Advice for Dealing with a 15 Year Old...

Updated on May 15, 2011
B.C. asks from Carterville, MO
16 answers

I am looking for REAL advice...and I know that I have been lenient to the extreme. I worry that I am too close to the situation to be the moment i just feel like he is selfish and irresponsible and he can't see anything from my point of view either.

This is some background...Tyler is very intelligent but lacks focus and does not turn in the vast amount of his homework, he has lost the privilege in being in a singing/dancing performance group because he "forgot" to go to a required rehersal. Currently he is failing 3 classes and anytime it is brought up he says he has it under control...I am at my wits end, this is a child who tests out at genius level and yet he does not seem to care that he is throwing his future away ( if he does not pull up grades before the end of the year he will have screwed up his grade point average and not be able to attend his first college choice) Tyler has had issues with depression and drug use, we have had him on medications, we have had him in therapy, he has even been institutionalized.

I am just LOST as to how to wake him up and see how he treats everyone, he talks to me in a disrespectful way, he is so it too late to get him to turn around???

This most recent incident happened yesterday, he had a friend who was getting married and he wanted to attend her wedding, he wanted me to call him into school, I was under the impression that the wedding was during school hours ( Tyler twists things like this ALL THE TIME) Not only did I call him into school I also gave him money for lunch ( Just $10, but money is tight right now) I did not feel right about him missing school but I saw that the wedding was important to Tyler.

Tyler HAS a cell phone, he never "asked" to be allowed to stay out to a certain time...I Expected he was going to be home at the normal time ( around 3:30-4ish) when he did not show up I was angry...I FINALLY broke down and called him around 8:30 at night...he does not have a set curfew, because he is EXPECTED to ask permission and he KNows we expect to know who he is with and where he is...I knew nothing at this point.

He called me back and left a voice mail ( I was at my cleaning job that I do at nights) his message again was Not asking permission, not telling me where he was just saying he would get a ride home with Brittainy when she was ready to leave the reception.
Tyler was home and in bed by the time I got we talked about it this morning.
I grounded him from everything for 2 going anywhere, no IPOD, no phone, no computer, no game systems...he thinks I am being unreasonable. I told him ALL Of this could have been avoided if he had just ASKED permission and asked how late he could have stayed out......He says I am being unreasonable? ! ?

I REALLY want him to see it from my point of view, I do not think knowing where your 15 year old is or expecting them to ASK is too do I get this 15 year old back into reality? I don't want to be a bitchy mom...but I am also sick of him acting like I am the ridiculous one.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

Thank you for the advice so far.
To answer some questions, I do not believe in a set curfew, and he knows that everything is supposed to be a case by case issue since he has had so many instances in the past and has not earned back the privilege of a curfew.
His bio dad is in WI and not very hands on, he spends a month or two with him in the summer, he has a "step dad" who is in the picture, but he does not involve himself in Tyler's discipline. Tyler has a lot of anger issues regarding his step dad and bio dad.
We have done counselling, which Tyler after a year wanted to quit, we tried anti depressants on and off, he over dosed and was suicidal and had to be institutionalized which was where the counselling came in a years worth after that incident. I know a 15 year old should not have a choice, but I really did not see the point in taking him to the session if he was not going to talk...we have talked about looking into ADD as he seems to have no focus. He was on drugs, he is being randomly drug tested now and he has been clean for several months. He was just drug tested 2 weeks ago.
The College is his choice, I would prefer he go to a local school to begin with as I do not see him being successful living on campus without adult supervision to help monitor his school work ( unless he has major changes in the next few years.)

The wedding was for a friend of his who is a Junior in HS, she already has a baby with the man she was marrying, he is graduated and in the military and was on leave so they could get married. Apparently the wedding was at 7 and Tyler lied to me and they ran around and did pre wedding errands...I am not happy about it and knew I should not have excused him from school. I feel like I am walking a tight rope with Tyler, if I do not do what he wants he does what ever he wants anyway or threatens me with he is so depressed. I guess unless you have had a child who tried to commit suicide it is hard to know why I have allowed some of the things I have, I really do not know how to deal with him. He has most recently threatened me with going for emancipated minor.

More Answers



answers from Minneapolis on

Being selfish and irresponsible is the job of a teenager. We need to be the parents. For our teenagers, we had only a few rules, but stuck closely to them.

