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What do you do when they fail?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
We have an 18 year old son. He is a GREAT kid! I am so proud of him in so many ways, but I'm very concerned that he is...I hate to say "lacking direction", but I don't know how else to describe what's going on right now.

We've homeschooled Michael (ds#1) since he was in 4th grade. (His choice, he came home and announced that he would home school next year, and even if I drove him to school, he would turn around and leave!) He's always been very bright, and studied whatever he wanted. He started taking college courses at 16, to study Japanese, and then continue mathamatics. He's interested in Shakespeare, and acting, he's polite, respectful, and people REALLY LIKE him, right when they meet him.

Okay, I could go on telling you all the good things about him, but we have a REAL PROBLEM! Our son has decided to take a break from life, and I don't know how to get him motivated or back on track! He failed a class last summer at the JC he has been attending, and dropped the other class. I figured there were a lot of outside pressures on him at the time, (our ds#2 was born finals week), so we didn't pressure him. Then for the fall, he signed up for 21 credit hours! I told him I was concerned it was too much, but he wanted to try. I belive in natural consequences, so I told him go ahead, but DROP a class if he's in over his head! Well, he ended up dropping one, and FAILING the other 3! Now he's facing accademic probation, so for this last term, he took ONE accademic, and 2 PE courses. He DROPPED the accademic! The worst part is we've been paying for all his classes, and he didn't even tell us he dropped! He's been going to school every day, and sitting on campus!

Well, we've had a long talk. We told him that the door has 2 sides to it, and he can stay or leave, it's his choice, but if he chooses to stay, he has to participate fairly. This means:
1. Maintaining at least 12 credit hours of accademics
2. Getting a part-time job
3. Doing an hour of work around the house each day,
4. Paying for internet connection if he wants it in his room (I felt the time he spent on-line was a big part of the problem)
1. Get a full time job
2. Pay room and board
3. STILL pay for internet connection in his room (yes, he would ask!)
Also, we only pay for classes he passes with a "B" or better, otherwise, he reimburses us at the end of the term.

I'm sorry this is so long, but I need advice from other mamma's out there. What do you think? Am I missing something obvious? Are we being to hard (The mom in me has a VERY hard time with disipline)? We've tried to make the consequences stiff, but not so bad that we push him out the door. We WANT him to succeed, and we worry that he's setting up some bad habits that may cause him to be happily living in the basement at 30, without any real direction in his life...

Any one who's been there done that, your in put would be So welcome!
post #2 of 14
Well I don't have kids that age, but I have spent most of the past 7 years failing classes, dropping out, working full time, or only taking 1 or 2 classes a semseter.

The majors that I picked when I first started school are not things I really want to do now. Many of the classes I took then are useless with my current major. After 18 years of going to school I had some ideas about what I would like, but now I have a much better idea of what will really work with my life of being a SAHM, homeschooling mom.

12 hours of academic and a part time job seems like a lot. I know semesters that I take a class that I really liked (like maybe p.e. for your son) all of the classes seem easier to take. Another thing that I do now is make a list of the classes that I have to take and mark them easy or hard, depending on how many books, papers there are (I even call teachers and ask how many they usually assign for that class and if that is pretty similar to the other sections), and how easy the subject is for me. And then I make sure that I don't take too many of the hard classes at the same time.

I really have switch my major several times. And I have switched it even less because I have spent time voulnteering in fields that interest me and then decided that is not really what I want to do (volunteered in my jr. high library, at a pet shelter, at a state park). So perhaps if he was trying out a job without getting paid, he might get some direction (even if its not to go that way), but that would be one more thing on top of the classes and part time job.

just my thoughts,
post #3 of 14
Yet another mom here talking from personal perspective. My kids aren't that old yet, either.

~He's an adult and it's time he start making his decisions regarding his life by himself.

~Making mistakes is very important to the learning process. Fortunatley it's less costly for him to change his mind at a JC than at a university.

~It's completely fair to expect him to contribute to the family the way you described. Both options you listed seem fine, depending on what your ds thinks he can handle.

Is dropping out of school an option? I mean, of course it is technically, because he's an adult and he can do whatever he wants with his life now. But will you, Mom, be very disappointed if he takes a break from school, maybe a long one? I ask because that's the conclusion I came to after messing around at JC for 2 years, and my mother was deeply disappointed in me. And it hurt. It felt like she withdrew her love. Academic success is very important to her. You don't sound at all like that, but it's worth contemplating. How would you feel if he quit without getting a degree?

