    What did he tell you when you sat him down to talk to him about this?
    – Erik
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 15:17
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    I think a professional counselor or therapist could really help in a situation like this. Family counselors can help facilitate communication between family members, and teach you how to better understand and support your son's emotional needs.
    – user11394
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 18:01
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    I am sorry that I have no advice to offer but I was curious as to what his formative years were like? Pretty normal or?
    – HC_
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 22:25
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    a professional counselor or therapist is about the worse thing you could do Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 3:52
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    He doesn't hate you. He is growing up, full of hormones and his body doing things to him, his friends changing, school getting difficult, and his mom still thinking he's 8. Let go a bit, give him room. Tell him he is your favourite person in the whole world, and let him get on with the growing up phase. If he wants to get fat, let him. If you tell him you love his chubbiness, it reminds you of when he was such a cute baby, he'll lose it in no time.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 10:33

17 Answers 17


There's not a lot to go on here, so let me just throw out a few possibilities.

Children sometimes get into a state where it gives them comfort to know that you will love them no matter what. They test that love by being intentionally provocative. In a backwards kind of way he may be showing he has confidence in your unconditional love. Responding as if he had said "I love you" can be very effective in this case. Just refuse to take it as an insult, and say, "I love you too."

Another possibility is he just enjoys the reaction. The response in that case is to deny him the reaction. Try a deadpan "Ha ha, very funny" instead of flipping out.

Another possibility is that in his mind, you care more about your own happiness than his, and you're just trying to mold him into a perfect son in order to make yourself look good. Try to reassure him otherwise. Don't exaggerate his accomplishments to others. Praise his effort even when he fails.

Another possibility is he is hurting you to deflect his own pain. He might feel bad about his grades, his weight, or his lack of friends, but doesn't want to appear vulnerable. Just acknowledging his pain without pressuring can help. "I know it can be lonely without friends."

The worst case possibility is his self-worth is actually tied into opposition to authority, perhaps as the result of his peers or other influences. I don't really know what to do in that case other than waiting it out, and trying to show him he is hurting himself more than you.

It could be a combination of these things, or something else altogether. I wish you the best of luck.

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    Thank you. I think your 1st 2 possibilities are correct. I do think he is testing my love because sometimes he asks questions like "Would you still love me if ...?" And I do think he enjoys trying shock me or is looking for attention. I am just so tired of him being mean to me. Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 19:54
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    I'm not sure why the downvotes, but just to make it absolutely clear, I don't think this is your fault at all. I'm focusing on your response only because you have no control over his. Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 1:10

I wouldn't even say that he hates you. He clearly is very mad about something and I'm guessing he's lashing out at you because you're the closest target and a relatively safe one (as you won't stop loving or taking care of him). Try not to take it personally.

It's worrying that his go-to action to get your attention is self-harm. You should see if his doctor can screen him for depression, as that often starts during the teenage years.

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    I try not to take it personally but his nastiness has lasted years. It may have started as a way to get my attention but now it is a habit. His doctor did talk to him about depression - he then got angry at me for talking to the doctor about his behavior Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 19:56
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    @Julie4435637 - this may be too personal to answer, but was he actually diagnosed with depression? The asnwer may depend on that a lot.
    – user3143
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 5:48
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    +1 for It's worrying that his go-to action to get your attention is self-harm. Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 8:18
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    @Julie4435637 - I honestly think regardless of anything else that's going on, he needs to get a new way to cope with anger. You'll be the bad guy for dragging him to therapy (if you can get his dad or grandpa, or any other adult family member in on it too, that might help), but he needs to learn how to cope with his anger before he becomes an adult.
    – McCann
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 12:42
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    "Son, it would break my heart to see you eat all your broccoli. Please don't." Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 11:30

I think there is a very good chance that your son does all of that because he feels that you are controlling his life. He does not hate you - he hates his lack of independance.

At his age, he desperately wants to be something other than just "Julie's son", and it looks like he's gotten into the mental habit of feeling that whenever he does something you approve of, he loses a chance to be his own person instead of your child.

If this is the case, what will help is letting him have his own space (or time) where he makes his own decisions and deals with others and you are not involved at all, not as an observer, not even as someone who hears about what happened afterwards.

