At Wit's End with 18 Yr Old

Updated on January 01, 2012
S.O. asks from San Antonio, TX
20 answers

Hey Moms and Dads: Need stories of hope today. I could throttle my 18 yr old.
My youngest is going backwards in maturity at a time where he really needs to "man up!"
He has been accepted to 2 good colleges and has good grades his senior year.
Now he needs to wrap up his Senior year in a strong way and get going on Scholarship stuff. For his top choice school, he is going to need big bucks.
Before break, he 'forgot' to pick up a letter of rec from a teacher for a scholarship. The deadline is Friday and he has not made any attempts to go pick it up. He could miss out on a $2500 award. I bummed a ride to work yesterday so he could use the car & get to his sports practice and he decided to go get breakfast and skip practice. He lied to me about going to practice and I found out. We had a huge argument last night about "maybe he's not mature enough to go to college yet," and "now is the time to grow up" & that went poorly and today no one is talking to each other. (we can't threaten him with the military b/c he has a medical situation that makes him ineligible.)
Anyone have stories of hope about idiot teens that do get their act together when it's really important??? I need them.

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So What Happened?

Thanks to all who had good advice and gave me hope and shared stories of yourselves or others in a similar situation. I appreciate all the help for those who replied in a way that gave help. We were lost as to how to explain how a kid with a 99 GPA turned into "Goofy" in 2 weeks. (And a huge "NO" to the mom who said if I called my kid an idiot teen on the web I probably called him that to his face. I know way better than that.)

Since my son lost use of his car for a week because of his lie, we had a lot of time to talk. (His idea of the worst possible punishment.) We also got a lot of yard work done together, because he needed to compensate me for my inconvenience.
He is very much looking forward to college, as it turns out. He can't wait to go. So the monotony and just going thru the motions of high school requirements is really dull and bumming him out. He feels swamped with the college stuff, the sports commitments and all the AP classes, as so is not prioritizing well.
His teachers and counselors are so bogged down and so bombarded with class loads since the school budget cuts, that he said he doesn't feel like he has any mentors left at school to help him. So we continue to work thru the roller coaster of age 18...and again, I thank you for your helpful tips on what has worked for you or a relative, in the past.

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answers from Shreveport on

He may just be fearful. My dad told me "go to college or get a job and pay rent" . I already had a job but the rent part scared me!! So, maybe he is afraid of growing up. I am asuming he will be in dorms. Maybe sit down, have a talk and open up to him. Tell him how you feel. And tell him college is suppose to be fun. Dorm life is fun. Maybe he is scared of living away from home with a stranger?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I agree with the previous responses. This is a perfect time in his life for him to realize you will NOT enable him in any way. Time to man up like you said.

You can do it!!!

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answers from Philadelphia on

I agree with Lesley. I work with incoming freshman and the level of self sabotage related to plain old terror. If you have had a good relationship with him prior to this while he needs to man up you need to parent up. Recent science has shown more than ever how clearly teen brains are still evolving. The frontal lobe where impulse control and judgement lies is not fully mature yet. They still value their friends' approval over long term consequences. They struggle to fully grasp long term consequences. Do not enable him. Do let him face real consequences. But do keep communicating with him abut his fear. Set realistic goals and choices. Ask openly if he does not want to go to college what he thinks his choices would be then set some parameters. I know one terrified mom dealing with a teen girl who suddenly turned down a full scholarship and decided she wanted to work. Mom was convinced she was destroying her life. We set up realistic goals. What she had to do to remain living at home. The goals were simple and straightforward how many hours she needed to work, what percentage of her income had to go to her parents to pay rent, what usage of car she had consequences for inappropriate behavior etc. After a year of working for min wage she worked hard to get another scholarship and is now on the honor roll in a good college. Parenting teens is very frustrating and scary. But, you can do it. Good luck! (BTW check with colleges they often have people who can work with your family even if your child is not in school there yet.)

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

We are dealing with some things with my 18 year old stepson, who graduated this past spring, made no attempt to even apply or consider any colleges - currently he is just happy working at Burger King and he knows he can't do that forever (says he doesn't want to) but doesn't feel ready for college yet. I actually just posted a question about him the other day if you care to read it.

