25 answers

13 Year Old Son Having Trouble with Rules

This somewhat goes along with a recent request I read but I thought I would add my own dilemma. My 13 year old son is a straight A student and he is getting Ds and Fs. This is all because he won't turn in assignments, or just plain doesn't do the work. He has lost most of his priviledges but it doesn't seem to help or motivate him. He also has a tough time following any rules. He has always been this way and maybe it's just that I have had enough of it, but anything structured he tries to rebel from. I had him in extra curricular activities and thought maybe that was too much for him so now he just does school and scouts, but he still won't turn in assignments. He has broken his arm twice in the last year doing stupid things--breaking rules, and has had countless stitches over the last two years. His judgement is just so off. I have taken him to two counselors who have both tested him and both have said he is a smart kid who knows exactly what he is doing and can clearly make good choices. We've spent over $3000 in counseling and $10,000 on medical bills on him since he was about 10 and honestly, he's not changed a bit. I really am at a point where I feel like maybe I should just give up on him as far as grades. And if he continues to have bad judgement, oh well, he can suffer the consequences. We're just broke financially and emotionally and he doesn't seem to care one way or another. No discipline has ever worked for him, ever. He just goes to his room and retreats. As I said, two different professional counselors have worked with him and they say he's fine. Do I just let it go? It's really affecting our family.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Hi everyone, I am so grateful for all the responses. When I said that I am ready to give up on my son, that probably sounded awful. I think more what I meant was I am just completely burned out and feeling hopeless after trying everything we know. He is already extremely monitored and has always been because he has always behaved this way. He has no TV or video games in his room and has limited access to both unless all chores and homework is finished. I go through his room once a week and have never found anything questionable. He also has absolutely no access to computer or internet in our home. They are password protected and I allow him to use it only when I am supervising him. When he retreats to his room what he does is play Legos or reads--and I monitor everything he reads. We have decided to make him share a room with his younger brother and hope this will help socialize him more with the family. I have taken away everything but his bed before and it didn't help. So we thought maybe having him share with his brother would be a good idea and then his room will be much closer to ours anyway. I had a very long talk with him yesterday after reading some of these responses and I do believe he may have some form of depression. Thank you so much for your remarks, I didn't realize there were others who had similar experiences.

Featured Answers

Whatever you do C., don't give up on him. He's not a throw away kid! Does he have a teacher that he really likes? Enlist the help of his teachers in getting assignments and sit with him to help him if that's what it takes.
I'm a single grandma raising two granddaughters, with the 4th grader that is what I do. Sit with her to help her if she needs it but mostly I sit and work on something. It's the fact that Grandma is interested in what she's doing.
Sometimes it's a real pain as there's always something else I would rather be doing but it's what this child needs.
Wild Rose

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Reading your post certainly brought back some memories of raising kids. My son sounds much like yours, and you sound like me, I was ready to give up and just let him suffer the consequences by the end of his freshman year. I had worked with the school who provided extra help through a support team who would go to the classroom and also had a class kids went to who needed extra help with their school work. Even with this he still did not do well with some subjects. Our dilema was him respecting the teacher, if he didn't he would not perform well in that class.

I don't have any magic answers, all I can say is use the resources your school may have to support you and your son. Use the support of other family members, church member or friends when you feel hopeless.

The rest of my story is my son is 27 and a couple of years ago he ask if I knew why he stayed in school and graduated. I said no and he replied "because I knew how important it was to you mom." Yeah I cried for all the times I had wanted to give up on him because it wasn't that he didn't want to do graduate but he also shared made the comment about how hard it had been because of how ugly kids these days can be, and I could still see the hurt in his eyes. I don't know if we as parents really know how our kids days go, the peer pressure, the grade pressure, it is all so much more intense today. Also found out in just the last couple of years that my sin battles depression. He is now taking medication and for the most part does well dealing with it. I don't advocate giving medicine or looking for excuses but when I looked back at pictures I'd taken of my son and school pictures I wonder how I could have been so blind. The gaunt look and the hollowed dark circled eyes. This may be something you want to think about if your son may have problems with depression, I know you said you've had him in counseling but so had I at one time and no one picked up on the depression. Remember depression is a sickness, it's not about someone who isn't happy although that is a symptom.

