Looking for Someone to Help Me Understand My 16 Year Old Son's Apathy...

Updated on November 10, 2008
A.H. asks from Ashland, OR
27 answers

He has everything going for him... smart, good-looking, funny. But he is becoming withdrawn, won't talk to me, and has lied for the past 2 months that he was doing his homework. He would tell me how well he was doing on tests, and that he was finding this year pretty easy. So I was blind-sided at conferences last week, when I learned that he has 2 F's, & 2 D's. He told me he quit football to concentrate on his grades at the beginning of the year, and I believed him. I took away the xbox, and today he lost his ipod because he didn't go to student tutoring after school as he was supposed to. I love my son so much, and now I'm worried that because I have always been a kind and tolerant mom, that it is my fault he has no ambition.

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

I was so moved by the loving & helpful advice from you incredible moms. Thank you so much. It turns out my son is being bullied in school. He finally broke down and told us, and that he feels like a bad person because he doesn't fight back. He sobbed for 2 hours. I have since gone to the school, and have a meeting scheduled for tomorrow with teachers and counselors. All the feedback made me determined to get to the bottom of this, and I thank each and every one of you for taking the time to reach out to me. I will be forever grateful to you all.

Featured Answers

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

A.M.

answers from Portland on

I don't mean to start trouble or concern where there isn't, but this sounds like a little bit more than no ambition. There is something wrong, A.. Could he possibly experimenting with drugs or starting to party hard with his friends?

2 moms found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

J.V.

answers from Seattle on

A., it sounds to me like he is either really depressed or has gotten into drugs. I would take him to the docter right away and have his tested for both. good luck. J.

More Answers

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

B.G.

answers from Seattle on

Run, don't walk to therapist. It is very possible for teenagers to have chemical depression. It is a real thing. Just like any other organ in the body, your brain can malfunction all well.
Valley Medical has an excellent Behavioral Health program. Call 800-469-3979 and describe the issues. She will set your son up with the therapist that is the best fit/most experience with the possible issues.
Another possibility is drugs. They can help with that too.
Maybe he needs to talk to someone that is not mom or dad. It certainly won't hurt to try.

3 moms found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

S.B.

answers from Portland on

This may or maynot be normal school push back. Trying to find his way, if that is the case then just helping him get caught up would be the easiest solution. My kids both did a similar thing and talking to my friends w/ teen kids theirs did too. and they all seem to do it at different ages. If you dont think it is the normal rebellion then here are a couple of suggestions. 1st, and sorry as a mom of a 16yo daughter this is the last think I would want to believe about my child but.. could drugs be an issue? Does he have new friends this year? is he withdrawn at home? More time the normal in his room alone? pulling away from normal things that he likes to do? Is this behavior new since school started? Is there any other 'stressors' in his life that are new? Bullies, Girls. Have you read his 'myspace or his facebook entries? what about doing a history check of the sites he has gone to on the computer? Read his cell phone messages (seems like an invasion of privacy? All is fair when it comes to your childs safety) Is there a history of depression in your family? I think these things need to be adressed separately from the other school/lying issues.. and counseling may be what your son needs.

as for school. Try going back to 'checking his homework' like you did when he was in grad school. and be frank with him. When behave like a 3rd grader with your responsibilities then you leave us no choice to treat you like that. When you prove otherwise then... well you get the picture.

as for lying. Kids lie because in their small world they think the truth (whatever it is) will make their parents either take away something they love and cherrish or quit loving them. When I heard this i was astonded! We know as parents that actions may disappoint us but never make us stop loving our children. so I reinforce that when discussing punishment with my children. "this (fill in the blank)is unacceptable. as much as i love you and will always love you, It is my job to make sure you grow up knowing right from wrong...." then together we come up with an appropriate response to whatever the problem/issue may be.

Good Luck!

