K.R. asks from Henrico, VA on January 28, 2010
14-YO Boy Won't Do homework....prob Fail 9Th Grade
Hi moms. I have a 14YO boy who has no desire whatsoever to do any schoolwork outside of school. I have talked to his teachers, they all say that IN class he's wonderfully attentive & respectful and that he does his work, however, it's the work that is to be done outside of class that he simply doesn't do. They have block scheduling, so they don't get the same classes every day. I have tried grounding him, taking all privileges away, we've cut his hair. Nothing works.
A little background (in case it helps) -- his father & I share joint custody. He goes over there 2 afternoons a week for dinner & every other weekend. His father & I despise each other -- and yess my son knows this. Not the right way I know. His father tries to guilt him into wanting to spend more time over there & gets mad at him when he wants to be around anyone else. He's not allowed to go to friends' houses on his weekends, only on the weekends he's here. We've also had an issue lately with Christmas break -- out of the 2-week break he spent a week & a half at his dad's, yet his dad still got mad at him when he asked to stay with me one afternoon that was originally designated as his dad's.
J.C. answers from Fort Wayne on January 28, 2010
Okay, I'm not trying to be rude here, but I'm going to definitely try to be direct. There are all KINDS of things that are wrong here. First, what does grounding and cutting his hair have to do with his grades or lack of doing homework? In my opinion, punishments have to correlate with the behavior. Let's say a child doesn't keep his room picked up...well, he loses all things that are left on the floor, it's a direct consequence to what the behavior caused. Not doing homework....he'll have to repeat 9th grade, or better yet, have to spend his entire summer attending summer school. What better consequence than that? If you want to be actively involved in making sure he's doing his work at home, then you need to make it a rule that every night (at my house it's 6:30) homework is to be done at a certain time. At that time, all tv's are turned off, and the kids are to work on their work until it's finished. Once it's done, they bring it to me and we go through it together to make sure they didn't miss anything.
With the pills..."Unless he's gotten really good at hiding it"??? Is he not getting counseling over this? Because even with a child who a parent knows for SURE isn't using anymore because of particular behavior going back to being happy and content again, they STILL MUST keep up on counseling!! Just because a child says he won't use pills anymore, doesn't mean that in his mind, he's overcome those urges. A child who has a problem, no matter how small, with drugs of any kind MUST see a professional to find out why they were using and to learn new ways to deal with that particular escape mechanism. If you're not willing to put him into counseling, then you're just asking for his problems to only get worse.
With the divorce....I come from a divorced family and my mom and dad hated/still hate each other too. And you know what? I STILL wish they would just grow up. Even now, at 32, all of the important moments of my own life and the lives of my kids are RUINED because of tension brought on by their bad relationship and selfishness to deal with it. When I was younger, I had to hear badmouthing of them too, and MAN, I smoked a lot of weed and drank a lot when it was time to go home so that I didn't really care what whoever had to say about whoever. When I got married, my dad didn't want to come into any room my mom was in, when my first child was born I had to worry about the other parent showing up if the one parent was there. At my kids activities, I have to try and make sure both aren't invited at the same time, and if they are, I have to divide my time between the two so that one doesn't get mad or feel left out. See what it does to the child for THE REST OF THEIR LIFE??? I can't even enjoy my own kids' birth completely because I have to worry about the selfish ways of my parents. Do you and your husband honestly feel that your own insecurities you have from each other and your own needs that you want filled are more important than what's best for your son? Because my mom and dad did, and still do, and I'll tell you what, they are LUCKY that I turned out to be forgiving of their deliquencies and that I didn't end up completely messed up. My brother on the other hand, ended up getting into hard core drugs, attempting suicide, and getting random girls pregnant. This could be your son if you don't get it together. I'm sorry to say this but I can completely understand about your son not caring about his grades. I'm surprised that's ALL he doesn't care about at this point! In his mind, all YOU guys care about is who's the bad guy and who gets possession of him on what days. So, if you guys don't care enough about him to drop the act between you and turn the focus 100% on him, than what makes you think he's going to care about his OWN needs? You are showing and teaching him that you and your husbands needs and wants are more important to both of you that what your son needs. So, you're teaching him that HE is not important and what HIS life is isn't important, so why WOULD he try to do his best, when in his mind, it all doesn't matter anyway?
