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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
*heavy sigh* I'll try to make this as concise as possible.

My ds1 is almost 14, and my dd is 11. I know what's developmentally appropriate for their ages, so please understand that this is beyond a "normal pre/teen thing."

My two oldest children have had every opportunity they could ask for. We've done all the "right" things. We read out loud to them, have been involved with their schools, set good examples of volunteerism and concern for the environment, provided a very stable home, encouraged them to join 4-H, scouts, and sports, etc.

I don't understand why my kids are the way that they are.
My dh and I both feel that we have failed horribly somewhere along the way as parents. Neither one of them is doing very well in school as they refuse to work to their potential, or even many times to very basic things like study for tests or do homework. It has been this way literally since they started kindergarten. Neither one of them sticks with ANYTHING or will assume any type of responsibility. My 3-year-old remembers to put his shoes on the bench when entering the house or to clean up his spot after eating, but neither one of the older two seem to be capable of the same things.

They don't want to work for anything, be it money, more privelages, or just plain pride. They seem to have none. They're responsible for doing the dishes every night after dinner (we have a dishwasher). Despite having this responsibility for over a year, as well as a written list of tasks that have to be completed, they are still "unable" to straighten the kitchen/do dishes under 45 minutes and without us reminding them what to do. We had an event at my dd's school tonight, and I was embarassed when I saw her science project on display with all of the other children's. When she pointed out a friend's much nicer project, I asked her if she didn't wish she'd worked harder on hers. She said, no and laughed. Oh, and she said that the other projects were nicer because they spent more money (which didn't make any sense at all!). And yes, I tried to help her with her project beforehand.

My dd is outright disobedient and refuses to do what we ask a lot of the time. They are both lazy, and I just don't get it. My ds1 switched to baritone in band (from trumpet) because he doesn't have to bring it home to practice with (it's owned by the school, unlike his trumpet). He just doesn't want to practice or work at anything. He's currently taking guitar lessons (his choice) and I have to tell him all the time to practice, or ask him if he has. He asked me the other day what was wrong with being average. My dd *finally* expressed an interest in something - fencing - so we signed her up for lessons. Well, it's too much work so now she wants to quit. And yes, we've been through this with dance, baseball, 4-H, etc.

I feel so sad when I look at them. I see such a loss of potential. Their biological dad (whom they both adore and want to live with) is pretty unstable, constantly switching jobs and addresses, lies all the time, etc. - and they seem to emulate him instead of the example that we've worked to provide. They both seem to be following in his footsteps. He's almost 40 and lives with his mom, and has never been employed or lived at the same place for more than 18 months.
I'm afraid that they'll turn out just like him.

I could use some support or advice. Right now I feel like the world's worst mom.
 

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I don't have teenagers. Yet. But it sounds to me like a "Love and Logic" type situation would REALLY help around the house. They don't do the dishes without you hovering? Okay, no food. Won't practice instruments? Fine, you don't pay for any more lessons. Don't do homework? Okay, they fail a grade. Fail grades and drop out of school? It's a shame they can't get a job. They'd better find someplace to live where food and water and towel usage is free.
It sounds like you tend to hover, and they never HAVE to do anything, because you are right there telling them what to do constantly.
Yes, I realize that something medically may be wrong with their brains, given that their bio-dad exhibits the same characteristics. But they have got to learn to survive on their own, and without natural repercussions to the behaviors that are driving you crazy, they will be 40 and whining because you didn't buy cheetos.
 