2 moms found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

B.P.

answers from Seattle on

I'm so sorry, A.. I know how much it hurts. My son was a happy, good kid until later in high school when he decided peer pressure was too much for him and he had a new group of friends that excepted him as was. That's because they were always STONED!! My son was so anti drug all of his life until then. His grades dropped, attitude sucked, wouldn't tell truths, and lost some really nice friends through church. He became one of the stoners and dropped out of college the first year, had pot addiction problems for many years after until he found the "right" girl who changed him. I have thanked God so many times for her. Just want to let you know that unbelieveble things can happen even though we don't want to admit it. Something has definately happened to make this change in your son. You need to get to the bottom of this as soon as possible for all of your sakes. Don't let him be one of the lost boys. God Bless.

2 moms found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

V.D.

answers from Seattle on

I wouldn't go as far as saying that he has no ambition. I was his age just 10 years ago, and I haven't forgotten what it was like. A large part of his actions just come's with the territory of being his age. As far as punishment, i've always believed in makeing it fit the crime. If you cannot figure a way to do that, then take away his favorite things. Don't let him go out with friends or cut off his allowance or something of the sort until he has his grades and attendance up to an exceptable level. talk to him and try to find out if anything in particular is bothering him. good luck.

2 moms found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

L.G.

answers from Seattle on

You have received some sound advice so far. I don't know that I have anything new to add, but I have 4 teenagers at home and just wanted you to know that you are not in this alone. These teen years are so foreign... their hormones are going crazy, their bodies are adult-looking but their cognitive development is not complete, so they have this thought that they are adults, but without the decision-making abilities or the experience of adults. I guess I do have one bit of advice to add to what everyone else has already mentioned. No matter how annoyed you are with him, don't forget to love him where he is at. Let him know that you want the best for him, but would love him even if he DID get straight F's. That is hard to say, but it sounds like you really do feel like that. This suggestion has been prompted by having read the suicide note that my stepson (who I never got to meet) had left. After reading about how he felt so ugly with his hair so short, but his Mom wouldn't leave him alone until it was cut, how he didn't think he would ever have a girlfriend, and that he was failing English... I realized how little any of those things truly matter in the long run. If your son has to get a GED, if he has to go through some rough spots to come around, just love him anyway, and let him KNOW that you do. It is so hard to parent teenagers. They still need our guidance, but everything in them wants to handle everything themselves. I will be praying for you all today, and that is a promise! Blessings to you and yours! :)

2 moms found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

J.W.

answers from Seattle on

As a mom of 2 college students and a high school senior, I can tell you that what your son is experiencing is common to many young adults. Getting behind in one or two classes and then not being able to 'catch-up' falling further behind is like drowning, slowly. It takes some serious self-discipline and support. Quitting the football team was probably not his choice, but a requirement due to his poor performance in class, many coaches do weekly progress reports and if their student-athletes are not on task and earning at least C's they are sent to study table. If they don't attend and/or continue to fall behind, they are asked to leave the team. I would take him to see his pediatrician/family doc. Have them run a physical, blood tests, the works. You need to know if his supplementing his daily diet with an excess supply of energy drinks, alcohol or pharmaceuticals. Kids will do things to help them cope. Your dr may recommend a counselor for him and you to see. His school counselor can help, but often a student will want that anonimity, away from his peers when headed to the office. He will need tutoring help to get him back on track to get the grades and credits he'll need to graduate and do things after high school. Kids do get into funks. They're no different than adults. It could be girl problems as well. But he needs to be able to talk it out without fear of you leaping to conclusions. Listen to him. Take him to the doctor. Get him some tutoring. Set the rules for homework and school performance. Reward good behavior, let him earn his ipod and xbox back incrementally. Get weekly progress reports from his teachers. It does no good for him academically to jump up and down about things after the fact, you need to take action, give assistance while it can be effective and productive. The D's and F's didn't happen the last week of the qtr, the teachers should have been contacting you via some sort of a progress report mid qtr. If you have an online grade report system like Basmati or Skyward, use it.
You wanted to understand your son's apathy... his body is still undergoing a lot of physical changes. His hormones are raging and changing. There is a lot of peer pressure to do a variety of things. He has pulled out of football, which has it's own set of social rules..admitting your grades suck is a huge deal. There's the whole aspect of the opposite sex, or maybe he's questioning his sexuality. His world is changing rapidly and it's scary. Withdrawing is a reaction when things become overwhelming. Throw him a lifeline, give yourself one as well. Go see your family physician and a counselor. Take good care of one another.