I know it sounds harsh, and I don't mean to hurt you, I just think that sometimes parents need a wake up call because they get so wrapped up in themselves that they forget that they're raising an adult who sees everything they do and is directly affected 100% by everything they do. My mom and dad really messed me up.....don't continue to do that to your kid. Atleast give him a chance to feel important and appreciated! Don't have him be 32 like me and STILL having to play referee with his parents....
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A.T. answers from Santa Fe on January 28, 2010
We have 2 boys and 2 girls. My boys are now 19 and 17. I had that problem with both of them. My 19 yo is now in his 4th term in college and my 17 yo just started his 1st term. We believe in natural and logical consequences. My 17 failed 9th grade. Only ended up with 1/2 credit so he was reclassified as a freshman the following year. My now 19 yo was at risk for being a "Super Senior" and getting on the 5 year HS plan. We let them fail. Of course we provided tutoring and supported the teachers and the school when they gave the boys consequences. We rewarded them hugely when they did well and achieved but gave then NO attention when they failed. My 19 yo got smart quick and asked to transfer to a military school out of town. He graduated a semester early and went straight into college. My now 17 yo ended up dropping out, getting his GED and is now in a community college and he's LOVING IT!
They need to start realizing now that if they think school sucks then they're gonna have a rude awakening when they are out of school. We can't give them consequences when they grow up and move out and we can't bail them out of things either (we shouldn't anyway). It was the hardest thing for us to let our kids fail in school but they'll both tell us now that they're glad we let them learn from their mistakes. They learned pretty quick.
BTW my 19 yo has a great job working at Intel.
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A.H. answers from Detroit on January 28, 2010
What!?! Can I just say that I think you are going overboard on the discipline and maybe it's just a bit extreme ... such as cutting his hair? Come on...
I'm suddenly having flashbacks to when I was that age and my mother was oppressing me. Trust me... it was NON-STOP!
I too, never did my homework and trust me, I graduated high school on time with my class.
Instead of the constant discipline and oppression you are offering~ as you and your husband are separated/ divorced(?)... You need to realize that your son is not dealing with a situation very well emotionally. It sounds like you have not talked with him to even see what is going on in his head.
Both you and his father need to come to terms first, stop the guilt trips with the boy as you are both responsible for his actions right now. Heck - with what you are posting here... I too, would act the same way to escape what you are putting this kid thru.
He's an emotional wreck from the stress you both are issuing. If you cannot see this, then you are certainly not putting yourself in his shoes. Talk to him. Love him. STOP with the discipline as you will end up pushing him away eventually. (That is what happened with my mom and my brother as well... neither of us talk to her.)
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A.V. answers from Washington DC on January 28, 2010
I agree that this seems to be a control issue between your son and his parents. Maybe he stopped taking pills but replaced it with a control issue. Did you seek counseling for him when he had his pill problem? Is he still in therapy? If so, talk to his counselor about ideas on how to help the underlying root cause.
It sounds like dad's house is the fun house in an attempt to get him over there more often. That's not uncommon. Have you tried giving him the straight facts, "Son, this is the schedule per our agreement/court order. If your father has any issue with it, tell him to talk to me about it. This is not your fight." And then stick to agreed days unless your ex agrees with YOU about a change. We tell the kids that we're willing to switch up days but we want to know, not just "oh, I'm going to be at Mom's this weekend." We have plans, too.
We also remind the kids that they are responsible for their work, no matter where they are. SO many times they'd come back from Spring Break with a mountain of work that their mom "couldn't get around" to helping them with - so we were doing projects well after bedtime. My husband started reminding them mid-week that it was their responsibility to have their work done or at least started before returning for school. Does the school have online resources for parents? DH started checking Edline on his daughter. He found out that her math grade was poor because she didn't do 10 assignments. She kmows that he checks it, so they discussed how that was not acceptable and not going to happen again and what she could do to prevent it. Every night we ask if she has homework, what is it, and if she needs help. And she knows he will see if she turned it in or not and what her grade was.
Which gets back to failing 9th grade. Does your son WANT to fail 9th grade? What does he think will happen if he doesn't bring up his grades? Does he think it's a lost cause? Maybe if he feels more secure at home (as much as can be if your ex won't work with you), he'll feel more inclined to do the work.
The other thing is, does your son get positive attention or just negative? Maybe turn it into "when your HW is done, we'll play video games tonight." Or "if you do all your work this week, we'll go to a movie."
