How can I give my 11 year old a "childhood" ; in London. What can we do?

(126 Posts)
Quinteszilla Wed 26-Mar-14 10:23:22

Please dont get me wrong. I am an adult, I grew up in a different world, in a different time, where kids were kids and roamed free, and where school and homework was a natural part of life. I never questioned things much at that age, I went with "the flow". I also did what my parents told me to do.

I struggle with our 11 year old. We are in London where kids dont roam free, and where you dont just go knock on somebodys door to play or hang out.

I honestly dont know what to do! He comes home from school, is knackered, sits in front of his pc and aimlessly go between minecraft, and youtube videos. He seems obsessed with shooting games, bb guns, guns, and we found him looking at some gory stuff yesterday where people were impaled. He had found a reference to this on a Fails video.

He has a strong will. I cannot "make" him do anything. I struggle to get him to stop playing games, struggle to get him to do homework, he has lost interest in the trampoline, his skateboard, lego mindstorm, wont read books, not interested in good programs on tv. Nothing. Everything is a battle. I fight with him over homework until last minute where he suddenly blows a fuse because he had not done homework. I am incredulous, because I have told him Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday that he has a special homework in for Wednesday, and on tuesday night all hell breaks out because he is frustrated that he has not done it and he will get detention. I tell him he will take the consequences and get detention, and he freaks out.

What am I supposed to do? All weekend was spent on minecraft. I could not get him off that game. In the end I and ds2 went out without him, and just left him at home. He baked an apple crumble on his own, which he eventually binned without letting us have any, because we did not eat it straight away after dinner. We were watching Top Gear together, and he made a point of not watching because we were asking him to join us.
DH took them swimming on Sunday, and he refused to come, so dh left him behind with me. I was supposed to use the time he was away to study, and with ds1 home I couldnt. I tried to get him to do homework, he wouldnt.

He is too big to lift him off his chair and carry him out.

He is refusing to do everything and anything we ask of him, and shouts and screams if we try to restrict his minecraft.

I honestly wish we could afford to send him to boarding school. I have tried so hard to create a happy family life, and I am so drained by him.

I have not bothered to NC, so please go easy on me as I am feeling really fragile about this whole parenting lark.

Quinteszilla Wed 26-Mar-14 11:10:40

We are exploring. It is not like we never do anything, we are very active. I have spent the last two weekends hanging around waiting for him to do his homework so we could go out. It ends up with two days of battle, where we end up not going anywhere because he is "doing homework" and then it turns out he isnt.

We have been to lots of museums, galleries, ranging from museum of childhood, imperial war, national army, science/natural history, windsor castle, hampton court, dulwich picture gallery, kew gardens, virginia water. We have been out walking different walking trails in surrey, hampshire, south downs for day trips, cycling by the river, skating in nearby parks including Bay66 and as far down as to Kings Field and Skaterham, playing tennis, basket ball, so, it is not like we sit and do nothing. sad

He does not have many friends. He has lots of friends in Norway though. Not sure what it is, his sense of humour, and quirkyness is totally cool amongst Norwegians. He just seem unable to make friends here. He has made one friend in his new secondary that lives locally, the rest live further away. They dont seem to go visit as much.

feelingdizzy Wed 26-Mar-14 11:12:46

I live on a remote island of the coast of Ireland, where my kids can run free , they have more freedom than I did growing up in Dublin.

Do they avail of this, my arse they do ! My 12 year old is obsessed with her phone and my 10 year old has a full relationship with the ps3.

Don't imagine there are children skipping merrily somewhere, teens and pre-teens can be arsy anywhere. I simply take them if they are on them to much, if bored I throw in housework, but I am harsh.

bigTillyMint Wed 26-Mar-14 11:13:02

I also don't think it's a London thing - my DC's seem to find plenty to do here! But they probably wouldn't just go to Richmond park (if we were nearby!) for a run/bike ride unless it was with friends/something special - they do organised sports, which is the same as your DS doing kickboxing.

I agree with NotCitrus, it does sound like he would do more if he had friends to do it with - DS(13) will kick a ball all day long if there is someone else around, in addition to football training/matches, watching football matches, playing FIFA... (pattern here?!)
Also DS went through a(nother!) tricky patch around the time he turned 12 - he hit puberty, his voice broke, he started growing like a weed and became (even more) obstreperous. Could this be happening to your DS?

squizita Wed 26-Mar-14 11:15:29

I work with kids and just to give the flipside...

