they have broken me and I don't know how to carry on

(66 Posts)
exasperatedemma Tue 15-Jan-13 17:17:34

I have two teens - DS 16 and DD 14, who have won. I don't have the strength to carry on. If I hadn't had a glass of wine last night, I would have got in the car and driven. anywhere, checked into a hotel, anything just to run away. At the moment, I still want to go. last night I just went for a walk around the block to calm down. didn't work. luckily my very supportive husband was at home. when I write this is sounds pathetic, but I can't cope with the daily conflict in our house. mostly over the tech - our simple rules are that no phones/ipods etc at mealtimes, or after 9.30pm or during homework. They never comply. this results in daily conflict, every day. We have tried doing zero tolerence, eg if phones etc aren't put down at certain time then they get confiscated for the following day. very hard to do in practice as first I have to get them off them and short of having a wrestling match, I can't get them. they hide them. they are obsessed and addicted. we row about it all the time. I can't see how to change it. last time we tried being firm, my daughter didn't come home and the police had to find her. I know this sounds like they have control over me, and they do. I just don't know how to get it back.

usualsuspect Tue 15-Jan-13 18:48:27

When do you stop controlling their every move though? 17,18? Good luck with that.

usualsuspect Tue 15-Jan-13 18:51:36

We are talking about young adults here,especally the 16 Year old.You can't treat them like small children for ever.

impty Tue 15-Jan-13 18:56:16

I'm with the hard liners too. No electronic gadgets after 9:30 in my house too. Thats time to wind down and get ready for sleep.
I think dh and I will set the rules until our dc's leave home . Not control... setting ground rules and enforcing them.
If our dc's wish to negotiate then they are welcome to- as long as its in a calm, mature manner.

mathanxiety Tue 15-Jan-13 19:02:35

Mine have all their gadgets all the time, and FB, etc open during homework, most of which except maths is done on their laptops. I don't know how it happened, but they don't bring their phones to dinner. No problems with homework getting done and on time. They chat a lot with their friends and most of the chatting takes places later in the evening it seems. They use their phones as alarm clocks so they have them in their bedrooms. I have let them self regulate to a large extent. So far so good - but they are very motivated students.

How long has all this phone conflict been going on for and how did it get started?

Though your rules are simple, the end result might be that they are isolated from friends and all the goings on among their peers, assuming they get home somewhere around 4 from school and have dinner around 6 and then get down to homework, then bed. I know things were very different when most of us were younger, and news could wait until school the next day or even the following monday and we all survived, but life is not like that for teens today. They live in a 24 hour news cycle. Though you may not like it that is their life.

AllDirections Tue 15-Jan-13 19:10:01

I'm with the softliners.

I let my DDs (12 and 16) regulate their own use of tech stuff. Most of the time it's fine, just an occasional reminder that it's time to go to sleep or it's rude to text at the table.

Is it really worth all the rowing and your DD having to be found by the police?

borninastorm Tue 15-Jan-13 19:10:21

I'm mum to two teens and a toddler FYI one of the teens is a lazy, sulky spoiled 19 year old who made it into university by the skin of his teeth, the other is still quite a good 14 year old girl, but I'm aware that can change at any second!

Before he left for uni DS1's tantrums made the toddler's look like nothing and I was pulling my hair out.

I now know that he was and still often is like this because I let him be like this.

And I think you can learn from my mistakes.

Can I suggest that you write a contract for your teenagers, one that lays down the rules and the consequences when these rules are broken.

Then you sit down with them and the contract and go through it one rule at a time, allowing for negotiation on their part as they are older teens, but not too much. They can add some things (within reason) that they would like you to adhere to.

Then you all sign the contract.

And from that moment on the rules are in place. When a rule is broken they face the consequences and if they kick off about it you have the contract that you have all signed and agreed to live by including you. The contract is a sort of back up for you, proof that they agreed to follow the rules IFSWIM?

I wish I'd done this with DS1 and believe me I will be doing it if he thinks he's coming home for the summer holidays to sit on his arse, sleep all day and drink all night. He's not coming home unless he has a job or can prove to me he's been applying for jobs. I thought 4 months at uni would've matured him a bit but Christmas proved me wrong and he's left me with his car to sell and to find somewhere to store it off the road until then!! But that's a whole other story...

borninastorm Tue 15-Jan-13 19:12:52

PS I agree with the softliners when it comes to their tech stuff, it's their lifeline, their connection to their friends the way the telephone was mine as a teen.

Good luck, teenagers are a pain the arse, but when they're being lovely it's amazing.