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Operamommy, I could have written that post. My genders are switched though...14yo DD and 12yo DS I have 3 brilliant kids and the 7yo is more responsible than the older 2. L&L has not "worked."
Advice/Realizations
~I cannot force my kids to care. I tried forcing learning and motivation and work ethic and pride in their talents down their throats. It's like trying to force someone to love you.
~I won't allow them to quit stuff. Once committed, they have to finish the season or year or whatever period of time they've signed up for.
~Schools often don't have consequences for incomplete or poorly done work. I don't know if your DD received equal credit for her project as the classmate who worked harder. I know that is often the case in many schools.
I think this is a huge problem. I will often hear "well the teacher doesn't care if I turn it in late/incomplete/not at all, why should you?" Yes, I know lots of kids who have a strong work ethic, that take pride in their work no matter what. I just don't have those kinds of kids.
~I look for something my kids are taking pride in. For example, DD was totally immersed in InStyle magazine. It drives me nuts. Then I noticed she knew so much about different designers and elements of clothing design. She and her girlfriend design clothing and are working (sporadically) on making some clothes. DD also found Kung Fu at the height of her amotivation.
~I am pulling back. DD has a total adult relationship in her dojo. We pay the fees and that's it. Consequently, she spends up to 15 hours a week there. She's begun teaching lower belt classes to get credit towards weekend intensives. Same for DS and guitar. His teacher told us never to mention guitar or practice at home. Leave it to him and DS. It took a LONG time but DS is practicing on his own, writing songs.
~I don't object to incentives or competition. DD's school is doing a speech contest. She's a brilliant writer and excellent public speaker. She could easily win. I promised myself I would not nag or remind her to do it. It's optional. This is very hard given her talents. Yesterday, she showed me a Hello Kitty Sigg bottle. I told her I'd get it for her if she was the 8th grader giving the speech at graduation. Would I prefer she do it for the pride of doing a great job and the opportunity to express appreciation to the school? Yes. But if this will move her towards feeling pride when she's up there, it's Ok by me.
~I try to focus on one thing at a time. I celebrate inwardly when DS 1 sits down and reads a book. I jump up and down when DD cleans the pit of despair(her room) without being told. I thank them when they do thorough job in the kitchen.
~My kids need to be passionate about something or it's an after-thought. At different times, they have given their all to school. This has been when the unit of study was particularly fascinating to them. This is a good thing but I'd like some balance. One needs basic math skills in order to balance a checkbook, etc. So DD hates math but she needs to achieve basic competency. DS1 dislikes writing but it's a skill we all need.
That's all I have to offer for now. But I totally empathize with you!
Sometimes we joke that the first 2 were our practice children. Our youngest is our real kid!
 

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My mom probably felt the same way about me that you do about your kids. She was forever telling her friends, on the phone and well within my hearing distance, how I never helped around the house and took everything in the world for granted. Now, aside from this being totally untrue, it didn't exactly motivate me to do anything. The big thing here is that I HATE praise. I hate it. I can't respond when somebody tells me I've done something really well and I think it always sounds disingenuous. Even if my mother was being genuine (which, in her case, I don't think she was ) with her praise, it was highly annoying. I'd do everything I could to avoid her totally over the top remarks.

Also, when she did notice I'd done something nice, she'd throw it back in my face foooorrrrreeeeevvvvveeerrrrrr. I mopped the kitchen floor once a week. I'd been doing this after school for about 3 years by the time my mother noticed. I don't know how she thought the floor was getting cleaned, but the one time she saw me mop the floor she made this big production about how I was such a big helper (I was 16) and she was so happy I was finally helping out around the house, and then a couple weeks later she said "Angie, I need you to mop the floor today. I know you're capable of it, I saw you do it the other day, so don't even think of pulling that 'I don't know how crap'" I'd already mopped the floor since the time she'd seen me. I still mopped the floor. When she asked if I had I usually responded with "well, does it LOOK clean?" or something along those lines.

I'm not saying that's your situation, but my mother viewed me as the laziest human on the face of the planet, when I really wasn't. Might THEY perceive that they are doing more?
 

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Going through this right now with a 10yo. It's not as bad, but it's still frustrating.

I'm letting him fail. It is not my job to remind or nag when it's written down and well known what he has to do. If he doesn't wipe down the table, he's the only eating there. The rest of us move to a cleaner room. If he doesn't put his clothes in the laundry, he doesn't have clean ones (took 3 weeks of him wearing stuff to the point of it being FILTHY and missing his award ceremony because of it before the point hit home.) He's repeating his English curriculum next year because he turned in work like "there is a bed in my room. So I use it. Moving on." because 3 sentences equal a paragraph, right??? Oy.

If the kids don't clean the kitchen, you don't have to cook for them. If they don't do the work at school, let them repeat. If they show no progress at the lessons, don't re-enroll.

The point is to not care more than they do. It doesn't make any sense to be the one driving them at this age. They have to have the chance to fall down a little bit so that they can care, not have someone care for them. I set my own standards as to what I will put up with - I won't eat at a dirty table, I won't go out with someone who is dirty and stinky. If he wants to be that way, that's fine, but I don't have to put up with it. I can do my own thing.

I would suggest the book How To Talk So Kids Will Listen....so you can get to the root of the issue when they complain the lessons are too hard or complain in general. Often, it's not what we think.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks so much for the replies. I had to give myself a few days to breathe and calm down! I'm not quite so depressed about the situation now.


chiromamma, it made me feel so relieved to know that we weren't the only parents dealing with children like this. It's so easy to assume that somehow we caused it all by bad parenting. I find myself playing the guilt game a lot with myself and re-thinking things I did years and years ago when they were little.

I think that dd getting her first "F" on her report card this time around has made her re-think things quite a bit. She's mentioned to me several times (without me asking) that she's trying to do a lot better in school.
Maybe that was the kick in the butt she needed. We talked about how yucky getting bad grades on your report card makes you feel.