...we'll give hand-outs and advertise things. In our working class London suburb I hasten to add (I'd 100% refute, as others have "Here there is absolutely nothing!") ...things from sports, to music, to subsidised trips out, to helping out at an old folk's home.

Some kids grab these with both hands. Some are so-so. Some (either because they genuinely prefer TV/gaming, or because they've got themselves out of the habit and are scared to try again) will hide the stuff from DM/DD. DM/DD then rings me with a tirade about nothing being organised. hmm

It may be his lack of enthusiasm is a vicous cycle: no habit/friends doing these things = scared to start them = no habit/friends there. Has he moved here with you (as opposed to living here all his life)? That can also be a massive factor. And boys don't often say 'I'm nervous', they say 'do't care/can't be bothered'.

I really struggle to understand what London has got to do with this, I would love to live in london!

My ds is 11 and a half and yes, he is tempted to spend lots of time playing with the ipad or watching silly videos on youtube. He is also strong willed and moody.

We live in Milan, which, trust me, is possibly more difficult to navigate than London and has fewer green areas.

However, ds also loves to play football and he trains twice a week. It's only 5 minutes walk from home, so he goes there on his own or with his friends.

Friends happen to be the most important thing for him nowadays. Therefore I am more than happy to have them around or for him to go and see them. Sometimes, to make it easier, I invite his best friend to come along with us to the movies or exhibitions.

I do agree with you it's hard with pre teens.

Quinteszilla Wed 26-Mar-14 11:17:00

He did notice his first little spot a few weeks ago. Maybe he is just extra hormonal?

I have tried not letting them have any screen time until homework is done. Maybe we need to go back to that.

I have also told him he has to stop kick boxing if it turns out he is not doing his homework, as two days per week will impact seriously on his homework if he keeps leaving it till last minute. He needs to plan his work in such a way that he still manages to do it, even if he has activities.

nobutreally Wed 26-Mar-14 11:17:30

Sorry, xpost with lots of stuff.

So, has he done all those trips, Quint? If so, it sounds to me like he's doing loads... is it that you feel everything is a battle atm? Or that you want him to be doing more independently?

I do think independent friends house stuff is tricky around London at this age. I would look at semi-organised hangouts. Are there friends where you could organise sleepovers/days together to hang out at the weekend - organise transport even if they live further away? They may still hang around on the laptop, but it would be building those friendship groups.

Like others, I'd also look at out of school groups - something he can do with people who have similar passions. I wonder if there is a programming/Computer group locally...

In terms of getting homework done, one thing I have done with ds is agree a length of time homework should take (say x hours) after that, we are going out. If you don't get it done, you can do it tonight instead of TV time. Doesn't work some of the time, but means I don't sit around getting frustrated as 'homework' drags on.

More practically ... any chance of putting the desktop somewhere not in his room? Easy to feel you can get away with mooching and not getting on if you're out of sight...

Give him a window of opportunity to do his homework. Plan your family activities around that window. If he doesn't make use of the window, then his homework doesn't get done, you crack on with other activities as planned and he has to face whatever consequences his teachers impose.
I have recently had to explain to my DD she isn't doing homework for my benefit. I will provide her with time, space, resources and support but the homework is between her and her teachers.

thecatfromjapan Wed 26-Mar-14 11:20:17

Hello Quint.

This is such a common complaint amongst mothers of teen boys. Of course, there are a handful who don;t have this but, honestly, they are quite rare.

Mine is a lot like yours.

What do I do/have done in the past?

Structured leisure.

So ds does lots of things, in an organised fashion, with a timetable - and usually me driving him to them.

Hilariously, he has started to be a bit more proactive with his social life, which seems to involving hair-raising announcements that he is going off, mid-week, to see some band or other, half way across London, in the middle of the night.

That, my dear, is the alternative. And I have friends whose kids have been like that since 13. How their hair hasn't turned grey, I don't know.

