My seventh grader screamed "Fuck you" at me last night. I am at the end of my rope. His behavior is so bad I feel like I need to send him away to a boarding school or something because he is causing so much disturbance in our house and so much stress to me, it's making me hate parenthood. We have been having issues with him for the past two years on and off. I hate to even write this because it makes him sound like a really bad kid, but he lies and is sneaky/manipulative, constantly stirs up shit and fights with his brothers, is super greedy and self-involved, blatantly defies rules, and, the worst, is constantly rude and disrespectful to me and my husband. I'm too embarrassed to even write the sorts of things he says but they're bad. I am seriously worried that he has no compassion for others, no conscience.

Yesterday he asked if he could have friends over for a school project and also could I get them special snacks. I said sure, got the snacks, the friends came over, all was great. The minute the friends leave, it's like a light switch. Starts arguing with me about what time is his bedtime, screaming, like from zero to 180. Throwing shit, then the f-bomb. I know I should stay calm and I try to not show any emotion because he is looking for attention always. But him saying that to me seems like a very serious line was crossed. And this sort of conflict happens all the time. He wants something, I try to give him, when it's over or gone, he gets rude. Then I ground him from screens, etc. and he is ruder and worse during the whole grounding period. Then there is slight improvement, and within a day or two the entire cycle starts up again.

I really am at a loss. A year or so ago, it was so bad we took him to a therapist twice. Just getting him in there was very difficult. He just refuses to do what we say. He always wants his way and he is a very strong-willed child, has zero respect for any authority and is basically always being naughty and causing trouble. Nightmare. Anyway, the therapist didn't really seem to help much mostly because he refused to cooperate.

I appreciate any wisdom or advice.

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    How does he do in school? Any disciplinary problems there? Commented May 4, 2017 at 16:50
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    Ages of your other children? Any possible environment issues? City/suburb/rural? Other parent?
    – Mad Myche
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 17:49
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    He loves the social-ness of school--friends are by far the most important thing in his life right now. But academically he skates by, doesn't put any effort in though he is a very smart kid. He has been in trouble at school, nothing huge, twice this year but that was a first--never was in any trouble up until 7th grade.
    – user27616
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 21:09
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    Have you already tried having him practicing traditional martial arts, like traditional karate (not to be confused with sports karate, totally different beast)? It usually works very well for improving self-control and calmness. Commented May 5, 2017 at 16:25
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    You mentioned treats then when kids left he freaked out. I don't suppose he gets bad after excessive sugar and additives, colourings etc in chips lollies etc? Have you tried limiting 'bad' foods?
    – wired00
    Commented May 5, 2017 at 21:40

11 Answers 11


You have my sympathy, and a lot of it. I'm so sorry you're going through this. Part of this is the age.*

TL;DR: You're not alone. Many have walked this path and come through on the other side with a "good" kid. Find a good family therapist.

...the therapist didn't really seem to help much mostly because he refused to cooperate.

Change is hard to effect. It is hard enough to change your own behaviors; it's next to impossible to change others. However, he is 12, and you're his parent. Helping him to become a better person, using any reasonable means at your disposal to do so, is within your job description.

I'll presume you've tried talking to him, telling him how his behavior makes you feel, etc., and that that got you nowhere. I believe the next and best step for you, because of how advanced his aggression is, is to find a family therapist for all of you (his siblings are affected, too.) Go alone (or with the child's other parent) at first and work on a multi-factorial plan, including discipline, how to disengage, and how to get him to come to family therapy. If money is a serious problem, call a crisis hotline and find out what might be available at low or no cost to you, like parenting classes, etc. But even if money is a serious problem, a therapist can work on many levels with you, so this is probably your best option.**

Though you may not realize it, at 12 you still have a great deal of control over him. You are his legal guardian, you can make decisions which are in keeping with his best interests (one of which is to send him off to boarding school.) You control the money. You control the food. You control the electronics. To a great extent, you control the traveling, you control who gets to come into your house, etc. You control a lot of important things. You can use these things as motivators or as deterrents. You just need help in how to do so wisely and effectively. Again, because the push-back is going to be harsh, it's best to have help and support in instituting change, so start with someone who can help you as soon as possible.

