I have a 17 year old son and my problem is that he does not let me approach him to communicate with him as much as I would like. He never trusts me with any of his personal problems and prefers to spend time in his room communicating with his friends, which I understand – but find it excessive to the extent that he does it. He tends not to talk to me at all about his friends, about his relationships, about his life and he does not want me to interfere in his life at all. Although he is not violent, he often has a suspicious and aggressive attitude towards me. He questions everything I say to him and he judges it, as if he believes that I am constantly trying to make fun of him. He refuses even the slightest smidgen of advice I give him and it is much worse when I tell him that something he did was not right. He often belittles me and tells me that “I don’t know” what I’m talking about.
I do not know how to approach him, and I tell myself that he is still immature and I hope that growing up he will relax and become more open. I have thought that maybe he should talk to a specialist but he does not want to hear that either. I would like your opinion.
Many times behind ‘immature’ behavior can be hidden a feeling of personal inferiority, the belief that someone is not good enough. The most common way in which one may react to a feeling that is very disturbing is to try to cover it up. That is why he often denies any criticism that will make him feel uncomfortable and may bring his shortcomings to the surface again. He tries to impose his views strongly, without arguing calmly, and he can become aggressive when others disagree with him. He may seem emotionally self-sufficient and self-assured, but in reality he is vulnerable, hurt, and unable to manage his emotions.
The way one perceives oneself has to do with how one feels about being ‘seen’ by important others in one’s life, especially in childhood. A child who feels that he is not loved for what he is, who is often criticized, that important others see him and point out his mistakes and inadequacies, is likely to grow up to feel that he is not worthy and this will determine his entire adult behavior.
Maybe something similar happens in your case. You write to me that your son does not tell you what he faces in his life, does not tell you about his relationships or what concerns him. If this behavior is similar with other important people in his life, he may be hiding a feeling of personal inadequacy or lack of trust in others.
But if he behaves this way mainly towards you, maybe this is a sign that your child for some reason does not trust his relationship with you. In this case, it might be helpful for you to talk to a mental health professional so that you can understand what is wrong with your relationship with your son and how you can fix it.
All people carry wounds from childhood. The only way to heal them is to accept them, look at them with love, and want to overcome them. The ‘immaturity’ in these cases lies not so much in the behavior as in the difficulty of realizing the reality of one’s life, forgiving important others for their mistakes, and moving on. Unfortunately, this is a process that cannot be imposed from outside. However, many people, growing up and realizing that parts of their lives are malfunctioning, decide to enter the redemptive process of psychotherapy and gain a more conscious and happy life.
Stavroula Tsoutsa is a Certified Holistic Professional Life Coach, ICF ACC, Certified Heartmath Coach/Mentor and Trainer, and Certified Points of You Practitioner.