Friday, March 14, 2008

Adolescence Hits

My friend Doozie and I were catching up recently. I emailed her a recent problem I've been having with my son and then I realized that perhaps YOU can help me.

Because my child has an IQ that is 1 point higher than Einstein's, his version of adolescence is weirder than anything I've seen. His father and I both have high IQs but nothing can prepare you for waking up one day and finding out that you have Mr. Spock sitting across from you at breakfast.

Yes, Mr. Spock. My son, in his rebellion, is behaving like a Vulcan.

I have never seen anything quite like it. He has become more logical, more reasoning, and more adult than most adults. But his logic and reasoning are in appearance only for, as I'm sure you understand, he's still a child. After all, he's only 14 1/2. Oh yes - he's right more than he's wrong. But even if he's wrong, he will not be swayed.

As he gets angry, he gets colder. Even the temperature of the room seems to drop, as if Mr. Freeze has just walked in. There is no appealing to him, there is no reasoning with him. He KNOWS he's right, and will not be moved.

When *I* was a teenage jerk, I was hot-headed and openly rebellious. However, while Mr. Spock is openly rebellious, he develops this rigid exterior and a face that looks as if it's chiseled out of stone. I don't know how to get through sometimes!

And getting a kid who towers over me to obey me is (so far) still working. But barely. And that concerns me greatly.

Here's an excerpt of what I wrote to Doozie:

"He was absolutely perfect until this last month when puberty hit. Now he's a rude Mr. Spock (Star Trek). WTF??? I don't get it. My mom thinks he's behaving this way because he's learned to bottle up his emotions due to all the divorce crap that my ex put him through (very possible).

Sometimes he's back to being my 'twin' and we have a marvellous time, (NOTE: I'm not saying I'm being his "buddy" but that we have always been so much alike and seen eye-to-eye) ...but he can 'snap' on a dime. However, Mr. Spock's 'snapping' is different than anything you've seen. He gets very 'grownup' and peers down his nose at me (he's taller now) and tries to correct and parent ME. He also flat out says he disagrees with me now about certain things and says it very coldly. HOW DO YOU DISCIPLINE THAT???

I have told him I don't like his attitude, but it's a tough one to pin down and inexplicable. HE says it's not the hormones influencing him, but it is (he's got all the other signs). My dad says at this age they have 3-4x the hormones they have at any OTHER age and obviously it's true, but this is Super High IQ Rebellion and a tough one to nail down and punish.

Last night he was coldly disagreeable to my mom in front of others at Bible Study and was all 'weird' during the whole thing (squirming, fidgeting, not listening to others) so I made him apologize to Mom and she was all grandmotherly and said it was OK.

I said "Mom, it's not OK - you don't understand you were just insulted!!!" Then I told Mr. Spock to go apologize to Dad and he REFUSED TO.

So, I hissed at him "GET IN THE STUDY! NOW!" and in the study we had it out. I was mad, of course, and he was (of course) Mr. Spock. Which made me MADDER.

He told me he had nothing to apologize for. I said "YES YOU DO." He said he wouldn't go do it. At this point, I tried to be my fiercest and drew myself up to his nose, and wagged my finger in his face, and declared that I would make his life a living HELL if he didn't. So, he resignedly went out and pulled Dad aside.

Thankfully, Dad gets it and agreed with me, because when Mr. Spock got him into a private conversation, he and started it out by saying "Well, Mom says I have to apologize to you."

And Dad said to him "This is no way to apologize!" Then Dad said, "Apparently we need a little talk" and DAD got on Mr. Spock.

Mom is being totally a grandmother and doesn't get that this is Mr. Spock being rebellious. Dad and I get him better... but this is going to be a weird adolescence."

SO, here's the summary: In my family, it is agreed that he should not be punished for being cold or analytical. However, 'attitude' is really what he's displaying (though not overtly). It's tough to pinpoint 'attitude' when it's delivered with cold precision.