2 moms found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

A.L.

answers from Seattle on

A., first let me say that my heart goes out to you. I'm sorry your family is going through this. I'm not a professional, but do have some experience in working with troubled kids.

Second, I would emphasize what others have said already: please get a counselor involved right away, and take him to see his medical doctor as well. Something is definitely going on with him. It could have been triggered by something physical, mental, social, who knows; however, professionals can help you determine what it is.

While drugs could be an issue, you don't necessarily have to assume that. He could be depressed, too. And so many things can trigger that in teens --- rejection by a peer or peer group, identity issues, drugs, alcohol, and sometimes it just happens.

My best to you as you unravel what is going on with your son. He may resist outwardly, but inwardly I think any kid would feel loved, knowing that his mom loves him enough to notice that something is going on and take action to help him.

2 moms found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

H.D.

answers from Portland on

A lot of caring suggestions here: my advice would be yes, find your son a good, solid counselor. Then, find one for yourself and your husband as well.

It's not that there's anything "wrong" with yourself, husband, or son, but this is a time when you can be potentially flying blind, and a time when it helps to have guidance as a parent on how to meet your sons needs and maintain reasonable, loving boundaries. It helps to know what you can help your son with and what he must do for himself in order to turn things around. Counselors also provide a place to talk about the emotions that your son's situation may have brought up for you, and the guilt you are feeling as a parent at this time.

Counselling is a process, and your son may come back with things that hurt you to hear: anger, a sense of isolation or failure, or hard questions about his own sense of worth. These moments can make us heartbroken or angry or feel like a failure as parents ourselves, and it's important to have someone for us to go to. A counselor in this situation can help you and your husband best take care of yourselves while you are doing your best to take care of your son.

My best wishes. I know a great, progressive counselling group, please feel free to contact me for that information.

2 moms found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

K.R.

answers from Portland on

Hi A.,

Sounds like you are in a tough spot! I don't have answers for you, but I have some questions that might help you pinpoint what's going on.

1) Does his lethargy extend to everything in his life? Is he showing signs of deperession?

2) Does he know what he wants to do when he's out of high school? Job fairs, college fairs or just job shadowing might give him a kick in the pants to work towards a goal as long as he can realize an ambition.

3) Has he changed friends or other social groups lately? Where I came from pot was the entry drug. Eitehr you didn't do it at all and you were uncool, or you did it and it was recreational, or you did the pot or LSD and eventually found your way to other drugs. I'm not saying that he's a user or anything, or that he has ADHD and self medicates. It's just a thought.

4) Have you addressed the lying seperately from the other behaviours?

5) He obviously knew what you wanted to hear, so there is a disconnect between what he can do/ is doing and what he is aware of. Does he show ADHD type behaviour?

And finally,

6) He quit football. Does he have another sports/physical outlet to get all the teenage emotion and energy out?

Hopefully some of this will be able to spark an idea. I don't really have any answers for you, but will think of you and send positive energy your way.

2 moms found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

M.L.

answers from Corvallis on

This sounds exactly like my son last year. He went further downhill, and we ended up with counseling and putting him on anti-depressants. He is like his old self again. Please contact me if you want more info, I'll be happy to share.

