Talk to me about 11 y.o. boys - Mothering Forums
Preteens and Teens > Talk to me about 11 y.o. boys
Jenne's Avatar Jenne 07:11 PM 12-07-2004
Or really just the pre-teen/teen boys you either have parented or have known. Stories or advice are great. I've taught that age before but never parented one. My living with experience was just growing up with my younger brother in my parents house. My nephew is moving in with us in January and he is 11. I will be homeschooling him. Some of my questions:

He seems VERY immature (I know 7 y.o. who are more mature) what are appropriate expectations for behavior from an 11 y.o. at home?

He is obsessed with video games. He will not have video games or TV at my house. What are other activities that 11 y.o. do in there spare time aside from video games and TV? Are they pretty self-directed at that age or should I make a list of suggestions?

Since he won't know anyone I've thought to get in touch with some families that I know with boys between 10 and 13. I'd like to set up play dates for him but is he too old for this? If he is too old to have parents/caregiver led meetings how do I go about encouraging him to make appropriate friends?

What types of privacy boundaries would be appropriate? The computer will be in a common area. He will have his own room. Is it appropriate to insist that he maintain it fairly cleanly as in stuff picked up off the floor or should that just be his space? We don't have a lot of space in our house and I'm fairly certain he will need a desk at least for math and was considering putting it in his room. If this is the case, his room will need to be picked up so that we can both be comfortable. Is this reasonable. Also about picking up, he hasn't been taught those kind of skills, is it too late and I shouldn't worry about that? I mean like not putting clean clothes into the dirty clothes hamper and changing your underwear daily kinds of skills...

Basically, I want to be reasonable in terms of expectation. This is going to be a total change for him. I don't want to be overbearing but I want him to grow into a responsible and happy adult...

Thanks and Happy Holidays,


journeymom's Avatar journeymom 08:01 PM 12-07-2004
This looks interesting! I'll be watching!
moondiapers's Avatar moondiapers 08:11 PM 12-07-2004
Well he'd better learn it sometime before adulthood, and there's no time like the present Wouldn't want him having his house get condemned by the health department when he moves out on his own would you?

I'd say it's reasonable to expect him to keep his room picked up (not perfect, but not messy so you'd trip over things either), laundry in the hamper, take the trash out every day, and do the dishes at least one night a week. Also, you have to be blunt with kids this age, make sure he knows how often you expect him to bathe or shower

He might find it embarrassing for you to make playdates for him....but why not invite the other child's family over for dinner and see what happens?
SagMom's Avatar SagMom 09:02 PM 12-07-2004
Originally Posted by Jenne
What are other activities that 11 y.o. do in there spare time aside from video games and TV? Are they pretty self-directed at that age or should I make a list of suggestions?
I think it depends entirely on the individual. Why don't you start by asking him what he's interested in? I know some boys this age who are heavily into sports, others who like card games (YuGiOh, MAgic The Gathering, etc.) or board games. Find out what he's "into" and start from there.

Since he won't know anyone I've thought to get in touch with some families that I know with boys between 10 and 13. I'd like to set up play dates for him but is he too old for this? If he is too old to have parents/caregiver led meetings how do I go about encouraging him to make appropriate friends?
Since you're homeschooling him, have you contacted any hs groups in your area? He'll probably be able to hook up with kids there. Once he meets some kids, he should be able to tell you who he wants to get together with.

What types of privacy boundaries would be appropriate?
In our house, our kids' rooms are their territory. They keep it the way they want it and no one enters without permission. It's their space. The only time I get involved is if a room begins to be a health hazard. I do the laundry, but I don't search out dirty clothes--it's up to the kids to get their things into the hamper. The kids have all been taught about showers and tooth brushing and changing into clean clothing, but that's their responsibility. I have been known to suggest that perhaps they've waited a little too long between showers... but really, that's about as far as I go. Usually the response is, "Yeah, I know" and then they head to the shower.

You know, remembering myself at this age, I was dreading the day my kids became pre-teens/teens, but I've been pleasantly surprised. It's a nice age.
Jenne's Avatar Jenne 02:18 AM 12-11-2004
Thank y'all for your wisdom and ideas. I really appreciate it! What an adventure this is going to be!