As far as my sons life today - he is a productive, responsible young man working for a good company where his job duties requires a certain amount of self motivation and decision making. Of course it is dealing with technology which he thrives on. His self esteem for the most part is very confident but at time his self image is still low but my prayer is that one day he will come into the full realization of how precious and valuable he is.

My words of encouragement to you is remember no one ever said raising kids was going to be easy, you may be the only one who your son feels like believes in him. The punishment thing never worked with my son either because he felt like life was a punishment I believe and the flip side of that coin was he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I loved him and

1 mom found this helpful

C. Dear, Holly writes WISDOM !!!

Age 13 is the start of the teenager's time:
you have no less than 6 years of hardship ahead:
it may turn into a great time of friendship and co-creating,
or a rough time of tears, fears, rebellion and struggle...
My advise: take Holly's words literally, and start from there.
Iwish You Good Luck! Take Care, dear Ones!!!

Sorry to say, but my opinion is that it comes with the territory of him just being 13. I have a 17 year who did the same thing and we did the whole counseling bit and taking away privileges. He finally outgrew it and is graduating with honors this year. I now see my other son who just turned 13 starting to repeat history. You just have to take it all in stride, always keep the lines of communication open, and my number one bit of advice is to CHOOSE your battles and know that there is a time and place for everything. You'll get better results if you wait for the right time to talk to him. As far as the assignments are concerned, one thing that helped out tremendously was meeting with him and his counselor and implementing a tracking system for his work. The counselor said that most jr. high students just have a difficult time adjusting to a new way of thinking. They had a standard form in the counselors office which my son would fill in his assignments for the day for each class. Then I would know what is due and after he showed it to me completed, I would sign in a box and the next day, his teacher would sign the other box that he received it. After a few months we no longer needed the tracker sheets. Another thing that helped was peer counseling at school and after school tutoring. There are a number resources available at most schools. Maybe you can call and find out what your son's school offers to help alleviate the stress at home. Hope this information has been helpful to you.

It must be very tough for you and your husband but please try not to give up. You have 5 years to try to achieve something with him and then his gone. Are you sure he is not using drugs, maybe smoking pot? It's odd that he used to get such good grades before and now he's lost interest Maybe he needs to see a psychiatrist not a counselor so that he can have a chemical and hormonal analysis of his blood.
Please dont give up, remember the child who gives you the most trouble is the one who in the end needs you the most. I've been there. My daughter finally asked for help at age 17 and she's been seeing a therapist now regularily and getting better. In the end I think what she had was a real depression that although I could see, I could never get her to go and see a professional. Good luck to you...

If your son is as smart as it appears, he'll understand if you talk to him. I think parents forget how smart out kids are, and if we have a good relationship and can be open with them, they get more than we give them credit for. Besides, a good converstaion is cheap :) Good luck.

Whatever you do C., don't give up on him. He's not a throw away kid! Does he have a teacher that he really likes? Enlist the help of his teachers in getting assignments and sit with him to help him if that's what it takes.
I'm a single grandma raising two granddaughters, with the 4th grader that is what I do. Sit with her to help her if she needs it but mostly I sit and work on something. It's the fact that Grandma is interested in what she's doing.
Sometimes it's a real pain as there's always something else I would rather be doing but it's what this child needs.
Wild Rose

Dear C.,
I have a son (adopted since birth) who has the same issues. We found out early 5 years old that he had adhd. He is now 12. He has been seeing a psychiatrist for 7 years now - every week. He is diagnosed with bipolar, adhd and few other things.
My son is extremely intelligent. The school labeled him " twice-exceptionally gifted". He has all F's. We can not get him to write. We have had a real struggle with this. The doctor told me to not be surprised if he drops out of school, later gets a GED and much later a college degree. He also told me to leave it up to him. He is a great doctor here in Denver. He has been working with kids with mood-disorders for 27 years. I am finally taking his advice this year. It has been great for me because I am not screaming at him to get his homework done. He still gets "F's", though. The doctor told me he is learning by just sitting there. We are leaving it up to him now. Good Luck!
My son is also a boy scout. Troop 315.

If his name is Jacob, minus the accidents and doctors, he lives here. I'm curious to see what answers you get. Quite frustrating, isn't it? Want to contact me and talk?

