My Boring, Uninterested Teen-son Is Dampening My Spirits. How to Fix This?

Updated on June 06, 2017
T.H. asks from Philadelphia, PA
17 answers

I'm off during the summer along with my children and I booked a 7 day quick-vacation for Florida, 4 days after school ended. Decided to cut it a day short though. #shrugs My son is a teen and an introvert. My daughter is 8 and an extrovert. Truthfully, it felt burdensome having my son around. He's no fun. He has his head in his cell all day. He doesn't want to go to amusement parks or get into the pool. He has no suggestions. My daughter on the other hand loves it all. She is truly a mini-me, but even that can wear on me because she always wants something #sigh

This year we received our passports. We have a 14 day Cancun trip planned and a New Orleans trip planned. I'm looking to also surprise them with an 8 day cruise during Christmas.

But today, around the eve, I began to feel the blues. I feel like my son is dampening my vacationing spirits. I'm starting to feel like I don't want to take him to Mexico any longer. I don't know....I'm becoming so frustrated while typing this. I feel like I failed him as a mother. He's very into Minecraft. If he's not playing Minecraft, he's looking in his phone (he likes to look at deserts be baked from scratch, or funny sayings). He used to read a book a week #series Now, he won't even pick up a book. So, somewhere I've dropped the ball and I know it. I have to get him back on track, but right now, I don't even want to talk with him. He's so boring and I'm trying to figure out what the hell is going on with him, but for right now, I need a break from him. I'm honestly just upset. I know that I can't change his personality but to see a child not want to do much of anything makes me feel sick. Btw, no, he's not depressed. He does have friends and I recently encouraged him to get together with them. He chose to invite them bowling. On another note, I will be taking his phone and keeping him off the computer. I think he needs to detox from both and get-his-life. I'm just at a point where I'm going to explode.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

I can appreciate everything that you ladies have shared. I do love my son. His happiness is very important to me. Please don't think that I need him to do what I want to do. I actually just want to see some enthusiasm in some area where there is none. But anyway, he and I have discussed that I'm looking to seek an apprenticeship for him at a local bakery maybe. He was okay with that idea, as well as an apprenticeship with carpentry. I figured that because Minecraft is mainly about building, he would have an interest in doing that in real life too. I think that today I'll just go out and buy his baking supplies. He'll like that. I'm also in the works of signing him up for coding classes online. And, I also suggested looking into a bowling program for him but he stated that although he likes to bowl, because he's not good at it, he prefers to decline being on a team.

Unfortunately, there are no males in his life who he can connect with, other than his father. He'll be spending time with him in July. Dad lives in another state. I used to have my son in a boys-to-gentleman program for a few years until we moved.

Overall, I'm not trying to change him. I'm going to work on my understanding of his strengths and interests more by having him take a personality test online. We communicate a lot. He shares his dreams with me, stories about his friends and teachers at school, what he's building in Minecraft. He like mini-golf and we do that when we can. I know that he's happier since we moved last year. Oh and btw, he is a foodie. I'll be sure to start my research on foodie-events here. If I see therapy as something we need to do, I'll put that in the works as well.

Thank you all so much :)

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N.B.

answers from Oklahoma City on

Sounds like you know what you need to do. Do it at home and have activities planned so that he will have time to adjust.

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C.B.

answers from San Francisco on

He's hooked on the screen. Best thing you can do is take that phone and any and all other electronics. Once those are gone, I bet he becomes more engaged in real life and won't be quite so boring.

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C.C.

answers from New York on

In a time when you might feel that you don't "like" your son, that is a good time to really lean on the strength of your *love* for your son.

One positive thing you mentioned - he enjoys videos of baking desserts from scratch. So, maybe sign him up for a cooking/baking class? That might be one way to tap into his interests while getting him off of his phone!

Also, the teen years are difficult and puberty/"growing up" is hard on the kids too. I have seen from other things you have written that you are a very hardworking single mom. Is there a male relative who could help you out here, someone your son could spend time with, even a quick summer visit? Maybe an uncle with a good job who could talk to your son about "guy stuff" and future career/college interests (at age 14, the time for your son to choose a job or a college is just a few years away).

As for vacations - keep in mind that pretty soon your son will be an adult who might himself choose to *not* vacation with you. Try to enjoy the few vacation opportunities you have with him before that time comes!

6 moms found this helpful
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E.B.

answers from Honolulu on

I love that your son is a foodie, and a baker!

I'd like to suggest a couple of things regarding that. You seem to enjoy traveling, and you seem to be able to afford it. So why not schedule something food-related? There are cruises and trips that involve cooking demonstrations. When my dh and I went to New Orleans on an anniversary trip, we found a couple of local cooking schools that offered one day cooking lessons. You don't need to be a chef: the classes we took were attended by good cooks, people who didn't know what a shrimp was, people who liked to eat but not cook, and people who looked like pros already. It was very light-hearted, and you could do or not do as much as you wanted.