1 mom found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

M.K.

answers from Richland on

A.,

Having been a high school teacher for ten years, I would agree with what the majority of posts have said. Seek counseling. You may want to start with the school counselors they should be able to give you some suggestions for professionals with experience working with teens. Getting a drug test is a good idea. One of the posters suggested checking your sons homework like a third grader. The problem is, you don't know what his work is like you did when he was in third grade. I would suggest contacting the teachers and asking if they could email you weekly with progress reports, upcoming assignments, tests ect. I gladly did this for many parents, I always just asked that they initiate the weekely email. That way I could just respond to their email and it wasn't another task to do on my already overloaded brain. Plus the onus remains on the parent/kid rather than the teacher. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

W.C.

answers from Seattle on

Start making him accountable for his time--morning, noon, and night. Make some rules about how he spends his time, and what happens when he doesn't follow your rules. And get a counselor for your entire family to help facilitate communication. (Takes the pressure of your son as the center of attention.)

1 mom found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

C.P.

answers from Portland on

I feel that the boy is depressed. What has happened to him in the last couple of years or so? Something has him spinning down emotionally.

All aspects of his life need to be examined; from diet, to friends, books and TV, school, learning styles, etc.

Whatever it is, it is not your fault. But please try to get him some appropriate counseling. Doctors may push medications. If this is a crisis, OK, that may help. But getting to the bottom of the problem with some real counseling may prevent a lifetime struggle.

I have been through this. This is not lazy or lacking ambition. This is "red flag" time.

Chris

[email protected]____.com

1 mom found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

L.D.

answers from Portland on

Hi There ~ I am so sorry to hear this. You posted a few days ago, so my response may be late.

It does not sound like your son is "lazy", it truly sounds like he is depressed. Depression can be very serious, chemically based and not related to any significant event (eg broke up with girlfriend, parents divorcing).

I do not want to frighten you, but teenage boys are at a very high risk for suicide compared to the rest of the population. Please see about having him evaluated by a professional. If you need references or ides, please contact me.

All the best ~ L.

1 mom found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

M.B.

answers from Portland on

Have thought about drugs? You may want to bring to a surprise doctors visit to get a drug test. Good luck!!

1 mom found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

G.L.

answers from Salt Lake City on

I've just read through the responses you got, and I'd like to bring up one thing I didn't see in them. For all that kids your son's age look nearly grown, their problem-solving ability isn't mature yet. I used to teach this age group, and I observed that many of them don't know what to do when they start sinking academically. It scares them, so rather than dealing with it and admitting that they need help, they decide it's easier not to care. "I don't care" is so much easier than "I'm flunking and I need help."

So in addition to what others have already recommended, I'd suggest sitting down with him for a calm but blunt discussion of what has gone wrong and strategies about how to fix it - schedules, tutoring, monitoring, whatever it takes. Together. Kids sometimes don't know how to dig out of the holes they've made for themselves, but they also resist imposed solutions. Making him part of the planning session may increase the chance that he'll actually follow through. You may also need to let him know, though, that if he's not willing to step up and help make the choices, you as his parent will make them for him.

Good luck - and please take courage from this - I've seen many good kids stumble, and while it sometimes takes awhile (okay, for my brother it took 4 years), most of them really do become great adult human beings.

1 mom found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

P.C.

answers from Richland on

We've had similar problems. My suggestion is to take him to a adolescent phyisican because of the age it could be a hormonal imbalance or a nutriental issue. In the teenage years their bodies go through some many different changes and needs. Make sure the doctor does a thorough blood work up, this is key. If it's not phyisical then a good therapist is in order. Someone who can help him to deal properly with the issues he needs to address. Meanwhile he remind him frequently that you not only love him but like him as person. Specify when you see something that you respect, admire or just appreciate him doing. It didn't be loud or in front of others but make sure he hears you and understand you genuinely mean it. Go luck and God Bless.

