Disengaging from dc's education

(34 Posts)
minifingers Mon 19-Nov-12 21:00:16

Have posted on this board under another name, but have n/c as dd has been stalking me on mumsnet - reading my comments, and has been using them as ammunition in arguments. sad

I've made a momentous decision today not to have any involvement in dd's education any more, other than to make sure she gets to school every day, and gets there on time.

She has never let me help her with her homework. This didn't matter in primary as she was working at a reasonable level without my involvement, and left with level 5's in everything, despite being the youngest child in her form, and having no parental input into her school work (and no tutoring). TBH she didn't have much homework in primary and I did nothing to prepare her for her SATS. I don't remember ever sitting down with her to do writing or maths, although I did listen to her read every now and again, and read TO her a lot.

Since starting secondary she has just made less and less and less effort. She has consistently rejected all my attempts to help her or have any involvement in her work. I took her out of her last school after realising that her exercise books were practically empty (I really mean empty - she literally had NOTHING to show she'd sat in lessons day in day out for months on end). I tried everything to get the school to take this issue seriously, but they didn't seem at all bothered, and her behaviour was deteriorating fast. We found her a new school which was better suited to her (changed her from a huge mixed academy to a girls community school). She has been at the new school for three weeks, says she really prefers it to her old school, but is already on report for not writing her homework down or completing it.

The last few weeks have been grim as I've tried to take a more active role in encouraging her, and supervising her homework. She has behaved in an absolutely unbearable way, become more and more abusive and resistant to me as I've tried to become more involved. I've cried so much in the past week - she has gone out of her way to attack me, doing it in front of my other dc's. I can feel myself slipping back into a clinical depression and it's affecting my ability to parent my other dc's.

And it's dawned on me that unless she wants to achieve, and wants my help, then there is nothing to be gained from my involvement, other than to make me feel incredibly anxious and powerless about how badly she's underachieving. Her laziness (in all areas of her life, not just school) has been the source of so much sadness and conflict over the past few years, and nothing we have said or done has made any difference.

So tonight I've made a decision to step back and cease any involvement. The way I feel now I don't even want to go to her parents evenings or read her reports any more, because I can't see what good it will do if I'm powerless to help her. Having to know the finer details of how she's ruining her life chances will poison our relationship even more.

DH has some involvement still - he is trying to help her with her maths, and some of her other subjects, and to a limited extent she will accept this, but he finds it very frustrating too as she is really resistant to doing things in anything other than the quickest and most slap-dash way. He works long hours in a stressful job and is tired when he gets back in the evening. I feel incredibly guilty that as a SAHM and qualified teacher I'm not the one taking charge of her work, but she simply won't let me.

Also like me, he is profoundly disappointed in her unwillingness to do anything outside of school. She won't join any clubs. She sings well but won't do anything with it. Is musical but refused to continue with piano because she couldn't be bothered to practise. Couldn't be bothered to continue with guitar, despite being offered free lessons by my sister who is a music teacher. She has no hobbies. Never had. Never gets involved in any extra curricula activities. It doesn't help that all her cousins are sporty, academic and/or very musical, and are all busy developing themselves, while dd lies in bed texting and eating crisps day in, day out. It makes me dread family gatherings and feel like a total failure as a parent.

Has anyone else given up trying to help? How has it worked out?

purplewithred Mon 19-Nov-12 21:13:07

Didn't want to leave without offering you some moral support. How old is DD?

I do think (with the benefit of 20:20 hindsight) that there is a big moment as a parent when you switch from protecting them to giving them the opportunity to learn from their own mistakes and then supporting them through the aftermath of this. It's a very painful experience. Also, there is the realisation that they are who they are, and you can't change them: also very painful, especially when everyone else seems to have lucked out with gifted hardworking model children.

The only thing I might suggest is that you make sure she knows that you have made this decision to stand back, that her future is in her own hands and is her responsibility, and that you will always be there for her if she needs you.

minifingers Mon 19-Nov-12 21:29:25

Thank you purple. smile

I'm so bruised by the experience of the last few weeks that I can't bring myself to show her any affection (and don't feel any for her) at the moment. I need to let the anger go. She's done some horrible things recently and has treated me with absolute contempt, spitting in my face, mocking me in front of the other children. Last night she was standing on the landing outside the sleeping boys bedrooms at 10.30 pm shouting because I hadn't changed the sheets on her bed (she is no longer able to sleep in her bed as she's left so much junk on it which she refuses to move). I can't bear to have a conversation with her about anything the way I feel at the moment. Eventually I will.

