My 14 yr. old's choices are driving me insane! - Mothering Forums

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Old 03-10-2010, 07:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My DS just keeps making poor choices and I don't know what to do about it.
I'm sorry this is pretty long, please stick with me...

First, he's a bright kid and has gotten by so far with very little study time. Well, now that he's in 8th grade it seems to be catching up to him and his grades are dropping. Every time his grades drop, I ground him from electronics (computer, Ipod, cellphone, tv, etc.) This does very little to phase him. I take away all priviledges (friends, outside time, etc) and he complains (of course) but doesn't seem to really care. He does improve his grades though, and gets all priviledges back once grades are back up. The main problem he has is missing and incomplete work, so all he has to do is do it!
Second, his hygiene.
He is perfectly ok to shower once a week and never brush his teeth. He needs braces desperately but I'm scared to move ahead because he won't take care of his teeth now, much less when he has the braces! I wake him up (another battle) because he can't seem to wake up to an alarm. I tell him to 1-brush his teeth 2-do something with his hair and 3- get dressed. He will throw on clothes and run out the door! He'd rather be 20 minutes early for the bus than to take the time to shower, brush his hair, or at least brush his teeth...drives me crazy!

Third, he won't listen or do his chores.
He is supposed to do a few chores. The dishes, his laundry, keep his bathroom and bedroom clean, and to pick up after himself. It's always a battle. He complains and stalls, and says he will..but he never seems to get to it. I can't stand over him to enforce it because of my nursling so he just says he will and goes back to whatever he wants to do. I don't know how to handle it without yelling, which is what I always end up doing.

This week is really stressing me out and bringing it all to the forefront.
First, after racing last weekend (he drag races on most weekends and it is the ONE thing he really cares about) he waited untill Sunday night to show me the note he had been sent home with saying that he got into trouble for "roughhousing" at school and had detention on Mon & Tues morning. This meant either DH or I had to change our schedule (DH later to work or I had to wake up DD early) to get him to detention.
Today I get a phone call from his principal saying that he is failing math (again) and he has several zero's along with some 20's and 40's on quizes that have to be made up. His teacher has requested "tutorials" which means getting him to school early several days during the next school week, immediately following Spring Break (which is next week)
I'm fed up I told him that is was NOT ok to wait until Sunday night just because he knew I would have not let him race. So I was not going to let him race next weekend. He was very upset, because it's a big 2-day race that he's been looking forward to, and wanted to know what he could do to be able to race. I told him he had to straighten up and do his chores. He had to do his schoolwork and do what he was supposed to do and I'd think about it. Now, I get this phonecall today... He knows that he had those grades! Did he think I wouldn't find out? I am so frustrated with him right now.
I hate to take away the Drag Racing, but it's the only thing that he really cares about. The worst part is it's a family thing..my father, brother, my neices, etc..all race. My parents and brother have spent alot of time and money getting ready for the new season (including a new motor for my son) and the season has just started (last weekend). I hate to make him sit out because the season is based on points and each round you go, you earn points. Those points determine if you qualify for certain races....so I could be damaging his chances to compete later in the year. However, I am NOT willing to let him continue to get away with his behavior.
WWYD? Any suggestions for dealing with any/all of his behaviors?
DH thinks I'm too easy on him and should just ground him from everything, including the racing, untill we see some big changes. I don't know what to do because I know he has some issues, including with his father not taking interest inhim(not DH), I want to discipline him, but not take everything away...I'm just so frustrated and confused right now.
help please.......

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and cautiously due May 12, 2011!
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Old 03-10-2010, 08:13 PM
 
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I'm not the parent of a teen, so I can't help with much of this. But, are you sure he's not depressed? The tendency to not take care of himself physically can be a symptom of depression.

Good luck!

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Old 03-10-2010, 08:36 PM
 
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My advice may not work for you at all. But, honestly, I'd let him get whatever kind of grades he wants to at school, let him do his teeth and hair his own way (or not), and just focus on chores. Actually, if it were me I'd pull him out of school and deschool followed by unschool or homeschool him, but since you are working you may not be able to do that. The best way to learn life's lessons is through natural consequences. Education is only meaningful and useful when it is appreciated-- and you cannot force appreciation. Also I would only get him braces if he wants them.

It just seems to me the young man has very little meaningful choice in his life-- which is normal for a mainstream teen, but I disagree with it.

Again, may not be helpful to you at all, but that's my take!

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Old 03-10-2010, 08:43 PM
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Overall, I totally agree with LionTigerBear, but that's another can of worms.

