He has been doing absolutely nothing during his last school years. He goes to school when he feels like it and he never does his homework. The teachers call me and tell me they know he can do it, he just chooses not to.
I want to offer a little background here: I am divorced from his father; we divorced when our son was 2-year-old. He used to see his father every weekend, but that has also changed within the last year.
He does not want to go over there. My son has a real big problem with me. If I question him about something or set rules, it is total chaos.
He will not listen to me and he says it is a free country and he can do whatever he wants. He somehow has the idea that I should not be telling him what to do, that it is none of my business where he goes, who he is with, or when he will be back.
I am at my wits' end. I do not know what to do. I have tried talking to his dad about it; I tried to get him to talk to our son, but to no avail. Either he does not know what to say to him, or he just does not want to cause problems.
In this counseling answer:
•Raising your son is not your job alone; therefore, I urge you strongly to involve your former husband immediately.
•If you (as parents) are not ready to talk together with your son, then you need to consider sending him for counseling.
•Help him to see that setting limits is a part of life. There are limits.
As-salamu `Alaikum dear sister,
May Allah Most High reward you for the love and concern you have for your son’s well-being. Here are some thoughts for your consideration.
First, although you are divorced, raising your son is not your job alone; therefore, I urge you strongly to involve your former husband immediately. He needs to take responsibility for his son. If he does not know what to say to the boy, then he needs to learn it.
You cannot dismiss his critical role in all this by saying that he “just does not want to cause problems.” You need to impress upon him that his lack of involvement at this stage will actually cause more problems.
Please talk to your former husband and get him involved in your son’s life immediately. Encourage your ex-husband to learn from good examples of fathers of teenage boys—how they talk to their sons, how they befriend their sons, and most importantly, how they advise their son to respect their mothers and women in general.
Second, if you (as parents) are not ready to talk together with your son, then you need to consider sending him for counseling so that he can talk to a third party about what he is experiencing. We believe that your son was affected severely by your divorce.
Much of his lackadaisical attitude towards school, and life in general parallels the attitudes of other children whose parents divorced when the children were very young. These children feel lost, to some degree, and are unable to make sense of the world around them because they saw that when things got difficult, one of their parents just walked away.
These children have a feeling of “if my parents did not care about me, why should I care about life or about success? What is my purpose in life?” This also explains to some degree his resistance to any effort from you to discipline him. He is upset with the divorce, but since he only has contact with you, he directs his frustration and anger towards you.
This is one possible explanation for your son’s behavior. You should not tolerate it because you do not deserve it. However, you can turn him around by trying, even at this late stage, to become your son’s friend. Just be there for him, listen to him, do not judge him immediately if you hear something not to your liking.
Third, you should not give up being his mother, no matter how much he protests or acts as if he does not need you. As long as he lives in your home, he must abide by your rules. Of course, you should take care not to set up unrealistic expectations about what he can and cannot do. For example, if you do not intend to enforce a certain rule, do not make a big deal out of it. Focus on those behaviors of his that you can do something about.
Help him to see that setting limits is a part of life. The country is free, but one cannot drive when the traffic light is red, one cannot yell “fire” in a crowded theater. There are limits.
Once you establish a comfortable relationship with your son, he will appreciate what you are trying to do with him, in sha’ Allah.
Check out this counseling video
Finally, please do take care of yourself. You should seek out other single mothers and see how they are handling the stress of being a single parent.
Especially seek out those mothers who are raising boys. Such social support will comfort you and inspire you to improve your relationship with your son. Make du`aa’ to Allah to strengthen your relationship with your son and to grant you the strength and perseverance to raise a righteous son.
And Allah knows best.
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.