Happy Holidays,

mamameg's Avatar mamameg 01:17 AM 12-12-2004
My stepson is 12 years old and has special needs, including some mild developmental delays. His maturity level sounds similiar to your nephew's. He's recently come to live with us, and we just went through the adjustment you are about to begin.

One of the first things we did was have a family meeting. We discussed what our expectations were of him as a memeber of our family. We assigned him some jobs/chores and discussed basic house rules (respect for eachother, etc). We asked his opinion along the way and made sure he felt like the expectations were acheiveable. We wrote down all the info so we have it to refer to in case there's a disagreement about what the expectations are. It's all very specific, no gray areas. The deal is that if he fulfills all of the expectations each month, he gets $50 and that's his spending money for the month, plus if he wants to save up for something, it comes out of that.

For TV and video games, we notice a huge difference in his ability to focus when he's TV-free, so we do our best to keep it at a minimum. He can watch as much news/educational TV as he wants (which isn't much, except that he actually loves watching Countdown with Keith Oberman every night :LOL), and all other TV/VG playing has to be earned: one hour of reading buys him one hour of TV/VG. And he had to fill up his "bank" with 5 hours of reading before he got to watch ANY. He doens't much care for reading, so he doesn't spend a huge amount of time banking hours. He would rather just go outside.

My DSS really needs specific direction and suggestions for things to do when he's not watching TV. I personally think he lies around, doing nothing, hoping maybe someone will say, "Hey, you wanna watch TV?" I can only take so much of the lying around in major walkways, draping his body over the furniture, and general boredom before I tell him to find something to do. He used to whine, 'But there's nothing to dooooooo". So I started giving him a chore to do if he had "nothing" to do. Amazing how quickly that worked! Suddently, there was no more boredom and no more lying around doing nothing! Now, I just tell him to do something and he finds something to do pretty quicky. :LOL But he still needs that initial prompt sometimes.

His bedroom is his to do what he wants with, but we do ask that he cleans it up on Sat morning before he goes outside to play. He also cleans his bathroom (just the sinks and counters - I do the floor and the toilet because I know he wouldn't do it to my standards, so I just do it myself) on Sat mornings, and takes out the recycling whenever it needs to be taken out. Oh, and he brings his basket of dirty clothes to me and I wash them.

My DSS functions best when he has a checklist of sorts to go from when getting ready for the day/ Shower, check. Get dressed in clean clothes, check. Put on deodorant, check. Have breakfast, check. Brush teeth, check. Yes, it's very specific - he is sort of a head-in-the-clouds kind of kid and he needs to be reminded of these things daily. Some days are better than others - sometimes he doesn't even need to look at the list, other times that list is the only thing that gets him out the door.

As for making friends, we have encouraged him to introduce himself to kids in the neighborhood. We figure, it's hard, but kids have to learn how to make friends on their own, and he's at the age where he should be able to do that. He was nervous about it at first, but we did some role playing and reassured him that it would be okay, and he did great! He just moved here in June and now he has about 4-5 friends in the neighborhood and several others he's made at school since it started. It also helped that he spent time in the summer at the Boys & Girls Club. They had a great summer program, and he goes there after each school day, as well. He really likes it and has a lot of fun with friends there, too. Any organized activities are always helpful for kids who need to make friends.

Good luck with your new adventure! Let us know how it goes.
Red's Avatar Red 12:54 AM 12-13-2004
My parents were foster parents to 40 kids, most teens. I fostered for 4 years, mostly little ones, but three teens. Just so ya know where I'm coming from.

First, go slow. These are a lot of changes to adjust to, for both of you. If you feel overwhelmed at any time, just imagine how he must feel, with os many fewer coping skills.

I loved homeschooling and highly recommend it. However, this is a unique situation. Most homeschoolers join groups, like for science, or they homeschool for religous reasons. SOme join groups for taking fun and educational field trips. This way, the kids meet other kids in the same situation. You could try "finding your tribe" here at MDC to see if there are any homeschoolers in your area. Some areas have 'schools' kids can go to for just a class a week or so. Another way to meet kids. If your DN is a really social kid, he'll manage. If not, you have to. I would, under the circumstances, consider public school.