So I would suggest 1. to keep "reminding" about doing homework - bearing in mind that they don't get much at this age and it's not terribly challenging (so he may have a point not putting that much effort in) - and just accept that is to be your lot.
2. Find some structured activities for him (you are near a sailing club, which proved a big hit in our family). At first, you will have to organise this, but ultimately he will, and it will provide out-of-school peers.
3. Don't fret too much about Minecraft etc. It's a legitimate hobby, with a real skill to it (coding) and it is social. remember, children socialise on-line a lot these days. He's not necessarily turning into a lone wolf/serial killer with all the on-line stuff. It's a lot like the cafes/playgrounds we went to as kids.
4. In Britian, if kids are meeting up in the playground/woods, it is to smoke, drink and take acid. So chill. At least he's not doing that.

P.S. I think you, generally, are too hard on yourself. Behind everything you have written I catch a sense that you think you have failed. You haven't.
I catch this, I think, because I recognise it in myself. I am telling you something that I could have done with someone saying to me years ago.

All the best, my dear. xx

LittleBearPad Wed 26-Mar-14 11:20:31

It isn't a London thing. You say there are parks nearby but he doesn't go. You also seem to have found loads to see and do. He doesn't want to do it, that's the problem.

The computer needs to be switched off and put away, he can do his homework with a pen and paper surely, for a week anyway. If he really needs one he can use your DH's to do his homework and then it gets taken away.

How long since you moved from Norway?

squizita Wed 26-Mar-14 11:20:43

He does not have many friends. He has lots of friends in Norway though. Not sure what it is, his sense of humour, and quirkyness is totally cool amongst Norwegians.

hmm Be careful of transferring what is a stereotype "London kids are 'ard and serious" to your son. That won't help him. Kids here are quirky too (and used to kids from other cultures). Honestly, reading your post it seems you have some fears with what you expect us to be like - and saying there's nothing then lo and behold not only is there stuff, you've done it... I wonder if he's picking up on this? Thinking London folk are rough and tough and don't have wholesome hobbies?

Just saying this as I know of some RL friends from the home counties with similar views - and their provision for youth activity is far worse than in, and there are rough kids out there, but they won't admit it.

Seeline Wed 26-Mar-14 11:20:53

How has he settled at secondary? I think this age is difficult for all of them - massive changes at school, as well as their own bodies and emotions changing. Are there issues at school that might be contributing - how are his reports? Might it be worth having a chat with his tutor/head of year - they might be able to offer a bit more support re homework.
I know how you feel. My DS is 12 but Y7 - we seem to spend every weekend hanging around waiting to finish his homework. He really thinks he is working, but everything just seems to take soo long eg a piece of written work on the pc will take hours because he has to get the right font, colour, pictures etc. I hate google grin
We also live in the suburbs of London, although on a main road so not really the opportunities to play in the road, cycle etc. He has 'friends' at school but has never shown any enthusiasm for meeting them outside of school. He was like that at Primary too.
I have found having do his homework in a family room rather than his bedroom has helped as I can keep a constant eye on what he is doing. He shouts and whinges and moans too - I think that is what 12yo boys do. He can be lovely too though - and still comes for his cuddles wink
I don't think you are alone on this one, but I do think that perhaps you need to accept that this is not Norway, and life is different.

Quinteszilla Wed 26-Mar-14 11:22:35

We have had problems since early February getting him to do stuff, but the last month has been a nightmare.

He does not have any old group of friends to hang with. We left London at the end of Y1, and he came back to his class for Y5, and struggled to settle with them as the friendships were formed and there were really "no room for him". He has one friend from his London primary though, but he is in a different secondary.

thecatfromjapan Wed 26-Mar-14 11:24:07

By the way, having moved to London from a village located some distance from a market town, I think London is safer but more structured. I really get what you are saying: there is less opportunity for children to explore autonomous, slightly disorganised, low-level, self-moderated and organised risk-taking. I think.

MavisG Wed 26-Mar-14 11:24:56

I'd ignore the screen time as not being the real issue and concentrate on what I'd perceive as the real problem for all of you, his connection with you & other family members.

He made you a pudding, that speaks of a thoughtful and kind attitude to you all, the strop he had over it sounds like a kid trying to cope with the big emotions that come with the hormonal changes of this age, and the frustration that he wanted - I'm guessing - appreciation for his efforts & is over sensitive to the 'criticism' of you not eating it straightaway. Maybe he's over sensitive because he's l

Quinteszilla Wed 26-Mar-14 11:26:21

squizita - careful before you judge, I have lived in London more than I have lived in Norway. But it is true that my son has turned out to have better and more accepting friends from the three years he lived in Norway, than he has here. I have not said anywhere that Londoners are hard and tough, I think to be frank he is regarded the rough and tough element, due to his (socioeconomic) background, where we are now.

thecatfromjapan Wed 26-Mar-14 11:26:55

I'd also add that an important key to happiness lies in the (somewhat gnomic) edict: "Love what is."

titchy Wed 26-Mar-14 11:27:22

It sounds as if you almost expect him to appreciate the fact that you live on one of the best cities in the world! I agree you also seem to think that if you transported him back to either rural Norway, or 1970s Britain he'd be a chnaged child - he wouldn't be though, he'd still be an obstinate bugger.

