How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
The ChangingMinds Blog!
I've written about my daughter's success more than once in recent times but have been sadly silent about my son, who will be 18 on Thursday. This is odd, as he has been on my mind a great deal. Perhaps the reason I have not blogged on it is that there is little to boast about and things have been said and done that are deeply saddening.
He spent the last school year, pretending to work and spending god knows how many hours on the internet. His reward was a month-long holiday trekking in Africa. He was supposed to get a job and pay for half, but didn't (many excuses).
We hoped that seeing the world and then the shock of terrible exam results would help him grow up, and we persuaded the school to let him re-take the year. Yet whilst there has been some improvement in work, it may not be enough and the deception has continued such that we cannot really tell whether anything he says is true or not.
The computer and the internet still seem to be at the core of things and we have steadily clamped down on it. Problems have continued in one form or another, including things too difficult to mention. Most recently, he went through his sister's things when she was away, taking what he wanted, then saying he had been given them. When she discovered this she felt abused and defiled and unsurprisingly went incandescent and then very, very cold. He realized he had crossed a line and apologized abjectly, but after years of hurt, it was no longer enough and their relationship may be irreparably harmed.
After much thought we have decided to now cut off the internet altogether. He will object, no doubt, and maybe seek revenge. Yet he has already hurt this family so much already, blaming us for many of his ills and bringing shame through his actions.
If he wants to restore something of his sister's respect, the best thing he can do is knuckle down hard, really hard, and get excellent exam results, but I just don't know if he will do this.
One of the most frustrating things for me is that, whilst I have significant understanding of changing minds, my own son is so difficult. There is perhaps cold comfort in the fact that my wife, who is a teacher with a specialism in troubled teenage boys, has the same problem. Like many parents, we don't know what the right thing to do is, and so do what we can and hope for the best.
And yet there is hope. Now and again we see the kind, thoughtful and funny person inside. Will that true person emerge, or will the dark side persist? Only time will tell.
-- o --
Coda: We planned to have a family conference to discuss events and get things out in a safe environment. He pre-empted this by declaring he was leaving home, with nowhere to go. This would be the end of his formal education and the start of another education so harsh it would probably break him. We talked him down in a painful conversation where he, as usual, was the centre of attention but contributed little. There was talk of him rebuilding respect by working more, yet he subsequently went out and spent the evening playing video games. When I tried to talk with him he was back in the arrogant, sullen persona that is his suit of armour.
I am left feeling more desperate than ever, as is his mother. Que sera, but I fear it will not be good.
Update 26-Feb-10: See also Teenage troubles over?
Well, that seems to be the real learning
process. One have to experience everything oneself. You can talk and persuade
but its just temporary effect ... ?
I was given the link to your excellent Syque
site by a friend recently. Well, from there, I stumbled my way up to your blog,
and discovered this story.
Over the past few days, since the internet has been off, he has been much nicer and worked harder. I suspect there's an addiction pattern at play here.
I think he'll turn out ok. His sister at his age was a terror, but now is a well-qualified and successful businesswoman. I know that's no guarantee, but it does give us hope.
An interesting and sad story. Your situation is
one that repeats itself everywhere - no matter what theories there are humans
are so complex and have motivations that are often not apparent to ourselves
Like other folks, my heart goes out to you
and your wife. Having suffered and survived the teenage heebie jeebies with a
daughter, I wish I could offer the answers. Recently found a wonderful book of
parenting called "Parenting with Love and Logic". Has one specially for the
teenage variety of kids. Anyway, what is so powerful and helpful, is that it
foils the "blame it on someone else" syndrome and it eliminates the anger thing
on the part of parents. Give it a read and it will click or not.
Just arrived at your blog. There can be a beginning, a middle, a near-the-end and an end of a project, job, state of understanding, or whatever. What if you, your wife and daughter are in the middle, but your son is at the end? Your son may be in a state of transition, while the rest of you are not.
Perhaps you are at different points, so you have
different understanding or understandings. You are an engineer, your wife is a
teacher, your daughter is in business. What if your son is an artist, and only
senses at this point a creative urge, but does not yet know what or where it is
or how to express it. He may need to sink within himself in order to change his
perspective or point of view, and that will refresh him. Is he musical? Does he
write? Buy him an instrument and a nice journal and fountain pen. Maybe he can
appreciate the abstract, while his family members appreciate something else.