Unfortunately, he may need to learn some things the hard way. If he does not do what he needs to do to get the $2500 scholarship, he doesn't get to go to the school of his choice. He can end up going to a smaller, less expensive school, even community college, for the first year and then transfer the following year.

If he chooses not to go to sports practice when he has the car like he's supposed to, he doesn't get the car. Let him go without the car for a month and figure out how to get around himself - he should be the one bumming rides, not you.

A lot of kids at this time have "senioritis" and are sick and tired of living with Mom and Dad, sick and tired of high school, and feel like they just want to move on and do their own thing. But if you expect him to act more mature and make better choices, you will have to start making him more responsible for his actions - and the consequences when he doesn't follow through and he doesn't have his parents to come to his rescue. Then there is no need to argue - he just has to stop feeling so entitled to everything.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Biloxi on

I do not have first time experience with college prep as my son is only 15 now. But, having worked with this age group, I know that this time in their lives is terrifying for some of them. The idea of college is amorphous at best when they are in high school - suddenly in the latter part of Senior year the reality begins to set in - and the panic begins. Going away from home, being an "adult", doing ones' own laundry, preparing meals, losing their support network...and the fears go on.

Talk to your son - find out if this is what happening. Some young adults wind up inadvertently self sabotaging their college plans in the last 6 months of high school. Assure your son that you will help him prepare for college and that you will always be there for him.

And maybe he is not mature enough to go away to university yet. Maybe doing a semester or two at the local college would benefit him. Maybe allowing him a "Gap Year" wherein he works full time and volunteers within his community. If he has been awarded scholarships a discussion with the university about whether they will hold it for a year would be prudent :) some will do so. These options are ones that I am already discussing with me son, as the expectation is that he will go to college but mine is a child fearful of major change - so I am preparing for a hard transition. LOL

You need to have a calm, gentle discussion with him about his college plans, fears and desires.

Good Luck
God Bless

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I would sit down with him and lay out what's what. List all the things that need to be done and by when and have him figure out how to deal with the consequences. If he doesn't get the scholarship stuff in place, then he has to find a way to make $2500, IMO.

If there's a reason he doesn't want to go to school (my SD is dragging her feet), try to find out why. My SD is worried about leaving everything she knows, which is understandable. If he doesn't go to college now, what is his plan? Surely video games and pizza and your basement won't fly.

My SS wants to come home for a year between undergrad and grad and was stunned when DH told him he'd pay rent. I bet that the rent still won't cover the HUGE increase in food and utilities that he brings, but it will offset the expenses. If SS doesn't like our offer, he can live with his mom or somewhere else.

SS has mostly gotten his act together, went abroad for a semester, did live on campus, and is graduating with a good GPA and a direction even if he's still living on the last minute. He's a HUGE procrastinator and spend most of his family time this break either working into the wee hours on papers that were overdue or shopping for Christmas. Sigh.

I was surprised at the amount of support frosh at SS's college received. I was basically thrown to the wolves. I had a curfew for guests in my freshman dorm, but there was no one caring about my grades but me. See what his chosen college offers. It may alleviate his fears.

You might also find out he doesn't want to go away yet. My cousin is doing 2 years at community college and then considering if he wants to save room and board and transfer locally or not. There are many roads to Rome.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

This is such a great time to be a parent!!! LOL!! I had 3 who have done the college thing. The first two (boy and girl) got scholarships...the baby wanted to be a baby. So, he got to stay home and go to community college. During that year, I tried to work with him on managing money, doing laundry, etc. Sometimes he listened and most of the time he didn't. When he went off to college he came home yelling at me about not teaching him all of the above and more. I just looked at him and said "I can't teach one who won't listen and you wouldn't listen!" Now, would you like for me to help you? And he humbly said, "Yes!".

It is a very scary thing for these guys as most have no clue what they want to do! It is very important to sit down with him and empathize that this is a scary time and that you would like to help him with his concerns.
Make a list of things he will need to know and work with him...mark them off when he feels comfortable.

Offer to help him with scholarship hunting etc. but DON'T do it for him. Just let him know what you are or aren't going to pay for and the consequence of putting it off and then let him fly or fall. Trust me, it's the best thing you can do for him is to let him fall on his face now when the consequences aren't so huge.

Good luck!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

This is one of the many reasons that my kids are paying for their own school. Which means they will be paying back the loans, not us. They know this. Both my kids didn't choose to try for the many scholarships available either, and I know kids who are much less scholastically outstanding than they are who have received free money.