If your son is old enough, google things like Cancun cooking classes. Trip Advisor and other sites have lots of links. You could enroll your son in those, and you and your daughter can hang by the pool and wait for delicious samples!

Or, find a food cruise. They'll still have pools and things for your daughter to do, but your son can hang out in the food demos. The Food Network has celebrity chef cruises.

See if your son is old enough to take the state Food Handlers certificate test (not sure of specific state laws). The test is quite basic, involves food safety, proper temperatures, etc. It's taken online, costs just a few dollars, and its a helpful thing to have. Just google your state name and Food Handlers Certificate.

And it's great that you'll buy him baking supplies, but just as important as having stuff to bake with is finding a reason to bake. See if there is anyone nearby that he can bake for. Can he bring cookies or muffins to a fire station, or to the nurses at a nursing home? I know most shelters won't take home-baked foods, but if your son can demonstrate that he practices proper food safety and has his certificate, maybe he can find a police station, PTA, or office that would welcome some good pastries.

Don't spread him too thin. Coding, carpentry, baking; it's a lot. It sounds like he's found a passion. Help him deepen that.

6 moms found this helpful

C.T.

answers from Santa Fe on

My son is like this on outings and I have found that if I let him invite a friend it TOTALLY turns things around 100%. He is more engaged and happy. He isn't sulking and wanting to go home the whole time. The other thing that has helped is we have found a couple things to do together that he loves. So we plan on taking a frisbee along or the badminton racquets. He also likes to draw with me, so we plan on this time together regularly. Also, he LOVES teaching me how to animate on the computer or to play minecraft (or whatever he is into at the moment). I don't spend a ton of time doing this, but I will sit with him and engage and he loves it. He will show me one of his favorite youtube videos or play his favorite music for me. These kinds of things draw us closer. He also occasionally likes to play cards or certain games. I am always working to make sure he is engaged with the family and doesn't get sucked into devices where he is isolated. Find things you two can joke about and laugh about. You sound really down on your son...cut him a little slack...it is hard to be a teen.

5 moms found this helpful

B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

Well, one thing would be to limit his phone/computer use during vacations.
Also, try doing some things that interests HIM.
Sounds like he's a budding foodie - so do some food festivals this summer.
A BBQ cook off, a chocolate festival, strawberry festival, garlic festival, seafood festival, wine festival (ok, that's for adults) - we've been to these things at one time or another.
Here's some in your area:

http://www.visitphilly.com/articles/philadelphia/top-phil...

"He's so boring".
Really?
You've lost interest in your first born.
You need to reconnect to who HE is - not who you want him to be.
I'm thinking he thinks YOU are boring because you just want to do what interests YOU.
You guys are 2 sides of the same coin.

He might grow up to be a great chef someday or a caterer, or manage a restaurant.
He might really enjoy taking a cooking class or a cake decorating class.
Culinary Arts is a thing - look into it.
And reconnect by COOKING together!

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B.A.

answers from Columbus on

I suspect that when your son was 8 he was probably more enthusiastic about things. That's the nature of being 8. Being a bit sullen and withdrawn is the nature of being of many teenagers.

I wouldn't go cold turkey on the technology. That's the primary way that he's going to connect with others. Set limits, but don't expect him to not use technology at all. Most likely his friends don't think he's boring. It's just that you're not interested in the same things he is interested in. You need to be willing to meet him half-way.

It seems like you have a lot of traveling planned, and that's great. But did you ask him what he's interested in doing? Asking him for suggestions on what to do probably wasn't effective because he doesn't have the experience to know what is even possible. You need to find specific examples of things that he might like. For example, there are a ton of foodie experiences in New Orleans. Everything from cooking classes to restaurant crawls. Show him a few examples on Trip Advisor and let him choose something.

In Cancun-- have you noticed that the Mayan pyramids look like they were created in Minecraft? The same block appearance? Is there a tour guide that can speak about how the pyramids were created?

Make him your chief meal planner for the trips to actively involve him. Give him some ownership in deciding what your family will like.

And absolutely do not travel without him. He hasn't really done anything wrong, and he'd end up resenting that decision for the rest of his life.

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H.W.

answers from Portland on

I agree with most of what people below are saying, so I will add what I haven't seen said....

First. sometimes when we find others boring, it's because *we* are bored. He's not bored. you are. So, consider finding some hobbies you enjoy and can get excited about. A few activities just for you, you know? Personally, I notice that when I think things are boring, if I can find a small project to work on, that feelings goes away.

Next, I want to add a layer to your Minecraft concern: for many kids, Minecraft is a form of socializing. My son is playing right now (we finished school and chores for the day. He will get about an hour or so, and then I'll have him go outside or do something else). What I have noticed is that the technology, like your son's habits, is also used for researching for information for their personal passions. For many introverted people, the light communication online with other players/posters can be just the right amount of socializing for them.

