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Ask Rene: Is It Puppy Love Or Much More?


Dear Rene:

I have a 15-year-old son who thinks he has a 13-year-old girlfriend. As soon as he wakes up in the morning, he’s on the phone with her and then spends all day talking to her. But that’s not the half of it. He’s doing poorly in school, doesn’t ever want to have dinner with his family and many times doesn’t get home until after 9 o’clock at night.

Recently he and I got into a huge fight and his girlfriend’s mother got involved. My own son called me a B*TCH in front of her! I don’t think I need to tell you how much that hurt. His girlfriend’s mother says it’s my son’s fault because he goes to their home all the time but I don’t want his girlfriend at mine. Let’s face it; if she weren’t in the picture he’d be home more. Last semester he was doing so well in school. Of course, that was before she came along. Now everything’s changed. My son treats me like crap and doesn’t even want to go out with me anymore.  Rene, is it the girlfriend? Is this just a crush or are they having sex? HELP!

Signed: Hurt and confused mom

Dear Hurt and Confused:

What the hell? Who’d driving the bus over there? Oh boy mom, you need to crack down and I mean like yesterday! I do think much of what you describe is normal, teenage, hormone-fueled behavior but that’s coupled with a healthy dose of disrespect and that needs to stop NOW! So here’s what I would do if I were you.

TAKE CONTROL: And by take control I mean take every single electronic device he has. Cell phone, laptop, X-Box, all of it! If he wants to show what a big man he is and defy your on that, cancel the contracts. I’m deadly serious about this. You need to get his attention and talking until you’re blue in the face is not going to do it. Hit him where it hurts, the electronics. I’m going to assume you are paying for all of this since it’s unlikely someone who talks on the phone all the time and stays out until 9 pm has any sort of job. And speaking of staying out until 9…..

PUT A CURFEW IN PLACE AND STICK TO IT! The electronic devices will be to him what a carrot is to a horse and he’ll do what he must to get to them. Put in writing (I’m a big fan of this) and make him sign all of the provisions that he must abide by to “earn” back the use of his phone, laptop or whatever. One of those provisions should be that he not spend more than a couple of dinners away from your home. Oh and he should NOT be staying out until 9 PM every night. No wonder his schoolwork is suffering; he’s probably EXHAUSTED!

MAKE AN ALLY OF HIS GIRFRIEND’S MOTHER: This is not a zero sum game. It is not you against her and her kid. But here’s the real reason you need to be on the same team; if you are not, you’re both going to be grandmothers together! I’m not saying that for shock value, I believe that! I don’t know how much unsupervised time the two of them have but I can almost assure you that late night+alone+teen hormones=baby. This is another reason to make sure your kid is not runnin’ the streets all hours of the night. What I find hard to believe is that the young girl’s mother doesn’t feel the same way! I don’t care who does it, but you and her mother need to put your pride aside and bridge the chasm between you so you can nip any out-of-control sexual behavior. This needs to be done STAT!

EXAMINE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR SON: There’s a lot going on here with the girlfriend, the teen hormones, your son’s desire for independence but I also feel like I hear a tad bit of jealously from you. You say he spends all his time with her and never wants to go anywhere with you; sadly that’s what happens as our kids get older. We, the parents, become decidedly unhip and they would rather go to the dentist without anesthesia than be seen anywhere near us. So for as much work as you need to do in laying down the law with your son, now might be a good time to figure out how you’re going to come to grips with the fact that he’s growing up. Though you’ll always be a part of his life, he will rely on you less and less.

A few closing thoughts. How is he getting to and from this girl’s house? If you are driving him there and picking him up that late at night, then you are enabling him, giving tacit approval to his bad behavior. And where is the male figure in his life? Father? Uncle? Male friend? If he doesn’t have one, you need to find one. That’s not to take away anything from the job you are doing as a mother but it’s clear you could use a little help (hey, we all do) in making your son toe the line, including understanding that he doesn’t EVER call you names.

Good luck mommy!

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  1. Jennifer

    July 29, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Rene – you are right on the money on all counts. And regardless of whether the ‘girlfriend’ was in the picture or not, the lack of respect for his mom is in a word: unnacceptable. Period.

