I am really struggling with my 12 year old. TBH we have always had problems but he is getting worse. He is nasty, calling me an idiot, retard. Just gone off to school and wrecked the kitchen by pulling all paperwork off the table, stormed off up at the hallway demanding to know where a phone case is. Shouting that I am a dick and useless. I said I would tell his father, he just shouted back up the road that he doesn't care and that he is a gay dick anyway.

Where do you go with this? I work with children for goodness sake and only yesterday was on a behaviour course! You think I would have the answers. I am sitting here crying now and have to go and get my daughter up. I feel like running away with her. He bullies her too. We have had counselling in the past and spent most of his primary life in with the Head about one matter or another.

The thing is we are not some awful family, he gets the world - his Dad will do anything with him, he plays football, basketball. I know he will come home tonight and apologise but I just cannot help hating him. I am at a loss how to punish him as if you take something away he doesn't seem to care.

  • I am in the same situation with my boy. He is 9 years old and listens to no one. I speak to him everyday about his behavior but instead it gets worse. He is always in trouble at home, school and around friends. I do not know what i am going wrong, i am worried about him.
    – user19631
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 8:19
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    Does the father support this behavior, either by encouraging it or ignoring it? If not, how does he handle it? An overall understanding is necessary to provide a helpful answer. Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 0:15
  • Does he still "get the world" even when he's badly behaved? Could you describe what kind of consequences for bad behaviour you've already tried? Eg what will be the consequence for him of his behaviour with you today?
    – A E
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 20:46
  • Does his father live in the home or just comes around to toss the ball? It's the father's job to teach his son regarding proper male behavior towards women in general and respect towards one's mother. Also have you tried taking away his phone case?
    – NickNo
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 17:50

2 Answers 2


If it were me, I'd withdraw from the child, but not silently without explaining yourself of course. Both of my children went through a phase where they were abusive, acting violently and saying mean things. In the case of my children, they were younger and their behavior could somewhat be excused because they were opting for expressing themselves in outbursts instead of through proper communication and had yet to learn this lesson.

In the case of your son, while he may not know how to perfectly express himself, you can't just fall back on this to excuse his actions because he is old enough to know that this behavior is entirely inappropriate.

Back to my children, despite their age, they still got the same treatment and it was highly effective. If one child was hitting another, I would come get the child being hit and take them away to do an activity with them alone, and explain to the abuser that we don't want to be around them because they are being mean and hurting us. Follow up the criticism with the right thing to do of course, explaining that if they weren't doing X, we could all be happy together. Half-hearted apologies were not accepted, the separation was enforced until a real change of behavior happened.

When I say enforced, I mean fully enforced. When my children were going through this phase, if they insulted or hit their mother, guess what? No more lullabies at night, no more of moms baking, no perks from the person being abused whatsoever. When things were really bad, we'd set up a table for them to eat at alone, because they don't get to be around people they habitually assault verbally or physically. If you're mean and treat them like garbage, you deserve nothing from them.

Provide essentials of course (as not doing so would be abuse) but all the perks, gone. He's 12, maybe he can do his own laundry, or can fix himself sandwich for lunch, no more rides to the sports he loves to play etc. Maybe some of those options are not appropriate depending on his own stage of development, but you'll know best which are.

This can feel harsh and some might think it's a bad idea because you're not addressing the underlying issues that are causing the child to act out this way. It is true that they need to be addressed, but they certainly cannot be addressed at all while the child is exhibiting a complete disregard for your position as a parent and the mental and physical health of your entire family.

No matter how angry or hurt, everyone wants to be accepted, especially by those closest to them. Make sure that you convey that you love them, ask them why they are hurting you, lay on the guilt, then separate yourself. The separation serves the purpose of protecting yourself and the rest of your family from severe abuse, while giving them time to dwell on their actions after the entire family has unified to condemn the actions.

This must be done in a very carefully balanced way. You must appear united and strongly condemning this behavior, but it must be abundantly clear that you desire nothing more than to fold them back in. Note "being mean" not "are mean" - don't condemn the child, condemn the actions and let them know they are better than that. Not making this distinction will tell them that they are not better than that. All the best.


We have a 7 year old with similar behaviour. While we are also struggling to manage our son, we have found that there are two things that work.

In the short term to stop his immediate behaviour we threaten to call the police and mock-call them - i.e. call voicemail but pretend to call the police. We then mock call them back when he has calmed down. Our son then usually goes to his room or cleans up the mess he made. I don't think this would work for a 12 year old, but there may be something else you can threaten short term, such as talking to friends or sports coaches, depending to whom he values.

Longer term we found our son needs a lot of structure, which means all routine times, such as getting up/ breakfast and dinner/ bedtime need to be clearly structured. Our son works well with a checklist to tick off in the morning, with the treat of doing an activity for 30 minutes before school, if he has done all tasks. If he is slow, it shortens the 30 minutes. He of course needs coaxing along to do these tasks.

  • 4
    You have some excellent points, but "calling the police" can be bad in the long run, I'd be afraid.
    – Stephie
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 21:40
  • @Stephie I agree, however Police is not as scary here in NZ as it appears in other countries. Funnily he understands that when we mock call the police on his smaller sister it is not real but it is real for him. This made us understand it won't work for long
    – jdog
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 23:13
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    "the police will come", is a terrible deterrent. If people are in trouble they should go to the police, not be afraid of them. It's a bad lesson to teach
    – Prinsig
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 16:52
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    That kid heard a lifetime full of empty threats and will see through the bluff, resulting in further loss of respect. Kids must know the parent will keep their promise, and a threat is a promise of negative consequences.
    – NickNo
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 18:05
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    I'm sorry I agree, this is a terrible idea. 1: You're lying your face off to your child and he's going to figure it out sooner or later, 2: you're teaching him getting caught by the ruling authority is the reason to do the right thing, not because it's the right thing. 3: you're teaching your child that he is beyond your authority and control and the only power you have is to appeal to a greater authority. The entire battle of asserting your position as a trusted authority is lost at this point.
    – user17824
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 18:54

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