I suppose depression could be a possibility, but I have a teenager (the 18yo, not the 14yo) who couldn't care less about hygiene, either. He's not depressed. He's just very analytical and thinks that people make too much of a deal about being squeaky clean and that it's unnatural.

His grades and don't really affect anyone besides himself. Hygiene can affect others...I freak out on my kid when he starts to smell or his teeth look furry...but overall it really only affects him, too. Chores affect everyone, and so he should be required to help out where he lives.

If you aren't a very scheduled family, I recommend becoming one. It could really help get things accomplished when there is a set time for everything and people know when things are expected of them.

As for the drag racing, if that's the only thing he cares about....it's also the only tool you have to bargain with.
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Old 03-10-2010, 08:44 PM
 
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Sounds to me like for the most part, this kid's got you right where he wants you.

He doesn't care to do well in school, so he doesn't. He gets access to all sorts of expensive electronics. These are taken away periodically when his grades drop, but he knows he can get them back whenever he wants by doing well for a short period. Sweet deal!

He doesn't have to do his chores because you'r too busy to make him and he has no incentive - another sweet deal!

At 14, he doesn't even have to wake up in the morning on his own and apparently he's never faced the consequences of being late for anything.

Finally, in what is probably the sweetest deal of all for him, it seems from your post that your dh expects you to do the disciplining and that the two of you are not on the same page about how to go about it.

My advice is first of all to sit down with dh and get your approaches on track. Then schedule a meeting with all of you and a school counselor. And take away all those electronic gadgets. He's never going to act responsibly in all areas if he knows just a scant amount of effort at school will get them back.
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Old 03-10-2010, 08:46 PM
 
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Originally Posted by LionTigerBear View Post
My advice may not work for you at all. But, honestly, I'd let him get whatever kind of grades he wants to at school, let him do his teeth and hair his own way (or not), and just focus on chores. Actually, if it were me I'd pull him out of school and deschool followed by unschool or homeschool him, but since you are working you may not be able to do that. The best way to learn life's lessons is through natural consequences. Education is only meaningful and useful when it is appreciated-- and you cannot force appreciation. Also I would only get him braces if he wants them.

It just seems to me the young man has very little meaningful choice in his life-- which is normal for a mainstream teen, but I disagree with it.

Again, may not be helpful to you at all, but that's my take!
My thoughts exactly My 16yo dd unschools herself and I work full time, so it is doable. She was 14 when she came out of school.
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Old 03-10-2010, 08:51 PM
 
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Why do you have to get him to detention? Can he take a city bus or ride a bike or walk?
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Old 03-10-2010, 08:54 PM
 
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I have two books to suggest that I think would change your family's situation for the better.

Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves

Liberated Parents, Liberated Children


Here is another that i just thought of that might also be useful:

The Teenage Liberation Handbook

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Old 03-10-2010, 09:59 PM
 
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I agree that he doesn't seem very interested in the work that the school is offering. If he has to go, I would allow him to make his own choices about what he wants to learn there, with the caveat that he HAS to get a job. He's 14, and he can earn money doing what he WANTS To do - this will start giving him experience doing, and he may be able to use it where a HS diploma or further education would normally get people jobs. He will have the experience.

Also assuming that he has little choice in the matter, he can keep his room as messy or himself as dirty as he wants. And you get to support what you want of his world. If he can organize rides and money, he can do the racing. If not, it's not your responsibility. He is making what are considered poor choices only when set up to an expectation of making different choices. He sounds pretty normal, in that respect. My preteen makes some pretty awful choices (filth, mess, she even checked out some porn online!), and I completely sympathize with your frustration and disapproval. In the end, he is making his own life out of this - give him some choices, and some freedom to be himself, and he may just come around and impress you!

Good luck mama!!

Mama to B and O , wife to J and me to me! :
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Old 03-11-2010, 02:42 AM
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I don't want to sound like a Debbie Downer, but my 18yo has been looking for a job for over a year. My 14yo would LOVE to have a job, but nobody is hiring 14yo kids. Heck, adults are having a hard time finding work.
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Old 03-25-2010, 07:00 PM
 
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I woould take away the racing. If it is important to the other males in your family then explain to them why you are doing this and what kind of help you need from them . His hygeine does reflect on you. Social services can be involved if it gets to bad. Again I would find a male rolemodel to help you with this, but I wouldn't wake him uo any more and I would restrict all extras like TV games, friends computer and racuing until you at least saw some effort on his part. Not sttraight A's but some effort. Unschooling will not work for a kid with no self motivation. I havefirst hand experience with this so I am not just knee jerk reacting. Good Luck.