When grades are slipping, there are NO social events. Nothing but school and homework (and a job if there was one). No permission given to miss school or stay out later. He needs to share the details of his plan to pull his grades up. Sit down and discuss. It is not your problem to solve, but you can insist that he talk through his plan and that you then can monitor that plan.

Closely monitoring where they are at 15 is necessary. Do not make assumptions about when he will be home. Insist that he is home unless he is at school or you have agreed that he can be somewhere else.

Only when grades are where they need to be is there time or permission for social events.

You have an obligation to him to be "unreasonable" until he is grown and out of your house.

I would suggest giving up on the idea of any particular college. Whether he gets into this or that college is not important, really. Keeping him on track to do reasonably well in high school is important. At 15, he would be unusual to even care any farther than what might happen this summer... Only at about 17 do kids start to care about the details of their future plans.

The depression and drug use are bigger dangers than even failing classes at school, but no doubt related. I hope he is in regular counseling, with a counselor you feel can handle these issues (not all counselors are created equal, and teenagers need one that they (grudgingly) respect).

You say "we" have him... Is his father involved? A teenager, especially a boy, can benefit greatly by a father or male influence who is more comfortable being "tougher" on him. Boys need that. Mothers tend to (I did this) back off too soon and be too "nice". Tough love can work.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Um....a 15 yo going to "a friends" wedding in the daytime on a school day? That seems very, very odd to me. And you gave him $10 for "lunch"...for a wedding.
Do you see any split in reason between calling him off school for an alleged wedding (even though he's failing) and NOT giving him a curfew?
A high IQ is not a reflection of emotional maturity or responsibility.
He sounds like he might be bored at school--was he ever tested into a gifted program?
And I'm sorry to say, this child sounds EXACTLY like a teen drug user. And it's not uncommon for someone with a history of depression to self-medicate with illegal drugs. If I was you, I'd be searching his room, drawers, pockets--everything.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Being a genius with a high IQ, does not make you mature or mean you have any common sense.

I know many adults who have high IQ's but need a lot of help getting through the day.

You sons job at this point in his life is school.
To prove this to him, you will now need to make an appointment with every one of his teachers in the classes he is failing or not making a good grade in. You, your son and each teacher need to come up with a plan to finish out this school year and decide if son needs to attend summer school, take online summer classes or in the fall to repeat these failed classes.

If this means speaking with his therapist and figuring out how to help your son get off of drugs and away from the bad influences in his life.. like his friends, then do it.. I am almost positive your son is involved with drugs and or alcohol.. It all falls into place and yes, pot is a drug.

Here in Austin, we have an alternative high school for students that do not fit into the typical high school. They can still be on a college track, but the student controls the pace they want to achieve this. Maybe your district has something similar.

What a shame he no longer can participate in the singing and dancing group. Many times being a part of a group like this can keep a kid so busy and motivated they will do whatever it takes to continue to be a part of this.

I would encourage you to have a sit down with your son and start all over on his privileges. Establish a new protocol.
His cell phone will now be limited to him only being able to call you. You can set this up with your cell phone provider. He will call you each time he is leaving to go to another spot. MOM, you will then either physically go to these places and do spot checks, or you will call the school to verify he is there, or call that friends house.. You may have to do a few times during each of these stops to make sure he has not left.

IF he is not at these locations as he says, he will not be allowed to go out unless you drive him and escort him into school and then pick him up from school.

Your son will need to figure out how to make up the homework that has been late (if the teachers will accept this). This does not mean he will get the grades, but it will mean he will know when he is assigned homework, he needs to get it done.

If he were participating in a sport or a competition based activity, he would have to maintain his grades to participate in the competitions. Not wanting to let the group and the Coach/Instructor down can be a major motivator. You may need to see if his teachers would be willing on filling out a "Friday report" that shows his current grade and any missing homework or projects.

Your son suffers from depression. This is a chemical imbalance in his brain. Using drugs can give him the sense of calm or control, but in reality it is a false moment. He should be on a good diet and probably be on an antidepressant so he can have at least a working emotional baseline.
Depression is not being weepy and laying around.. It can make a person aggressive, make them defiant and also make them totally scatterbrained.. Make sure he finds a constant solution for this so he can have a chance to experience "normality" in his emotions..

You are his mom, you are his biggest supporter emotionally, let him know this has not changed and never will, but you will not be a part of him failing because he did not do his best.. .. You know he can do better and you will be there to help, but he needs to get on top of all of this before he ends up missing out on opportunities.

