Advice needed with a teen-ager

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    Oct 10, 2011 3:59 PM GMT
    Hey guys I have a friend who is in need of advice. She is a step mom to a 14 year old boy who has been a bit of a problem child. He has terrible hygiene and seems to do everything he can to make things miserable for everyone. This past weekend he told her son (step brother) that he was gay. Now she is wondering what to do. I said do nothing and treat as non-issue. Curiously, she has suspected this and we have discussed his behavior before. I tend to feel that his bad behavior and bad hygiene are reflective of self loathing or very low self esteem at least. She is wondering if she needs to do something to try and get him on the right track, regardless of his orientation. If he continues on this path, it will lead to self destruction. What to do? What to do?
  • Timbales

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    Oct 10, 2011 4:02 PM GMT
    I'd suggest she get him to counseling to help him deal with his feelings.
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    Oct 10, 2011 4:17 PM GMT
    Timbales saidI'd suggest she get him to counseling to help him deal with his feelings.

    Counseling often includes instructing the parents and other adults in contact with the youth how to deal with him. It isn't all about the kid spending an hour on a clinical couch once a week, but in giving adults the tools to deal with the issue appropriately every day. In fact, the OP's friend may need her own formal counseling no less than her stepson.
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    Oct 10, 2011 4:18 PM GMT
    Thanks Tim. They have tried counseling in the past. He just lies to the counselor. The most recent counselor told them that he won't get anywhere until he's ready to start telling the truth. The dad interpreted this as no more counseling so ended the sessions. She is also fearful of putting her own son in an awkward situation.
  • Timbales

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    Oct 10, 2011 4:20 PM GMT
    they also may want to see if there is a local PFLAG that might be able to help them with helping him
  • SwimBIkeRun94...

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    Oct 10, 2011 4:41 PM GMT
    Good that they have tried counseling, but counselors come in varying degrees of quality. I suspect they might have had a bad one...

    She will get nowhere until she earns his respect. Tell a teen to not do something, and they do the opposite times ten.

    Have him make a suggestion of something he'd want to do together, and she must be prepared to follow through (within reason). If she shows him that she respects his wishes, it sets the stage for more open and respectful communication.

    Truth be told, it sounds like both of them need counseling though.
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    Oct 10, 2011 4:46 PM GMT
    Timbales saidthey also may want to see if there is a local PFLAG that might be able to help them with helping him

    A good suggestion, IF the kid is gay. Being gay could be part of his conflict. Or is declaring himself gay just another way for him to cause disruption and mess with everyone's minds?

    Some kids are seriously disturbed, and need clinical intervention. I have no idea if this is an example. But perhaps his step-parents need to be a bit more aggressive in seeking professional help for him.
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    Oct 10, 2011 4:54 PM GMT
    Thanks guys. We are very rural so no PFlag out here. She is open to counseling, but would be more will if the dad would go too. He seems to be over it all. She isn't supposed to know about the gay revelation and the dad certainly doesn't know.
    Funny you should mention disturbing. After problem child told good son about being gay, he was dancing around the yard like a ballerina. I said maybe he was happy to have a burden off his shoulders. She said he was really playing up the feminine.
    She isn't supposed to know so that's the dilemma. Is the homosexuality causing all the drama, or just another cry for attention.
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    Oct 11, 2011 3:00 AM GMT
    Anomalous saidThanks guys. We are very rural so no PFlag out here. She is open to counseling, but would be more will if the dad would go too. He seems to be over it all. She isn't supposed to know about the gay revelation and the dad certainly doesn't know.
    Funny you should mention disturbing. After problem child told good son about being gay, he was dancing around the yard like a ballerina. I said maybe he was happy to have a burden off his shoulders. She said he was really playing up the feminine.
    She isn't supposed to know so that's the dilemma. Is the homosexuality causing all the drama, or just another cry for attention.


    Only the boy knows for sure. Counseling for the boy no matter who else goes would be good. If the mother is having issues with any of it, then she should go to counseling no matter who else goes.

    When I was 17 I came out. My mom wanted me to go to a counselor. I did. When I went I told all. The counselor asked what my problem was. I said I didn't have one, and that my mom wanted me to go. He said, sounds like you don't have a problem and told me to suggest to my mother to go to counseling.