I wouldn't cold-turkey the technology, just limit it to a reasonable amount of time. We do around 2 hours+ a day, not usually beyond 3, but as I said, we really look at finding balance in how often it is used and in what way. We spend time as a family going on walks, playing board games, reading funny things to each other, cooking together....would you be interested in watching some traveling cooking shows (like Anthony Bourdain) and talking about those ideas and places? One thing I've learned with my son is that I have to be reciprocal in the level of interest-- if I want him to pay attention to things I find interesting, I also have to listen to him discussing his interests. Active listening means that I find jumping off points to ask questions about 'what is it about XYZ that you like' or "if you could do A or B, which one would you do?" sort of stuff. Just showing interest sometimes greases the wheels.

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D.B.

answers from Boston on

I get that you're so upset and worried, but it's coming across in your original post (not so much in your "So What Happened" section) that you think it's your son's job to perk up and make your life better. It's not. He does have some responsibilities to the family, but it doesn't sound like you've enforced much of that - and now you've made it his job to stop dampening your own spirits.

It sounds like you plan lots of vacations without regard to whether anyone but you and your daughter would love them. 7 days in Florida, 14 days in Cancun, some time in New Orleans, and then an 8 day cruise in December. That's 7 trips in 6 months. While it's great that you have the disposable income to afford all of this, have you really chosen well for what your son would enjoy? You feel that he's dampening your vacation spirits, but what if your extensive travel plans to places he doesn't like (or has to adjust to) aren't making him feel that you are taking his spirits into account?

It's up to you to intervene here. While you don't want to take away what he enjoys, you should be concerned and perhaps a little alarmed by his total retreat. Being an introvert is fine, and being a sullen teen is not entirely unusual, but how can you say he's not depressed if you haven't investigated it?

Meantime, YOU need to speak to someone, since you don't have a partner and since it doesn't seem like you're able to be totally objective on your own. You're at the point where you are getting the blues, feeling sick, and ready to explode. That's going to drive him further into his games and computer - so be very careful if you take that away and give him no outlet. You yourself need an outlet for these feelings, so please talk to a family counselor about how to develop strategies for navigating the teen years and your own feelings of anger and perhaps rejection. Needing a break from your child at this level is not a good sign. An objective counselor can help you prioritize what should be done first, and be a great sounding board for you.

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D..

answers from Miami on

Please research what it means to be an introvert. It's very important for you to understand what introverts need.

That being said, regardless of his being an introvert, he doesn't get to "get out of" going on family vacations. AND that doesn't mean that he walks all over Mexico with his head in his phone or playing Minecraft. And, you do NOT leave him at home because you're about to explode.

Yes, you did drop the ball by letting a phone and video games take the place of books. But you don't have to keep letting him. You can put your foot down and say no to more than x amount of time on Minecraft and his phone in a day. He DOES NOT NEED A SMART PHONE!

Diving into books is acceptable. He can learn a lot from researching the internet (with you checking his computer history - NEVER let the computer be in his room or where the family can't see what he does with it.) Charge him with researching where you are going in Mexico so that he can talk about what you are seeing while he is down there.

It's also time for you to work on yourself in regards to understanding your son. You have to do this, mama. If you want your relationship to work in the long run, you cannot expect him to change his personality to keep from "dampening your spirits". He wasn't put on this earth for your spirits. You have to change your expectations. Remember, there are moms and dads who are introverts. Think about how those family might interact.

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G.♣.

answers from Springfield on

My boys enjoy their electronics. It's not always Minecraft, but if we let them they could probably spend the entire day on their tablets. Construction might be a good fit for him, but it could just be that he LOVES his phone. Tablets and phones are very, very addictive.

I know you mean well with the idea of taking a coding class on-line, but I would look for ways for him to interact with people. You could look for a computer class that's actually onground (not on-line). There are gaming related summer camps, so you really might be able to find something there.

I love the fact that you are planning to limit his screen time. I let my boys have more screen time last week, as it was their first week of summer vacation and I really do get how nice it is to get to just relax and do what you want for a time. My mom always let us watch lots of tv during that first week, and it was so nice to just be a couch potato for a bit. But this week the limits are back (and they know that). Time to go outside more, be active, go swimming, read books, etc.

I don't know that there's anything wrong (there could be, but there really might not be). I know lots of kids & teens that would be glued to their tablets/phones if they were allowed to be. Keep looking for opportunities for him to do other things and ways that he can have some social interaction. If he's an introvert he might not want as much social interaction as you do, but he still needs some.

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R..

answers from San Antonio on

How old is he? Because 13 is different from 18.