There is nothing worse than the end of Senior Year when it feels like everyone is getting acceptance letters to schools and trying to decide which one to pick.. and there is the person that let it all slip away because of some poor choices.

It is not too late. Let him know this. I have seen kids that messed around and their grades were poor, they had not participated in school, but they were able to turn it around. He still has time to be in control of his future..

I am sending you strength.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

If you do not want to be the mean mom and get a backbone you will always have him walk over you.

Let him fail and repeat his sophomore year.
Or let him take the GED and the SAT and put him in college.
Or stop talking about colleges alltogether and at the end of his senior year give him an ultimatum, bootcamp or out. I had to do this. MIne is very intelligent and failed because he could, passed the ones he needed to with D's or C's.
Make sure all his classes in the HS are with tough men. Men he will see as role models. Men who will stick it to him, but who he can respect. Try the Engineering classes.
No more counseling, he is too smart and has been couch trained, it will do no good. He can hoodwink them too easily.
Make his grounding stick.
Do not get him a permit until he is 18 unless he turns his attitude around.
KNow where he is at all times. I have driven to the mall and picked my 17 yo son up. He didn't anwer my calls, I hunted him down like a rabbit. I have shown up at his friend's houses, and followed him around town. I was a hell of a mom to deal with. I have called police on him.

YOur his mom, not his friend. Now he needs rules and consequences. And hubby needs to stand up for you and help you out with him he is the man in Tyler's life.

Try the Navy. It is full of very intelligent manboys. Have him take the ASVAB and go NUKE or CTN~intelligence.

And know that you are not alone. We weathered a 15 yo. He is now 22 and in San Diego doing very well. THere were many days I didn't think he would make it past 16.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

Damn... a 15 y/o acting like that? I'd have beaten him before it got to that point. Seriously. Some things deserve physical discipline... such as being disrespectful, almost failing a class (let alone 3!). You have been to soft on him and allowed him to lead and control you. I don't know how to fix that, but I"m sure there are some professionals (including boot camp directors) who can.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I don't think you are being unreasonable, but I think focusing on this issue (asking permission) at this point in his life is irrelevant.

What is important is his grades. You CANNOT expect him to "see things from your point of view" at his age. In that 3-4 year period during teen-hood, they are usually extremely irrational, so expecting understanding of them is pointless. They just have to do what you tell them to do, not "understand" the logic of it, or agree with you.

You say you are mostly a SAHM, which is good, because you need the time to monitor him. I have seen a lot of teens go through the stage your son is at, and I can tell you that at this point you need to make everything be about his schoolwork, and do whatever you can to closely monitor it. All punishments such as taking away ipods and computers, need to be related to his schoolwork.

Therefore, talk to his school counselor and teachers, find out EXACTLY what his schoolwork is, and closely monitor him doing that work. Tie his use of computers and game systems into getting his schoolwork done. No homework = no goodies. School should be his ONLY job right now.

Don't raise your voice, don't argue, don't be mad about it, just calmly tell him how it's going to be. And make sure his remaining schoolwork gets done.

Drop this incident with the wedding and asking permission - it doesn't matter in the scheme of things - and focus SOLELY on his schoolwork.

p.s. About chores - chores for kids are great, but when a kid is about to lose credits because of bad grades, chores need to take a back burner to getting their school work done.

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answers from Las Vegas on

I am not trying to offend you at all when I say this, but he sounds spoiled. He knows he can get away with it so he pushes... now that you've grounded him he is in shock. I remember when I was 15, I would do everything to get around rules that we had... and if there are no set rules he will just run free. Maybe he's bored in his classes (tests as a genius) and the drugs/depression could be peer pressure or that he copes with his failing classes and emotions that way. You should try a family therapist and personal therapist for him to get his feelings out there, talk through his disappointments and vent.

One of my biggest inner conflicts as a teen is my mom was uninvolved, my dad was way aggressive and either had to dominate or wasn't there. There was inconsistency so there was a lot of fighting and pushing lines that were always changing.. it was confusing for me and cause a distortion in what was important. I always chose my friends over my family and granted I had awesome friends who are still my friends today, but if he is in the wrong crowd and IF he feels that inconsistency (probably not, but you said your really lenient :P) he could've gotten in a lot of trouble (with the drugs and such).