Smokerings Mon 19-Nov-12 22:50:43

Thank you for the link to this thread, minifingers.
I'm sorry that this is happening to you.
I think what I have picked up from your OP is that she's only been at her new school a short time, and perhaps expectations of change are slightly optimistic in this timescale?
Hang in there.
I hope someone more experienced will be along soon with wise words and support.

RichTeas Mon 19-Nov-12 22:57:11

Thank you for sharing. It must be hard, and it would seem you are doing the right thing by taking a step back. As purple has suggested, you might want to let her know (or perhaps your DH could) of your change in stance; perhaps that in itself will get her thinking in a a different way. Finally, have you ever gone to see a child psychologist, it does sound like she may have some issues, especially if she has spat at you. Sorry for the difficult time you are going through, but it will pass as your child matures.

Sligomum Mon 19-Nov-12 23:03:02

I'm having the same problem with ds2, no amount of cajoleing will work.. so., I too am stepping away, at least your husband is making a little headway with her, mine says I'm wasting my time. Hang in there x

CheerfulYank Mon 19-Nov-12 23:14:34

Oh honey. sad

It can be so hard. My brother was the same, a very difficult child and teen, who is now, frankly, a difficult man. Though better, somewhat.

It was nothing my parents did or didn't do. How old is she?

Are you feeling a bit better now OP?
do you ever get an apology?

I have to say.....of course you don't deserve any of this. But if you completely step back (and inadvertently make it clear that at the moment you're too angry to be there for her, which might be how it'll come across) it might do more harm in the long run.

She doesn't sound very happy. I know it sounds like I'm just making excuses for her, but no teen can be in that kind of rut and be fulfilled and have a good mindset. Some teens like the idea of going to therapy because it makes them feel like they're being taken seriously, they can offload, and then when they get there it's even more useful. Could that be an option?

Don't help her with her homework- but what you can do is sit her down, very calmly, tell her that you're going to set out a simple timetable (i.e. homework every day from 5 to 6 and three hours on weekends, if that's what it takes to complete the amount she gets) and that if she follows it, you'll give her every bit of help she wants (within reason, obviously).

If she chooses not to join in, it's her last chance, and you might think that she won't care less, but at that age something like that would have hurt me dreadfully- so it's possible she may react well. She could negotiate calmly with you on the times. Does this sound feasible or is the situation too inflamed already? I'm sure you've tried setting out plans and things, but this is more of an ultimatum.

Oh, and just walk away when she raises her voice to you. Tell her you've got something else to do- you need to cook, relax, shop, spend time with friendly and polite people. Shouting shouldn't get attention, you're too busy to give up this energy. It's a habit she can break.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Tue 20-Nov-12 07:37:04

Op, I feel for you, but I think you're being a bit extreme now and you were a bit extreme before in the other direction.

Now, you don't want to read any reports etc, but it sounds like one of the things which really bothered you both before was her not letting you help with homework - but you shouldnt be doing that, certainly not on a day to day basis. You say you feel guilty that you're not the one 'taking charge of her work', but why? It is she who is in charge of her work, not you!

Yes, take a step back, but it's nt such a momentous one as you seem to feel. It's a step I think you might have needed to take a long time ago. Good luck.

^ Yeah, but it sounds like her DD is doing no homework. If she was, then of course it wouldn't be normal for a parent to help, but I think the OP feels forced to try and chivvy her along to get it done.

By the way OP, I don't think I or anyone in my class got any help from our parents for SATs, so don't worry about that!

aamia Tue 20-Nov-12 08:40:57

What consequences are there when she misbehaves?

Ann3 Tue 20-Nov-12 09:21:07

Hi mini fingers, I hope that things are settling and that you both have found a workable compromise. I can only tell you my experiences. My DC became a nightmare around ten or eleven. This exacerbated with age. Peer pressure, body image, bereavement, culture all contributing factors. Te difficulties accelerated, peaked and troughs and life has been rough. However it was in discussion with friends and a therapist that I made the decision ti focus on our relationship. That is ti say, whatever happened I would be there for her, while sticking to my own standards, expectations and boundaries, and making clear the consequences for her.Eventually the time came when she really needed me, needed me to intervene as a parent, ti pick up the pieces, yet give her a much needed space to make decisions. It was heartbreaking. We are much closer now some five years later, though some days thankfully rare, she swipes me from the blindside. I never supervised homework or any of that stuff I was too busy holding down my job as a single parent, and 2 have graduated, one is at uni and she is now out of choice following a levels with a view to going ti uni or finding employment. Hang in there

neolara Tue 20-Nov-12 14:14:59

I wonder whether your dd has been a victim of her own success? It sounds like up to now she has succeeded without putting in much effort at all.