    I lived free.
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    Oct 11, 2011 3:08 AM GMT
    The 14 y.o. needs a boy friend- someone that he can speak the same 'language' with, someone that he can relate to. It would probably go a long way, with the best results.
  • ohioguy12

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    Oct 11, 2011 3:23 AM GMT
    What's the problem? When I was 14 I was gay and didn't have great hygiene (like many 14 year olds). It doesn't seem like much of an issue to me, he'll out grow his hygiene problem.
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    Oct 11, 2011 1:29 PM GMT
    Thanks guys for all of your input. The problem isn't just bad hygiene or nomal bad behavior--that is expected with any teenager. His behavior is much more self destructive and now he's thrown an "I'm gay" into the mix so my initial dilemma was how to proceed with helping him. Is his behavior due to deep seated issues because of homosexuality, or as art deco suggested, is it just another way to be disruptive. I can look at some of his interests and mannerisms and can see the potential for a gay person there, but I can also see a gender confused person. So mom's conundrum is that she has information that she isn't supposed to have, but that information could be a major part of why he is acting the way he is. What does she do as far as the gay issue? Nothing? Try to be supportive with the gay thing regardless if it's true or not?
    I'm hoping some other parents or younger guys can help too.
    I am sharing all responses with her and she is also very appreciative.
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    Oct 11, 2011 1:52 PM GMT
    he needs to know its competitive out here and that he will definitely go home empty handed if he doesnt master washing his ass. That's a nono
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    Oct 11, 2011 1:59 PM GMT
    ohioguy12 saidWhat's the problem? When I was 14 I was gay and didn't have great hygiene (like many 14 year olds). It doesn't seem like much of an issue to me, he'll out grow his hygiene problem.

    My oldest son had a problem with hygiene. But then he had rather extreme ADHD, which I actually thought was almost autism, and in the shower he simply wouldn't wash himself, just stood there like in a trance. His mother or I had to wash him down, especially his hair, which he'd never touch. Left to himself he'd just get wet, but never use soap and get clean.

    He improved around 13 to the point where we could usually trust him on his own. But in many other respects he acted perfectly normal & competent for his age, and was a good student.

    So when I read here about poor hygiene I wonder if this boy doesn't need a complete psychological evaluation. By a trustworthy psychologist who won't blame it all on his being gay (if he really is), or some other inane cause based more on religious & political beliefs than modern secular science.
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    Oct 11, 2011 2:04 PM GMT
    Does he have friends? What are they like?

    When did his bad behavior start? Are his parents still together?

    Unfortunately, this a rough road, especially for parents. Often by this age teenagers are highly resistant to influence from their parents, authority figures and professionals. Their friends are about the only ones who can influence him.





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    Oct 11, 2011 2:08 PM GMT
    If he's just being bratty, I wouldn't hesitate to be firm and punish severely, as deemed appropriate. But this sounds like a lot, a lot of low self-esteem from what you've said. This is just my observation though.Young people (I'd consider myself still young) tend to have a lot more insecurities about ourselves because we haven't reached a stable set of beliefs and haven't accumulated confidence about ourselves yet.

    Perhaps his mum could sit down and have a really long chat where the the kid can just spill his guts out. I would think that a parent's sincerity to understand and help will be able to get through even despite his disruptive nature. I always find talking and confiding really helps to ease a lot of the burden.

    Someone also mentioned him getting a new guy friend to talk/relate to better. Maybe his mum could encourage him to be more social and outgoing, and to make more close friends, when he's more confident afterwards?
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    Oct 11, 2011 2:49 PM GMT
    For me, coming from an extremely similar situation when I was his age, I'd say encourage the mother to talk to him about it. And directly. She should tell him that she knows and affirm him and encourage him. She should tell that she knows and how she knows and empower him immidiately.

    Let's face it, the game completely changes when you know you're accepted. It changed it for me after a long struggle with my mom as I'm sure it did for most people when their families or/and friends stood by us.

    Also, I think he should have someone to talk to. Like a mentor almost, who is also gay and experienced. It doesn't have to be a shrink- in fact I'd say not a shrink because kids that age usually associate going to a shrink with being seen as crazy. You don't want that... Sounds to me like this kid needs to be empowered, but also firmly. You need to show him love but at times be a little harder on him, because if he is as rebellious as you say, he'll try take advantage of the affection.
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    Oct 11, 2011 4:11 PM GMT
    Thanks again this is very helpful. His stepmom is one of my best friends so I know the situation well. Stepmom and dad are engaged and have been together for 10 years. Child was living with his biological mother for most of the time. I know he was heavily medicated when he was younger (add) but a couple years ago the biological mom decided she wanted nothing more to do with him and basically disowned him. I understand the mental anguish that goes with this. Step mom has tried to reach out but it seems like it's all a game to him. He'll be "the perfect son" when others are around, but then a complete ass privately. I told her she ought to just call him window because his games are so transparent.
    He is pretty much a loner from what I gather, and the ones he does hang out with are kids most parents would rather he not. She wants to help and would consider more counseling. So that is a start. Again, thanks everyone.
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    Oct 11, 2011 4:27 PM GMT
    First off, his step-mom needs to assure him that being gay is not a bad thing, and is nothing to be ashamed of. That should take care of most of his problems. If he continues to be a spoiled brat, she should stop spoiling him...but still show love.
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    Oct 11, 2011 4:47 PM GMT
    Timbales saidI'd suggest she get him to counseling to help him deal with his feelings.


