Hi Jo and everyone,

First I would like to thank you Jo for your show. It works wonders with my girls, they even watch it with me sometimes. The problem I have is with my (step)son. I have raised him since he was three and in my mind, he is my son. At the moment there is no respect towards me, and sometimes to his mom as well. This seems to have been going on for a couple of years, but it is getting worse.

I have been told that it is a phase and that he will grow out of it, but I cant wait until he is twenty to realize that the boundaries we are trying to place on him are for his own good. For the most part, I believe him to be a good kid, he doesn't drink or do drugs, but when he is at home he takes pleasure in disrupting the family. We have tried numerous things to bring him in line, but he doesn't lift a finger around the house to help when he is there, he refuses to keep his room clean (probably the same for all teens), doesn't listen to simple things, like not eating after a certain hour. We have gone so far as to put a lock on the pantry but he breaks into it with butter knives, when we had a padlock on it he would continually pull on the door until it came out of the door frame.

I try hard to keep my cool, but sometimes it does come down to a shoving match. I just don't know what to do as it is putting a strain on my marriage and I am afraid his sisters are going to follow suit as monkey see, monkey do?
Any help is appreciated.


Raising teenagers is about clear lines of communications and respect. To appreciate that, remember your kids are not full-fledged adults, however they aren't nine years old either. But, we both know that becoming physical in a shoving match will not resolve it, rather it will hinder the relationship you have with him. Boundaries constantly need to be changed and if it has been a while, as he is now older and may be feeling some constraint, now maybe a good time to reevaluate.

As far as I see it, it's a give and take situation. You trust him and you give him more responsibilities and he takes the initiative to prove that he can act like a mature teenager. Breaking padlocks off of pantry doors isn't acceptable adult behaviour, but putting locks on them isn't really the answer either.

This is what he needs to know: you will enforce consequences if he disrespects his home; you will follow through without losing control; you will give him the opportunity to choose the day that he will respectfully clean his room and you will allow him to voice his opinions (even if you don't like what he has to say) in an amicable way.

If you listen and compromise (your wife and his mother need to be on-board as well) even when he gets a little bit cocky and thinks he can throw his weight around as this is to be expected, but how you deal with it needs to be unpredictable as your son knows exactly how you will act. So change it up so that he has no choice but to change as well.

Best wishes,

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