Rascalls3 Tue 15-Jan-13 19:44:09

Another in favour of the softliners. Your current rules are too harsh and are clearly not working. Everyone is ending up miserable. Sit down with your sons and work out a compromise-you will have to be prepared to give in quite alot. This is one of those times when you really have to pick your battles. I am mum to 3 high achieving phone loving older teens. We have never resticted phone use. Your sons will not excel if their home life is a war zone

Rascalls3 Tue 15-Jan-13 19:48:17

Sorry should have read your post properly. You have a son and daughter.

Startail Tue 15-Jan-13 19:50:33

No tec after 9.30 at 16????
I don't try and enforce rules like that with my 11 yo (lights out and DS, lap top off at 10.30 yes and 12 pm for her 14 yo sister) I'm not surprised they are being impossible.

The only rules are you must do your HW on time, no texting or face timing friends who's mums are stricter than me at a time that will get them in trouble and no face book accounts.

I'm guessing the more sociable 11yo will want a FB account when she is 13, but only with me seeing what goes on.

As for sleep it isn't tech that's the problem it's books. Both of them will sneak their lights back on and read until 1am.

Clearly it is rude to have phones at family meal times, but I confess I rarely bother with these. Far to many bad memories of my DDad grumbling about table manners. This clearly irritated DMum as she used to let us have tea infront of the TV before he got home.

Respect is about respecting their education and respecting you in the way they talk to you and treat their possessions. It is not about trying to impose arbitrary rules because that makes us feel good parents.

Think of the contempt, you almost certainly had, for teachers who cared more about your top button being done up than teaching good lessons.

CabbageLeaves Tue 15-Jan-13 19:56:01

It's very hard being parent of a teen. They are striving for independence but have all the peer pressure and enthusiasm for life to make bad choices. As a parent you have to let go enough for them to learn self control and make their bad choices...without it being disastrous.

Parenting them as if they are small children is doomed.

I may be considered softliner but as I say DC is at uni after successful exams, before she left she'd make family meals if I was at work, load washing machine... pretty responsible. Never have I bailed her out financially. It wasn't always wonderful at all!! but we steered through it and the biggest turning point was accepting they are adults and sometimes not an adult you would like or respect particularly. Funnily enough given freedom they explored it briefly and then settled to be lovely adults.

flow4 Tue 15-Jan-13 20:23:36

I reckon most of us have these breaking points, emma - don't feel bad about it. smile IMO, it's not really (or not only) about the 'phone/technology, is it? It's about the feelings of powerlessness! hmm

The teenage years are all about breaking away from you and becoming independent. Some teens do this quietly and calmly, but most find some 'battle-grounds' they can fight you on. hmm grin confused It sounds like technology has become your family's battle-ground - but it could have been something else like going to school, studying, eating, curfew times, etc...

For teenagers engaged in these battles, the facts don't really matter; what matters is power and control. Whatever their chosen battle, once a teen engages, they want to fight until they have more power and control over their own lives than they had at the start of the battle.

Parents who aren't savvy about this can get into terrible downward spirals. Most teenagers will fight and fight, and have much more energy and determination and motive to win than you do! Some of them will continue to do this even if your response is to go in heavy-handed and 'crush' them, or even if they put themselves at risk by fighting with you (e.g. by running away). If you are not prepared to 'give ground' - by which I mean give them more power and control - then family life can become very miserable, with open hostility, constant battles, nastiness and even violence. sad

If you are a wise parent who knows (and remembers!) what is going on inside teenagers' heads, then the trick is give some ground, while still maintaining boundaries that keep them safe and you sane. grin IME this is easier if you think forward to the adult they will become, rather than back to the small child they have been. (That's hard!) If you're tempted to 'crack down', remember that your ultimate aim is not to be policing your DCs' internet use and putting them to bed when they're 37 adult, but to have absolutely nothing to do with these things by the time they are 17-21ish. grin

If you think about it, although your teenagers may be looking for a fight, it doesn't need to be a battle for you, because in fact you have the same aim: you want your teens to grow up and be independent as much as they do! (Though perhaps not as fast! confused )

The feeling of panic, IME, comes from the fact that as your teens gain control over their own lives, you lose it. You feel powerless because you actually are becoming a bit more powerless - and that's scary.

I think you probably just have to accept this, and find ways of dealing with the negative feelings and being kind to yourself. It's less scary if you realise that this is how it's meant to be.

But remember: you are aiming not to lose control but to hand it over!

In your particular position, emma, I'd do what pootle, usual and outtolunch suggest, and compromise. But don't wait for another crisis, or that compromise will look like you've lost control, and you want to give it. Instead, I'd suggest that you tell your DCs that you have been thinking, and you have decided they probably are mature enough to have more relaxed rules about technology, and you'll be happy to re-negotiate when they're ready to discuss it sensibly.