I've been reading a fascinating book called Mindset by Carole Dweck that might explain part of what is going on.

Dweck's idea is that people can be divided into two groups. One group holds a "fixed mindset". These people believe that their success at activities (e.g. work, sport, music, etc) is due to inborn fixed characteristics such as intelligence and personality that they cannot be changed very much. E.g. I got Level 5 at writing in Year 6 because I'm bright, or I'm not in the netball team because I'm not sporty. Another group believes that basic qualities can be developed through effort and experience. Success is due to hard work and they can influcence this. Dweck names this a growth mindset.

She says that people who are in a fixed mindset get into all sort of problems when they start to find things difficult. They get into a kind of paralysis where they feel an utter failure and then they give up. They believe that if they don't succeed, its because they don't have the ability. They worry constantly about not doing well, because this is proof to everyone that they are not clever enough to make the grade. Any failure or bad mark is interpretted as not being clever, or talented or smart enough. So often they avoid challenge. Nothing ventured, nothing lost! Needing to try is an admission of failure. It means that they are NOT smart enough. When kids with a fixed mindset experience failure, they try to repair their self esteem by blaming others, making excuses and cheating.

People with a growth mindset on the other hand have a completely different approach when they experience difficulties. They learn from their mistakes, they confront challenges, they keep working and they take risks. They believe failure if about not stretching themselves, not about being "right". They don't believe that one evaluatation has the power to define you forever as clever or stupid.

She says that it is possible to move people from a growth to a fixed mindset. To do so, you need to talk about the reasons why people do well. Explain it's about effort, not in built ability. Talk about challenge as being good. Explain that if you do something and it is easy, then you're probably not learning anything. Explain mistakes are good. It's a sign that you're learning. If you find yourself saying stuff like, "Wow, you're so smart, you got that all right", stop yourself. Because what you're also saying is "Wow, you didn't get that all right, you must be dumb".

A fascinating read.

^ Yes, that's what makes the basis of a chapter in the book Nurtureshock as well. It's a new and emerging theory, but there's not much notice being taken of it in schools.

It would have to be very extreme for the OP's daughter to react like that though (i.e. the behavioural issues).

youcalledthecatabastard Tue 20-Nov-12 18:24:29

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

minifingers Wed 21-Nov-12 16:37:40

Wanted to post and thank you all for your comments. smile

aamia - there are sanctions. We apply them consistently.

TBH one of the things I've found incredibly challenging about parenting a difficult teenager is the number of people who come out with, "If it was my dd, I wouldn't let her get away with it, I'd do X, Y, Z", thereby implying that her behaviour would instantly improve if we just came down on her hard enough. Spend enough time on this board and you soon realise how dispiriting parents like myself find insinuations that we may be to blame for our dc's behaviour because we're slack about discipline.

neolara - very interesting thoughts! Yes, I would agree that two of my children are intimidated at the thought of failure because they find most things quite easy. I am trying to make them see that all people who succeed are also prepared to fail, and that learning can only happen if you don't know something to start with!

"it sounds like one of the things which really bothered you both before was her not letting you help with homework - but you shouldnt be doing that, certainly not on a day to day basis"

You know I live in a community of mainly African and Caribbean families, where the view that parents shouldn't be helping children with their homework or supervising it would be considered bizarre and wrong. It's perfectly reasonable to see homework as an important learning opportunity. Ideally I'd love to pay someone else to tutor my dd. Lots of middle-class families do this. But I can't afford it. Neither does she get much individual attention at school as she's being educated in the state system which means large classes. It's a tragic waste for dd to be rejecting my help, which could make a HUGE difference to her academic achievement. But what can I do?

Our education system in the UK is incredibly unequal and unfair. There are children in private schools being educated in classes of 14 or 15 at secondary level. Other children in grammar schools and lovely, well managed church schools. My dd is in big inner city comprehensive with large classes, learning alongside other difficult and disruptive children. In other words she is already disadvantaged in educational terms. That's why it's unbearable to me that she's compounding this disadvantage with a lack of effort.