    That's the last thing you want to do for someone acting this way. A rebel isn't going to shape up when he hears "You're going to a psychiatrist for your problems..." The adults won't say that of course, but that's all the kid will hear, and you've guessed it... he'll rebel.

    Counseling is a great tool if the party that needs it wants it, not when it's forced upon them.
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    Oct 11, 2011 4:48 PM GMT
    Anomalous saidThanks Tim. They have tried counseling in the past. He just lies to the counselor. The most recent counselor told them that he won't get anywhere until he's ready to start telling the truth. The dad interpreted this as no more counseling so ended the sessions. She is also fearful of putting her own son in an awkward situation.


    Didn't see this till after my reply...
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    Oct 11, 2011 5:15 PM GMT
    If this brat lies to counselors, is reluctant to grow close to his family, cannot be reasoned with philosophically, and does not take anyone seriously, then there are alternatives.

    Instead of a psychoanalytic approach, find a psychologist who specializes in behavioural cognitive therapy. The therapist will not devote most resources to the understanding of why the patient is a mess (which is what psychoanalysis does) but will instead focus on trying to change behaviour and attitude in a way that empowers the patient. The patient will learn how to gain more mastery of his own thoughts and actions so that he is not a prisoner of his emotional outbursts. He will become more connected to the world around him.

    A second approach is behavioural modification, which is a popular and effective approach for dealing with severe behaviour children and teens. This really works. If you've ever watched "Super Nanny" on TV, she uses classic b-mod techniques for young children; but techniques based on similar principals exist for teens. Pretty much every school system these days has teachers on staff (usually who teach in classes of severe behaviour children) who you can turn to for advice on setting up a b-mod program at home, and maybe in conjunction with the school. Here's a link I found that provides an academic definition http://www.ehow.com/about_4680046_positive-behavior-modification-plans.html

    A little background...As a young adult I worked for a few years in b-mod programs in classroom settings for all age groups and intellectual levels of children and teens. In my personal life I've had a fair amount of experience with both psychoanalysis and behavioural cognitive therapy.
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    Oct 11, 2011 6:09 PM GMT
    If you ask me, its time for mom and dad to get in therapy and figure out how to reign in their son. Got a 14 year old myself and yes have to remind him periodically that he stints, or not to wear a shirt 3 days in a row. Took him clothes shopping for some pretty cool surf wear and that peaked his interests in looking a bit more tight. Of course he has not been a behavioral problem, so he still responds to rewards for positive behavior, loss of priviledges for negative behavior. Bottom line mom and dad need to get involved asap cause its only going to get worse. If they don't have the straigth to get solid and consistent boundries in place, then they may need to look into one of those tough love, problem teen programs. Most of those employ b-mod approach, but have a control and consistency advantage that mom and dad may lack. As to him being gay, I'd say that's a none issue for now. Just my 2 cents. Now when my 12 yr old daughter hits her teen years, then I'm going to be screwed (and not in a good way).
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    Oct 11, 2011 6:42 PM GMT
    I'm surprised everyone's taking the stepmother's word as fact.

    I wonder if it's the mother who has the problem. Control freak mothers expecting a teenager to do as told are nothing new. It could very well be that the mother has a counterproductive attitude and a very negative character. She might be treating the kid with less than genuine affection and emotional support.

    By the way, what is "hygiene problem" exactly? It could be one of so many specific behaviours or just plain imagination of a hygiene obsessed mother. Is it like the kid is not washing his hands before meals or what?
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    Oct 12, 2011 8:35 PM GMT
    Wow so many responses, again thank you.
    For some more facts: child is not spoiled. Didn't mention that he wasting. A lot of his behavior is teenager lashing out, which we understand. As for his hygiene: he does wear the same clothes days in a row. He will not shower with soap and his skin is broken out all over his neck and chest. He does physically stink. As far as mom being obsessed with hygiene, I've never known her to be like that. Her other son doesn't seem to have a problem, and he is 13. He will get up late so that he's too late to get a shower in.
    I've been around the whole family many times and mom and dad love each other. Mom's son is very much part of family. Dad's son is the one trying to drive in the wedge. I have seen her try to include him and I have seen tough love. The original question is does his revelation of being gay have anything to do with his behavior. Or is this just another thing to throw out there to try and disrupt the family. I could see him being gay by watching many of his mannerisms, but most (all) gay people I know care at least a little bit about their appearance. Does this lack of self esteem stem from being gay? Would empowering that gayness help the parents out or would telling him they know just push him farther away?
    I think he should be sent to Boys Town (the real one) or military school, but I am not a parent or a teenager, so my insight is a bit lacking.
    Thanks again. It all helps.
    She is looking into counseling for herself at least, based on some of your recommendations.