How to handle a rebellious teenager who’s not even yours

sika asks: I have a 15 year old nephew. He has being staying with me for 4 months now. He does not respect me, nor my husband whom I married only a year ago. His behavior has brought constant argument between my husband and me, and he wants him to go back to his parents, but I am afraid it will bring sibling rivalry. Please, I need advice.

Hi sika –

What a tough situation!  It sounds like you and your husband are really trapped.

But, I would guess, your nephew feels the same way.  I’m wondering why he’s staying at your house – did his parents want him to leave their home?  If so, he’s probably feeling very unwanted and rejected, which might explain his general anger and disrespect (Lots of dogs in the pound behaved that way too; they didn’t tend to get bought by customers, but they were so angry and scared they didn’t even care!).  So while you’re trapped by his behavior, he’s probably feeling trapped in a world where he’s not wanted – and the only thing that feels freeing is to misbehave!

So I really have two suggestions for you, which will sound like they’re opposites – but I recommend you do both.

First, it’s absolutely essential that you and your husband get along.  It doesn’t do your nephew any good to stay in a house with an arguing couple.  So be sure to talk with him about what he needs from your nephew, to be content.

Second, go to that nephew ask him what he’s feeling.  Ask if he’s unhappy there, if there’s something about your home that he doesn’t like, if there’s anything you could make better.  Ask how he feels about being away from his home.  And let him know that you’re on his side, that your only wish is for him to be content.

And then, I want you to put these two things together, by telling your nephew, “Okay, here’s the story.  My husband needs for ________, ________, and _______ to happen, for you to be able to stay here.  If you can do those things, we will do all we can to make your life better.  But if you can’t do those things, I’m sorry, but I’ll have to send you back to your home – sibling issues or not.”

What this does, sika, is to treat your nephew as a very mature person – you’re putting the situation into his hands.  He can get what he wants or not, based on doing certain things or not.  It’s his choice.

Now of course, you then need to stand behind what you say.  If he does the things you ask, and your husband says “You know, even though he’s behaving better, I really would rather have the house to ourselves,” you can’t back out on what you offered!

Hopefully this will be enough.  Please let me know how it goes, and maybe I can help some more.

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