However, It IS agreed that he should be punished for outright rebellion (such as refusing to do something) although he is, of course, entitled to disagree about other things.

After he IS punished (by grounding) he still maintains he's not sorry and he was right. He will sometimes concede he was wrong in the WAY he said something, but will not apologize for anything else.

Mom (who currently counsels) thinks I need to concentrate on winning his heart and that forcing him to a certain mold will be ruinous. However, she does agree that grounding is necessary when there's outright defiance. She felt that this particular situation didn't merit my response, but she hasn't been parenting this kid all his life. I know him. I know he was being snotty.

Dad gets it, but (like myself), he is left with more questions than answers. In the past I haven't had to discipline him much. Mr. Spock has been spanked maybe 3 times in his entire life, and grounded more frequently, but over all, he's been The Perfect Child.

Zen's son grew up to become an abusive, drug-using, lazy, rude loser who can't get off his butt to even change a light bulb. Even Zen hates him (and says so). I know that Zen's son is an extreme example, and I don't seriously think that Mr. Spock will be anything like him, because Mr. Spock has better morals and has had better examples. Still, I don't know what could go wrong and that worries me.

I don't counsel women on family matters any more, and I'm way too close to this to be properly analytical. Additionally, I don't recall encountering this before (although there is similarity to my own adolescence). I would like some objective opinions.

Any thoughts?


Anonymous said...

All I can say, is although I don't think myself as smart as your son, I acted much the same when I was going through adolescence, and there really was nothing my parents could do to get through to me. Eventually I grew out of it and that is about it. I wouldn't just ignore it, but getting mad about it, isn't going to change anything. Punish him, but I wouldn't bother arguing with him, and remaining calm and cool is much more effective than acting angry. If I were you I would make your point and then drop it, make sure your son knows what he did was wrong/rude/etc. but then just drop it. Forcing him to apologize probably doesn't make any difference either, I apologized plenty of times for things and I never meant it and just about never felt bad. I realized later on that I was wrong, but I wasn't going to admit it. Those are just my thoughts as someone who acted much the same way.


Valerie - Still Riding said...

I never appreciated the severity of hormones in young men until I hit menopause. They mess with your very thought processes and the difficulty of control over the animal in you? Whew.

Explain that the society we live in expects certain behavior from anyone, genius or moron. You are trying to teach him socially acceptable behavior. If he won't learn it from you the world will teach it to him more hurtfully.

A rude dude don't get no respect, isn't invited back and doesn't look brillant, only stupidly stubborn.

There is nothing wrong with making a mistake. Everyone else will know it's a mistake, too. Admit it, apoligize and move on.

The other thing I offer is that I see by insisting only I am right on any point I lose the interaction of learning another way to think about it.

I try to live what I believe and let the rest of the world do the same.

If there is no harm to another being done I have no need to step in.

I don't have to be right to anyone but myself.

He may be too young to see this.

Uncle Joe said...

I have a job for you at my blog.

I'll have to think about this and come back.

Groovy Mom said...

I don't have any answers. My son is 17 and is outwardly very compliant. He is also brilliant. His rebellion comes in the form of forgetfulness and flightiness. At least I think it's rebelliousness. I mean how can he "forget" every single day to do his chores and that he has to finish school work before he plays video games? We battle daily, but when I'm talking to him and grounding him he is very polite, but the same issues come up over and over.

I think we just need to get through this time the best we can, maintain a sense of humor, and yes, try to protect our relationships with our sons and not turn them away from us. How to do all that? I'm clueless, just bumbling along every day because I've never raised a teen aged son before. :-P

Ed Abbey said...

I was a lot like your soon too at times. I eventually grew out of it and realized much later that my parents had been right most of the time. Although I am a parent, my child is less than 2 so I'm not really qualified yet for advice. But I have a hunch a previous commenter was right. Avoid debates with your teen because it will probably go nowhere. Just ground them and if they still refuse to admit it, reground them until they do. If they know you are serious with punishments, your are probably less likely to get into confrontations.

