Do I have too high expectations?

(32 Posts)
Palika Tue 25-Jun-13 12:38:24

I can't get rid of the thought that other peoples' teenagers are much easier than my 14-year old DS. I talk to 2 sister in laws of mine who have a combined 7 teenagers and they seem all so...well, 'normal'. They all play instruments, they are good and even brilliant at sport and they are good or very good at school, they have friends and engage in a lot of activities.
My husband and I were like this as teenagers as well.

Our own DS is underperforming at school - the teachers call him 'lazy and silly', he constantly lies to us, he is bad at sports, bad at any musical activity, has poor social skills (somewhat improved recently) and generally not interested in anything else but computer games. We always struggled to control his difficult behaviour - it was a hard ride.

I know many of you struggle with far worse problems than I do but I still find it hard to let go of the disappointment that I feel about him.

When DS was in primary school I used to help him a lot. I think he had mild adhd and dyspraxia but was never officially diagnosed. I did years and years of physical exercise programs with him, spelling games and math games, you name it.

Now he is older, he obviously and healthily wants to have more independence and without my constant support (some would call it 'pressure') the whole picture of his poor performance and lack of motivation becomes more evident.

I try to tell myself that our children are not there to make us proud or to give us anything at all but deep down I feel this rage towards him (which I try to not to take out of him).

If you reply can you kindly try to not judge me because I am doing this already myself. I genuinely want to find a way to not be so disappointed and more accepting of the situation.

havenlady Tue 25-Jun-13 13:08:43

I know what you mean! My oldest DS also has dyspraxia and has underperformed at school. He is now being a bit of a pain, hanging out with other underachieving kids etc. It is hard not to compare him with other "successful" kids (my sister for instance has 3 highly motivated, academic, sporty kids). I feel very disappointed, even if I try not to. DH even more so. We are a fairly intellectual family and DS doesn't even read any more, spends his time on facebook, and killing time. His sisters are not like him at all...

However, you do need to try and look at it from his point of view. How much impact must there be on your own self esteem when you are basically not much good at anything? And then your parents think that too?

What I have to keep saying to myself is that it is not my DS's fault that he was born this way - difficult birth in our case - it is just the way it is. That's not an excuse. There is a good section in a good book on teenagers ("Get out of my life, but...." ) which deals with the inevitable disappointment some parents feel.

It is hard but try and accept him for what he is - and look for anything positive. My DS is actually very even tempered and easy going - extremely frustrating when applied to deadlines or schoolwork - but in life it is a really important and valuable attribute.

Also - all that love and care you put into him will have made a difference. And when he is a parent he too will do all he can to support his children in the same way.

In the end you need to accept them for what they are. And never let your disappointment show - even if you have to fake it for a few years (as I keep pointing out to DH who is always rolling his eyes and shaking his head).

Palika Tue 25-Jun-13 13:49:22

Dear Havenlady
thanks for your kind reply - I am feeling quite tearful today and it is good to hear from someone who seems to be in a fairly similar situation.

Our DS is an only child - so all our parental expectations or on him - poor thing. You seem to have a few more children who make you proud. I have often thought that if I had more children who were less disappointing I would have more inner tolerance of him.

But obviously, it is what it is.

I often talk with my DH and we try to spell out all his good qualities as an exercise in positive thinking and it helps a little bit but not much.

DS is actually quite spiritual. (maybe that is not good for some but for us this is quite wonderful because we are very focussed on spirituality ourselves) DS only has religious pictures in his room, which is certainly unusual.

He also wants to hear spiritual teachings and is eager to implement them. At some point he had a phase where he wanted to become a monk and immediately dropped all effort in school ('because he would not need that any more'). We managed to convince him otherwise and now he does not want to be a monk anymore.

He is also very funny and we have endless horseplay and banter. He used to be very cuddly but now obviously he can't be seen cuddling with his mum, so we 'wrestle' an awful lot. It's very funny.

On a practical note: I really struggle to find the balance between 'policing' him and 'letting him fail', so he can learn from his own mistakes.

How do you do this? Do you control his homework etc. Do you try to motivate him and how?

daisysue2 Tue 25-Jun-13 14:56:45

Palika don't worry about only having one child, I have two with problems and it's just double the work and worry, yet it is also double the fun when they are on form as well. The book mentioned by Havenlady Get out of my life is brilliant, I am reading it now and it has helped me to see things slightly differently.