You homeschooled him for a number of years. He's already experienced learning about life outside the classroom. He's going to continue learning in whatever venue he's in. Maybe a full time job would be just the thing to get him interested in life again.
That is one thing I wish I could have said to my mom, "There's more to life than college!"

I don't know how much this helps! Good luck. Let us know how things go.
post #4 of 14
I say don't pay for any of his classes. College is a privelege (sp? I obviously didn't go ) and while I was in college I could tell instantly who was paying thier own way and who was there on thier parents meal ticket. the kids paying thier own way were much more serious about it. I also agree he should contribute to the family somehow. Even if it isn't monetary he should help out around the house, help with baby sitting whatever something so that he isn't just loafing. I also agree he should pay for his own internet if he wants it.

is there something that is hampering his motivation in general? iI would be very worried if I had such a bright child who suddenly couldn't keep with a few college corses. perhaps some sort of addiction or depression or something. It is worth talking to him about.
post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone for your replies! I appreciate all of them .

You may be right, I think 12 credits total would be fine, along with a pt job. Michael has worked at many things in the past. He's taught karate (unpaid jr. instructor), rock-climbing, and worked with my BIL to build a house from start to finish. Right now he is also performing with a local acting guild. They perform 3 shows at different venues from May through September.
The thing is, although he's enjoyed all of these things, he doesn't feel he wants to try to create a career in any of them. They are just hobbies. At the same time, he doesn't know what he wants to "be" when he grows up, so for now, he's finished Calculus, and is just taking general ed courses.

I was actually thinking the same thing you suggested! My original concern was that we were setting requirements that were too demanding, and would set ds up for failure, and I'm going to modify our list to 12 credits total. As for dropping out for now, I had mentioned that to Michael this last quarter (even before I knew he had dropped this last class), because he doesn't know what he wants to major in or do with his life yet. His response was that he knows he wants the income and lifestyle of a college grad : , but more seriously, he was concerned that if he dropped out, it would be that much harder to go back and get started again, and he knows that college is something he wants. My dh was of the same opinion. He suggested that Michael take general ed courses for now, until he figures out what he wants to do.

I have a dear friend who would agree with you, but...
FWIW, I think when we have kids, we all want to provide as well as we can for them. I'm thrilled that we have the opportunity to help pay for his classes, and we want to help him to become a productive, happy adult. That doesn't mean I think we should give him whatever we can to make him happy, it means that if we can guide him into a productive, healthy life, I believe he will be happy.
I am concerned that something is hampering his motivation, and YOU BET we're talking about it! I don't think he's depressed, he's actually pretty upbeat and active, and I KNOW he's not using drugs or alcohol. I do think he spends too much time playing online video games. He has a friend who does almost nothing else, and I think that could be a form of addiction. Our hope is that by making ds pay for internet, he will be to busy between work, school, and acting to be able to make much use of it. That way the problem is self correcting.

BTW, I didn't mean to imply that Michael doesn't help out around the house. He's very helpful with his lil' brother, does the dishes every night, takes care of the dog, runs the vacuum...The problem is I think he would be more than content to stay home full-time, and he's so pleasant to be around that it's hard to remember your supposed to be encouraging him out the door!
post #6 of 14
Maybe I'm totally off here, but do you think he might me affected by the political/social situation, the war... He sounds a lot like me at that age, I just felt like there was no use to everything, the world was a bad place and all that... He might be afraid he'll get drafted, so why do anything constructive?

In earlier times, kids (well, richer kids anyway ) went abroad or something for a year, to "find themselves." I would have loved to join the peace corps, but I was shovelled into college. Maybe he would like to do something like that, be independent and get a real chance of scenery and life in general.
post #7 of 14
Maybe he could do a semester abroad, most JC's have those problems......I agree that he needs time to find himself; yet he can do that while taking classes and working; that's what college is for! He doesn't need to know his major or what he want's to be yet, I believe the first few years of college are for finding that out.
post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 
Simonee and Grisandole,

Thanks for your thoughts. I've run your ideas by ds, and while he likes the idea of travel just for fun, he didn't seem to identify with the idea either.