Can you leave him to take the consequences of not doing homework? And don't put family plans for a day out on hold because he's supposedly doing homework - that way everyone in the house resents him. Tell him - right we're doing this on Saturday so you need to be up and ready by 11.30. And do it - drag him out if needs be. At the end of the day I think family time is more important than homework time - as long as there is time to do homework on the Sunday maybe.

And what was the story with the crumble - did you make a big fuss of him making it when you got back? Was it an attempt at a peace offering? I feel quite sad that he felt he had to bin it.

Quinteszilla Wed 26-Mar-14 11:28:02

He does not have the computer in his bedroom. It is in the dining room, he has a nice little bureau set up for his work next to the dining table so he can spread out.

Quinteszilla Wed 26-Mar-14 11:30:07

I did make a big fuss over the crumble. He had even mopped the floor, so I was amazed at him.

But he wanted to eat it before we had all finished our meal, so I asked him to wait a little.

givemeaclue Wed 26-Mar-14 11:30:16

All those things you mentioned doing in Norway can be done in London. London has rod of the best parks, museums, galleries and theatres in the country plus its easy to get to countryside, seaside etc.
Get him off the computer and get out and about as a family.
Yabu

Quinteszilla Wed 26-Mar-14 11:30:53

He did not do his science homework last week, and got two detentions. He was really not fussed.

MavisG Wed 26-Mar-14 11:31:18

Oops hadn't finished

Lonely?

I'd try (& keep trying) to talk to him, take him to a cafe or pub and keep things neutral. Maybe he has ideas about homework, being with family etc.

And at weekends I'd talk altogether in the mornings and ask him to estimate how much time he needs for hw & then plan around that, leaving him behind if really necessary but preferably taking him out for a break and supporting him w hw later.

It sounds like homework is a big thing for him atm - he is only 11, it would be ok to help him with it, help him see it for what it is rather than build it up into a massive deal & get stressed.

The calm talking etc sounds like brilliant parenting to me. I don't have teenagers yet but I often think, through the threenager type stages, that all we can really control is how gentle we are with our kids while they go through difficult stuff and so how connected we'll be to them afterwards.

fs2013 Wed 26-Mar-14 11:31:31

I'm reading it through again because I'm confused! Does he have his own PC or is it a family computer? Why can't he use a central computer in the main living area for homework so you can see what he's doing?

My 10.5 year old DD is very hormonal at the moment. Everything can be a battle and she is starting to get pimples and smelly armpits etc.

This is a battle of wills because your DS is not paying attention to you and doing whatever he likes. PC games should definitely be limited and my DD is actually banned from youtube because I am worried about what she might see.

If I were you I would start from scratch. Ban PC games altogether for a while so he can get a bit of perspective and take away electrical items. Have more heart to hearts and be a lot firmer and in control. I did this recently with my DD when she was having lots of angry outbursts and being rude. No computer. no tv in her room and I also took away some fav toys. It was a big message-listen to Mummy or else!

Over the last week she has changed so much and I feel like I have my daughter back! Her stuff is still in my room and I'm planning to give things back bit by bit. It was tough to begin with but so worth it, we have had so many lovely chats and hugs and she knows I mean business.

Even though there may be good reasons for your sons anger etc such as loneliness I think the first step is getting him to listen and talk. You can't do that if he refuses to so you need to get tough and take action. I knew my DD was hormonal but it was nice to hear her tell me that herself and for me to be a nice mum again and make her hot choc and a hot water bottle and sympathise when she was calm and not angry all the time!

Don't be afraid to parent your son. Be tough! Watch worlds strictest parents and realise how soft you might be! Take control it works!

I wish you the very best of luck xx

Quinteszilla Wed 26-Mar-14 11:31:51

Get him off the computer and get out and about as a family.

You got it. Have you read the thread? hmm

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