It is really hard though when your children turn out to be quite different from the way you want or hoped. I wasn't as good as my parents wanted me to be and I ended up doing really well for myself and so can see it from both sides. As a parent I thought I would be able to take on any problems and by sheer will make them go away. However, that wasn't reality and I learned that the hard way. I have had to learn to let go and allow them to make their own mistakes and take responsibility for themselves. For children who have problems this is quite hard for us parents to do.

I think when things are bad we feel really bad but when we have a few good things happen it feels amazing. We are possibly too invested in the children. Maybe this is because they relied so heavily on us because of their problems and we see their failure as our fault. Don't be too hard on yourself, teenage years are really tough and if your child can coast through without achieving too much but also not making some big mistakes then maybe they are doing OK. It's just that we want the best for them. A psychiatrist once said that I really just had to accept her for who she was and that I needed to let go. It helped me to realise that she was never going to be top of the class and that my job was to support her to do as well as she could around the bottom of the year.

The lying is normal teenage behaviour, being bad at sport, music etc, well who cares, but is he really lazy or is it just a way of protecting himself from failing. Don't be too hard on yourself for being disappointed but don't ever let him know how disappointed you are.

AmberLeaf Tue 25-Jun-13 15:05:38

Did you ever and would you now consider having him assessed for special needs?

If he does have SN and is diagnosed, it could go some way to explain the way he is, it could be helpful for him to have an understanding of why he has struggled.

Feeling 'no good' or a failure when you have a real reason to struggle but don't know it can affect self esteem quite a bit.

Palika Tue 25-Jun-13 15:20:52

DaisySue
thanks for your kind words!
I was like you - thinking I can get any child to anywhere I want - sounds quite silly, really. I know better now. But giving up is not the answer...

Good for you that you did well. I only recently found out that my younger brother was really bad at school (did not care much for him as a teenager myself) and he is now a physicist with a phd and successful in every other way as well. He is also very bad at sport, can't catch a ball and 'can't tidy up'. These are all symptoms my DS has as well. They belong to dyspraxia. Hearing about my brother actually cheered me up a lot.

Is DS lazy or not intelligent or just trying to protect himself from failing? I think it is number one and three. He is actually quite good at math - at least at times - his achievements vary massively from one day to the next. Overall he has a happy go lucky attitude and thinks he is super-intelligent because he likes to watch The BigBang Theory.

It falls to me to gently fill him in with the truth without destroying his self-esteem.

I am feeling better already - talking helps!

Palika Tue 25-Jun-13 15:35:24

AmberLeaf
DS was diagnosed with dyspraxia by the therapist who treated him for retained reflexes. We had to do daily exercises (on top of all the extra help I gave him with school work and micromanaging his day because he could not keep to any routines and forgot from one day to the next what to do before breakfast and going to bed.)

It was quite successful and he is not clumsy anymore and he can now swim, ride a bike and is quite good at Wii games that require fine-motoric control. But even though he has come a long way I doubt he would ever be good at any sport.

I myself diagnosed him with adhd as I did not see any point to go to a doctor as medication was not something I would have done.

I followed the program in the book Stopping adhd by O'Dell and again it was very successful as a whole catalogue of symptoms disappeared over the course of a year or two.

So, all that was quite good but behind his more obvious symptoms is also a psychological attitude of 'can't be bothered' and never ever doing something down to the last detail.

Recently, he has started to lie a lot and even though this is normal teenage behaviour I am not coping with that very well at all.

I think I am worn out from all these years of working intensively on his dyspraxia and adhd symptoms and have run out of coping steam at a time when I probably need it most.

I also feel he 'owes me' - rightly or wrongly - for all the extra help I have given him.

I know our children do not owe us but emotionally that is what I feel and it fuels my anger about his underachievement.

When I feel down I wonder if this whole parenting experience was actually worth it and find it very hard to say yes.

When I feel good, which is most of the time, I simply soldier on and have a chart to mark good, medium and bad parenting days to remind myself how many good days there actually are.

AmberLeaf Tue 25-Jun-13 16:23:57

I think the bit about him owing you is a bit unrealistic tbh. You have to have realistic expectations.

He can only do what he is capable of doing.

I can understand your need to try and help him and to use strategies to manage his behaviors/symptoms, but if he does have adhd [which needs to be diagnosed by a team of people qualified to do so] you can't 'stop' it, you can manage aspects of it, but I think your energies would be better spent accepting it as part of him and learning how to live with it [both you and him]

Some parents choose to use medication for adhd, but some do not. It isn't compulsory, but I know people who have found it life changing in a positive way. I wouldn't rule it out.

