My son Omar is 14 years old now. He was a very polite and biddable child, but now he's hurting me, his father, and his sisters by his bad behavior:
1. He does not let me know about his movements when he goes out at night.
2. He becomes moody and silent (sulky) for hours when reprimanded or thwarted.
3. He never apologizes when he's wrong.
4. He isn’t concerned about his schoolwork or homework.
5. He wants us to give him more pocket money than the sum agreed, and to review the amount every six months in the light of rising expenses and the changing nature of his commitments, even though he knows his father’s salary and that we don’t have enough money.
In this counseling answer:
• You must now arm yourself with the appropriate skills to deal with him and to let him go.
• You have to start treating your son with all his problems and difficulties as a person who is about to become an adult.
• Don’t give him any pocket money without some kind of understanding that he has to earn it in some way.
• Try to give him his own private space, and, if possible, a room.
• If you get into conflicts, make it clear that you do not hate or dislike him; he is always your dear son, but you heartily hate or dislike certain behaviors.
As-salamu `Alaikum Dear Sister,
Congratulations! I see that you are entering the elite club of parents driven mad with worry by their teenage sons!
Fourteen is a wonderful age—full of hormones, spots, urges, new strengths, and so on, and parents who cannot cope with the new developments.
I see a few clues in your letter that lead me to suspect that Omar is absolutely “on the ball,” and rapidly developing the talents of a barrack-room lawyer in parental manipulation.
You must now arm yourself with the appropriate skills to deal with him and to let him go.
He is no longer a child but a young man, and the changes are going to be as awkward for you as they no doubt will be for him.
You say he was always biddable before, but now is hurting you and his sisters by his behavior. I translate this to mean that he always used to do as he was told but is now he is feeling a need to have some privacy and do his own things, and he will object vociferously if he feels he is being treated like a child or in the same way as his female siblings.
Omar has been born male. At his age, in many times and places, many young males were expected to fight in battles, were preparing to take on their first wives, and so on.
These days, in the so-called civilized world, we try our hardest to keep them young as long as possible and to protect them as long as possible.
Really, the best gift we can give our young is to enable them to grow up to the best of their abilities, with the finest possible characters, and to be the most independent they can be in order to look after themselves (and a family if they are male), and to make their best possible contribution to society.
In short, you are going to have to start treating your son with all his problems and difficulties as a person who is about to become an adult.
I would not give him any pocket money without some kind of understanding that he has to earn it in some way—and you must think through those ways together. If he does not understand your financial position and the cost of living, it is time he started to learn.
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I would try to give him his own private space, and, if possible, a room in which he is not going to be invaded by females or female things and interests.
Try not to pry. He is going to develop all sorts of interests, longings, talents, hobbies—if he is not just a couch potato—and you will not be able to prevent it, nor should you wish to, unless his behavior becomes really foolish or dangerous.
You must make it clear to him that you expect courtesy and consideration, in return for which, you will be scrupulously fair with him.
There is no reason why any adult should hand out pocket money to any person who is rude or discourteous or refuses to take full part in the required household chores.
If you get into conflicts, make it clear that you do not hate or dislike him; he is always your dear son, but you heartily hate or dislike certain behaviors. Be prepared for him to tell you which of your own behaviors he dislikes himself.
It is always very hard for a parent to stand back and let a son develop, but I feel you may have to do this. I hope that if he is allowed a bit more of his own time and space, he will not let you down.
Good luck and God bless.
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