You decide what you want/need (e.g. no 'phones during family meals, them able to get up in the morning, whatever)... Decide your 'bottom line' (what you must have) and your 'wish-list'. Be prepared to compromise on the wish-list, but not your bottom line.

Then you ask them what they want and need... (I bet you a million pounds it won't be as outrageous as you think!) Encourage them to distinguish between their 'needs' and their 'wish-list'. Help them understand your reasons, and encourage them to explain theirs.

And this book, How to talk so teens will listen... may help smile The authors identify some really useful and important 'principles', I think, including: 'feelings matter'; 'civility matters'; 'punishment has no place in a caring relationship' and (especially relevant here I think!) 'our differences needn't defeat us'. grin

Blimey, that was a bit of a mammoth post! blush Hope it helps, at least a bit!

Rascalls3 Tue 15-Jan-13 20:38:47

As usual flow4 well said.

marriedinwhite Tue 15-Jan-13 20:52:07

Oh dear. Ours are 18 and 14 and I think you are going ott and causing conflict where there need be no conflict. Ours self regulate and get homework done and get acceptable excellent grades.

We have two rules - no laptops/tvs in bedrooms and no phones/ipods, etc at the dinner table. Oh and a third - if ds is out he has to keep in touch - he can stay out; he can have a lot of freedom but we need to know he is OK and roughly where he is. DD doesn't really have that sort of social life yet.

That doesn't mean that ds and I haven't had a blazing row twice since Xmas - once when he stayed out and didn't keep in touch and we didn't know where he was for 24 hours, once when he was argumentative, provocative and wouldn't back down, and once when he was asked for a week to tidy the dining room where he had done art homework and did not do it.

outtolunchagain Tue 15-Jan-13 21:21:15

Fantastic post Flow4

OhMerGerd Wed 16-Jan-13 08:21:26

Every child is different though and while my DH and I understand that part of growing up is learning to take responsibility we would not sit by and watch either of hours slowly slide into a catastrophe just cos we are light touching our way through their teens/early adulthood ( which what 16 is).
I do think 930 is a bit early for 16 to be off FB and text. Mine usually finished prep at that time and we notice a late flurry of FB and texting till about 1030 maybe 11ish at weekends.

exasperatedemma Wed 16-Jan-13 08:25:22

how did you get to be so wise Flow4? thank you for your excellent post, helps to give me a plan of a way forward when I have felt like I am drowning. thanks to to everyone, you are all so kind to give your help and views. We used to be hardliners on tech, going out etc and then about a year ago, we sat down calmly witht he kids and all agreed that providing homework got done etc, then they could have a lot more freedom, which they do, they frequently go out midweek, both do football and have sociable lives with some nice friends. We had to start the 9.30pm tech down rule because what was happening was that (particularly with DD) something would upset her on the phone and she could not put it down at all. waiting for replies. I have sat up regularly with her till 1am because she was hysterical, crying etc and couldn't go to sleep. So we thought that 9.30pm rule would give them time to wind down for sleep before they go to bed about 10-10.30 on schoolnights. Part of the negotiations about more freedom was that they said if they were given the opportunity to self regulate, they wouldn't be on their tech so much. fool that I am I believed that. it has not worked out like that and they cannot put it down. I know that if they were allowed them in the bedrooms they would not get any sleep at all. But flow4 you're absolutely right, it is about a feeling of powerlessness, I feel that I have absolutely no influence over them at all, they simply treat me as if I'm invisible and with contempt. I used to be a confident, strong person but they have chipped away and I feel pathetic now and hate myself for it. I have the book How to talk so teens with talk.listen, so will re-read it for strength.

OhMerGerd Wed 16-Jan-13 08:41:36

Every child is different though and while my DH and I understand that part of growing up is learning to take responsibility we would not sit by and watch either of hours slowly slide into a catastrophe just cos we are light touching our way through their teens/early adulthood ( which what 16 is).
I do think 930 is a bit early for 16 to be off FB and text. Mine usually finishing homework at that time and we notice a late flurry of FB and texting till about 1030 maybe 11ish at weekends.
( phone decided to send lol sorry )