Therapy/counseling could help, as could having an open discussion that acknowledges this problem and where you encourage him to think of what he wants for himself for his future.

But it's going to be very difficult to get past what has become apparently a very strongly ingrained habit, as your son will at first resist all these efforts as yet another "I just want the best for you!!" attempt to control his life.


After four years, from 12 to 16, I suspect the problem isn't something you can expect to resolve on your own. Just as in many other relationships, if the other person is unwilling or unable to go to counseling, you should seriously consider doing so.

You might be able to change your approach to your relationship and help things out. But even if you changing isn't going to help the relationship, it will help you:

His behavior is abusive.

Yes, children can abuse parents. You are in an abusive relationship.

This doesn't mean you can or should disrupt the relationship, but it means your own emotional and mental health are at risk and you first need to understand the level of abuse - which may be very minor, or significant, we can't tell - and how to reduce or eliminate the power your son has over you that he is using, or attempting to use, to manipulate you.

This is classic abusive behavior

  • Please don't assume it's your fault - this is what your abuser would like you to feel.
  • Please seek help - in most situations only an impartial outside observer can help you see the signs of abuse and help you change your perspective to make the abuse ineffective
  • Love your son - there's no easy way to figure out where he picked up this relationship pattern from, and why he's using it. Don't give in to his abuse, but don't use withdrawal of love as a tool or weapon - show him how the relationship should work.

I've put a lot of bold and italic in here for emphasis not because I think you are in danger, but because I think you need to change your perspective on the relationship. He's 16 and has been practicing these relationship patterns for a quarter of his life. He's not liable to change quickly, if ever, but the best way you can help him is by recognizing what's going on, putting a stop to it, and setting appropriate boundaries.

Don't put this off - the sooner you get help for yourself, the sooner the relationship can change, and, hopefully, you can spend the next year or two helping him to change so he doesn't use these tactics in his future relationships. These patterns are lonely and burdensome - they are just as destructive for him as they are for the people he uses them with.

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    I think you are ignoring the possibility that a 16 year old is in the midst of his teenage years and will naturally grow out of this phase into being an adult over the next few years.
    – Simd
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 12:28
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    @Lembik I'm not sure whether "it's a phase" provides any argument against seeking support in this situation, which is what Adam is proposing.
    – Acire
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 12:33
  • @Erica It doesn't provide any argument against seeking support. It does make statements like "This is classic abusive behavior" somewhat out of place though in my view.
    – Simd
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 12:41
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    @Lembik I don't see that "it's a phase" and "being abusive" are mutually exclusive.
    – Acire
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 12:45
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    @AdamDavis I don't want to give the impression that I know what the future will be. It's just that 12-16 is not just some arbitrary 4 year period in one's life. If it were 23-27 or 3-7 it would be completely different.
    – Simd
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 12:56

You said it yourself: "He is sabotaging his self to spite me. I just don't understand the logic. I really don't understand why he has it out for me when I just want him to be happy." That's why. You don't understand him, and you keep judging him and suggesting he do things that match your assumptions about him.

He's angry with you, and you don't get why, and keep acting in a way that's not getting him, not acknowledging who he is or what he wants, and keeps suggesting normative ideas that he doesn't relate to. That's a very common pattern for children, especially teens, but this seems like a fairly advanced case. It sounds like you keep not understanding him, and he's escalated to the point that he's creating hostile conflicts just to make you wrong.

From a comment you made on another answer, it sounds like he may actually be trying to tease you, as a way to hopefully get you to understand him better. Children often tease their parents in the areas where their parents seem blind, which is a kind of subconscious way to help their parents see what they can't see about themselves.

I imagine that fundamentally it's not that he actually hates you personally. But it sounds like you've not been connecting to him well for a long time, and he is very angry and hostile towards that, and so he's projecting that back at you. You haven't gotten him and so he's turning it around on you. That you don't get it just reinforces his righteousness about it, and now he has a major behavior pattern about showing people (especially you) that they don't get him, and can't make him be how they want/expect, and that he's willing to be hostile and self-destructive to be right about that.