'House rules' are helpful. Write down, say 10, of the most important things you need your dn to know/do. Post it on the fridge. THis worked great for my mom. SHe said it was hard to argue with a list on the fridge! Your's might look like this;

1)Clean room or no 'puter time. Clean room means dirty clothes in hamper, dirty dishes in dishwasher, trash in basket, clean clothes in drawers. (Don't expect perfection. for the first few weeks, accentuate the postitive. If he has books under his bed and his blankets are on the floor, but the dishes are taken care of and his laundry is ok, just concentrate on what's done.)

2)no name calling or yelling.


Be sure toi othink about what things are really most important to you. Change the list as needed, but don't just keep adding to it. Pick 10 things, work on them. Really 3 things would be plenty to work on, but you'll probably need to make some things clear.

What behaviors do you see as immature? IT's hard, not having his background. Many of these immature bahaviors are probably coping skills, assuming he's ging to be living with you for a reason. He probably has areas that are delayed, because of whatever the background is, and will work through them in time.

I hihgly recommend the GD forum. SOrry, I don't know if you have kids, or any experience, so please don't be offended. I am a jump-in-with-both-feet kinda person, and you sound like you may be too. If you are new to 11 yo's, I'd go much slower than you may beplanning. Eleven and moving to a new home is tough.

I'd homeschol for just an hour or so a day, take many, many field trips. He'll be new to the area, so everywhere makes a good trip. I, personally, feel unschooling to be a lot of work if it's going to be done right, and think it's easier to simply teach for an hour or so, and then concentrate on learning with im the rest of the time. Go to museums, not just the big ones. Search on-line and visit some of those tiny ones. Childrens' museums are still great at 11. Call your local school and see if they have any clubs or activities open to homeschoolers. SOme do.

Call the YMCA, a great way to meet others. He can join teams, swim, hang with other kids at the 'clubhouse' most have, and you can join him for activities, too.

If you go to kid friendly places and hang out a lot, it will help. I mean, places where it's ok to be with an adult, but you might meet other kids. (we have Kidsport, playgrounds, soccer fields. If you go kick a ball around, sometimes another kid will join in, and you can fade out.

Inviting others over to dinner, as someone suggested, is a great idea. Be blunt with them. Tell them you are trying to help your nephew get adjusted and don't worry if it goes badly. Just serve dessert, take notes for the next time, and try again. (Is your nephew tough or sweet? Is being 'cool' all important? DOes he play a musical instrument? Love soccer?) It will helk you to figure out who to invite over.

And I know you didn't ask, BUT... heck it's late, I'm on my way to bed, and I have nothin g to lose by sticking my nosy neck into YOUR life, ...I'd consider letting him earn video game time. :

I know, tv is evil and so are those games.

But they're a great way to connect with a kid his age. Boys can't sit down, face-to-face like many girls, and talk about how things are going. In the car, driving down the highway, focused on the open road, they'll sometimes talk. But video games often have the same effect. IF you were to allow, say only Mario and Zelda-type games (mazes, strategy, shooting magical creatures with sling-shots, etc. and race games. I highly recommend 'Monkey Ball' for silly fun.) and you 'got sucked in' with him, you'd share something. For an eleven yo boy to have an aunt who loves to challenge him to a game, well, it's even better than a parent.

Run to the library, get...heck, I forget the right name, Raising Sons? someone here will know. I've found guiding to be better than forbidding, even to dangerous stuff, sometimes.

Boys are soooo different from girls. I'd like to get ahold of those 'Free to be, You and me' folks and then there was a book I had....Raising Baby X? If you didn't know is the baby was a girl or a boy, how differently we might raise them.. All bulll, IMO, cause boys are boys, and girls are girls.

But I digress.

Best of luck to you both! Let us know how it goes.
Marsupialmom's Avatar Marsupialmom 02:04 AM 12-13-2004
If he has never been taught to clean up he will have to be taught. Remember that he cannot do things he has never learned.