I have 17 and 15 year old boys and from my experience no matter what you do they will push the limits. They are both very smart (before this stage they were on honor roll). They can pass every test they take but fail every class because they don't do homework. I have been told by several teachers & counselors that at about 13 their brains turn to mush so to speak. They are at a stage where they don't know if they are adults or kids and very confused. I have to agree with that. I hate to say this but from my experience they have to outgrow it themselves and it seems to take forever. You can encouarge them but pushing them only makes them rebel more. I finally just stopped nagging them about homework and such and am happy to say they are finally starting to realize that it is hurting them more than me. Unfortunatly they seem to have to learn things the hard way. We have been through everything from drugs, alchohol, ditching, failing classes, running away, run ins with the law, you name it nothing surprises me anymore. I was told by the school counselor to take all their privileges away, I did and it made matters worse. I have learned to focus my attention more on my 10 year old son and 9 year old daughter with the hopes they are also learning from their brothers experience. Have ALOT of patience try not to let it effect the rest of your family and focus on the good he does not the bad. Never give up. Good Luck its a very long process.

DON'T GIVE UP ON HIM!!! I know that's easy to say and hard to do. Talk to him. I'm a teacher and a mother of 2 boys. My concern is that he may have gotten involved in drugs. When I see a student go from A's to D's and F's it's usually drugs or depression. You said he's seen counselors --- and if they don't think he's depressed, then I would suspect drugs. Before you freak out about drugs--- I would be concerned about why he would be taking drugs. Something is going on that he is acting out. You need to get to the root of the problem. You need to open the doors of communication and give him lots of love. Don't be judgemental or he won't open up to him. I'm not saying be his friend--- you still need to be the parent. But he needs to feel safe talking to you. I also think he needs to return to extracurriculars. Extracurriculars keep kids in school. It helps them stay out of trouble --- keep their grades up and toe the line. Good luck.

My son went through the same thing in 7th grade. He deliberately didn't turn in homework (which he already did). He was trying to prove he was able to pass the test with all 0's. Why?!! Just a proof to himself. After all the punishment, etc. I finally let it go, and he got better. I hate to say it was a battle of wills, but I think it was a rebellion to prove he could take care of himself better than I could. No matter what you do, he will sabotage it. He wants to prove to YOU that he is more effective at managing his own decisions than you are. Definitely stay involved, stay informed, know everything about what he's doing. Just allow him to decide to do his homework at 4 p.m. or 10 p.m. I think it will be temporary while he tests you. We wrote out a contract, with a re-evaluation date. He lived up to it, I think it felt like a "job" instead of a "child"hood.

(I read the Dr. Dobson book, "The Strong Willed Child" just to help with my sanity.)
I wish you luck, it's tough to go through that age, but it does get better.

Hi C.,
I feel for you and your son and your family. You are all stuck in a bad place. I believe haven't found the right therapist for you and your family. I would encourage you to keep looking. You don't want a therapist that is looking for something "wrong" with your son. You want someone that will sit with you and your son and help you both figure out new ways to interact with each other and new ways to cope with life's stress. This is about both of you being in pain and being frustrated. Don't give up on your boy. Give up on the fighting and find someone to help you "fight" for a better life for all of you. As you said, you have been struggling with this for years. It will take a lot of hard work and a lot of time to get to a better place. But once you get there you will be so glad you didn't give up.
Good luck to you,

Hi C.,

Ah the joys of teenagers. I would try Brain Integration Technique. I don't know if there is a BIT practitioner where you are, but you can check out www.openpathwaystolearning.com they have some great information and some interesting topics to click on. You can also look at www.crossinology.com I know how frustrating this can be, but I don't beleive we should ever give up on our children, it can lead to a pretty rough life. You may want to read Dr. Scott Shannon's book "Please Don't Diagnose my Child" for some helpful ideas too! Perhaps there is a nutritional component that could be worked out.

Best of luck & kudos to you for reaching out for help!

R. www.myherblady.com

My 14 year old daughter went through the same behavior change when she entered middle school. She did a complete 360 once she left elementary school. I think that it is truly just a rebellious stage that they hit but if recognized and dealt with immediately and consistently, they pull out of it and begin to be themselves again. I learned with my daughter that it was just her way of showing everyone that she was "cool", having bad grades seems to be a status symbol these days apparently! Taking away priviledges didn't affect my daughter either, just seemed to make her lazier! Once I started listening to the things that she wanted when she got older I started to use those things as a way to motivate her to do better in school. She wants the big house, the nicest car, lots of clothes, etc. Telling her that she wont have any of that because she wont have an education has actually straightened her up quite a bit. She has turned around not only her attitude and her behavior, but her grades are beginning to get back to her normal a's and b's! Just find out what motivates your child and be there to encourage him to do his best, yet be consistent and diligent in making sure he does what he is suppose to do! Good Luck, I feel for you!