If he refuses to go to therapy, refuse to take him anywhere but school (or use whatever motivation you and your therapist have decided on.) You're allowed to do this. If he sits like a lump at therapy sessions, it doesn't mean he's not listening and learning.

At individual therapy, learn how to engage and disengage with the kind of behavior your son exhibits to manipulate you. You need to not take his behavior personally, even if it feels very personal. Being rational while hurting is difficult, so learn to engage/disengage with his behavior rationally. Practice in your mind, practice with your therapist. (The consequences for bad behavior need to be worked out in advance, best with the therapist, and laid out in a calm discussion with your son.)

When he screams at you or throws f-bombs or anything else to disrupt your thinking, turn on the rational side, and deal with the behavior. For example, if he is shouting, no matter what he is shouting, just refuse to "have this conversation while you're shouting". That's all you need to do initially, and repeat without emotion as often as needed. Depending on what his ultimate goal is for shouting, you can simply leave the room if he doesn't stop, or - if you suspect he wants the room for some reason - sit down and say nothing in response. But life as usual doesn't just go on. He gets no rewards for abusing you; no electronics, no trips to friends' houses, etc. The consequences need to be consistently applied.

Whatever you choose to do, take care of yourself. You are not necessarily a failure as a parent simply because you have an out of control child. Children are not born into this world as a blank slate. No sane parent raises a child to have autism, ADHD, OCD, ODD (look this one up and read about it; see if it applies), schizophrenia, or to become a sociopath. So cut yourself a generous amount of slack for the time being, and work on keeping yourself sane and healthy. Meditate, journal, discuss in therapy, discuss with your journal (great because it slows things down), discuss with God/nature/whatever powers that be, anything. But let it all out somewhere, sometime.

If nothing works even with therapy, and/or the therapist recommends it, a Psychiatrist specializing in Adolescent Behavior might be the following step.

I wish you and your son the best of luck.

Edited to add: It is possible that in therapy, you will have to address some of your parenting choices as well as your son's current behavior. A good therapist knows that family dynamics are critical here, and will facilitate your son having important, meaningful conversations with you if there really is a problem on your part(s) as parents. You do need to be prepared and be willing to hear what your son has to say. Real, lasting change often involves changing family dynamics as well as individual behavior.

**Parenting was a joy for me until my kids hit 11. Honestly, at 11, it was like some alien looked at a calendar and saw it was time to take over my children. I had to learn more than I ever thought I would at that stage. Luckily, my last was the hardest, so I'd been through it already.

**I have a lot of experience with mental illness and substance abuse. Because of this, I have worked with more kids like this than I can count, even though it's not my primary field. But because I'm a physician, I'm also an interventionist. Hence my recommendation for therapy first, and second (psychiatrist). I also would not rule out a wilderness program if it is deemed by the psychiatrist as beneficial.

Therapy gone wild
Wilderness Therapy as a Treatment Modality for At-Risk Youth: A Primer for Mental Health Counselors