You could probably use help from an awesome counselor/psychiatrist, though getting him to trust one might be difficult (or it might not be, if he's awesome in the right way). Trying to overpower him or make the discussion about how he's the one with a problem to fix, or any approach that doesn't treat him with respect despite his hostility, is likely to fail or backfire.

As for general advice:

  • Try to let go of all generic cultural assumptions about what is good for a child and makes them happy. Forget all about conventional ideas that everyone should be healthy, active, polite, socialize, have friends, care about education, care about a career, or anything like that. Stop worrying about any of that, and stop suggesting any such things to him.

  • Drop all of your judgements and all of your concerns about him.

  • Stop projecting whatever stress and patterns of thoughts and feelings you have onto him (this probably requires continual work to see things you don't realize consciously about yourself).

  • Try to relate to him not as your child but as a separate human being, who is intrinsically intelligent and capable and wise and probably a genius in one or more areas (if anyone would let him do precisely what he wants), and who can define who he is, and who ought to be allowed to do whatever he wants with his life as long as it's not harming others, and who deserves immense respect.

  • Ask him questions and always listen as best you can to whatever he has to say. Notice that your question above reads like you know what his problems are even though you don't understand, but shows no sign that you've actually asked what's going on with him, or just what he'd like, and then actually just listened and heard and acknowledged and non-judgementally responded to what he had to say. Listening well is a skill that bears life-long development. He'll probably have a lot of sarcastic and hurtful things to say at first. Develop the skill to hear the message behind that - what it's about - what he really wants and needs. Acknowledge that, so he knows you've actually heard him. You'll probably fail at first. Keep trying and getting better.

    What is he angry with you about?

    What is he frustrated with about you?

    What would he like you to do differently?

    How does he wish you would act differently?

    What would he like?

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    +1 for trying to get to the root of the problem rather than getting distracted by the symptoms.
    – Sam
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 17:24

Most of these answer seem to be brushing it off as 'normal teenage angst/opposition'.

That may be the case, but we're talking 4 years here. This seems like it could be a very real mental health issue. A form of depression, anxiety, or any other number of issues.

Please, get him (and yourself) to a child therapist to start investigating if this is a treatable situation (through medication and/or other forms of therapy).

4 years is way too long to let a problem like this continue. Seek help. And good luck.

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    Thank you. You are right. When school started in the fall - I couldn't take it any more. I talked to his primary care doctor who referred me to a therapist. My son was diagnosed with depression. He has been seeing a therapist weekly and taking an anti-depressant since September. He is so much better now. The anger, irritability, self-loathing has decreased. He still has some bad days but the difference in his attitude/mood has been really dramatic. I just want him to find happiness. Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 17:27
  • @Julie4435637 thanks so much for the update! And very glad to hear things are going in a better direction!
    – DA01
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 17:47

Don't forget that the whole point of the teenage years is for a dependent child to transition into their own unique, separate adult!

Often this manifests itself in terms of rejection: reject whatever the parents like, reject their rules; make your own, reject their music, their lifestyle choices, religion, chores, food, recommended friends, etc. Because during the teenage years a teenager needs to figure out how they're going to manage their own independence. It's not a happy and easy time, generally.

So perhaps you should be asking yourself: Is my child currently dependent on me, or are they an independent, free spirit but I'm still treating them as a dependent? Either way, it may be time to open up possibilities that allow them to try things out for themselves. Let them choose their own after school activities now, when they do chores, what they do with allowance for chores, do their own laundry, help make their own meals, you know, adult things that adults have to do.

You want to step back, and take a look at them and consider what you can let them do to figure out their own adulthood. In older cultures, that would have happened 3 or 4 years ago, and biologically they are adults already, but our modern culture is more protective, and sometimes teens chafe at the restrictions that come with a childhood elongated through 16 years.

It's not really a "phase", or if it is, it's the last "phase" that you'll be able to go through with him, because after this he will be an independent adult.

Won't you be glad of that?


The best advice I can give you is to take care of your own feelings about all of this first. While you're doing that, you can help him to behave like a better human being.

I try to encourage him to out with friends... (result: opposition)
I try to encourage him to go to the gym with me... (result: opposition) I really don't understand why he has it out for me when I just want him to be happy.