    I’ve finally figured out that the electronic gadgets are the single most important thing to my 14 year old and I’ve set the ground rules and haven’t budged. If he screws up? He knows that he is losing his form of communication whether it be with a girl or a guy friend. It’s non-negotiable. He knows what’s at stake and I remind him ALL. THE. TIME. Just in case he forgets. I don’t have the father of my children around to defer to – so that makes me the boss. He knows that if he doesn’t like the rules AND doesn’t follow them? He’s free to go live with his father. So far, he hasn’t taken me up on it so as much as he fights me or argues with me? I know he knows he’s got it pretty good and why screw up a good thing? I stand firm and I think that’s what this mom needs to steer herself towards.

    I’d also like to know if she’s parenting alone or is the father in the picture?

  2. April Brucker

    July 29, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    You go girl! You are absolutely right. Mama needs to crack down yesterday. Obviously these kids are approaching an unhealthy level that is tettering on codependent. However, someone has to be the adult here and it has to be mom. The thing is, a lot of parents these days unfortunately want to be friends to their children. Yes, my mom an I are friends now that we are older but she was my mother first and foremost growing up and that role and order of the relationship has not changed. And it seems like this woman wants to be “friends” with her son and as you said, how is he getting to and from someone’s house.
    Just as in any addiction, someone always enables a codependent person. Once you stop enabling that person, they quit. It sounds like this puppy love is not only too much, but this woman needs to step up and be a mom.
    Also, who calls their mother a bitch let alone in front of their girlfriend? If I did anything like that I would be smacked in the face. I wouldnt even think to refer to my mother in that fashion. I am not saying I never clashed with my mother growing up but there are respect and boundaries involved. I bet if we go through this woman’s parenting history she knows nothing about that subject.
    Sure, junior might be creaming in his pants when he thinks of his lady, but his grades are going down the toilet. Correct the behavior before he can look back, realize this girl was a childhood thing, and say, “If only I had been studying math instead of studying that hottie.”

  3. Sandy Seale

    July 29, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    Totally agree. These behaviors don’t usually begin overnight. We all know that the best kids can give us issues during the teen years; but we still have to maintain control & demand respect. Whose paying for the phone? How’s he getting around? At 15 I wouldn’t think he’s driving & if so, whose paying his car expenses, etc.? Why is he allowed to just run amok with no limitations? As much as we would love to be our kids friend & have them like us, the bottom line is we are the parent, not friend & its up to us to have the strength to draw the guidelines & boudaries they should live within. I agree that this mom should have a long talk with the girls mom & together put forth a united front.. As for not wanting the girl at her house, what better way to keep an eye on whats going on. No bedroom or closed doors. You don’t have to sit right next to them but they do need to be in public areas & at limited times. I’m thinking both these parents have given over control to the kids long ago. If they don’t get that control back soon, this will just be the tip of the iceberg. All kinds of situations will arise from continued disrespect, ignoring your rules, pregnancy, which later can move on to alcohol, drugs, never having a clue where they are or when they’ll return…..which is usally when they get hungry, need money, or have no other place to crash. As for the grades dropping, that should be cause for grounding anyway so why are they even spending so much time together. Rules definitely need to be established as it sounds like none really exist at the present time. And if they do, its only lip-service as they are not being enforced. Kids NEED boundaries & often act out to get them…..its one way they know we love & care about them. Sometimes (my daughter told me this years later) that she’d secretly hope I’d say no when she sometimes ask me about going somewhere or doing something her friends wanted because she didn’t want to do it or was a little scared but didn’t want to look like a baby by saying no herself. So by me telling her NO, it gave her an out & saved face with her friends. She could then pretend to be pissed at me for saying NO. Having kids is definitely not easy & teenagers are the worst. But if you don’t let them walk all over you, they will eventually be your best friend once they’ve survived & grown into adults. I have three beautiful daughters who are now my best friends but I’m sure there were moments they “hated” me intensely 🙂 Hang in there mom….grow a pair & draw a line in the sand. For the kids sake as well as your own & you future relationship with him & his future in the world. One day someone is going to make him follow rules & someday people will tell him NO. He better learn how to deal with structure now before its too late.