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Old 03-25-2010, 07:10 PM
 
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I'm crashing in here, seeing as how I am not a parent yet at all. But your son sounds just like me at that age.

I'd never had to study, and around the 8th grade that started to really catch up to me. I was failing things that I didn't need to be failing. Bringing home flat out zeros on mid-term reports.

It was also a good week if I bothered to change my underwear...though at least that wasn't an outward thing. My guess is that had more to do with being something *I* could control.

My parents were at a loss. No amount of taking away privileges did anything.

Finally they took away the ONE thing I cared about- roller skating.

It was taken away for one semester, no matter what. At the end of that semester I had to have achieved all As, I believe, in order to get it back.

You know what? I got all As that semester.

I do think my parents would have given me skating back even with all As and Bs- just something showing that I was making a concerted effort toward my future.

Hippie sympathizer and mom to L, 4.8.10.
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Old 03-30-2010, 03:04 AM
 
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If drag racing is the only thing he cares about, it is the one thing you need to keep.

Honestly, he won't die from bad hygiene unless it goes on for years and years.

He can go back to school as an adult.

Could you engage him and help hime figure out how he can think about going from being an elite drag racer to being someone who contributes to society?

This is the juxtaposition of knowledge and leadership that is really important.

My dd sings in a choir that will never, ever, be much of anything. My sons play house league hockey. Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose.

My kids have a ton of time to mentor younger kids and to learn what it takes to build a team.

To be quite honest, from what I have seen of motorsports, if he could influence even one kid positively, it would be an eyeopener for him.
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Old 03-30-2010, 09:04 AM
 
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I would take away drag racing until he can show he is able to contribute to the household at least. His grades are his business and his loss, but if he can't be bothered to get himSELF out of bed or do his chores then why are YOU paying for him to have new motors and equipment for a hobby?

Quote:
I hate to make him sit out because the season is based on points and each round you go, you earn points. Those points determine if you qualify for certain races....so I could be damaging his chances to compete later in the year.
Yes, the same principle can be applied to his grades/future career, his home behaviour/future esteem within the household, personal hygiene/future success with girls (or boys if he is so inclined). If he "gets" it with racing he can "get" it with everything else.

I think my brother was like this at the same age and my mother didn't ban things, she just stopped putting in her effort. She didn't get him up anymore. She told the school detention would have to be when he could get himself there. She stopped cooking for him if he hadn't helped with the pre-dinner chores. She stopped washing his stinky worn-for-a-week pants and underwear. He spent about a month having a big long low level tantrum about it, which she ignored, and then he realised that all he had to do is be a reasonable person and pull his weight. I'd be lying if i said it turned him into a model citizen, but it did stop him taking such blatant advantage of his home situation without any thought.
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Old 03-30-2010, 01:45 PM
 
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I wouldn't take drag racing away. Especially if it's a family thing.

The only deal breakers would be chores and teeth. I'd write them down each day, and leave them on the counter or a door or wherever he will see them. Then, give him a time that they need to be completed by. I had TONS of chores that needed to be done every day after school before 5:30. I could usually have them done in an hour. I could choose to either get them done right after school and go out, or come home and lay on the couch, then do them.

He wouldn't even get breakfast til he brushed his teeth. I know breakfast doesn't taste as good after brushing teeth, but he'll survive. Soon, it will become a habit.

If it makes you feel any better, except for the grades, my daughter is exactly like your son. SHe's 17 and still the laziest teen on earth. If there were an award program every year, she'd have the biggest awards on her shelf for lazy sloven-ness.
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Old 03-30-2010, 01:48 PM
 
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I think my brother was like this at the same age and my mother didn't ban things, she just stopped putting in her effort. She didn't get him up anymore. She told the school detention would have to be when he could get himself there. She stopped cooking for him if he hadn't helped with the pre-dinner chores. She stopped washing his stinky worn-for-a-week pants and underwear. He spent about a month having a big long low level tantrum about it, which she ignored, and then he realised that all he had to do is be a reasonable person and pull his weight. I'd be lying if i said it turned him into a model citizen, but it did stop him taking such blatant advantage of his home situation without any thought.
This could actually be slightly enjoyable if you have that type of evilness in you.... which I totally do!
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Old 03-30-2010, 02:16 PM
 
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This could actually be slightly enjoyable if you have that type of evilness in you.... which I totally do!
You mean doing it or having it done to you? If it's doing it, then me too - i think i inherited it from my mother. I don't get how he got it so easy for so long in fact, because my mother treated me that way all the time ("you scratch my back, i'll scratch yours"), but with her sons she was a little bit more forgiving...