What I'm sure of is that this is terribly, terribly painful for you. I'm pretty confident that you did not torment him as he was growing up and this is just payback. You were most likely a loving mom (and still are), yet he is treating you with openly hurtful disrespect.

After he passes a thorough physical exam, take him to a therapist (ask around for a good adolescent therapist) and hope for the best. You can't change who he is; you can't love him into being a nicer person. You can get a specialist involved to help him work through his issues. This has been going on for years. That's long enough. It's time for a professional to help.

You did not do anything to deserve this, and it's not your fault.

What you can do is learn to disengage, learn to take charge of your own emotions so that he can't manipulate them, and learn to set appropriate boundaries. This will take time and a lot of work on your part, but it will be worth it.

Setting boundaries might be worked out with his therapist initially, since you are probably not highly skilled in this area yet. You can't control his thoughts, but you can set consequences for rude and manipulative behavior. In doing this, as painful as it might be, remember that your goal here is not to get along nicely, it's to teach him that in the real world, where he will soon enough start spending the rest of his life, certain aggressive behaviors have consequences.

Read. Start looking now for good articles on adolescent oppositional behavior, oppositional defiant disorder (see if this fits), and setting boundaries. Ask your therapist and his, once established, for recommendations.

Setting boundaries/consequences doesn't mean you don't love him; it's teaching him what healthy relationships look like.

Don't let this go on for two more years until he goes away to college.

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    -1 You said: "You were most likely a loving mom (and still are), yet he is treating you with openly hurtful disrespect....You did not do anything to deserve this" --- How do you know all this? Well, I don't know anything about the OP but I do know that you can't clap with a single hand. My mother also loves me very much and wants me to be happy, but I hate her: parenting.stackexchange.com/q/7691/2221 If she would have created such a question here, it seems to me you would have given her the same reply you gave OP here-- without knowing the story from my side :/. Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 8:12
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    I agree with @TheIndependentAquarius. You seem to be assuming that it's all the son's fault and not the mum's fault: "and it's not your fault". That might be nice for her to hear, but what if it's not true? I think most problems are two-sided.
    – Sam
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 12:50
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    @TheIndependentAquarius - I'm sorry for your experience. I base that on 1) the fact that she cares enough to post for help, 2) the fact that this post is mostly not about her, and 3) my experience with oppositional (and other) children, of which I have a lot. You are biased towards your experience; I, mine. Most mothers love their kids, are good enough mothers, and kids are not tabulae rasae. You can't blame the parents for what the child chooses to become. Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 12:51
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    @anongoodnurse Almost all parents love their children, this does not automatically make them good parents. Faults like being controlling and overprotective pretty much go hand in hand with love for your children, yet those faults can cause very severe problems. I fear that your boundaries advice will do nothing but escalate the conflict, 16 is just too late for that kind of stuff. Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 6:54
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    @eBusiness boundaries can work for both parties, particularly if the child is feeling smothered or controlled.
    – Acire
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 10:16

I am currently 22 years old, unmarried without children. However, I have recently being studying the vedanta, the art of living, and I would like to share observations.

My 16-year-old son says the most awful things to me. I feel he is deliberately trying to upset/provoke me constantly. For example, last night at the dinner table he said,

"I am not going to try to get into a good college because if I got into a good college - that would make you happy."

He is very oppositional. I feel that anything that I want - he wants the opposite.

When I read your question I noticed that although you are genuinely concerned about your son (as you should be) yet your happiness is contingent upon your son heeding you:

  1. My 16-year-old son says the most awful things to me.
  2. I feel he is deliberately trying to upset/provoke me constantly.
  3. I feel that anything that I want - he wants the opposite.

As you can see, although you genuinely want the best for your son yet you have made his well being about you. I noticed it and your son noticed it too:

"I am not going to try to get into a good college because if I got into a good college - that would make you happy."

Logically, your son knows that your concerns for him are for his own well being. However, his behavior is not governed by logic. He is acting on his desires; and to put it bluntly his desire is to undermine you. That is what makes him happy:

I remember bringing treats to his 7th grade class to celebrate his birthday and he refused to eat any or participate with the class. He just sat there with a smirk on his face the whole time.