Everyone has their own opinions about paying for their kids' college, but in my experience most kids take things more seriously when it is coming out of their hide, not when it is being handed to them on a platter by mom and dad. I spent a year battling with my daughter to do scholarship apps., until I finally got dad on board with me about letting her pay for college on her own. She is in her second year at a jr. college, will transfer in the fall, and works about 25 hours a week. Now when she brings home a new clothing item, or goes skydiving, or takes a trip, or goes out to eat, I don't get annoyed (since dad and I are not doing all those things), because it is her money she is spending. I say, "wow, cute shirt!"

When she goes off this Fall we will probably take over her car and phone payments, but the rest will fall on her. And my son who has waited till the last moment to apply for college will also be responsible for the outcome. I call that natural consequences.

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answers from Kansas City on

Sit down and ask him what he wants to do with his life. Does he want to go to college or not. If not then he'll just be wasting money whether yours, his or scholarship. Then tell him the facts if he doesn't go. Can he live rent free with you? Can he get a job and think about his future and play around? What? I personally see nothing wrong with kids taking some time out to decide what they want to do with their life. Most at that age have no idea until they get some experience. I realize I'm in the minority on this but that's my view on it. So much is wasted on college too soon. When you know what you want to do or be then you will work much harder at getting there. It's the time up to that time that is the problem.

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answers from Washington DC on

I feel for you! I am currently paying for college for my 18 y/o who quit crew within the first few weeks to take a part time job because she wanted spending money. Now she is talking about marriage to this boy who lives in another state. Its REALLY hard to deal with adolescents but THEY have to make the transition to adulthood with guidance not mothering. I told my daughter that I would no longer pay for school if she gets married because then it would be her husbands responsibility to take care of her. She is currently rethinking her decision. Talk about your concerns with him ONCE then leave it alone. If he makes the choice to miss the deadline he will have to figure it out just stand by him

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answers from Dallas on

Show him reality - college....or get a a listing of apartments for rent without your monetary support. That might wake him up. He probably thinks he 'has it made' at this point since it's his last stretch of high school, so to speak.

I'm sure he can email his teacher for the letter for a time to pick it up. As for practice, well, maybe use your own car for work and have him bum a ride if he's not going to be responsible.

Your hope - he is eligible for scholarships - you have a bright and talented kid, obviously. He'll wake up - he's hitting snooze right now.

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answers from Amarillo on

When did you start to prepare your child for the future? Did he have to clean his room or house, do laundry, cook a meal or did you do it all? Sometimes parents do too much and the child doesn't understand the concept of self care. The time to start preparation is at 10-12 years of age. Perhaps that's a lost art as children of the past had to prepare meals and do chores before mom and dad got home from work.

There are children who do have to learn the hard way by having their plans blow up in their face because they didn't follow through on the deadlines. Oh well so sad. He missed the bus because the timetable said x and he thought y. There will be another bus along but it will be at a later date and that means he will have to accept his blunder.

You can't make someone do something they don't want to do. You can/could talk till you are blue in the face but they will tune you out.

He is 18. He is an adult. He is reponsibile for himself. Time to charge room and board and meani it. Make it an amount that takes most of his money so that he learns that minimum wage is minimum leaving standards.

College is a way to hope to make your life better than just someone who didn't finish high school that works at BK or Mickey D's. But then again there are people who do work there that are the managers that went through their company educational process. Perhaps a vocation is in order like eletrician, plumber, carpenter, auto mechanic or HAVC.

Let the chips fall where they may. This is his life. He will have to make the changes not you. Live your life and worry about your retirement. Sorry to be so blunt but a hard head makes a soft rear end.

Good luck to you.

The other S.

PS Time for tough love.

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answers from Houston on

He has a classic case of senioritis! I had it bad! This is when the anxiety of senior year ending and a new chapter in your life beginner (college or what have you) really starts to cause some issues.

He is going to go through a lot this last year, and everything will be changing in a big way. Friends go their separate ways and life as he knows it will be completely different. PLus now he's a big amn on cmpus as a senior, but next year it's back to the bottom.

Don't worry about his maturity level, he will be fine. He's no less or more mature than any other highschool senior and I am sure he will do fine next year!