And weirdly enough, the last time I took ds1 to his guitar practice he got all fired up about it and decided that he wants to save up and purchase a new guitar. I don't know if he'll really do it or not, but I've decided no more nagging about practicing. If he doesn't practice, we'll spend that almost $1000 a year on something else instead of his lessons. I really loved what LilyGrace said about not caring more than they do. That makes a lot of sense to me.

ziggy, your post reminded me that I need to be very careful and make sure that I'm praising their efforts when they do help out. My big kids do have a lot of positives going for them. My ds1 is a HUGE reader; he reads for at least an hour every single night before bed. He also is very into making stop-motion movies, which we try to support him in as much as we can. Dd is so caring and is wonderful with her smaller brothers. She told me the other day that when she finishes fencing that she'd like to become involved in theatre, which I think will be wonderful.

I'm trying to remind myself that we've done everything possible to give them a firm foundation. They have to start making their own choices and (hopefully!!) learning from bad ones before they're completely on their own one day.
 

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I think Ziggy didn't like praise. So she didn't mean praise more, she may have meant don't complain where they can hear you. I think a simple thank you can sometimes be better than praise.
 

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Yes, sometimes they are very good at "digging their own hole". I fuss and then back away. I don't want them to hate me but that doesn't mean I won't let them know that some things are unacceptable to me and hubby. As far as we are concerned... school is their job.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by ssh View Post
I think Ziggy didn't like praise. So she didn't mean praise more, she may have meant don't complain where they can hear you. I think a simple thank you can sometimes be better than praise.
Exactly - I hated it when my mother would go on and on about how great it was when I did something, but then I'd hear her on the phone telling her best friend how awful I was or whatever.

Just saying "thanks for doing the dishes" is SOOO much better than "oh my gosh thank you so much for doing the dishes sweetheart, it means sooooo much to me when you help out! And see how easy it was! You can do that more often! It wasn't that hard, was it??" Makes me never want to do the dishes again!
 

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My therapist helped me see this in a different way with my kids. You raised them with certain values. They are now at a place in their lives where they are ready to test that, and discover is what mom and dad believe really true in the world? At some point we all test what our parents taught us and we come out the other side feeling like it's just not for us, or completely reinforced in those values/beliefs. They are learning that not working hard in school is going to have negative results. Like you can tell a little kid "that's hot, it's going to burn you" and at some point they are going to try touching it anyway.

It's not your job to make them understand what hard work brings them. But it is your job to make them comply with your house rules. One thing that worked for us was switching how privileges work. Instead of the blank slate = all privileges and then taking away as a punitive measure, the blank slate = no provileges and they get them AFTER they have done what's required of them by our house rules.
 

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I, too, could have written that thread. I have a ds 16 who does not yet have his drivers license because he is too lazy to complete the online course. He' flunking at hte expensive private school he goes to so we are yanking him out and sending him to a public school (which in our town aren't great.)

DD, 20 now, has finally developed a very good work ethic but we can't get her to pay attention to school at all. She takes a few classes at the local junior college but won't decide what or where she wants to go. We're done with that as of this semester. Oh - btw, she has a GED because she also didn't pay attention in high school - played, spent money, dated really bad guys, etc. so the same private school DS attends invited her to leave her senior year. It was too late - she was too far behind - to get her into another school. Now she lives at home and works full time, takes a few classes at night and is somewhat better, but leaves a mess at home for me, is completely self-absorbed, etc.

DS is a very sweet kid but will not work at ANYTHING. At all. No sports, school, etc. If its not fun, forget it.

And YOU feel like a bad parent???? DH says daily we should have stuck to dogs.
 

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I have always been told that you have to start at an early age by teaching children to do things for themself, especially chores and cleaning up after themselves.
I started early with my son, who is now a teen and he is pretty good about it but I still have to stay on top of him when he doesn't clean up after himself. He's only human though, but as his parent I stay on him, and not in a mean way but in a reminder sort of way. He has many chores to complete each week, mostly outdoor yardwork and he does it when we ask, no complaining. But inside he usually forgets to clean up after fixing himself something to eat or he will forget to get his laundry ready, little things like that. But he has been doing all of this since he was much younger and he knows what we want him to do and usually tries to do it. I do know that my own parents never would have allowed me to live in their home and not do my chores, school and clean up after myself, especially if I was over the age of 18.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
GenB, I spoke with my very wise MIL this past week, who reminded me that her own parents raised 3 kids all exactly the same way. My MIL and one of her brothers have led very stable, happy lives. Her other brother is 53 and STILL can't hold a job. He's basically a big stoner.
He wasn't raised that way, and our kids haven't been either. Sometimes they make choices that we can't control. *hugs*

darcytrue, I really wish it was as easy as just starting them early. Believe me, I've done all you described with my older children (and more!) since they were toddlers. I honestly don't believe that there's a simple answer here.

montlake, we've started the "blank slate" as you suggested and I'm liking that much better than taking away things. It's so much easier to answer requests with, "You haven't earned that privilege today" - I think it really helps put the focus on THEM and their choices.
 