He's decided to get a job (pt) at Whole Foods, because he thinks he will meet like-minded folk there, as well as continue to take classes. He's also continuing his acting. I think deep down, he agrees that he got caught up online, and just wasted too much time. He's told his friend that he's not going to be online anymore, and then defended me and our parenting choices to his friend!
He will also be continuing classes at the JC. He's taking an economics course this quarter that has struck his fancy, and a programming course, but he's mostly just trying out a bunch of different subjects, and taking several PE courses to be a full time student.

I really don't mind that he doesn't seem to know what he wants to do with his life, and I'm fine with the current arrangment. My big worry was that he was doing NOTHING with his time. Now that he's filled his day being productive, I'm much more comfortable with him taking his time to figure out what he wants to be when he "grows up".

Does this make sense? Maybe I was the one with the problem all along, but I think we've found a solution that will work for everyone.

Thanks again for all the great comments!
post #9 of 14
speaking from experience i say let him fall flat on his face. my parents bailed me out of so many situations where they should have let me fail and i have turned out to be a total flake. i'm 30 years old, have 3 children and one would think that i'm a responsible person but i still struggle with flakiness like nobody would believe. and i hate it. but i'm still flaky. apparently, somewhere along the line, i decided that if i apologize enough or pull my fat out of the fire at the last minute it is ok. well, it isn't and it makes life difficult for everyone else too.

i know i sound like i'm rambling here but it's a very personal issue for me and i have some strong feelings about it. maybe i need some therapy here...
post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 

I'm not sure I understand you. I believe in natural consequences, so when ds failed his classes, I didn't go in and talk to the teacher or dean, and explain that there were extenuating circumstances. I could have argued that the birth of ds#2 interferred with finals week preperation, and that ds thought he had dropped his classes when he told the teacher he wanted to drop, so his grades should be changed to reflect that. A lot of parents do just that, but I explained to ds that ultimately his grades are his responsibility, and life IS going to throw him curves, so I wouldn't say I've "bailed him out" of anything.

I don't think it's enough though to just let your kids fail. While there is value in letting them fail, I think there is more value in teaching them how to cope with failing at something, and how to accept that there are going to be times in their life that they fall down, screw up, or just don't succeed in something they've set out to do. I'm really asking for advice on how to teach him to pick up the pieces, look at what he's got, and move on.

I think he's doing that now. He still doesn't know what he wants to do with his life, but I think it would be a bigger mistake to try and force him to make a choice that he's not ready to make yet. As long as he is not sitting around doing nothing, I'm happy. Right now he's got a very full schedule, and we (dh, ds, and I) are all happy with the arrangments.

My only concern is the what ifs... I don't like ultimatiums, because I don't like to feel like I've backed myself into a corner, so I'm constantly looking down the road asking myself "What if this or that doesn't happen? Am I obligated to follow a particular path of action?" I'm happy with our current arrangments, but I'd like any advice if there are parents who see any obvious pitfalls with our plan that we may be over looking.

Sorry this gets so long, I seem to need to ramble in order to get all my thoughts out there.
post #11 of 14
kimber, sorry, i was generalizing. i think natural consequences are really the best thing. i didn't mean to imply that you bailed him out of anything. i think that you are taking the right course, i wish that i had parents as wise and caring as you. i really mean that. it makes me feel better about humanity as a whole when i read these boards. the down side is that i see so many mistakes that my parents made, of course i only hope this will make me a better parent.
post #12 of 14
mamathistle, I totally identify with your situation.

My big worry was that he was doing NOTHING with his time. Now that he's filled his day being productive, I'm much more comfortable with him taking his time to figure out what he wants to be when he "grows up".
Kimber, I'm going to try to remember that for the future. That seems like a really fair and reasonable attitude.
post #13 of 14
Have you thought about the possibility your son is depressed? It seems like he is choosing the low-energy solution to his problems. He doesn't want to tell you he's not going to class, so he goes to campus. But when he gets there, he doesn't have the energy to be in class.

Sounds like depression to me. Either that, or he knows he doesn't like where he is, but doesn't know of any viable alternatives.
post #14 of 14

I think he sounds "normal" and "healthy". How sweet to have a boy who helps around the house and would love to be a stay-at-home-son. I think it sounds like you and he trust one another and communicate well. It sounds like you are respecting him, but respecting yourself with reasonable and appropriate boundries. It sounds like he is respectful of you and greatful for the relationship you have. He will be gone soon enough. Who said all kids don't need to hang with mom and dad anymore once they hit 18? Keep on doing what you are doing!!!
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