Anyway, going to make a doctors appointment to talk about her behaviour. See if they suggest counselling. One good thing - she's been identified by the school as a someone who's struggling with behaviour, and has been invited to attend a special course starting tomorrow. They offer song writing, singing, a chance to try different instruments and a go at recording music in a group, followed by the opportunity to mentor other students starting the course once they've been through it. The idea is to raise their self-esteem and help them to work in a group. It makes me feel a bit weird that my middle-class dd from a loving home, who's got tonnes of support from a big extended family and who's rejected the chance to do 101 activities (including song writing and recording with my lovely sister and her friend, a university lecturer in community music and an established session musician), is being invited along to a group which is probably going to otherwise consist of children from struggling single parent families living on rough inner London estates. confused

TheOriginalSteamingNit Wed 21-Nov-12 17:50:46

Lost sympathy a tad there!

minifingers Wed 21-Nov-12 18:58:20

If you're going to imply criticism why not explain what you mean? Otherwise what's the point of commenting?

cory Wed 21-Nov-12 19:29:51

"It's a tragic waste for dd to be rejecting my help, which could make a HUGE difference to her academic achievement."

That depends. If she is able to take responsibility for her own homework she will have gathered important skills which will stand her in good stead when she goes to university (or gets a job).

If, on the other hand, she has never learnt to organise her own work and is incapable of getting anything done unless someone is holding her hand, then she will fail university if she ever gets there. And that would indeed be a tragedy.

Believe me, I am a university tutor, I see a students struggle every year because they have never learnt to be self sufficient.

Recent studies have shown that children from state schools tend to do better at university than children from private schools. Having all the advantages at a young age doesn't necessarily prepare you that well for later life.

fwiw Both my own dc are at a large city state school. One of them is studious and hard-working and would no doubt do well at university- but then she will no doubt make a success of anything she does, her health permitting. The other- well, let's say he'd need to seriously buck up his ideas before I would want to see him cluttering up a lecturing hall. Perhaps he will. But if he doesn't, then he has no business in HE and all my efforts to get him in wouldn't do him any good. Harsh but true. I suspect he may be one of these people who need to have a look at so-called real life before he settles to anything.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Wed 21-Nov-12 20:03:05

Oh, I didn't think that would be necessary, but ok: your comments about single parents on rough estates, I meant.

minifingers Wed 21-Nov-12 21:17:39

That's a bit disingenuous Cory. State school pupils do better in university that private school students with similar A-level grades, but private school students still fill a disproportionate number of places at the top rated unis, and on courses like medicine, dentistry and law.

But I do agree that students with poor study skills have no business doing a degree!

And now that degrees will cost so much I suspect there will be fewer really hopeless students at university.

TheOriginal - single mothers are much more likely to be living in poverty and in social housing. I see the struggles a lot of these parents have within my own community. It's nothing to do with their qualities as human beings, or their skills as a parent. It's just bloody hard raising a family on your own and on a single income, and children from these families may need more support from schools and from schemes like the one dd will be doing.

youcalledthecatabastard Wed 21-Nov-12 22:11:01

So sorry to hear of your problems with your DD.

I don't know if this would be helpful:

www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder/Pages/Symptoms.aspx

It seems that homework is a particular problem for children with ADHD(it's also referred to as ADD). And that we perceive the children as lazy when actually their behaviour is a consequence of the ADD/ADHD. Also sanctions don't work as the child's brain works in a different way. Obviously there are other symptoms and I do not know if any would be applicable for your DD.

Apologies if I'm barking up the wrong tree here.

You are not a failure as a parent by the way, you're just doing your best in difficult circumstances - and for what it's worth you're not to blame either - it's so easy to criticise parents and I agree that it's absolutely maddening when others imply that it's somehow your fault - it's not as if you're actually trying to make your teenager behave badly, is it?!

TheOriginalSteamingNit Wed 21-Nov-12 22:11:47

That's right. As opposed to your 'middle class dd', who is from a 'loving home', hmm?

minifingers Thu 22-Nov-12 07:58:04

Apologies theoriginal - it's unreasonable and unkind to imply that single parent families are unloving. I certainly don't believe that to be the case and totally did not intend that to be read into my comment. I should learn that on mumsnet if there's a possibility of reading something cruel in a post that someone will usually come along and flag it up, whatever the intention or the context of the OP.

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