Does this means that you son hates you? No. Don't make this about yourself. He revels in the idea of undermining you, even at the cost of his own well being. Does this mean that he hates you? No.

The vedanta, taught in Ancient India, is a subjective science which explains how to live a fulfilling life of both peace and prosperity.

One of the most important functions of the mind is to generate desires. Many of these desires could harm you. For example, for a shopaholic the desire to buy could cause them harm if they don't have the money to pay the credit card company. Without the supervision of a trained intellect such dangerous desires remained unchecked. The stronger the desire, the more difficult it is for the intellect to control it.

In my opinion, your relationship with your son is suffering because of two conflicting desires:

  1. Your son's desire to undermine you, even at the cost of his own well being.
  2. Your desire to provide the best possible life for your son.

Why does your son desire to undermine you? We don't know. People could desire anything. Some people desire being dominated and humiliated. Some people desire hurting other people. Your son desires undermining you. People can find happiness in anything.

So how can you change your son's behavior? To put it bluntly, you can't. The job of a parent is to control a child's desires until they can control their own desires. However, if you try to forcefully control your son then he will get angry. His desire has grown strong and it's very difficult to control it. Strong desires are addictive; and like any addiction they are very difficult to resist.

Prevention is always better than cure. A trained intellect can nip a harmful desire in the bud, before it becomes strong and takes hold of one's life. A parent must also nip the harmful desires of the child in the bud. It is too late for that, though.

I keep thinking this is a phase, but it feels like it has gone on too long. He is sabotaging himself to spite me. I just don't understand the logic. I really don't understand why he has it out for me when I just want him to be happy.

Another thing to understand is that there is no logic to your son's behavior. It's just pure desire. For example, an obese person might keep eating fattening food even though he knows that it's harmful for him because his desire to eat fattening food is too strong. That's all you need to understand. He needs to train his intellect in order to keep his desires in check so that he may lead a fulfilling life.

What Can You Do?

Your happiness is contingent upon your son listening to you. In my opinion, that is a major problem in your relationship with your son. Your son doesn't listen to you and that makes you unhappy.

It's not a bad thing to desire the best possible life for your son. However, what's is bad is that you are equating your present happiness to your son's future. You are afraid that your son won't have a good future and that upsets you in the present, which is sad because there are so many other things to be happy about in the present.

This doesn't mean that you shouldn't be concerned about your child's future. Every responsible parent is concerned about their child's future. However, that doesn't mean that you should be miserable in the present. The present is all you have. You can't change the past and you can't live in the future. Why squander your present by being upset?

Dissociate your present happiness from your son's unforeseeable future because if your son doesn't listen to you and keeps hurting his own future then you will be perpetually unhappy. Be concerned for your son but don't let your happiness be contingent on his future. Be happy for everything that you have in the present. If you son doesn't listen to you then don't become upset. Instead, if you show him that you are happy regardless of whether he listens to you then he might actually start to change his behavior. Care for him, nurture him and prepare him for life. However, don't waste your present being upset about his future.

I can't stress this enough: If you show your son that you are happy regardless of whether he listens to you then he might change his behavior. Your son wants to upset you. Don't let him. That doesn't mean that you stop caring for him.

If you want to learn more about vedanta then you please do visit the following website: http://www.vedantaworld.org/. We are currently endeavoring to start teaching vedanta to children in schools again, like in the olden days, so as to prepare them for life; and we are pitching this idea to the UN general assembly to promote its adoption worldwide (similar to how yoga is now adopted worldwide).

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    Hi, Aadit. There is much wisdom in what you say, and I agree with much of it. However, there is also much that is not on topic in your answer (the SE model is to answer the question asked, not the unasked question(s). I will be editing some of the most off topic info out. If you want to discuss the site, feel free to ping me in chat or to create a room. Thanks! Commented Jul 4, 2015 at 21:04

In my opinion you are trying to organize his time and he is feeling a bit in danger. Maybe you want him to be happy too much, not allowing him find his own way? Being in opposition is safe for him, because he sees that he has something on which he can decide or control, even if this is not good for him or it is just a very tiny thing. Maybe he feels in some way powerful in this situation.

I think he does not hate you, because in his age there is an opposition parents vs. friends and if he does not seek friends, it can mean that he accepts his life with you.