As for being immature well at 10, 11, 12 and even 13 you have large gaps in development. You can have some very mature 11 year olds then other that are immature. My son is 10. Seeing him in a group of boys his age there is a large variance in development. Some of this age group the boys are going through puberty others are a million miles form it. So please accept that his immature behavior is/could be age appropriate. Even if he hits puberty this does not mean his mind has matched his body (this goes for girls also).

A meeting and a check list of what he is expected to do is can be helpful. Boys can be just as forgetful as girls. Often times we blame girls forgetfulness and spaceyness on hormones but boys are just being defiant, forgetful, and/or bad. Boys are getting hormones at this age.

I know you don’t want the games but it is a way to connect and for him to feel at “home“. Can you limit the time amount on them? Also if he has never had to use his imagination he might need help finding things to do. Making a list of things for him to do and telling him to find something off the list will help him.

Ask him what he is interested in. Card games like suggested is a way to get boys together. Do you have a local comic book store? Many have game days.

I would recommend you pick the book up for him. “The Big Book of Boy Stuff” by Bart King. Since this can help him get creative and use his imagination a little. There are activities and ideas that will make your eyes roll but he is a boy let him be one.

He might not have been in sports before have him pick one to give it a try. Does he know how to ride a bike?

Knock before you go in, he is creeping upon the age they start masturbating.

Also, I might be reading things into your post but you seem to see how you want to change him. You need to realize this child has had a different life than you would give your own you might need to change for him. Don’t make him feel he is the only one that is going through changes. Don’t set down rules that he can get overwhelmed with. Realize there is a compromise to everything. Realize there might be things that are not worth the battle. Realize you have not gone through 11 years of development to know were he is on development. When bumps arise ask yourself if you are expecting to much of him.

One of my co-workers grew up hard and fast. When she moved into her father’s and stepmother’s the hardest thing they had to deal with is that they were dealing with a very mature 14 year old that had seen way to much. They had to allow her freedoms because she was mature. These are things they would not have let their own daughter the room for.
MarineWife's Avatar MarineWife 06:02 AM 12-15-2004
11 year old boys can be very mature and very child-like at the same time. I like to not put expectations on any child as to how they *should* be behaving as long as they aren't doing anything destructive or dangerous. I have a 13yo who in on instant will be talking about hot girls and the next will be dancing around the room like a spaz. I don't think that setting up playdates is a good idea. I think you need to give this boy as much time as he needs to get settled into his new surroundings. Let him choose his own friends on his own time. How would you feel if your dh told you that you had to be friends with his bosses wife that you had nothing in common with? I, for one, would not appreciate that one bit. Keep in mind where he has come from and what has been expected from him before. Like someone said earlier, you cannot expect him to know how to do something that he's never learned to do. I think it will be very hard for him and even disrespectful of you to say that you will not allow him to watch TV or play video games since those are things that he loves. Imagine how you would feel if someone told you that what you really loved and enjoyed was bad or not useful or not meaningful or whatever. It's meaningful to him so it should matter to you if you truly care about him. He is a separate, individual person with his own likes and dislikes that need to be respected. He is not someone to be molded or controlled or shaped or formed into what you think a person should be.
Jenne's Avatar Jenne 02:20 AM 12-16-2004
Hmmm...lots to think about here...

MamaMeg and Red, lots of good ideas, thanks. MarineWife you have given some things to think about but I think you may have read into my query some negativity that was not intended on my part...I have no interest in controlling anyone, however I do feel I have a responsibility to guide him into more responsible/reasonable/pro-social choices for himself and I do feel there is a big difference between routine and structure and being disrespectful to a child. Maybe I read your response incorrectly or maybe we are just coming from 2 different places.

I got the email today that said when can he come we've made up our minds. I was both dreading and hoping for it. Dreading it because I cannot imagine how horrible his life must be right now for his mother to think someone else raising him is the best approach. Hoping because I know how bad his life is right now and I think just love and support and structure will go a LONG way to helping him be a more functional person. He comes down on January 8th.