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M.C. answers from Washington DC on January 28, 2010
My brother went through something like this. My Mom took him to a psychologist so fast his head spun! Turns out, he was being picked on by kids for being smart! They would knock books out of his hands, call him names, push him, etc. Why don't you make them stop? Answer: becuase he would get in trouble with the school and my parents. Parent's reponse: we won't be mad if your defending yourself...
The next day he came running in. He had done it!!! The kid started picking on him, and he turned around and defended himself. The kid was shocked! Soon, my brother was back to doing his school work both in and out of school.
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B.C. answers from Norfolk on January 28, 2010
You've got a lot going on here. I'd say your 14 yr old does not feel he can control very much in his life and his refusal to do homework is a way to get attention (attention is attention even if it's negative). His dad, your ex, is a control freak and will comply to the letter of the custody agreement and blow up at any variation. You and your son can not change your ex. It's most likely why he's your ex in the first place. Some counseling for you and your son might help you figure out how do best deal with his Dad (and shrugging off the guilt trips) and help your son figure out that positive attention (rewards for working with school and not going against it) can be much more rewarding than balking over it. Start reciting the Serenity Prayer with your son "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference." etc. and hope it sinks in for both of you.
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T.C. answers from Dallas on January 28, 2010
Talk to the school and see if there is a study hall or After School Detention room. If he is compliant at school, then maybe he needs to stay at school until he's finished with all his work. A week of staying might do the trick. OR, he might find that he LIKES having the time set aside to get his stuff done and be free of the worry/agravation of being in trouble.
AND, I've recently come to the realization that if you have a smart kid wasting time/smarts, maybe they would benefit from IQ testing to let THEM fully understand their potential. I wish I'd done that with both of my girls. Might be a thought... Have the "YOU are at this MOMENT with every decision and action shaping YOUR OWN future"... discussion with him. I've seen kids turn around mid-year with that discussion. They didn't even think about it...
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N.W. answers from Chicago on January 28, 2010
Having had to go through some issues with joint custody I can give you a little advice.
My stepdaughter used to go to mommy's every other day and every other weekend so they got "equal time." This was a HORRIBLE arrangement! This meant every other day she was over at mommy's, living in a pig sty and dealing with the chaos over there. Then we'd get her back and she'd be rude, antagonistic etc. We'd just get her back to being herself and she was back over there again. Mommy would guilt her into wanting more time, but then neglect her when they were together. Anyway, my story is not unique.
What we found is that she needed to spend chunks of time over there in a row. It's too confusing going back and forth, and just when you have the child calmed down they're back over at the other place. They never get to de-stress. AND the back and forth created this illusion with the parents that they "never go to see her" because she was over at one place and then BAM over at the other. This created a problem too both her dad and mom would overindulge her and buy her gifts, etc when they had her because they "never got to see her." I can see your son's dad feeling like this.
Right now the solution that has worked perfectly is she spends 3 days at mommy's and 4 days with us. This gives mommy 3 days of uninterrupted time (and has removed the illusion that they "never see each other") and it gives my stepdaughter time to just BE at mommy's and follow mommy's rules. When we get her back she has a day to de-stress and 3 more days to enjoy with us.
Let me tell you, the bad behavior returns if she bounces back to mommy's too much. One week she was over there twice, just for a few HOURS and when we got her back she was impossible! So it DOES make a difference!
Since your son is 14 you could ask what HE wants. Has anyone found out what he wants? Has anyone consulted him?
I have also learned that in some cases, you just DON'T CHANGE THE SCHEDULE. If it's his' dad's day...it's his dad's day and you can't take that away from his dad. My stepdaughter unfortunately is learning that if mommy has her then she HAS to be with mommy (even if she'd rather be here) and she is learning how to deal with her mother. It's her mother, and she will ALWAYS be her mother. We can't change that, so she HAS to learn how to deal. We all have with our parents :)
Anyway, you'd be surprised how a steady schedule can change things. We had lots of behavioral issues and when we changed the schedule they all disappeared. They pop up now and then, but not nearly as bad.
I hope that helps...and remember that just doing dinner at dad's can create upsets, so maybe you can rearrange it so he's not going over there in the middle of the week and then coming home, but rather spending solid days over there in a row. (My stepdaughter was only with mommy for a few hours during the week on our day and it completely turned her back to a crazy child).
Oh...and get the schedule worked out in writing. Perhaps you could sit down with your son and make the schedule together and present it to dad?
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