Try giving him some space. Let him know that every grade counts when he hits ninth grade and lay off. It sounds like he is rebelling. If you stop pushing him, there is nothing to rebel against. I recommend this only because pushing him isn't working at all. Me, my brother, and my cousin were similar to your son. My parents let my brother and I do what we wanted to but made sure we had the knowlege we needed to make wise decisions. Once ninth grade started we both kicked it into high gear and ended up getting academic scholarships to college. My cousin's parents begged and pleaded, nagged and punished. It was a wonder he graduated from high school at all because he rebelled and his grades were atrocious. For him it was all about the power struggle between he and his parents. For my brother and I there was no power struggle so we made good decisions when they counted. My cousin got to the point where he just wanted to make his parents mad and always felt like he was never good enough for them. They still have a very strained relationship. My brother and I were very grateful that our decisions were respected and we were allowed to work at our own pace and in our own time frame. Make sure you are respectful and tell him that you are going to let him make his own decisions for a while. Be careful of your tone. Good luck with your son. We all want what's best for our children but we have to be respectful let them make a lot of the major decisions.

Teenagers are very difficult! I have heard similar stories from numerous friends. Although they often like to be left alone (i.e. the retreating to his room), if you engage them in some one on one time, it is often surprising what comes from that. I once took my teenage girls to Six Flags and got stuck in a traffic jam for about an hour and a half on the way home. It was the best time ever - as we had no where to go, nothing to do but talk for an hour and a half. I think it is especially important for dads to be involved as much as possible. A little off the subject, but my five year old was not wanting to be with dad much, even when given the opportunity, which was making dad very sad. So we just made a specific time that they would plan a couple of hours of dad/son time. It amazed me how much their relationship changed.
Back to teens, I have also found it good to put the burden on them about what the consequences should be if they break our rules. I am always amazed when I do this at how much more severe their punishment is for themselves than what I had in mind.
Another thing I found with my teens was that when I gave them a schedule of things they had to do, they were much more productive and better time managers.

Hang in there, they do eventually "come down out of the trees", as a good friend of mine says. Just do whatever you can to be supportive. Being a teen is so much more difficult now with the issues and people they have to deal with.

Kristy E.

He just needs a lot of love and attention. He is feeling like you don't think he's good enough for you guys. You need a Dr. to make him better. Respect him, thank him for what he does do right. If he does his homework, thank him and tell him good job, if he comes home, thank him, for every little think, appreciate him and I GUARANTEE it will change your relaionship and your family. He's grabbing at straws to keep you and your husband together and to get the attention his soul is crying out for. Try it, it works!

I agree totally with Holly B. But I would take it a bit farther. I totally agree with what is in the room and what does he escape to. My son escaped to a video game WOW or World of Warcraft. Nothing else in his life was important. That was what he thought about at school. He planned waht he would do all day long and the heck with homework. It was like his life! The other thing is get his attention. He retreats and say slams the door. Take the door. Take everything. He has to earn it back. This is not his stuff it is your stuff and a privalege that he gets for being good and helping out. Take it all. I mean the bed and everything. This will get his attention. His room is no longer his sanctuary. Then as he does better he gets things back. Let him pick what he wants back first. We did this to our daughter and it really got her attention. We actually did it a couple of times. It is so easy for them to just disconnect. So how about a little reality. Monitor what he is doing!

Maybe he's not being challenged enough at school. You have to remember that even Einstein did poorly in school, but that didn't make him an idiot. Is he in public school? Is he in honors classes? Is he just bored?

We have a 15 year old daughter doing the same thing - does half her homework, doesn't turn it in - gets B's on tests, but F's on homework. After talking to her guidance counsellor the other day, we decided to just back off and see if having a really big consequence will wake her up. Right now she is flunking one core subject. If she gets an F she'll have to go to summer school (she's in 9th grade). That would totally mess up some of her summer plans and probably be a very big embarrassment. While part of me is hoping she'll snap out of it and pull up her grades now, part of me is thinking that flunking and summer school may be the consequence she needs.
She (and we) are lucky. Her core group of friends from middle school are still sticking with her even though they're all pretty good students.
We tried a psychologist, too - she said our daughter is extremely bright and knows what she's doing, but maybe can't control herself. But, the bottom line - she has the tools to change her behavior and is choosing not to.

