Teenage son ups & downs


My husband and I have a teenage son (13.5 years old) who is growing fast and soon will be my height! He is lovely, and despite the turbulence of early adolescence, we are well connected to him, and things are going well enough.

However, what I’m bringing today is the classic issue many parents have about too much screen time and not enough good work doing homework. My husband and I have taken some first steps to have him off screens before 6 pm on weekdays (going well). But there’s more to be done.

Excessive gaming and phone use are linked with my son, with bad behaviour. For example, this weekend, he lost his temper really badly (happens quite rarely with son, but when it does, it’s intense!). I went into the living room; he was gaming with a friend. I said he hadn’t done enough work today and was on his screens too much, which led to him losing it and behaving in quite a vile way.

During his tantrumy anger, he kept repeating that he had felt insulted because I’d called him a liar. My husband and I reacted quite well. We didn’t lose it in response; we turned WiFi off for the evening.

Our son ended up re-doing his homework on his own accord. Even though there was lots of swearing and bad talk during his tantrum, by the evening, he was calmer, and we had a helpful conversation about what we expect, what he expects etc.

I wanted to bring my feelings and thoughts during the moment of the tantrum. I think I reacted well (in my behaviour) but accused myself inside. These are patterns, so it might be helpful to unpack them here. Here are today’s models on this.

Unintentional Model
C: Son shouting yesterday and saying various things including swear words
T: We are too lenient, not good parents – look how he’s behaving! He will be spoiled and antisocial!
F: guilt
A: can lead to feelings and thoughts of confusion about what to do, what actions/responses, can lead to us as parents blaming each other, leads to not noticing and not reinforcing the many many good times we have and the strong connection we have with him, inaction
R: in this state of mind we don’t react consistently & clearly

Intentional Model
C: Son shouting yesterday and saying various things including swear words
T: We are navigating a balance between firmness/consequences and connection during the tricky period of early adolescence. It’s never going to feel perfect and that’s OK.
F: self-compassionate
A: connected to husband, clarify priorities with husband: where do we respond firmly? What do we allow to pass? Keep revisiting, conversations with son & husband regularly, lightness of touch, but at the same time, firmness when needed
R: act with clarity, firmness and kindness, using metaphor of keeping the ship steady during the storm