1 mom found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

N.R.

answers from Portland on

i had my son when I was 40. He is about to turn 14. I quit my full time carreer when he was 14 months old - to give him the best I could. I work part-time from home to always be t home for him. I will continue this until he graduates from high school. Many parents have told me that our kids need us more in their teen years than as toddlers. I am finding this to be SO true. I do not have answers for you. Try everything in the book for your son. Don't give up! We hear alot about drugs, depression, peer pressure, and sex at this age. Find out what your son is going through - no matter what it takes. Let me know -- I have a son, too, and dealing with teen issues can be daunting. You can do this! I am crossing my fingers for you!

1 mom found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

J.C.

answers from Seattle on

A., as a 40 years' Mom and now a grandma helping raise - and a 42 year teacher - I PROMISE you- our children at 16:
1. are doing a lot of choosing on THIER OWN
2. need us desperately, even when they seem to not want us
3. are still children- with developing brains- no matter how
tall and adult-appearing.
4. are complex, anxious, sad, angry and confused- and
THAT's on a good day

So here's about 3 suggestions - and all my prayerful support
1. He must be seen by a good pediatrician who works with teens- and call ahead to get some of these topics ''on the
table''
2. Find a counseling source that respects you - THAT IS CRUCIAL- I took my then- 14 year old daughter to a counselor and discovered later that the cretin literally told my child
that '''MY neurosis were making her sick and she should ignore my advice '''' So, I- being a single parent- found that no matter how kind and helpful and loving I was- I was met with this sneering nasty attitude- it hurt her terribly.
3. Be good to you and your husband - it is your combined strength and resiliency that will pull him through

love,
Old Mom
aka - J.

1 mom found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

M.H.

answers from Seattle on

I don't have any great answers for you I can only tell you what I was like at 16 (which was 14 years ago)...

That was the year I first drank and smoked pot. (and today the drugs of choice are so much worse and so more addicting) All of my friends did and eventually it turned into a daily thing. Luckily for me this only lasted a year and I never did slack on my school and sports. However when my parents found out and tried to intervene with a counselor she was old, didn't relate and really my sister and I just made fun of her. We told our parents we were better and then just learned how to lie better and be sneakier.

This really probably doesn't help. But I do know that through all of that I knew my parents loved me and wanted to help me. I always appreciated that because I had friends whose parents didn't care and of course thought "how cool would that be" but in my heart knew it was sad.

Make sure he knows you're there for him. And find a counselor who he likes and can relate to. There will be some resistance but keep at it. And I would absolutely do drug tests. And if he fails then keep doing them. Even when you "know" he's not doing them anymore because kids are good liars and as a parents all you want to do is believe them.

Good luck I hope this helps in some way instead of just scare you. I will be continually praying for your family.

1 mom found this helpful

R.S.

answers from Portland on

You have so much good advise from people. I'm just going to add that in addition to all that, keep the communication open between him and you. Listen and encourage him to talk. Let him know you are open to whatever he has to tell you, you may not always like what you hear. Try(and it's hard) to not judge him. There are so many issues that could make him behave the way he is and don't assume what it could be.

1 mom found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

J.M.

answers from Bellingham on

I don't know what you need to do, but it sounds like your son has discovered the wonders of weed ;-)
More or less the same happened to my son when he was at that age and I wish I had then and now an answer for you. I will be looking at the posts that come in.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

M.F.

answers from Richland on

Hi have you had your son tested for drugs or depression.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

T.H.

answers from Seattle on

I'm sure others have or will suggest this but could he be taking drugs? Another idea is someone harassing him at school? You might think about counseling.

T.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

K.R.

answers from Bellingham on

It sounds like you are a very loving and caring parent. it sounds like your son needs to start suffering the consequences of his choices.
You probably don't want to hear this, but it sounds like he might be using drugs/ drinking. He is being deceptive for a reason. He is hiding something. You can try to find out what that is, but it will probably take some detective work on your part.
These years, I am discovering with my soon to be 16 yr. old step son, are alien years. Teenagers are a different breed.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions