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Help repair my relationship with my 13-year old son.


I am at a loss for what to do as a parent. My 13-year-old son and I don't have any relationship at all. There is no emotional bond and we fight constantly. My son also is very manipulative, seeking attention in negative ways until he gets what he wants. He tells other people he doesn't feel loved and doesn’t want to live at home any more. I’ve tried going to a counselor but that didn't work. I really want to fix my relationship with my son before it's too late.


repair relationship

Whether your relationship with your son has always been strained or something triggered a change, it is clear you are hurting and would like to do some mending. You mentioned that you already tried counseling.  Please realize that it can take time for counseling to produce results, and that it often takes several sessions for the family members who are involved to simply build trust with the counselor.  Also, individual counseling can sometimes be beneficial as you reflect on and discuss things you might be able to change in order to repair the relationship.

As for your son's attention-seeking behaviors, he must learn that he needs to earn privileges, outings and words of praise by using positive behaviors. If you feel he is bullying you into giving him what he wants, you have to stick to your house and school rules and your expectations for him to follow them. You shouldn't have to yell or threaten if you set and explain your expectations ahead of time. When your son doesn't comply, you should simply restate what the expectation is, tell him what rule he broke and give a consequence, calmly and firmly, just like a police officer would issue a speeding ticket.

Another suggestion is to identify what you and your son DO have in common, what you both enjoy and what fun activities you used to do together. That means making time to be together to talk about topics you both enjoy (without bringing up problems), watch a movie or drive through his favorite fast food restaurant. He may whine about doing this at first, but be persistent. Hopefully, over time, he will relax and begin to enjoy doing things with you again.

Kids your son's age often think the grass is greener on the other side of the hill. If there is no option for him to live elsewhere, firmly let him know that moving out is off the table. If you do try counseling again, let him be part of the process. And let help make decisions about it; maybe he prefers talking to a male counselor or going to sessions on a certain night of the week. He may be more invested in counseling if he has a voice in how it happens.

The early teens are a tough age for kids and parents. It's not unusual for parent-child relationships to feel shaky or damaged. But by setting reasonable expectations and using consequences to either reward positive behaviors or correct negative behaviors, and also giving counseling another try, you'll be taking the first important steps toward mending and strengthening your relationship with your son.