The Lazy Iguana said...

I would send him to a Star Trek convention.

Really. Send him to a Star Trek convention. Give him a hand clicker thing and tell him to count the chicks he sees there. Chicks there selling plastic phasers do not count - he will have to find chicks attending the convention dressed up in a Star Fleet uniform!

Once he can not find any, the lesson is clear. Chicks do not like Mr. Spock. At all. Not even a little bit.

Uncle Joe said...

That's the age I was when I started rebelling against my mom.
She had this bad habit of slapping me hard in the face whenever we would get into a disagreement. She had a harder time with my 'growing up' than I did, I think.

I think I was tired of being slapped, plus the hormones. Another thing was that I realized I was finally taller than her and didn't have to put up with it anymore.
She had another bad habit of always having to be right.
She also made the mistake of attempting to apply'Freudian' principles to my adolescence. That was the worst mistake she could have made.
She would say things like "Well, Sigmund Freud says..... and start some silly conversation that made absolutely no sense to me. I was 16 and 17 at this time.
She realizes she made a lot of mistakes today and was probably reacting in the same way her parents reacted to her. I don't really know cause she never talked about it.
I think it's just part of your son growing up and there is a possibility of you not recognizing your 'old' son for a long time. The bigger possibility is that it is just a phase and you and his dad gently ushering him into adulthood will work wonders.

The mixture of personality + hormes can seem to be toxic for a while.

Another way (and I'll shut up here) is to try to react to his behavior with a sense of humor.Using humor to make your point.
That's not easy to do.
Somedays I'm smart enough to do that with my kids and somedays I fail miserably.

Emma Sometimes said...

You have some sage advice here already. (now I see intent of your email request)

You nailed it Saur. It boils down to attitude and the deeper issue of respect, not whether he's right or wrong.

Being right will end with disrespecting and offending people...and being alone or being hurt and alone. It took me until I was in my thirties to learn. Sad but true.

Good for Dad for stepping up and working with you, united in teaching your son. That's outstanding.

In my *own* experience I have found my kids' actions are a telling mirror of what they are absorbing. This certainly does not mean you are the problem here, only that you would be the best to discern if he is emulating outside influences (school, friends, movies, games, Star Trek ;o) ....etc)

I'd share with him that it's good that he is becoming more of an independent thinker, you encourage that but with the exception that there is a difference between being right and being heard. It's all about respect.

I don't think I can add any more than what was already said.

M@ said...

Of course he'll deny that he's influenced by an influx of hormones. His brain is still developing. It's hard to see the forest for the trees when you're a prisoner of your own subjective reality, as with anyone.

Anonymous said...

huh? is he a chip off the ole' block? maybe you don't want to see that

Jamie Dawn said...

You've got a hard nut to crack. (That's my newly found AR way of saying that your problem is a difficult one.)
The rebellion really is the issue here because his reasoning and analytical way of looking at things is just the way he is. Those things will serve him well in the future, I am sure.
You are right to hold him accountable for his behavior and any disrespect he shows to others.
Because he is is very intelligent, he will always be able to find a way to justify what he has done. To him, his rebellious actions or words make sense.
I don't have any great advice other than for you to make it clear what is acceptable and not acceptable, regardless of how he perceives things. Hopefully, he will begin to see how some of your way of thinking makes sense too. Imagine THAT!!
Keep on being a good mom, and I wish you well as you parent your son.

AQ said...

Been there done that. I'll refrain from giving much advice, because I truly believe that each kid is different. What works for one, might not work for another.

That being said, here are two things to think about: 1) Choose your battles wisely. 2) Don't mistake a bad mood or sullenness for disrespect.

No. 2 is harder than it seems.....

krok56 said...


Luckily at this point there is nothing you can do. You can't change genetics and by the time a child reaches 14.5 all the damage has been done.

I remember going to school with this really smart guy and he now sells watches in the mall. I tell you I need a new watch.

Excellent post.