Our 18-year-old son, the eldest of five children, has changed over the past six to 12 months. He is good in that he is not into drinking and staying out late.
However, we feel he has changed completely since he started dating his girlfriend.
He is sitting his Leaving Cert this year and I want him to know we are there for him, but he keeps pushing us away.
Everyone in the house seems to be getting on his nerves. Whatever we say at the moment just seems to make him cross.
His recent attitude, behaviour and manners are just not acceptable under our roof. For example, he bought a car with money he earned over the summer. His dad has been getting it ready for the NCT.
They had a big argument and his dad took the keys off him and he was told to get the bus to school with his siblings.
He locked himself in the bathroom and didn't go. His dad had to go to work and it took me ages to get him out of the bathroom and I eventually gave him a lift to school.
He kept his headphones in the whole way and never said a word to me, nor I to him. We feel we are walking on eggshells to keep him in good humour.
He is not a great mixer and shies away from others. He has no confidence in himself. But we can't let him walk all over us and not show some respect.
What can we do to get the situation under control?
I wonder what your expectations are of your son? I could imagine it is difficult enough for him being the eldest of five. No doubt he has regularly been leading the way, testing all of the limits for the first time.
This has probably brought him into conflict with you on occasion. I'd love to know how you normally deal with that kind of conflict?
In the example you give, it seems like a big jump from having a row with his dad to his car being effectively impounded. Did he know, in advance, that if he pushed the argument he would lose the use of his car, the car he owns and paid for himself?
It seems like a very unfair and harsh punishment for having a row. From an outside perspective, it sounds like his dad was just trying to show your son who really has the power in the house. Indeed, his dad's actions on that morning seem as disrespectful to your son as you seem to feel your son is to you.
I am not surprised at all to hear that your son was so angry he withdrew and locked himself away. He probably felt an impotent fury at how his dad treated him. I'd imagine that incident could have knocked another dent into his self-esteem.
If that is a regular occurrence then it may be part of why he has low confidence in himself. He probably feels he has little personal power.
I could imagine, with four younger children in the house, too, that you and your husband are working very hard and, probably, need to be very firm. It is a big task to keep five youngsters on the straight and narrow!
But it may be that actually you are a bit too firm with your eldest. You seem to have high expectations of him, but may be finding it hard to be attuned to his needs at this stage in his life.
You are still worried about controlling him, but you don't seem to acknowledge that your son is 18 and an adult.
That means you have to begin to renegotiate your relationship with him. You can no longer simply tell him what to do.
This is a very natural and important developmental shift for parents and their young adult offspring. They are no longer children and so parents can't keep treating them like children.
Your son sounds like a very typical 18-year-old. He seems to be trying to negotiate a longish-term relationship with his girlfriend, coming from a position of being quite shy and not a great mixer.
He also has the pressure of his Leaving Cert next year.
No wonder he is stressed and easily feels like people are getting on his nerves. I wonder if he believes that you and his dad really understand how he might feel (and why!) or does he just experience you as making constant demands of him?
So perhaps, instead of trying to get the situation "under control", you could try listening to him, showing a genuine interest in him and his life.
He is less likely to withdraw if he feels you and his dad really care about him.