He still needs clear boundaries and consequences for his actions. So if he was lying, you definitely need an appropriate consequence, grounding or taking privledges away etc. Just stay consistent, and keep encouraging him, but he will also need his own space to figure things out.

I had senioritis bad, I goofed off, played hooky, got caught lol! I turned out OK, it all worked out. Just keep an eye out for any signs of dangerous behavior, other than that I wouldn't worry too much!

Just another note, those who criticize you obviously have never dealt with an "idiot teen". I was one and I had 2 younger sister who were also idiot teens lol! hang in there!

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answers from Milwaukee on

Time to let him fail on his own. Get the book love and logic. It will explain how you telling what is going to happen will not sink in. He has to see what will happen - even if it means he will loose a scholarship. You can't drive him to work everyday, to make sure he gets there on time, so that he does not get fired. Just like you can't bend over backwards to make sure he takes care of all of this.

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answers from Beaumont on

I am not in your position but wanted to let you know what I would do in your situation. As hard as it would be, you just might have to let him fail. I would have done/said the same things as you but ultimately, he is a man now and sometimes, lessons come the hard way. I would just leave him alone and let him deal with the fallout. Hopefully, once he's had time to process everything, he'll get in high gear...

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answers from San Antonio on

Sorry this is late. This is typical. They have so much on their minds but yet don't want to face any of it!! I even found my daughter wasting time playing with old toys! I think it is just as overwhelming for them as it is for us. When I went to school, we didn't have to do all this stuff-worrying about the best of everything, etc.
YOu can push them as much as possible to complete paperwork, etc. None of them are ever really ready or mature enough to start college-that is the reason we sent them to college! They need that time to learn w/o us telling them!
As for the lying, I would definitely do something about that.
And just an FYI, if he turns 18 before graduating, you legally can't request his transcript from high school and they don't have to share any info with you! You can go to the high school and fill out a form authorizing you to get info and definitely sign that form for college. Even tho you might be paying, etc. they can't share any info with you w/o that authorization. And btw, that authorization also has to be signed by the student granting you that permission!!

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answers from Houston on

The week before my son was due to begin college, he told me he had an almost $10,000 balance due on tuition after all scholarships had been applied.
Needless to say, I about lost it. Of course, he called me at work so I couldn't reach over and throttle him on the spot.
It wouldn't have been that much had he been applying for additional scholarships along the way as I'd suggested many months before school began in August.
He had to end up asking my mother to get a parent plus loan for him because I still owe a lot in student loans myself so I could not help there.
That was 2008 and since that time, he always starts getting financing together for the next semester as soon as he begins the current semester. Thank God, he will be graduating in May 2012 from SMU in Dallas.
I am proud that he has matured and learned not to wait until the last minute to take care of school financing.

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answers from Houston on

Could he be told that if he does not get scholarship money, he will have to get a job and support himself? There is no law/rule that 18 year olds have to go straight to college. Obviously, that's what you want for him, but he seems to be acting in a passive-aggressive manner to prevent that from happenening.
I taught high school for 38 years, and I can tell you that boys mature at a much slower rate than girls. (It took my nephew almost 10 years to graduate, but he did it on his own terms.)



answers from Corpus Christi on

Can't he go to a school near home, maybe he is not ready to go off to college without his family support. I sent my son off to college too young in maturity and he is now 24 and just now appear mature enough to handle it--he did five years of college and still has one class to finish to get his degree but it is like pulling teeth. I just hope he gets his degree before he is 30. Don't push your son, boys don't mature as fast as girls. Do you want him in college where the favorite pasttime is drinking and smoking without your supervision.



answers from Odessa on

Wow, S.. "Idiot teen"? I hope your true feelings haven't been conveyed to your son. If what you're doing isn't working, maybe you need to step back and figure out a different approach. I would recommend an attitude change on your part. Your post seems very controlling. If neither of you are speaking, the conversation or disagreement must've been very heated; certainly not a neutral ground.

Have you tried a more positive approach? Have you sat down with him and ASKED him what he wants to do? Is this YOUR goal for HIM? If he is not being proactive, maybe it's not what he wants. Maybe he isn't ready. Sometimes, we as parents lose sight of what our kids might want or need because we get so caught up in what we want for them. I would start with an apology and let it sink in before approaching the next neutral conversation.

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