Unfortunately, you do not give us any signs of your reaction. Does he say something and the talk is over? Do you give him a response? Maybe you begin to cry or shout? Maybe you show yourself as a weak person who is afraid of him?

In my opinion the very first step should be to calm down. Smile to him. Give him small choices in life ("What do you want for breakfast?"). If there is something he is interested in (but he wouldn't leave behind just to make you upset), show his interest, praise him. Ask questions, but do not help without being asked.

I think that a male adult (his father, uncle, your friend) could help. Maybe he feels ashamed to go to a gym with his mother (not a girlfriend), but he would with a male?

Maybe this adult man could find a common language with him. He could then suggest "hey, let's do something nice to your mom".

I would suggest to allow him making mistakes. If he says "I won't go to college", just say "OK, it's your choice. In my opinion you will then not earn much money, but if it makes you happy...". If he says "I want to be fat because I want to upset you" respond with "It does not upset me. I will love you whatever you do. But it is your life, you will be weaker, other people will laugh seeing you trying to do something".

I also suggest choosing a good moment and asking "Why do you want to upset me? Does it make you happy? Why?". Don't leave whatever he says. This may lead to a difficult talk, but I think he needs it, but he does not know how to start. Whatever he says, you should respect it.


he is a teen, that sounds about normal for a teen. Teenagehood doesn't last forever, so that will slowly change as he matures.

They are growing into adults so they hate the parents they are still dependant on. , they feel the need to symbolically kill the parent to sever the umbilical cord. It is only after the separation, like by going to college, that things will start to become normal. When the cord is severed, he won’t feel his existence threatened by an adult.

He needs to define himself outside of your influence, so let him be. Bringing into the mix therapists or advice about his friends or lifestyle will be seen as an infringement of his existence so he will naturally lash out.

He is 16 not 8 years old, so leave him alone, he needs to grow and you seem to be smothering him. Yes, you are the victim of his growing pangs, but he also seems to be the victim of your over-mothering.


@Adam Davis wrote

His behavior is abusive. Yes, children can abuse parents. You are in an abusive relationship.

Yes, this is an abusive relationship, but for both of them. The main difference is that the mom can complain about it at nauseum and the teen can’t.

I joined the parenting SE because this Q appeared in the Hot Network Q, and i was like:

  • "No ! Not yet anther mom complaining about her teenager’s attitudes and seeking comfort."

What about the teen, he is a victim too and his situation doesn’t generate sympathy. I admit i never raised teens, I can only relate to being one. I remember i was so often mad, because my mom would complain to everyone about my behavior and gather sympathy. I was always cast in the role of the villain and resented her even more for that.

Teens that rebel and need to define themselves is an entirely natural thing. there are varied intensity to the rebelion. @Adam Davis your reaction is like parents who drug any over-active child with ADD medication as if being a turbulent child was a sickness. it is done stricly for the parents peace of mind and is not in the child best interest.

I think the mom here should be glad it is only psychological cruelty and not physical abuse.

Also; since there is no mention of a father, one can assume that the father is not in the picture. The teen could be also blaming the mother because of a divorce, or an absentee father.

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    This is not normal... If this was done to a much lesser degree, I would agree with you. But 4 years? This is not normal. Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 5:10
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    i lashed out at my parents from about 13 to 19, i don't think that's abnormal. was does seem abnormal to me is the mother trying to control, or at least butt in, every aspect of her son's life...i had a mom like that and even now that i am near fourty y.o. she tries to butt in my life, my friends, what i wear, what i eat.... Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 7:09
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    I think this is an important possibility; if the mum's "encouragement" is actually more along the lines of nagging/control/manipulation, it could be exasperating for the son. Of course, we don't know if that's actually the case, and I'm not sure if just leaving him alone is the best solution.
    – Sam
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 13:09
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    @Reed Even if that's the case, that's still not normal, and cannot be treated as normal, and the abusive parents cannot be told it's normal Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 19:58
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    @EduardoWada where has OP being abusive been established? If nowhere, best to remove that comment.
    – Rob Grant
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 12:36

It's natural to want to get a bit of space from your parents and also to differentiate yourself from you parents. From your question it sounds like you keep suggesting things to him trying to force your personality on him and it might be the only way to be his own person is to reject you and what you like because you give him no other choice because he has no space to develop.