I used to teach emotionally and behavior disordered middle school boys in a special school for ebd kids so I am familiar with the non-normative popluation and the variance, at least among that group...speaking of which DN's mother told me last week that he was labeled oppositionally defiant last summer WHAT?!?! This is a kid who is EAGER to please and is willing to do almost anything asked of him in a polite manner which is NOT O.D.D. I just don't get it! I do. I do get what is going on, just thinking about it breaks my heart.

I mean no disrespect in limiting the TV/video games. I am totally operating on the assumption (and you know what they say about assuming...) that he chooses those activities because he has no other choices for spending his time. He has very few toys or books or art supplies or games or people in his life who are willing to interact with him doing any of the previously mentioned activities. (Is the Big Book of Boy Stuff the cool book Bob and Tom were talking about over the summer? If so, we will definitely look into it...DH glowed listening about it...I meant to get it for him but lost the title...) We plan on doing family TV and videogames which is different, to me anyway, then having him spend all of his free time zoned out which is what is going on now. And I guess it isn't going to be a "rule" just I plan on helping him to keep busy with stuff so that isn't the preferred activity, you know?

DH and I have talked about being clear and consistent. We are also going to have family meetings on Sunday evenings to talk about the week ahead, the week that just happened, and how things are going. This is something DH and I already do and I think that will help him to feel a part of the family and decision making (I had to explain to DH that, yes, family was the right word to use to decribe what/who we will be I thought that was cute). Tonight I am going through my school stuff to see what choices to give him in terms of curriculum after I see where he is...DH is going to do weekly science experiments with him which I think will be good. Here is the rule list I have started so far. I can't decide if the totally positive list is the way to go or if that is too much...

Gentle touch with people, plants, and pets/No hitting or kicking people, plants, or pets
Positive words/No cursing
Food in the kitchen/No food in living room or upstairs

These are the biggest things I can think of rule wise. What do you think about the positive vs. negative? Everything else will either be routinized (morning routine, dinner routine, bedtime routine w/ checklists ) or choices- would you rather make your bed or put away your clothes this morning, are you going to empty the garbage or load the dishwasher first or if/then- if you get that last math page down then we can go to the park.
For me, responsibility/maturity comes with the freedom to make my own decisions. I am a big fan of choices and choice language.

We have decided that DN will have his own room and that school won't be there unless he wants it to be. He will have to keep it picked up (please read no nuclear waste or biohazards NOT white glove inspection) but we will knock when we enter and will respect his right to keep it in the manner he desires in terms of decoration and dust I will show him how to do his laundry and there will be laundry day each week and I will help him fold/put away if he wants my help.

Chores will be decided on a weekly/daily basis. Family meetings will talk about some of them, others will be decided on a daily basis.

Thanks for the input I really appreciate the positive, supportive ideas and the things that have challenged me to really look at my expectations about not only this situation and life. Thanks I'll keep everyone posted! Further input or responses are always good too...

Happy Holidays,

MarineWife's Avatar MarineWife 02:57 AM 12-16-2004
Jenne, You kind of got my point. I did not think from reading your post that you had any intentions of trying to control him in any negative way. However, I did get the feeling from your words that some of the things you think you should do for his good might end up having the opposite effect of what you intend. I can tell that you truly care for this boy or else you wouldn't be welcoming him into your home. I'm speaking from my own experience. I wasted a lot of years doing what I was told was best for my son trying to teach him discipline and give him structure. Unfortunately, the message he got was that the things he valued were not good and this translated in his mind to him not being good. We spent most of our time in a struggle and everyone was miserable. Once I finally let go and trusted him to know what was good for him everything became so much better. I cannot describe the difference.

Obviously, you are the one that's there to see what his life has been and maybe get an idea of why he does the things he does. I see a big difference between a kid who zones out on video games because no one has ever paid attention to him and a kid that spends a lot of time playing video games because that's what he loves to do. KWIM?

I don't know if I'm explaining myself well here. It's so hard sometimes to get my point across on these message boards. I wanted to give you some things to think about that you might not have considered before. As adults we may say things that are perfectly logical and nonjudgemental to us but the child may get a completely different message. I guess my point is to tread lightly and be careful that in your zeal to help this boy you don't end up hurting him even more.