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    "Children are not born into this world as a blank slate." You are so very very right about this. The 'best' parenting in the world can't prevent an individual from being an individual. We can encourage behaviours positively or negatively -- but we as regular, caring and not abusive parents did not birth children who are perfect students or little hooligans. They will always be themselves.
    – WRX
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 17:09
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    +1. I have seen this exact behaviour myself first hand and spoken to a lot of parents (friends/colleagues etc.) whose children behave exactly like this. It is not a problem of the OP individually. The only consolation I have that I know families with two children where the one is like this and the other is completely "normal" (the other kind of "normal" - the good one), even if the parents treated both children more or less the same. So the character of the child does indeed play a large role, though I also guess it's something in the water, these days. :)
    – AnoE
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 18:13
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    I cannot say with 100% certainty what the situation here is, but it sounds like an individual who also has failures in their parenting and is only seeing the results as the problem of the child, not the parenting.
    – 8protons
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 20:46
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    @McCann - An unhealthy relationship with food might be the least of this kid's problems. I wasn't suggesting withholding food, however; note mom bought special snacks for him and his friends. She also prepares food. Things like that is to what I was referring. Commented May 5, 2017 at 13:15
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    As someone with ODD and what is supposedly one of the worst cases of ADHD Los Angeles has seen in 35 years, I can symapthize. This answer definitely holds points that will help and are valid, so +1; At the same time though, if I'm honest, your discipline to your child definitely seems weak, and is not "hitting him where it hurts". If "screen time" isn't important to him, it's not really a big loss; personally I would die, but it's not to him. Please please please make sure he's not on drugs. I started around that age and hung around a horrible crowd, which only exacerbated my belligerence.
    – Anoplexian
    Commented May 5, 2017 at 15:23

I'm writing this as a guest because I don't want this associated with my professional account, but I feel I can help you understand your son because he sounds just like how I was at that age.

I used to break things, cuss out my parents, all the things you listed, etc. It started when I was in junior high after being rejected by my peers, especially the girls. I always wanted a girlfriend very badly but kept getting rejected, some in very embarrassing and traumatic ways (for a teenager). People made fun of me and called me Shrek because of my big ears. I started to hate myself because of all this and took out my anger on my parents and started to tease animals.

My mom made it worst when she kept treating me as if I was a problem. She forced me to go to a therapist, which was a complete waste of time, and made me take antidepressants. I quit taking the medication because it made me feel numb. My dad hit me a couple of times and it made me hate him. Whenever we went out to eat there would always be a verbal argument in public. My parents trying to control me made me hate them, and I started to think about running away or committing suicide since I did not have a place to feel safe and happy.

Just to assure you, I am in my late twenties now and I have a very good relationship with my parents again, just like I had before puberty. I am a business professional and everything is great. All of that anger went away when I was around 21, and I felt very bad for how I treated my parents. At the same time, I wish my mom and dad knew how to help me.

I think the most you can do is help him feel loved. I'm not talking about buying him stuff and giving him everything he wants, but just hug him every day, you know? There are many times I wish I had someone to just hold me and tell me that there wasn't anything wrong with me, that I wasn't ugly, etc. Ask him about his day. If he doesn't want to talk about it, don't prod. Ask him about something that gets him excited, even if you don't care about whatever it is.

If he starts to see you on his side, then he will open up to you. But if you try to control him and treat him like something is wrong with him then he will see you like all the other assholes who don't like him, and he will hate you for it because you are supposed to be his mother.

But you will flip the trigger the second you start arguing with him or tell him what to do. If you can, make suggestions and make him think he is choosing. If he starts to become a real ass, do something funny or ridiculous to diffuse the situation. This is kinda lame, but try to tickle him when he's mad. My dad used to do that to me when I got mad as a kid and it always diffused the situation (wish he would have kept doing that instead of switching to hitting me). Watch some funny YouTube videos together.

Just my own projections, but maybe they can help since the situation sounds identical.

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    your post makes me feel so much better, that a kid like this can get through to the other side, but i don't want him acting/feeling like this until 21! i should have added: i tuck him in every night, sing to him and we chat. this time, just us, is very important to him, it feels like, and it's the only time he is affectionate and seems loving. so all is not lost at all. but i do fear that i'm doing damage because i'm always mad at him and critical of his bad behavior.
    – user27616
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 19:54
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    i have a question for you southern gent: what do you think was the reason at 21 that you changed how you felt bout yourself? just maturing and gaining confidence?
    – user27616
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 19:57
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    I, too, am wondering what made you change. Can you please address this in your answer or in comments. I hate to say this, because you came out ok, but I see a lot of blame-shifting and bad advice in this answer. Tickling someone who's angry or watching a funny YouTube together is not the answer to an emotionally abusive child. Commented May 4, 2017 at 21:12
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    @anongoodnurse Well your answer sounds like you have forgotten or never knew how a child in a situation like this feels and just care about the parents, while this answer here feels more like the child's point of view ignoring the parents... it's both not a balanced view.
    – Nobody
    Commented May 5, 2017 at 8:14
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    I know someone who had very severe behaviors as a teen. Now he has a family and a very good job. I asked him, if he had a kid that was literally him, would he know what to do to guide him through that time in his life. He thought about it and replied, "No. I don't think there was any stopping it." Commented May 5, 2017 at 14:04

