12 Year Old Behavior, Manners

My son just turned 12, is in 6th grade, and seems to be slipping backwards in terms of how he relates to us and his friends. He's generally been pretty socially savvy, pretty confident, and has a good group of friends, has always been liked by boys and girls, etc. I'd also say that he's usually averagely polite to us parents - not often rude, and enjoys a close relationship with both his dad and me. (But he is a talkative, noisy, funny and slightly smart-alecky kid - which seems hard-wired, so we generally accept it.) He's an only child. But in the past few months he's become MUCH mouthier and talks back in rude and aggressive ways fairly often, especially to me, his mom. His dad isn't here all that much and doesn't see much of it, so to a fair extent, I am the primary parent and have to figure out how to deal with it. He's also becoming quite rude on some playdates and seems to have "forgotten" how to treat guests in our home. He and other boys get into arguments, he tries to demand his own way, he sulks, refuses to participate in games he doesn't want to play, gets furious if he gets physically hurt by a friend (which is 95% an accident, but he often assumes it was intentional). All these behaviors seem normal to me for a kid of 6-7 or younger, but unacceptable at 12. I didn't see much of this the past 2-3 years, that I can recall. It feels like it's ramped up to become the "new normal" just in the past 3 months since MS started. 

Is this typical? I am getting seriously tired of all of it. I've said I will not host more playdates if his behavior doesn't way improve immediately. I flatly do not want to see this self-centered nonsense anymore on playdates, and his rudeness to me needs to end now.  I am exasperated. But my question for you wise parents is, am I missing something? Is this a 12 year old thing? Am I being fair? Is my parenting lacking? Are there any books or sites that have helped anyone dealing with similar issues?

I'm sensitive to all this partly because I really worry about the coming teen years, and partly because as an "only" child, I think it's super important that he have great social skills. Anyway, thanks in advance!

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RE: 12 Year Old Behavior, Manners ()

As one of my sons started puberty he also did this. Turned out that here was an underlying problem of anger and other issues to blame that required therapy and behavior modification through consequences and discipline. You may want to consider that there could be some problem that is precipitating the behavior rather than it being a matter of manners. 

RE: 12 Year Old Behavior, Manners ()

I have a 15-year old.  At least the rudeness and self-centeredness with regard to mom, and dad is normal in middle school, in my experience.  They have too many thoughts going through their minds.  They are pulling away and developing a separate identity but it's scary and they still want to have their parents like them.  Not to mention aggression and hormones.  What they really want is parents to be nice to them and some coziness on occasion (while also hiding out alone in their rooms as well).  I saw a middle school boy at Disneyland at 6:30 AM once, who just asked his dad to butter his bagel, and his dad treated him to a contemptuous lecture about how he was 12 and should be able to do it, and I saw the boy's face fall, crushed before their fun day at Disneyland.  That showed me how much these little kindnesses (that they may not exactly deserve) can help a kid be happy once in awhile.  I totally would still let your son have playdates.  A worse thing than a rude teenager, is a sad and lonely teenager.

RE: 12 Year Old Behavior, Manners ()

It's not an official developmental phase, but I swear my 2 kids and 2 stepkids went through the "terrible twelves." It seemed like the impulse to be independent kicked in first... even at 13 they had more empathy and better awareness about the impact of their words and actions on other people. The rest of the teen years were their own adventure, but their sense of empathy does gradually catch up to their other emotions.

RE: 12 Year Old Behavior, Manners ()

Is he showing signs of puberty? Maybe it is hormonal. 

The other thing that I thought of is that you said your husband is not home much these days. Do you think your son is missing out on that connection and perhaps that is what is contributing to his moodiness?

I suggest asking his teachers if he is acting out at school too . 

Lastly- I don't think a "play date " is a meaningful term for a 6 the grade get together!

RE: 12 Year Old Behavior, Manners ()

Welcome to adolescence! Yes, this is normal, from our own experience with our middle-school daughter and others we know with kids of this age. .Kids at this age experience a roller-coaster of emotions with surging hormones. It can be very frustrating - here are some thoughts about how to handle "the new normal."

First, while it looks like misbehavior, it sounds like your son is having a visceral reaction to the sessions with his friends. I am guessing even he doesn't really know what's setting him off or why.  And you are right, it is a sort of regression back to the toddler/preschool days.

To follow up on that thought, i am guessing that he has outgrown either his friends or the playdate format (which someone else suggested). Perhaps he doesn't really find his old friends to be on his same wavelength anymore. Or perhaps, rather than doing a playdate at home, something that allows for more independence would be better, because he is transitioning to teenagehood and may be seeking more independence - such as a bike ride, outing to the park. Or, since he may be missing his dad, could he do something with another adult sometimes?

My suggestion would be to broach the subject during a calm moment (not during the playdate) and open up the conversation.  Something like, "I've noticed that you don't seem to enjoy your playdates with your friends so much anymore.  Want to talk about it?"  I have found that sometimes your child will tell you. Sometimes they actually don't know - as they don't always have the ability to understand or explain their feelings - and then it's a matter of patiently talking it through.

Anyway, just to reassure you that the clever, warm child has not gone away for good - though having been there, it can feel like it. Take care!