  4. someone

    July 30, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    i’m a 14 year old boy… first of all, this is really stupid
    i go out at 8pm and don’t come back till 12pm, like all of my friends, the fact that he has to be back until 9pm sounds like torture!! and instead of taking his electronics away, try just talking to him… if you’re worried about him having sex, then go and ask him. if he says yes, just explain how important safe sex is.
    so what if he doesn’t want to go out with you?! that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you! and i missed a lot of dinners with my family, and they never said a word about it! oh, and yeah, by taking his electronics away, you wont make him listen to you, you will make him ignore you, and he will get annoyed at you no matter what you say. trust me, that’d hurt.
    and if they love each other, why shouldn’t they talk to each other?! i hardly thing girlfriend has to do anything with how he’s doing in school. oh, and just to remind you: school isn’t everything he should care about, and no, it’s not the most important thing for teenage boys. sorry 🙂
    and i’d probably say the same thing to my mom if she treated me like that… how could you get her mother involved?! thats the worst possible thing you could ever do!!!
    and let his girlfriend come at your place, its not bad. that way you will show that you respect your son’s decisions, that you trust him, and you will also show that you respect her enough to let her come into your home.

  5. Rene Syler

    July 30, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    @someone: your response is exactly way I would expect from a 14 year old, starting with calling my advice, stupid. Respect is earned, not demanded and calling his mother a B*itch is hardly showing his maturity. THX

  6. m.e. johnson

    July 30, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Is “Someone” related to “Doug”?

  7. *Shasha

    July 30, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Or better yet is someone a grown up masquerading as a 14 year old? The plot thickens..dum dum dum………

  8. Sandy Seale

    July 30, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    I actually thought both of those things M.E. & Shasha. I think its an adult just yanking our chain. If not, then he’s 14 & no disrespect “someone” but you haven’t lived long enough or had the experiences necessary to make this call. When you become a parent & realize the responsibility it carries & the lack of gratitude from those kids (at least til they grow up & have kids of their own), then you can voice your opinion. And I’d suggest you start by cultivating a little respect for those older than yourself. Thats not meant to be a slam but just a little advice that will help you in life.

  9. someone

    July 31, 2011 at 4:47 am

    @Rene, well, if she wants her child to ignore her.. yeah, she should do it. 😉
    okay, i agree, calling his mom a b*tch is wrong, and i think they should have a talk about that. but he shouldn’t be grounded like he killed someone!
    @Sandy, yeah, maybe i haven’t lived long enough. but i am living right now. when i have a child, i would like that child more to live happy and carefree while that child is teen, then to care if he/she missed a dinner at home!
    anyway, sorry for not liking what i said.. it doesn’t matter 🙂
    @Shasha, it’s not someone grown up, its me, a 14 year old boy.
    @hurt and confused mom do whatever you want, wish you luck with that! & i hope you and your son will wok it out somehow… 🙂

  10. Elizabeth Betrand

    July 31, 2011 at 6:42 am

    I agree with Renee’s advice wholeheartedly. The mother has to take control of the situation, by setting ground rules and structure in the household. Clearly, the son lacks respect for his mother which is disconcerting. This could lead into greater problems down the road, if this issue isn’t resolved soon.

    Moreover, the girlfriend’s mother needs to establish control over the situation as well, by stop allowing the boyfriend from coming over to the home.

    Quote from the letter: “His girlfriend’s mother says it’s my son’s fault because he goes to their home all the time but I don’t want his girlfriend at mine.”

    The girlfriend’s mother needs to set curfews and ground rules in placed and enforce it. As I’ve said previous discussions, a lot parents want to friend with their kids. But when things it out of hand and the parent decides to put his or her foot down, it’s too late.

    Of course a parent should listen to their child, allow them to express themselves and be their own person and make their own mistakes within reason; however, when you detect your child is not making responsible choses and its affecting their schooling, etc, then it’s time for the parent to step up to manage the situation.

  11. Rene Syler

    July 31, 2011 at 8:00 am

    @someone: Thanks for checking in again. I hope the best for them too. 🙂

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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