13 y/o Son No Empathy Disrespects Mother


New Member
Hello I have a 13 y/o son who has always been a challenge. He started as a colicky infant and has always had trouble with empathy and understanding how other people feel. He is a straight A student and has friends that he gets along with. His behavior at school is excellent. He plays music at a very high level in a symphony orchestra and he likes to be active as well as playing video games etc. I would say that in most aspects of his life he is doing extremely well.

The issue is his behavior at home especially when dad is not there. Son and mom do not get along well. He constantly questions her authority and wants everything done his way. If things do not go as he planned or he is inconvenienced he gets frustrated and begins acting out. If mom tries to reprimand him he will be defiant. This will include arguing, mimicking, or picking on his sisters. He is not violent but is very smart and can be manipulative. We are actively seeing a counselor but we are just getting into that. Punishments do not seem to have any effect.

Mom is a psychologist and dad works swing shift in a lab. Both parents are very involved in all their kids activities and share responsibilities. Mom is a very empathetic person and dad has issues with understanding empathy like his son but dad has gotten better with this. Parents do not believe in violence so punishments typically are loss of privileges.

Dad very often acts as a mediator between mom and son but often mediation happens after incident has occurred. Dad and mom have talked about possibly starting medications for son but struggle with this since son's behavior is fine at school. Mom and dad have thought son might be a borderline aspie child. Looking for help for our family.

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Well-Known Member
Yep. From your description, I'd agree, very HF Aspie.
The funny thing is (and I know it's not funny to you) but that since Mom is a psychologist, she still gets cr*p at home. Moms always get it the worst.
I'd definitely take away privileges. Mom has to learn to quit engaging and just say NO, and create an immediate consequence. When difficult child acts out and picks on sisters or whatever, he gets even more things taken away.
One thing I'd warn against is too long of a punishment. Aspies and even NT teens are into the moment. Anything longer than a week seems to be counterproductive.
Also, I'd suggest that you and mom tell difficult child things ahead of time, such as, "Tomorrow I will be home a little later so that will change the time that I pick you up. Plan to read a book or something while you wait. Then again, I may be early." He won't like the uncertainty but it's better than the alternative.
In regard to empathy, does he have good facial expression? Can he memorize rules of behavior regardless of empathy? Such as, when he was little, "Don't tell that person she's fat. It will hurt her feelings." ?

In regard to medications, since he's doing well in school and music, he probably doesn't need medications. You could try essential oils, maybe a cold mister at night with lavender or other calming oils.
You are lucky he's doing so well! Congrats!


New Member
I am not sure what difficult child or NT are abbreviations for. Punishments are typically for a day or less. I would say son is a bit narcissistic. We tend to say that son want what he wants, when he wants it, how he wants it. I agree with not engaging. Son is very smart and knows how to manipulate and push buttons. Not engaging is very hard when buttons are pushed, but I understand the need to not engage. He understands rules of behavior and most of the time acts appropriately in social situations. The main issue is respecting mom and sisters.


Well-Known Member
NT is neurotypical.
difficult child is Gift From God. There is a whole list of abbreviations under Forums, and inside of that, FAQ (scroll down under Watercooler).

Glad that the punishments are a day or less. Now that he's older, you can make them two days or three days.
If he is Aspie, it makes sense that he'd be a bit narcissistic. That doesn't mean he's a bona fide narcissist, just that it's part of the pkg. He can "unlearn" that. It takes years of work, though.
Do you have family meetings? You could discuss the issue of his disrespect there. But be careful not to make it look like you're ganging up on him.