Update: we have removed the computer from his life and his behaviour has significantly improved. The vitriol has largely gone. He has also turned 18 and some more of the responsibilities of adulthood has sunk in, I think.
Applying logic to teenagers can sometimes
be...well illogical. However, just because someone has illogical behaviour
doesn't mean that he is excused from accountability. I've always been a huge
advocate of wayward teens getting a job. Your family will forgive many
transgressions that an employer will not. I never liked being dependent on my
parents, so I started 2 successful businesses even before I got a job mowing
lawns, landscaping, and the like. I rarely met any of my family's unrealistic
expectations, but now enjoy a much better life for myself having worked as an
engineer for the past 10 years. Sometimes, it's best just to set boundaries and
stick to them. Keeping the plug pulled on the computer is a very good start.
Just as few neighbourhood football players are good enough for the World Cup,
few gamers are good enough to compete or program new games.
I'm now pretty bereft of ideas. He just rolls downhill. Without computer games he watches TV, and without that he just sits there. He's had medical attention and is not depressed. And any attempt to talk with him is met with appalling unpleasantness. It just seems like an extended period of the Teenage Troubles. Sorry to go on about it, but that's partly what a blog is for and expressing my feelings helps, as does the kind thoughts from people around the world like you.
I don't think he is bad and still have hope that he will wake up one day, but I cannot see it before the horizon. I fear he will fall further before he turns the corner. See more recent notes at Reality blindness.
I feel your pain - literally. I have a son
who will be 18 in a couple of months and he has shown a lot of the same apparent
lack of motivation/passion for life as your son. A bright and capable guy, my
boy seems to have squandered too much of his youth on a similar style of
laziness. Added to this sad scenario, he has now discovered the opposite sex in
a rather unwholesome way, which he is unable to or uninterested in controlling.
This is now leading him further away from school work, a normal family life, or
anything resembling a bright future. The most passionate thing going for him now
is his desire to rebel against mom and dad. He has "run away" a few times now
only to return in progressively declining condition. Sex, drugs, late night
hours, unsavory associates, disrespect and just plain ignorance are what seem to
rule his existence now. Plenty of people will say that this is just a phase lots
of kids go through. Part of me believes this too as I have an unexplainable
faith that he will turn out OK -eventually. I guess this is part of what Jung
calls the individuation process.
We've had a philosophy of keeping the communications channel open and, whilst not accepting bad behaviour, we have (mostly) not responded to anger with anger. His older sister, who he respects, has helped too. She can be more direct with him and he has listened more to her. In any case, we have our fingers crossed for him.
i don't offer my opinion but rather, an
acknowledgement of the situation. I am 15, and in my household.. i see the same,
accept my older brother is having problems.. and i am doing well. But i have
something that i dont show. This is that.. i sometimes feel sick from worrying
about him, and i feel so sad for him and living up to the goal my mum has set
isn't easy, it feels like the only thing that matters to her is that i am
successful from other peoples eyes, and not happy in myself which seems to me,
to be more important.
Hi I'm Tina and I have two sons one will be 13 in April the other is turning 15 in 2 weeks, the younger is a kind gentle child still while his brother and I have butted heads for a year solid. His dad who is not in the home decided to let him live with him to see if that helps, he doesn't act this way around him. So I allowed this move. His dad and I split up 2 days before his birth. So I thought that he really seeked knowing how it is to live with him. It's been 6 months and his dad has allowed him to miss school "sick" at least twice a month so now he's in trouble with truancy or whatever and telling me handle it all. Well I just want my son home, but now he's enjoyed the easy life of laying around the time no chores nothing. I truly think he agreed to this so he'd get out of child support, he was behind and now it's caught up and I will owe him 75 bucks next month. I don't know what to do, he doesn't think he should do anything but eat sleep and shit and i hate seeing lazy people anyone, especially my own kid just lazying through life. Thanks for any advise.
One thing you can do is not to give him anything to push against when you see him. If he's being lazy, say nothing. Ask what he's been doing, and when he says 'nothing', just say 'ok'. Beware of becoming a soft touch. If he comes back to live with you at some time (maybe when maybe his father gets fed up with him), impose conditions and be straight. Tough love and all that.