"I remember bringing treats to his 7th grade class to celebrate his birthday and he refused to eat any or participate with the class." To be honest i could think of nothing more embarrassing and annoying than my mum doing that as it would indicate she still saw me as 5 year old and advertised it to my peer group.

I think i wants you to stop dictating and controlling him and these are the only ways he can protect himself from you. The fact it hurts him is just and indication that he feels extremely hurt by you and hurting himself is the lesser harm. But the important thing is these things must feel like a choice to him if he is doing because his mum wants it it's not a choice.


It sounds like he's upset that he's expected to meet certain standards that you may uphold for him. I'd bet that he knows that he doesn't meet some of those standards and instead of embarassingly accepting it, he's trying to convince you that he isn't even trying to meet your standards, when in reality, he's wishes he did.

At the same time he sounds a bit spoiled; he seems to feel entitled.

I'd say give him space, be accepting, yet act indifferent. At the same time, let him learn how the real world works a bit. If he wants money to buy something, suggest getting a job. If he wants something from you, don't give it until he acts nicely. And when does something good or praise-worthy, praise him accordingly.

Otherwise let him be for now, but be there when he does need you. When he goes to college and gets some breathing room, he'll probably appreciate you more. (I'm the same way; too much time with the parents and I get annoyed, too much time apart and I miss them sorely!)


I try to encourage him to go out with friends, but he consciously refuses to have friends, because it would make me happy to see him with friends.

Do not take everything he says at face value. Most likely, he doesn't want to justify his social life to you.

I was like him when I was younger. I didn't have good social skills for my age. I was fat and introverted. My older brother and my mother on the other hand were both total extroverts. It also didn't help that my mother was super-protective of me and was trying too hard to solve all my problems.

Now does it mean that I didn't have any friends? Not really. I had friends, sort of. The other school kids didn't completely hate me. The situation was not as black and white as what my mother would have thought.

Eventually, I matured socially, but most of that happened my first year of College when I moved into the dorms. Now it's difficult to say whether your son will follow my pattern. He may, or he may not.

It's just that it's largely in his hands, not yours. A lot of it will be outside of your control. If you're eager to help, read this book on assertiveness When I Say No, I Feel Guilty by Manuel J. Smith. Do not let the title of that book fool you. Its title doesn't describe very well what it's about. Hopefully, that book will make you aware of some patterns you may have been using with him.

And if the book is too boring, read it backwards from the back to the front. That book made a lot more sense to me when I read its actual examples, which were near the back of the book.


He is rebelling against something.

It sounds as though he is rebelling against your holding onto him, protecting him.

Maybe he is rebelling against needing your approval.

Let him rebel! Let him get it out of his system. You offer him the gym, instead he offers to eat a cake in front of you. Offer him a cake next time! Don't be attached to any outcome.

Remind him: "You are now 16 years old. You may spread your wings and fly. If you need, I'm here for you. I am your mother and I love you."

Then maybe he will find it is his own attachment that he is rebelling against. He is looking over the nest at the drop, scared to jump.

You must lose your attachment to 'mother' him. Don't be afraid to let him go. He will come back!

why does my son hate me

Rephrase this in your mind: "Why does my son hate? Where is this pain and anger coming from?"

Challenge him: "What is eating you? Are you full of anger? Where is it coming from?"

But not "Do you hate me?" -- as long as he is projecting these emotions, he is not addressing them. So ground yourself to neutralise these projections -- don't engage with them. If the ball comes over the net, don't hit it back. Don't engage with the drama he is creating. Feel your feet on the ground. See through this forcefield of angry projections he is throwing at you.

Bring everything to the surface. Whatever is there, discuss it.

This may well be an issue with his father. You haven't mentioned his relationship with his father.

An unhealthy energy dynamic has formed. As the more conscious party, it's your responsibility to observe the dynamic, disengage and create a new dynamic.

This appears to be a sado-masochistic dynamic. He is finding identity in giving pain, possibly you are finding identity in taking this pain.