Sorry you are going through this, it can be very trying.

You mentioned therapy at the end of your question. This sounds like the right course that you need to go down. Therapy isn't a once or twice thing, even with a cooperative patient, and even more so with someone uncooperative. Therapy is a process that includes getting past the barriers that someone has set up (intentionally or unintentionally), to get to the heart of the actual issue. It sounds like your son is capable of being reasonable, but is inconsistent with this behavior. This could be indications of actual disorders, or could just be "acting out", but investing the time, effort and money (unfortunately) into actively seeing a therapist, and a psychiatrist if deemed necessary, is the only way you are going to be able to determine that.


I know I should stay calm and I try to not show any emotion because he is looking for attention always.

Children don't always know the best way to ask for what they want, but if you know he's asking for attention, then how is refusing to give it to him supposed to help matters? (Note that "giving him attention" does not necessarily mean "giving him what he wants.")

You say you always try to comply with his requests and then he starts screaming after you've given him what he wanted. Perhaps you should try giving him the attention and withholding the thing he asks for.

What I mean is this:

He wants to invite a bunch of friends over and asks you to get specific snacks.

Don't just agree to get him the snacks he asked for. Talk to him and remind him about how this all played out the last time. Tell him you're not going to buy him the special snacks unless he can show that he's able to behave himself during and after the visit with his friends, which includes accepting that it's time to go to bed when the time comes.

For this upcoming visit, they can snack on stuff you normally have around the house (ideally healthy stuff) and then next time you'll think about getting the snacks he wants, based on how he behaves this time. Also make clear what the punishment will be if he doesn't behave nicely (whether that's grounding, or no TV, or whatever.)

This teaches him that his actions have consequences - good consequences for good behaviour, bad consequences for bad behaviour. Then follow through on what you said would happen. If you promise him something as a reward and he holds up his end, then you should hold up your end. If he doesn't hold up his end, you punish him as you said you would. Anything he wants to do is matched with a reward and/or punishment subject to his behaviour - nothing is given "for free" or without conditions.

Of course, this also means you shouldn't promise rewards or threaten punishments that you aren't prepared to follow through with. In time, the hope is that he will learn you're serious, and that the way to get what he wants is to do as he's told and behave nicely.

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    I disagree that everything should have consequences - good or bad. This leaves no room for demonstrating you can just be nice because you feel like it. Commented May 5, 2017 at 6:01
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    «teaches him that his actions have consequences - good consequences for good behaviour, bad consequences for bad behaviour» that's true for a normal person. But a specific mental problem can affect this. I once knew someone who could not grasp that people reacted in consequence to her behavior, and any such was simply seen as picking on her. … «in time he will learn that» this assumes there is no underlying mental disease or phisiological condition.
    – JDługosz
    Commented May 5, 2017 at 6:24
  • @ThorbjørnRavnAndersen Then we must agree to disagree. I learned this way when I was a child and I routinely act nice to people just because I feel like it. It's like there's a part of my mind that just expects something good will come of it, even if there's no explicit promise of a reward.
    – Steve-O
    Commented May 5, 2017 at 13:05
  • > this assumes there is no underlying mental disease. Which is perfectly reasonable when you hear about a kid entering puberty starting to exhibit described behavior. The behavior described is much more common than mental diseases are. Commented May 8, 2017 at 8:37

I'm making a separate answer here because after reading your question and your comments, quite frankly I'm scared for him.