Everything would be cut off in my house until he got his grades up and I would sit down at a family meeting and set rules, get his input so that he understands what he thinks is important but it won't always be the deciding factor. He may be more willing to follow rules if he feels he has a part in it.


Lol, I threatened my parents wit emancipated minor too but it was for problems much bigger than he has with his mom (you). It take a lot of evidence of financial stability, responsibility, and maturity to even get considered for one which will not happen with his history and current school standing... don't even blink about that threat lol. Privilege of a curfew? Sweetheart, curfews are for YOU not him! You NEED to set a curfew and if he has a case then he can come to you... setting a curfew doesn't means it's set in stone, it is just a verbal understanding that HE will be home at this specific time and not getting the confusion you have now that he "understands" but actually doesn't... I can tell you he doesn't think he has an actual time to be home because there's no set rule.

Your son sounds like my exhusband's teen years and it gets bigger and can spiral. I know it is so frustrating when he won't go to a counselor... what you should do is first, sit down with him and ask what he would like to do to resolve his problems (ask him if he would think it was normal for you to be on drugs and do these "anger" things to him) (do NOT mention the second thing I'm going to say) and second, YOU go to the counselor by yourself (do not even hint to him that your going) and you and the counselor talk through subtle changes (baby steps) to the household in order to gradually get him to get better (maybe without him realizing)... sounds weird but I changed a LOT (for the good) when i left my ex and I didn't even know I changed at all until my dad said something so it happens. Talk to him about lying, would he like it if you lied to him (make up an example of something that would affect him, like would he like it if you told him you didn't have the money to buy him new clothes then went and bought expensive jewelry the next day). I would suggest buying every book you can on disciplining teens b/c the line between parent and child is not there anymore. You have to got to find some effective disciplining measures on teens LIKE him, not average teens but teens that went thru similar situations and how to discipline teens (like if my toddler was stubborn I would get a book on disciplining stubborn (resilient) toddlers, not just average toddlers).

Sit down with him and have a casual non-confrontational conversation (let him do most of the talking) about what his goals are and how he thinks he will reach them and if he thinks he needs to change anything to get to them. He has to know how to handle his anger, but your right you can't force him to go.. I mean you can but it isn't going to help unless he wants to be there so you need to go and arm yourself with effective discipline strategies.. if the counselor can't come up wit an effective one, get a different counselor. My mom is schizophrenic and I can tell you she went through 5 before she found a therapist she liked (just saying you can change without feeling guilty and such) and she had been with hers in SC for 14 years before we moved here and loves the one she has here too.

Momof4 has some serious awesome advice, even if you get offended by the aggressiveness take it seriously because that boy is running the show, for real.
I agree with a mom saying he will hoodwink therapists... that's why I brought up you going more so you could get disciplining techniques and vent out why you are afraid to be authoritative (that's not in a mean way) I get the impression you are afraid of him being mad at you if you set rules or something like that. I wasn't kidding when I said my ex had the same teen years except his mom didn't try to ask for help disciplining him and I can tell ya I left him because he started beating the sh*t out of me cuz he couldn't handle his anger and would lie about everything and manipulate.

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answers from New York on

He isn't going to see it from your point of view. He hasn't developed (emotionally, socially etc) to see it from your logical, mature point of view. so don't hope for the impossible. You have to continue to show him love and discipline. I've been there and I wish I had more advice for you. Did the medication help? did you try different medications? The only thing that helped us was (we parents) seeing a counselor who had lots of experience with families like ours. She helped us to make realistic goals for our son. Have you gone to a couselor to get help with dealing with your son?

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answers from Kansas City on

he's only 15. i would not assume he will tell you ANYthing at this point. he may seem mature and intelligent because he has a high IQ - that doesn't mean he is responsible and trustworthy. sometimes it's hard to remember, he's just a kid. i would have been asking a lot more questions about that wedding. especially if it was on a school day, and you were assuming during the day? NO one i know would get married in the middle of the day on a school day. it's your responsibility to get the facts - he's a kid. i certainly wouldn't have waited until 8:30 to call, when i expected him home at 3 or 4. my point is that one was on you, at least mostly. from now on i would make a real effort to know what's going on, in detail.

as far as the school work, does he do homework every night? if it's in his room, move him to a common area like the dining room or living room. also, is this "first choice" college, HIS idea, or yours? if he loses his first choice, that is his natural consequence for slacking off when he knows better. he can still go to college and he can still be happy and successful. but he needs to be reminded of the consequences. if HE doesn't care, HE isn't going to put out the effort. but i would sure clamp down on him with homework. that is one thing you can control.