Very frustrating for our whole family. We're hoping our middle schooler will learn from all of this.

Your son could be my sons double except mine is 16. My son started showing problems at 2 1/2. I was very lucky with his first psychologist. She was AD/HD and knew almost from the start what was wrong with him. Of course knowing what is wrong isn't a cure all. There is a lot of work trials and errors after that. Our son isn't just AD/HD but has several other problmes. Since he was 3 he has been on 32 different medications,24 hospital stays, 4 residentials and 7 suicide attempts one that led to a coma. We have spent 1000's of hours on the road to his different hospitals and residentials. We have spent $1,000's of $'s on his treatments getting to and where he was an weekends in hotels because his residentials were to far from home to go home for his weekend visits. Out of the 9 years my husband and I have been married 2 years of this we did on military pay. It is a stuggle and a financial drain I know. I suggest that you take him to a psychologist this time. Have them run some tests on him. From what you are saying he is showing classic signs of ad/hd. Also look into some love and logic books. I took a couple of love and logic classes in Ohio. They helped a lot. I know how rough it is but you can't give up on your son. He does know what he is doing but ad/hd children are very impulsive they act then think. They also are very forgetful. Your son needs you now more then any other time. Our son got worse when he turned 13 because not only did he have all these issues but he also had the typical teenage hormones and other teenage issues going on. There is a light at the end of your tunne I promise. My husband is 32 and is ad/hd. He has a full life and an incredible job. He is going back to school this fall to finish a nuclear engineering degree. Our son is 16 and was almost committed to the state 3 months ago because of all of the things he had done. This put a huge scare into him and also he has grown and matured. The boy that was in a coma last year on this day from a suicide attempt is home doing incredible in an alternative high school and being an incredible big brother. Good luck and blees your son. He is such an amazing gift. I know I wouldn't trade my special son for a million $'s but there have been many many times I was just so worn out and fed up I was ready to give upl. Good luck.

I am still going through some of these issues with my 10 year old going on 11. Our counselor came up with the idea of paying him for his grades, but it had to be worth it to him. Basically, if he gets all A's, he gets $100.00 ($10 per A, $8 for a B, $5 for a C, he has to pay us -$1 for a D, and pay us $3 for an F or however you want. You have to find what motivates him and use that. Once you set this up, you are not supposed to harp on him about it, just let him reap the benefit or consequence of his grades.

not that i recommend this but thought it might help.
my niece was the same way, almost to a tee, smart girl, lazy with homework etc but also having tantrums, full out screaming on the floor, in school. I work in health care and would suggest going through all options before medication, however, after some counseling and physicians visits, it was found that my niece suffered from childhood depression, so now she is on anti depressant and another mood stablizing med and she is the most well behaved little girl. (not that i had a problem with her, a strong firm voice and she listened to me, not her parents) she is only eight and being young i would never ever say to go this route unless all other options were exhausted. i would also recommend getting involved with the Partners Program. it's like a big brother program and your son would spend a minimun of three hours each week with an older(screened) mentor. Worked well for me when i was young, I'm 26 now. hope this helps, good luck

Hi, I'm so sorry to hear about the trouble you are having,There are a few things you can try.Don't just take his stuff away make him work his butt off at home he's needs to know that he either works in school or he works at home period don't let him just go to his room. I have found that you have to be consistent with kids they will rebel and will try to push you has far as you let them. You need to stop letting him run the show you are his parents and you need to guide him you can't let up on him for a second. Please do not give up on him, some children are just harder to raise then others, also speak to his teacher have her/him sign something or e-mail you every day about whether your son did his work or not.I hope this helps, if you don't have enough physical work for him at home I'm sure there is someone in the neighborhood that needs help with there yard, but please do not pay him or give him an allowance he has room and board that's all he needs until he starts getting good grades and quits the attitude.Stay Strong and keep a united front.

Dear C., This may sound rough but absolutly not. The worst thing you can do is give up on your child. Have you had him tested for druguse, or just sat him down without any disstractions and just simply asked him what is going on with him. maybe he is depressed or, maybe something emotional is hurting him, he is reaching out for you dont stay out of reach, if he cant reach you he may be lost forever and we all know were that gets all of us.

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