Here are some things every parent should know about mental health that I had to find out the hard way (and almost lost a child in the process):

  • Shame is a killer. It will keep either or both you and your kid from admitting they need help until it is too late if you aren't careful.

  • Mental health issues tend to show up with puberty (7th grade would be a perfect time)

  • Boys are more likely to exhibit emotional issues violently. Perhaps this is psychological, or perhaps it is because society tells males the only emotion they are allowed to express is anger.
  • Persistent mental health issues (eg: ADHD, bipolar, chronic depression, or chronic panic) are quite likely to rooted in brain chemistry. You cannot reason your way out of them, or "tough" your way through them.
  • Everyone's brain is different. Some of us can make ours work within "normal parameters fairly well, some of us need help.

Fortunately here in the US medical coverage is (for now) required to cover mental health. So help should be available without having to make a Sophie's choice between financial solvency and your child's life.

In my case my oldest really had a hard time mentally getting over the hump that needing this kind of help makes him "crazy". I mean a seriously hard time.

I can't diagnose someone else's kid, but I could easily see there existing a boy that age whose shame at having mental issues is feeding into anger, which essentially randomly boils over, particularly with the people who were responsible for getting him to that point (his parents). But also some people (particularly bipolars) will just unload on the next person who thwarts them in some trivial way when its "time" for an episode.

Straightening out what exactly it is, and what (if any) medication will help, is the job of a registered psychiatrist. That needs to be done ASAP.

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    Did anyone say this was in the US? Commented May 5, 2017 at 9:19
  • > Boys are more likely to exhibit emotional issues violently. Perhaps this is psychological, or perhaps it is because society tells males the only emotion they are allowed to express is anger. Or perhaps it is, because starting at age 12, we become (biologically) ready to have children ourselves. And within the entire animal kingdom, we see how males have to fight for the 'right' to breed. Often by fighting with higher ranked/senior males in the group. People, this behavior is NORMAL. It is a consequence of our biology. Stop acting as if it's a disease or some social construct. Commented May 8, 2017 at 8:41
  • @StijndeWitt - We aren't talking about normal behavior here.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 12:39
  • If normal means 'frequently occurring' than yes, OP's child is exhibiting relatively normal behavior. Commented May 8, 2017 at 15:16
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    @StijndeWitt Just because some one isn't ill doesn't mean they can't benefit from therapy. It's just talking to some one in an attempt at resolving problems. Commented May 9, 2017 at 14:39

Put him into sports, somewhere with a good and strong coaching system. He will be able to vent all this unspent energy, he will be able to focus and it will calm down his nerves. He will have to work with his teammates, some of them more alpha than he is being now. He will learn to co-operate , will strive to work hard for recognition among the group and learn a lot about social values in general.

  • he hates doing anything "extra" like sports but we have a rule that each kid has to do at least one and he does tennis. he fights us a lot going to practice but once he's there he seems to really love it and he's good at it. it's not really a "coach" situation--he has no interest in a team sport. but thanks for the suggestion.
    – user27616
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 19:59
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    @user27616: Making kids do things they don't want to do and that aren't essential to their health and safety is a formula for the situation you're in... Commented May 5, 2017 at 0:40

You mentioned it and nobody followed up on the idea so ...

Boarding school may be a bit premature and military schools are for high school-age kids. You might get to that point; you can do some research in case it gets there.

However, you need a break. You're in a situation where love gets pushed aside just to deal with the moment. It sucks as a parent going to bed angry, frustrated, or terrified of your child. I'd suggest an eight-week summer camp.

If he does well in other situations outside the home, let him get some time away surrounded by peers. It's highly possible if not likely that absence will make the heart grow fonder.

  • Great, practical advice. Commented May 8, 2017 at 8:51

I just want to point out something important that I didn’t see mentioned. I can't diagnose your kid but give you some advice from another point of view: The little sister who got beaten up everyday by the aggressive brother.