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answers from Kansas City on

Sounds like you are going to have to be a bitchy mom, because NOT being one hasn't been working too well. I'm sorry but if you know you have been lenient to the extreme, then you shouldn't be too surprised by his behavior.

Just curious, where's dad and does he do any disciplining?

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answers from New York on

I had issues with my son and tried to take his cell phone away as punishment for bad behavior/grades. He refused and called dad. he is still there and I miss him so much and felt horrible when he told me it hurt him that I didn't run after him when he took off. That defeats the whole purpose. I was punishing him for not respecting me and I should have chased him down? I told him to come back when he can respect me. He has everyone feeling sorry for him and is telling lies about us to make us look bad. His dad is so much like him and when my child was standing there hollaring at me and putting me down I realized he was just doing what he had seen a lot of his childhood. I tried to get him away from that before it was too late but his dad still continues to bash me in front of him so he feels he doesn't need to have any respect for me. I was always told I was unreasonable and he was coming home saying it was too early. I found out his grade went down and asked why he didn't bring his report card home and this set off a argument. That is why I said he shouldn't have the phone anymore. His dad disagrees and that is why he thinks he can walk all over me. Now he is gone because he doesn't want to even try to be respectful to me. Good luck mom.

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answers from Boca Raton on

IMHO you need major counseling to deal with this . . . as soon as possible. The issue sounds much deeper than curfews and GPA.

I wish you luck - praying for you guys.

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answers from Boston on

High IQ but no achievement usually means some kind of issue, like perhaps ADHD or dyslexia or some other learning "disability" (hate that word, it is just a different way one's brain works). I would get him tested by a neuro psych to see what his learning style is and then match his intelligence and interests to an education or vocation her agrees with. He may have issues that can be helped with medication. I DO agree with him that your punishment is somewhat unreasonable, so much and so lengthy. In 3 years he is an adult so now is the time to start treating him like one. I would sit down with him and let him know he can have a lot more freedom IF he keeps you in the loop. How would a friend feel if he promised one thing and did another? If he was not reachable when plans seemed to have been forgotten? Such a person would not have a friend for long. My brother is at the genius level and was able to do anything he put his mind to which made it hard to chose what to do with his life. My mom gave him no curfew at all at age 15 as long as he treated her with respect and let her know where he was in case of emergency. Good luck.

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answers from Chicago on

you are a softy & probably have been his entire life. its too hard to change things now because you still don't have the tools on how to parent him. you have let him be in charge, he knows he is running the show, so asking for respect now will be nearly impossible.

why can a child go to a wedding on a school day that is failing 3 classes & he still has his cell. i cannot believe you haven't set up any structure for this boy. kids that have not been taught how to manage time or have not had any structure will not know how to set it for themselves. kids CRAVE boundaries, structure, discipline.

if you are interested in changing your parenting style to give your son a slight chance at learning the basic fundamentals of boundaries, respect, being productive etc, YOU need to get help from an outside source. once you learn how to become a parent with a *backbone*, you can start implementing some structure into this boys life.

sending him off to college is a huge waste/mistake....he hasn't been given the proper tools for self discipline & he will self destruct in college & if you are paying for college it will be like taking wads of money & throwing it in the garbage. You are not monitoring him in school now so being on his own in college is just plain stupid.

what in the world does this mean ".....has not earned back the privilege of a curfew" ? since when do kids earn back a curfew? it should be the opposite. You always should ask questions like when will you be home, what time is the event, who is going etc ALWAYS do this never think that a child that has been a problem will willingly divulge this info.

And NEVER let a child threaten you in any way even if it's for something as silly as emancipated minor, i would have laughed in his face & said oh yeah go for it Big Boy.

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answers from San Diego on

Take the bedroom door off, Take everything out of his room except his bed and clothes. Let him know that when he starts to act like a responsible human being then he will get some of his things back. It sounds like he is back doing drugs. I would make him do random drug tests and if he doesn't like it then he can find another place to live. It sounds extreme but hey, this is your child and you are worried about him If you feel that this isn't the way then you can sit down with him and draw up a contract with all of your rules and his rules. Have it notarized and when the rules are broken then there is the above consequences. I think that he has given you a reason not to trust him and once he earns that back he can get his bedroom door back and some of his other things. Maybe even go to family counseling. Good Luck.

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