My son is 12 and loves Minecraft and his tablet. The second I limit the amount of time of either...one its a huge deal and two he wants to have a friend over...to play Minecraft (that's what he and his friends do for fun...)

Mine begged to get out of camp this summer...I had already enrolled him. It was a performing arts camp he did last year but the thought of auditioning was stressing him out.

I let him drop camp...but I did enroll him in two art classes. And am looking into getting him an apprenticeship with a local repair shop. We go to the library once a week and he has to find at least five books.

I think it's a tough age...they are figuring out who they are...their whole generation is on-line all the time..and if he is an introvert it's tough to get them out (I know I married one).

Good luck!! It can be frustrating!! Hugs!1

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M.G.

answers from Portland on

I could have written this.

I am an introvert, but a social one. I married an introvert - who is not as social. I have to do all the arranging with our friends and then when we're with them, he has a great time. If I left it up to my husband, the only socializing he would do would be to go fishing with his bud. That's his idea of a good time. Sitting in a boat and not talking all day!

My son is exactly like my husband - but add to that, he's a teen and hormones and he is bothered by his siblings, who just want to hang out.

Your son, if he's anything like mine, needs time to decompress away from people. I went to see my son's therapist just for a few sessions. My son saw this therapist about 4 times. It helped me a great deal to learn to not try to change him. Like you, I took his retreating personally. My son - if pressed - also gets snappy (doesn't help that he's a teen). So I learned to back away - just as I did when he was little and got home from school and needed to unwind.

Don't let him know you think he is boring. It's just his personality. The key is getting him into his passions or pursuits. I think let him bake! Give him a new cookbook he can work through this summer, etc.

My son has buds too - but I have to encourage him to reach out sometimes. We have a pool and all summer long we just invite kids over - so he is forced to socialize sometimes. We're lucky that our other kids like having buds over, so even if it's not his friends in particular, he sees kids and can join in - when he feels like it. That's key.

Mine too likes the computer. He watches YouTube, etc. but researches things a lot. I just keep an eye on it. I also have no-screen time. I have to do this with him, otherwise he will happily just be on his devices all day. Outdoor time, fresh air, etc.

My biggest thing though - was to not let it get to me. That's where I dropped the ball. I thought I've done something wrong. Horrible thing to convey to a child - to let them know you think something is wrong with them - and that they have screwed up somehow, or you have with regards to them. That's where I found therapy super helpful and hopefully I caught myself in time.

I agree with the others - if you have a family member (someone he is like even) to hang out with - if you don't enjoy the same things. I try to find one thing at least I connect with him on - we watched a movie last night together, just so we can bond. My husband and my son spend time together - and as introverts, they sometimes are just silent but in each other's company.

I do think too there are phases in teens' lives where it is a little harder - so this will likely pass, if handled ok.

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M.D.

answers from Pittsburgh on

I think you need to find an electronic middle ground. He was apparently having unlimited electronics time - according to your post, he is constantly on one or the other. Now you are going to take both away. But that obviously won't last forever. What is your plan after your detox is over?

Take this time to think about your house rules, and what you think an appropriate amount of time per day for electronics usage. Maybe it's a certain amount of time. Or maybe it's certain times of day. Whatever.

My personal household rules is no electronics between breakfast and dinner.

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M.J.

answers from Sacramento on

I totally understand! Our teen son only likes video games. That's it. If we try to force him into an activity, he makes it miserable for the whole family. If we sign him up for classes, he will flat-out refuse to go if he's lost interest.

I can give you some hope, though. When we took the family to Cancun a few years ago, he did great! The change of scenery really helped to shake up the routine. He's normally a very anxious kid and he even zip lined over water and dropped himself into a cenote below. He had grumbled about the excursion before we went, but did great once there. It was an amazing trip for our entire family. There's a water park in Cancun that's ideal because it has slides at a mix of heights (so if he has a fear of heights, he'll still have fun, but the low ones aren't too babyish).

Good luck! I hope the trips make a difference.

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A.D.

answers from Minneapolis on

Well, when we took a cruise, we made our kids lock their devices in the room safe. Can't text or surf the internet while roaming at sea! Even though our oldest teen was still a little more shy and to herself, and she mostly stayed with us, or on her own other than going out to meet people at the kids club in her age group like her younger sister, but it was an excellent total screen break vacation.

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J.N.

answers from Lubbock on

Give him some power and some choice. Luckily, he is a teen so he can stay by himself for a while.

If I have my choice on vacations, I might get to sleep in and then spend a couple hours on my phone, catching up on social media, the news, etc.

Then I'm ready for a few active hours. On most days I need a few more solitary hours later in the day. Sometimes I can go 10-12 hours around lots of action but invariably, I'm exhausted the next day.

My husband doesn't understand and grumbles about my phone addiction but I have always been like this and so has my family. We often played solitaire while watching tv or took refuge in a book.

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