Your role will not only to help your son but also to protect your other children from him. So remember this when you wonder if you demand too much from that aggressive son.

You can't fix this alone. Get help from an experienced therapist.

Your husband also needs to be present, and you might need to take a few steps back sometimes.

What changes at 21? Adult consequences... That makes self-interest kick in quick.

I also doubt the violence just started. I suspect you simply are the victim now but your son had other targets before that are now not tolerating his behaviors.

I don’t know how old are your other children but your son is almost certainly abusing them as well, especially if they are younger, have a gentle personality or are on the aspi/autistic spectrum. This is really not to be taken lightly as kids who grow up with that kind of sibling often develop themselves issues later in life and post-traumatic stress disorders even if they seemed to cope well.

The manipulation also has a very negative effect on the center of language in the brain and perception of reality, and it's even worse on kids who are actually learning all these social skills. Call it brainwash because that is truly what it is and a young kid can easily mentally overpower a younger one.

A violent sibling can also create that issue in the other vulnerable siblings by abusing them. They too might develop acceptance and anger issues, and use the same coping skills the older sibling used on them.

Violence of all kind should never be tolerated, no matter how angry your son becomes. Violence takes away self-respect and choice. By complying to that aggressive son, you are telling the other kids they need to accept the violence from people they love. As it's not something you can quantify, it opens the door to any abuse by anyone who will act like the abusive brother. Some people here gave you very good advice to make sure you are respected as a parent. Being assertive is better than a hug sometimes and have lasting effects.

The other side of this is not only the manipulation, the psychological and physical abuse (and maybe sexual, which is not rare at all) from your son but also the fact you may end up making that son "your project" and being less available/tolerant for your other children. And draining yourself in this while it might be possible you cannot do much no matter how much you love your son.

Observe your pets (if any) for fear reactions, avoidance, wounds, weird accidents, deaths, "bad luck", etc. Ask questions to your other kids without showing your goal (how they feel, how they play when with the other son, if secrets, games with pets, etc.) Kids have information they think you all-seeing parent know but you don't. My brother killed hundreds of pets in secret and he was carefully planning his "hitler episodes", which I unfortunately witnessed sometimes. My parents only knew about it when I told em when I was 30yo.

If you feel your son has little empathy, you might not be wrong. But empathy can be developed to some degree and it's a choice. It needs work. It cannot be forced. It needs to be rewarded. It needs to become his new currency (what he wants).

One very important thing is to read about shame and control. The episode with the other kids' party has certainly more to it and you don’t know it. If your son lashed at you the way you described, maybe he did something he felt ashamed of in front of his friends but knowing they would not tolerate his anger (but you will), you got it instead. Your son knows he can lose his friends and get a bad reputation at school because he probably experienced that consequence already and didn't find it a "winning move", but he knows he can’t lose you. If your son is really angry and even has physical signs of being in the "red zone", this isn't simple manipulation for attention.

Maybe try to see if anything he might feel ashamed of triggered him when he goes hysterical. It’s most likely perceived shame from his own perception of reality, eg. it can be something as small as not making a good joke or not getting the expected reaction. So don’t take too much pity on that shame he may have felt, it is necessary for kids to process these feelings to develop empathy and it cannot be forced. Your pity will only enable him to escape this process and even create anxiety because it shouldn't be a scary process. Give him acceptance, some freedom to think about it and cool down, and don't make a big deal out of his mistakes but don't reward them either. Apply discipline, offer consistency and acceptance, not compliance. Your therapist will teach you what mindset to have. The anger, aggression and tantrums from 0 to 180 are often coping skills some kids who lack "emotional training" use to get some biochemical "high" that takes away the feeling they want to avoid dealing with. You cannot reward or accept these coping techniques, it's a terrible habit that is very similar to what a junkie would do.