Even now (DD is 4 in 2 days as she KEEPS reminding me and everyone else round her) i am only willing to put up with so much. For example if she refuses to set the table for dinner that's her choice, but i won't be putting her cutlery out for her if i have to do it!
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Old 03-30-2010, 03:46 PM
 
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Have you involved your dad and brother in this?

If they know, and agree that flunking school and treating your mom with disrespect are not qualities that they admire on respect in someone they're investing in (with gear, time, transportation) then they may be able to help you come up with more solutions or help (since your DH is uncooperative).
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Old 03-30-2010, 06:36 PM
 
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You mean doing it or having it done to you? If l
Doing it! LOL.

Honestly, though... kids who learn responsibility grow up with much happier lives than those who never get a lesson in "you need to earn this".
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Old 03-31-2010, 01:43 AM
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You listed a series of problems here.

1. Your ds has to be woken in the mornings.
2. His attention to personal hygiene is poor.
3. He is not taking responsibility for chores.
4. He is not taking responsibility for his school work or behavior at school.

This is too many battles to fight at once. You have to make some hard choices. Living with a smelly teenager is no walk in the park, but I might have some hope that this problem would correct itself when the child matures a little. I would continue to apply parental pressure, but I wouldn't get in a huge fight about it. I don't think it's realistic to expect teenagers to wake themselves in the morning, or to use an alarm. Their internal clocks are out of sync with the world and most of them just can't do it. I think you're going to have to wake the kid until he's 18 and moves out. I *might* draw the line at waking him for morning detention - does his school have escalating consequences for failing to serve a detention? If failing to serve would get him suspended, I would wake him because I think suspension is too often a fun day off. If failing to serve would result in Saturday school, I would make him wake himself (and get himself there if that is feasible).

My family values responsibility and education. So in your shoes, those would be the battles I would fight. I think drag racing is important because it involves your ds with adults who care about him and are positive role models, and because he is motivated by it. I wouldn't want to cut him off from it. But I would exploit it. I don't know what the rules of the sport are - I presume non-drivers can attend and help with cars, and that your ds perceives driving as cooler than just being there. I would tell him that you will check in with his teachers every week. If he has any missing work or disciplinary incidents at school, he will not be allowed to drive that weekend. He can attend and help his team, but he cannot race. He has to serve all consequences for behavior and make up all work before he gets into a car. You will have to call his teachers and check in once a week. DO NOT feel bad about keeping him from racing. Once you explain the consequences of getting in trouble at school or not turning in work, the choice is HIS. If he wants to race, he needs to choose the behavior that allows him to race.

With a 14-year-old, I would also try to fight the good fight on chores. I would be a broken record. My response to practically all requests would be "Have you done your chores yet?" He wouldn't get much out of me until the answer was yes.

Honestly, teeth would be a big deal to me too, because they are so expensive to fix.

I think your dh's heart is in the right place, but just grounding him from everything until he shapes up leaves you no leverage. I might just take the electronics until the end of the semester, though. Enough is enough already.
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Old 04-02-2010, 01:46 AM
 
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I agree carrots work better than sticks, deploying both seems to be the magic ticket.

My 13 year old son recently discovered that shower time is great alone time. He shares a bedroom with a 5 year old little brother. Before this discovery getting him to bath was a chore, drag, fight, bother. Now he asks for extra showers.
Grades, super bright kid, never had to study, got a D in his own algebra class, and an A+ in his TA Algebra class.. the one where he helps students that struggle with math. He just was not turning in homework.. or even doing it. Didn't have to, he knew it.. Aced all quizzes and tests.. never showed his work.. that kind of thing.
My son's currency is video games, snowboarding and wakeboarding. We took the video games and lift ticket away.. TILL THE END OF THE YEAR.. (which really sucked over winter break and all of these three day weekends)IF he returned to the honor role where he belongs, he would get them back.. if he didn't.. no wakeboarding this summer...
If his math grade is back.. not only will he board this summer, he will get to drive the boat.. something he has been itching to do.
So far so good.. we'll see.

My husband hillclimbs, so we get the power ugh ugh thing in this house. Just asked him what would turn his crank so to speak and he said make him earn his driving for a season. Chores, grades, self care are all ways to show respect, no respect no horsepower.


My children have great opportunities handed to them. It is their job to make sure they are worthy, they step out of line and the fun stuff disappears. Fuel is expensive, be it in a boat or in a dragster. MAKE HIM EARN IT.
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