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Do your kids know that you feel that their biological dad - who they adore - is lazy and unreliable and generally not worthy of respect? It doesn't matter what the reality is, he's their father and they love him (understandably so). They will take criticism of him as criticism of themselves b/c they identify with their parent. This can lead to rebellion, wanting to be closer to the other parent, etc.

Honestly, I could imagine your kids feeling pressured to be this "perfect family with perfect kids" (in fact, it sounds a little like you feel that pressure) and digging in their heels. They may resent the constant "improvement" reminders. What's their relationship like with your dh? How often do they see their dad?

I think there may be stepfamily issues here too. Adolescence is often when kids start wanting more of a relationship with their biological parents (esp non-residential) and wanting to understand more about their family of origin. How the residential parents handle that is important. I.e., being supportive of that desire and NEVER bad-talking about the other parent - no matter how much they might deserve it.
 

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I can understand what you are going through.
We give our children options we would have loved to have, yet they take it for granted and miss the opportunities we want for them.


When our daughter was 9, she wanted piano lessons, and since we let her have one activity (scouts, sports, lessons, etc.) outside of school, I signed her up with a local teacher. Daughter was amazing, her teacher astounded, she flew through an entire year of lessons in six months! She barely practiced, but her teacher told me she was very gifted. At about seven months into the lessons, the music got quite a bit more difficult. Did she see it as a challenge and start really practicing? Nope. She cried that she couldn't do it and worked herself up into such a lather about it every week that I ended up canceling the lessons. She was mad about it at first but then she was relieved (I think).

She is going to play saxophone next year so we'll see how that goes. I hope that playing with a group will motivate her to keep up, but it's really up to her.

Thankfully, she is very motived about some things, but I know how you feel about wasted potential.


My advice:

Set up a "learning hour" for after they have had their snacks after school. We set a timer and daughter can do anything that contributes to learning (no listening to music during this time). This has worked REALLY well! She does any homework during that time, and doesn't rush through it since she has to use the entire hour. Days when she doesn't have homework, she can read, write, do science experiments, go over multiplication facts, anything that contributes to learning. I've even let her sew during this hour sometimes since that is constructive.

She is usually so into what she's started that she continues working on whatever she started long after the hour is over.

Take away the distractions... TV is a huge un-motivator, so cancel the cable (if you have it) or even get rid of the TV. Limit play time with outside kids (for a while). If they don't already, make sure your kids have lots of books and graphic novels that they like. Whatever is eating up their time in the afternoons/evenings, take it away and they will be forced to read, or otherwise amuse themselves in a creative way. It's not structured like lessons, but it's still learning, at least.

I agree what others have said that we should back off and let the natural consequences fall... if they don't have clean clothes because they won't put them in the hamper, then they wear dirty clothes to school, etc. If it takes an hour for they to clean the kitchen, then they have to clean for an hour. I love natural consequences.

Good luck! And remember, they have many years ahead to wise up and get motivated!
 

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I could have just about written your post word for word, my daughter is 15. Homework, studying, etc. has been nothing but a struggle between us all year.

This nine weeks things have gotten better because I've linked assignments to her cell phone. I know, totally not logical consequences, but it's worked. She was simply not doing assignments - both homework and in class, because she "didn't want to". Our school participates in Edline, a site that I can check as often as I want to monitor her grades/assignments/etc. Most teachers update it every few days. The new rule was if there was an assignment missing the cell phone would be taken away until the assignment was turned in or for one week, whichever was a longer period of time. Every single assignment has been done since that rule went into effect.

Today she finally began to see the light - she failed health the first semester of school this year. She said she didn't like the teacher. She said the teacher hated her. She didn't like who she sat near. She just didn't want to do the homework. None of her friends were in her class. It was stupid. And on, and on, and on. She tried to tell me that although it was a required class, she was not required to pass it. Basically she just didn't care.

Today she came home and told me that she has two options:

1. Take health in summer school or
2. Drop an elective and take it next year as a sophomore and have to take tutoring as well.

She wants to take summer school and I refused her, for two reasons:

1. Summer school costs me $, both for the course and for gas taking her to and from the school every day and
2. Summer school will be a pain in the butt for me and her younger siblings, which is totally not fair for us.

If this had been a class that she had put time and effort into, struggled with, and still failed I might have considered it, but her simply not caring is her own fault and she will have to deal with it next year. I'm sure she considers me the meanest mom in the world right now.
 
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