Maybe you have a psychological weakness or blind spot. Maybe one of your parents unloaded psychological pain, which you took on as a child. And now you have developed a "taking on pain" personality, and for someone to relate to you they unconsciously complement that.

You have to end this dynamic.

I recommend reading "The Celestine Prophecy" -- fourth and fifth insight. Have a look here: http://www.butler-bowdon.com/james-redfield---the-celestine-prophecy.html

Also "Hands of Light" by Barbara Brennan. (http://www.amazon.com/Hands-Light-Healing-Through-Energy/dp/0553345397)


With the smiling and such during his party while he is refusing the fun, it seems he gets jollies out of crushing you. This bit makes me think you feed him big reactions, or show you care a lot and he would rather mess with you for fun.

I'd wonder, does he say these things and behave this way when you're not around? My brother (28) refuses to talk in depth with my mom, though he lives at home. It's a lot of yes's and no's that sound pretty curt and he gets frustrated with her easily. She is the type that gives big reactions but isn't very good at understanding him and his ( large ) privacy boundaries. She often thinks he hates her, but he doesn't. He's quite stable with everyone else, and has friends he hangs out with but he never talks about. In this case I wonder if your son uses you for abusive entertainment while you're around, and has a separate life.

Some of the other parts are troubling though. I do wonder if he has enough friends at school, and if the stress is getting to him. The whole eating himself to obesity and such, sounds pretty self-defeating, I wouldn't want to joke about myself like that. It sounds bad, but if you can convince him to have a serious talk with you, no challenges and emotions under control, that'd be nice. It's tough though. I feel like he needs a counselor/psychologist, but it's important he doesn't feel forced to do so or he may rebel. And trying to talk to him without abuse games involved would be great.. Another thing, I needed counseling in high school because it was rough, but I refused to go to the school counselor because I was scared people would make fun of me. So if he has a bad social life at school, you might want to try one outside of school so his social status doesn't feel more threatened.

I was a little abusive to my mom sometimes in high school because I was having an awful time at school ( no friends ) and she had recently changed jobs leaving no time to talk to me after work, so sometimes I got on her nerves on purpose to get a rise out of her. She tried to get me to do positive things too but I was too scared and it all seemed impossible.

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    He started seeing a counselor and is taking anti-depressants since I originally posted this message last summer. He is much better now. I see he is improving and hope it continues. I hope you are doing better since high school. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 18:54

I've been there myself... in the place of your son :O)

As for a therapist, I think it would be good but only if he would want to work things out, but it doesn't seem to be the case.

Obviously, your son has been very angry for sometime, and the reason might be really anything, something important that happened -or not- to him, or "only" his whole situation in life, perhaps he feels too much pressure. Anyway, he seems to be blaming you for being what he considers, at least for now, the origin of whatever he is suffering. He might even think he hates you, though not really.

Just to be sure, you might very very carefully find out how he is doing in school. Find a girl in his school that you think you can trust, none of you should spread the word, and ask her about him, about his relationships with others, teachers, friends, enemies. But make sure he never finds out or you better not do it. But that is not really important right now, perhaps his problem is not even yours to solve. Your problem is the everyday situation that tears both of you and your relationship down.

Avoid any conflict, stop any violence, any hurt. There is nothing you can say or do to work things out, but there is a lot you can stop doing, and that would help both of you to get him interested in his life and his future. Stop being "the mom-my" (in case you are), give him space, no advice, no questioning about his life. Stop doing things for him, like dishes, laundry, etc. When you have the chance, explain to him that you are often too tired because of work and/or house activities, or simply explain to him that every person should be auto-sufficient -if you don't do your laundry yourself, tell him you can afford it but he cannot-, and that it is necessary that he starts taking care of himself because you won't be there forever. As simply, clean and short as you can. Even if he doesn't want to do his own laundry he will end up doing it not to stink, and then will continue on his dishes, and later on his future.

In any situation, if he wants to fight, try to embrace him and tell him you are family, not enemies, and that there is no reason to fight, and you do leave :O) leave him there with his thoughts, do not stay there. You have to be smart.

Later, try to involve him in your life, "by the way" tell him something bad (but short) about your day, later ask if he can help you with something or give you some advice about anything, nothing obvious.

Let us know :O)

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