About 18 months ago it all got a bit out if hand though with DD who was then 14. To be honest the more time spent on social networks the greater the chance that they end up in a scrape. It's easier to get caught up in disputes, sexting , and a bit addicted . We found some innappropriate texts gave dd a warning, a spot check resulted in the kind of wrestling for phone/iPod you described. DH took hold found, unacceptable behaviour had continued and smashed her blackberry up into tiny pieces, right there in front of her.I was shocked ( he's v v mild mannered) but more to the point DD was shocked into realising this was serious. She was without a Internet connecting phone for a year. She had the oldest of her dads old phones for emergency calls only. And her FB account was deleted. She was given option of reactivating after 6 months but chose not too and has only a quarter of the hundreds of friends because some of the more spurious never reconnected. She has said she's much happier. Her grades were slipping ( ok from a* to a but that's a big deal if you're an a* pupil) and she now says it was the right thing to do.
So OP you will have to do something now you've made such a stand and I think your right to support your children's continued development with guidance, rules and sanctions. But do think about the distinction between the older and younger DC a little negotiation on the detail may help.

exasperatedemma Wed 16-Jan-13 11:10:20

thank you ohmergerd, what happened with your DD and social networking is just a breath away from happening here, unfortunately she doesn't use FB anymore, but is addicted to Twitter and other social network forums on her phone, all of which have even less safeguards in place than FB. We have spoken about the safety issue and she has assured me that she doesn't inbox anyone she doesn't know, but teenagers are so secrective (I remember!!). We have made a rod for our own back regarding the age distinction, because foolishly we have tended to treat them the same which didn't particularly matter when they were younger but now there does need to be a distinction and I need to summon up the courage to broach this. Pathetically, I find I am always just trying to keep things on an even keel, without too much confrontation (my DD is a master at this) and to try and keep the communication channels open. We have had many occasions where she just cuts off from us for weeks at a time and I find that very worrying and am terrified of going down that road again.

mathanxiety Wed 16-Jan-13 16:28:17

You need to address the addiction and the hysterical crying element of it professionally. That is not normal and getting rid of one addicting item will only result in the addiction being transferred elsewhere unless the root problem is addressed.

Sometimes teens get very caught up in friendship issues as a way of avoiding facing challenges of an academic nature in school. You need to find out if this is the case here.

Most teens will rebel at micromanagement and the sort of anxiety that lies behind it. I think from what you have said here you could all benefit from family therapy.

When you say she 'cuts off' from you what do you mean exactly?

What sort of communication level about your teens' lives are you expecting?

cory Wed 16-Jan-13 18:44:23

Excellent post by flow and some very pertinent questions by mathanxiety.

Am in a slightly different position, as my teen is very loving and respectful, but has recently made her second attempt at suicide. Again, an enormous sense of powerlessness and fear of losing control. And consequent desire to grab control with both hands at all costs.

In a sense, the discussions I need to have, with myself and her and the professionals involved, are very similar. How far can I risk letting go, what are the risks to her and us as a family if I cannot let go when I should? There are risks either way, and the risks of not letting go seem equally great.

colditz Wed 16-Jan-13 18:51:50

You really really cannot treat a sixteen year old girl like a small child. She will walk out and not come back, and nobody will make her. She is old enoh to get married and have a baby, and as sixteen year olds have little concept of how much money they need to live on, she may just do that to get her independence from you.

Now, we know that she would be condemning herself to a life of poverty, but that doesn't mean she does. Tread very lightly. Refuse to cook if they won't show manners. The only behaviour you can control is your own.

mathanxiety Wed 16-Jan-13 18:52:06

It has struck me that your teen DD may be addicted to the drama of it all.

You shouldn't be staying up with her as she weeps until 1 am. I think I would have thrown a glass of cold water at her and told her to get a hold of herself after about ten minutes.

Maybe you and she are cut from somewhat the same cloth? -- you were thinking of running away for a few days to make them feel sorry, get their attention, make them think.. She has already done a runner in the past and had the police involved looking for her. It seems she is getting a good deal of attention for aberrant and flaky behaviour and is being rewarded for very poor communication skills (physical fighting about the gadgets, a long and unwarranted crying fit, running away) -- what sort of attention does she get for normal niceness?

RabidCarrot Wed 16-Jan-13 19:15:11

Turn off the internet, cancel phone contracts, wait till they are sleeping and remove their tech.

marriedinwhite Wed 16-Jan-13 19:27:59

Cory am so sorry. mathanxiety that would be my approach too.

OP - it's really tough. We do have one other rule though - DS does not go out Monday to Thursday - school work is a priority. He plays for the school's first 11/15, etc., for football, cricket, rugby and can't get too partied out on Fridays and has spend a fair amount of time training. But beyond that, for the past year or so he has been pretty much a free agent - it hasn't been without tears or grey hairs but we are getting there. I think you have to set some priorities and if they meet them let them have some freedom.

We haven't had massive problems with technology but have had a few upsets and they seem to have got over it with a "belt up", "what do you expect", that's a lesson learned type of approach. Fortunately dd tends to avoid trouble and conflict and tends to avoid her bberry - she's scared of losing it due to the trouble she's seen her big brother end up in

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