Go see a therapist alone first (or with your husband) then with your son. Find a man. Your son has no choice, he will need therapy. Think that he will only refine his techniques as he grows up but will keep the same attitude and lack of respect towards others. You will not fix that problem alone. Don't shop for therapists with him, go alone first. If you shop for therapists with him, he will totally lose respect and trust in your decisions and the therapy. He's not a guinea pig, you should be the one "testing" and meeting the therapists first. Your husband should go as well. Wanting to fix this alone is not fair on your husband and the other members of your family.

If you have daughters: Your girls, if you have any, will despise you later if you decide to "fix" the violent kid and you always comply. Especially if they suffer from your neglect or from that violence or both, directly or by proxy. They will want to be nothing like you if you look weak — and complying to a 12yo may be perceived as weak especially if he uses violence and coercive ways. You are also teaching them what you think women should accept and that it's ok to be hit or suffer the violence of a loved one. If you have sons, they might also perceive this because that's the standard you are setting.

You said your son burst in anger even after you complied... Think of a similar situation as an exercise: How would you feel if your husband, that you absolutely love and admire, would let people insult him in your presence and even let you insult him, without much reaction or consequence? You would probably be upset at his lack of self-respect, you would want him to get mad, rise up and be strong. You'd probably feel like bullying him to see if he can actually be strong. When you comply to your son easily, he also sees an adult he can easily dominate but the issue is that adult is his protector too. This is scary for a kid, parents are supposed to be the "strongest and safest" pillars. If he can dominate you and your husband, you 2 are not looking very safe to him. Can you imagine how much anxiety your compliance and good intentions may actually be creating in your child? That's why you might want to see a therapist with your husband and see if you 2 have the right mindset. Do not exclude your husband. It's important to both be truthful to each others and united. You as a mother absolutely need to NOT deal with your son's discipline alone or have little mom/son secrets, this is a HUGE mistake.

No matter if your son has some biochemical issues, psychological or mental problem, or is a future narcissist or psychopath or simply borderline... he cannot be allowed to hurt others. At this age he's probably nothing of the above and there's hope for him but not with homemade solutions. Also, know that it's very difficult to learn to live with any of these issues above and dealing with people who suffer from this is pretty much a life of emotional slavery. It's totally normal to not understand or not know how to behave with them and how to protect yourself from their drama/attacks. Even as a parent, you need to shield yourself sometimes from the emotional guilt attacks that will be used on you. Even "good" kids do it.

I’m telling you all this because your son sounds terribly like my brother who was violent with me (daily), who was doing the tantrum you described and all the destruction of walls, objects and even animals, obsession with his social status/appearance. Very superficial, liar, planning traps, doing triangulation to separate people, can't tolerate losing, clumsy in sports, little patience, terribly insecure, no particular skill, no art, looked at himself in the mirror every time he could, etc. He manipulated everyone who could have offered me help and I ended up totally isolated and vulnerable, and even more abused.

This started when he was about 7yo and maybe your son too started earlier but with the other kids (or pets). Now they probably found a self-defense technique (eg. mutual support, fight, etc.) so he cannot dominate them and turned to you because it works. If you are absolutely certain it's recent then maybe something else triggered this (eg. abuse). No matter what, don't theorize about his actions and see a therapist. You need to get his condition and behaviors on paper somewhere. Your kid will soon learn he can use the system against others, including you. You think the tantrums are bad? Wait until he gets older and plan fake suicide attempts to guilt trip the family when he cannot cope with the horrible "mistakes" (with consequences) he did or when he lies to the the authority...

I cannot write too much but I can tell you it does not get better if let alone. That destroyed my life and put me in a cycle of abuse as adult. For my bro, it gives him even more power to abuse others once adult since he is successful and not bothered by empathy. He did not stop as adult, only the techniques changed and he used them on others as well including his own kids. It's heartbreaking.

I developed those traumatic issues into adulthood (PTSD, nightmares) and very bad social skills since I've been taught these violent coward men-child are allowed to hurt me if they emotionally "regret it". I do feel like I was a scapegoat and my mom let it happened by pitying my aggressor and by preventing my dad from knowing some of the bad stuff she knew, to protect my bro from consequences he should have dealt with.