My son is now 20, living at home and slowly becoming more civil. He's got a job at the local supermarket and beginning to notice that he's somewhat smarter than the others there. It's his life, though, and he must live it himself. Regret is tough, and he's not admitted any yet. He doesn't save anything, but we force it by charging him rent, but are putting it by for when he leaves.
Oh my can I feel your pain. My son is 17 and has been in and out of
school because of behavior problems his whole life. I am so over this...he is
doing online high school and is almost finished. Has 3 classes and chooses to be
on the internet - I can't take away the internet b/c that's where his school is.
He is mouthy and disrespectful to his father and I. My husband is in the
military overseas and so we have to tread a very fine line b/c the military will
come after my husband if we choose to really discipline. My son has been the
cause of my depression throughout the years - I have broken my back trying to
ensure he is not labeled in life. He is very smart, plays football and
basketball for the high school (they let him play as a homeschooler) and does
not drink or do drugs, but the laziness and disrespect is too much. I am so
ready for him to move out...I now resent him and know that I don't want to live
with him so I am counting down the days.
Dave my heart is with you. As a parent, I believe that we want our children
to grow into responsible reliable trustworthy people. My 15 year old daughter is
struggling as well, refuses to attend school (bullying that is not dealt with by
teachers, etc), sick of going to counsellors (because of reactions to bullying -
she has an 'attitude') but now she really has an attitude and has become what
she detested - a bully (especially towards me). All she desires is to spend
every day wandering around with her friends at the local shopping mall and
swimming in the creek. "I am happy there". Has horses that are not cared for by
her, is musically talented - "you say I am musical because you are a parent but
I am not!" She plays piano, drums, guitar, clarinet, several types of recorder
(mainly self taught) and reads music easily. She was an A student until 2 years
ago and now is failing at school, "doesn't care", and "it's my life" while
holding her hand out for money to buy junk food. Tough, I am now refusing the
money because we have food at home - get a job. The school has said she doesn't
need to be there but hopefully we have convinced her to attend next year and
maybe get a traineeship. Her hair is black, with black eyes and wears skinnies
with singlets and death jackets she gets from her friends. The abuse and foul
language she throws at me is quite frankly scary and her home habits are filthy
and totally disrespectful. Occasionally, I am able to get her to do the dishes
but her room is trashed, literally. Her father knows little because she insists
that he not be told anything and when she is with him on weekends, she is not
with him because she is everywhere else. How to motivate and encourage our kids
- no matter what I say, positive or negative, it is returned with a mouth of
foul language so I stay silent which gets me a dose as well because I am
ignoring her. I am tired and want it to stop. I love her but don't like her.
Will she turn her life around? Will her failings now destroy her future
My name is Jeannie. The letter that follows here, are things a 33 year old
gentlemen (and full time college student) said he wished he would have said to
his father before he died. Unfortunately, he had not matured until long after
his father had died and he had become a father himself.
Iam 18 & have a brother who's 15. Us being teenagers puts a lot of pressure
on our parents. I've successfully gained a medical college and my brother is in
10th std. When i was 15 or 16 i used to be very rude to my parents, lazy,
disobedient and everything. The last thing my mom told me was "u'll know when
u'll be a mother" which of course didn't make any sense. My parents never forced
me for studies but they were damn strict 'bout certain things. Now i understand
a lot 'bout their pain & life.
An eye opener for me. I have two kids son is 18 years old. He has not been a problematic kid, except in few situations. My daughter is 15years old. I am much worried of her, as she lacks interest in anything and is not serious about her studies. Her lack of concentration and daydreaming are her major drawbacks. I wish I could help her get through this phase.
Dave replies (Sep 11):
My boy is only 14 doing drugs with my ex the father of my younger two, we
dont have any thing to do with him since i found he was giving.it to my boy, now
my boy takes off a lot there we. We moving states in five months my boy says he
not coming he say he take off what can i do :(
An update about my son: he survived his first year in university and came back more sociable than when he went, but still can't face home truths. He is still deceptive, but not as much as he has been. He's off for his second year next week. Fingers crossed he'll wake up a bit more in the coming year.