My brother is perfectly fine now in his own sick criminal ways, wealthy, has a family, good job, big house, money, is respected. Looks like a normal adult to others. My parents made their choice and probably underestimated the negative effects.

I'm not worried at all about your son, I'm worried about you and your (any) other kids.

My bro is most likely a psychopath or narcissist but he was first a boy with self-control issues, anger problems and an overprotective mom. To avoid any of these issues in adulthood, they need to be fixed now in youth.

  • I think your case is very important, but it's based on physical violence. The OP has not given any indication that the son physically assaults anyone. "Fighting" in the US can mean arguing, squabbling, raising one's voice, opposition, etc. You jumped to assault, upon which the bulk of your answer is based. You should really clarify this with the OP before making this assumption. Commented May 5, 2017 at 20:15
  • I cannot write comments with this throwaway account to ask questions :( Yes in my case there was a lot of physical violence seen as sibling rivalry but manipulation is psychological assault. It's actually a refined version of physical violence, the next phase kids learn. My brother used to physically hit me and control me, but later at 13 up to 35yo, he used intimidation, triangulation, lies, etc. I simply want to make sure the OP takes this seriously as a lot of people blame some issues on adhd or such, while the problem with SOME kids is much deeper and darker too.
    – hellooo
    Commented May 5, 2017 at 20:34
  • 1
    I think the OP really did not mean physical violence as the OP was seriously upset with the language and is "too embarrassed to even write the sorts of things he says". I think physical abuse would have been mentioned. However, you have some valid points for anyone who is going through something with an out of control child who also may be physical, or whose child is abusing their siblings. It's a very serious issue, but might not be the answer for this specific question. I'll ask the OP for you.
    – WRX
    Commented May 5, 2017 at 21:44
  • Thanks @Willow! One thing: my mom was never hurt physically by my brother (and neither by dad) but lot of guilt trip, screaming, hysterical reactions. Less with my dad. Bro even ended up blaming dad for "oppressing" him but he actually wasn't, he didn't even know half the stuff. Bro only used physical violence against me + pets. At school he fought a bit when young & oppositional with teachers. Highschool: became more manipulator + lot of lies. Attacked parents with their own personal couple problems (he'd listen to doors)! Mom ended up defending son vs dad, created extra split in the couple.
    – hellooo
    Commented May 5, 2017 at 22:33
  • 1
    I hope you feel like you have come through this stronger and okay... I hope that you will look for questions where your experience can help us all.
    – WRX
    Commented May 5, 2017 at 22:41

Take him for walks in the wood. This child needs to get grounded. And have him take his shoes off and walk - if the ground is amenable to it. If not, just spend a couple of hours with him every weekend if possible. Show him how to fish, gather wood for a fire, roast some marshmallows, eat lunch. He will love it, and come back a more grounded boy. Kids love to play in the "real" world.

  • 2
    I am sure this is a great thing to do with any child, but not sure how it helps with this specific problem. Why would this help stop the child from being verbally offensive or abusive? I think you need to add more to your answer.
    – WRX
    Commented May 6, 2017 at 19:50

The therapy idea will work if you take it seriously. If your son won't go, go yourselves.

I understand why it is a shock. I'd sit down in a quiet moment and explain the difference between and aggressive threat like, "F*** you" and a cuss like "F***, that hurt." I think he needs to understand that the former are "fighting words" and those get a negative response. The later might be not your first choice of language, but it is understandable.

Set goals and let him know the consequences for particular actions. never back down, unless you are wrong.


In addition to what others have said, I recommend Ross Greene's "The Explosive Child" and "Raising Humans". More information at http://www.livesinthebalance.org/ and online in parenting groups called "Plan B":

  • Plan A is the parent decides the solution to the problem
  • Plan B is a solution developed collaboratively
  • Plan C is leaving the problem unsolved because of other priorities.

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