If I were you, I would seek out help either through his school or your GP and request a statutory assessment. He may get extra help that could make things easier.

Palika Tue 25-Jun-13 16:55:52

AmberLeaf
DS is nowhere near the level of symptoms to get him a statutory statement. He is not on the level of his rather high-achieving cousins but his teachers call him 'immature' and 'lazy and silly' but no one has ever used the word 'special needs' in conjunction with his name.

He has been signed up for 'aggressive mentoring' in the next school year by his form teacher because he is seen as someone who under-achieves and could do more. I do hope this will bring something.

I don't agree with medication for adhd (apart from the most severe cases) as here in the UK medication is stopped at age 18 and from then on many youngster 'self-medicate' with street drugs. A very dangerous system.

I recommend the book Stopping Adhd has the program really has made all of Ds's the hyperactivity symptoms disappear. (disappear - not managed!)

I don't think one needs a degree to recognise adhd symptoms in a child - they are fairly obvious. DS had virtually all the symptoms in the book and they are all gone now. Thank goodness!

Please do not dismiss this success as you do not know my child and how we was before the therapy and after.

But thanks for your support!

AmberLeaf Tue 25-Jun-13 19:53:08

Sorry but if it was that successful, you wouldn't be here would you?

Im sure that strategies can help with some aspects, but you cant cure it anymore than you can cure autism.

Medication is not stopped at 18 for adhd There is only one kind that adults can be prescribed though, but that is only if they were diagnosed as a child.

You know what can lead to youngsters self medicating?...undiagnosed SNs and the lack of understanding that that can bring, the failed expectations etc...

I don't mean to get him statemented [I know how hard that is!], but to have him assessed and formerly diagnosed, if he does have adhd and you don't get him diagnosed you are removing the choice of medication from him should he go onto get diagnosed as an adult.

I do accept that some strategies can help some symptoms, but what happens when those strategies are removed?

Will you be able to do those forever?

Will your son do them of his own accord when you can't?

I didn't say you need a degree to recognise adhd, but you need one to diagnose it! I 'knew' my son was autistic about 5 years before he was officially diagnosed, but without the diagnosis I couldn't do a thing, or get him the help and support he needed.

It is all well and good saying you diagnosed and cured it yourself, but without a formal DX it doesn't mean much.

his teachers call him 'immature' and 'lazy and silly' but no one has ever used the word 'special needs' in conjunction with his name

He was diagnosed with dyspraxia though? that is a SN.

If an assessment showed up anything else [adhd] then there would be an explanation for his lack of ability to focus, rather than calling him lazy and immature, which Im sure does nothing for his self esteem if he does indeed have adhd and can't help is inability to stay on task.

When I feel good, which is most of the time, I simply soldier on and have a chart to mark good, medium and bad parenting days to remind myself how many good days there actually are

Going back to the above from your earlier post, that looks like you put good/bad days down to what you do?

Do you think it is all about your parenting?

I would say it quite probably isn't.

I don't keep track like that, but I know if my son [who has autism] has a bad day, I don't put it down to my parenting, I put it down to autism. You get good days...you get bad days, it's just the way it is no matter what you do sometimes, there are so many variables that can affect how it goes.

Palika Tue 25-Jun-13 21:20:46

Quote: "Sorry but if it was that successful, you wouldn't be here would you?"

AmberLeaf:

You seem to like undermining people while appearing 'oh, so helpful'.hmm

I am sorry your child is autistic but you do not solve your problem by suggesting that other people have problems that they clearly have not.

If you had read the thread carefully, then you would see that I did not come here to talk about my son's dyspraxia and adhd - all those symptoms have gone for good.

If you have a problem with that, maybe you should study the book of Professor O'Dell 'Stopping Adhd' and have it out with herself.

I came here to find support for ordinary teenage problem like lying and underperformance.

I am very sorry that your child is autistic and I wish you all the courage and strength in the world to deal with that successfully.

daisysue2 Tue 25-Jun-13 21:25:28

Palika I think like me you recognise that your child has some level of difference and have coped and accepted that. It's a feeling of not having accepted something about them that is harder to bear. I completely get the feeling of being exhausted after all the intensive help you have given.

Kleinzeit Tue 25-Jun-13 21:26:38

So, it sounds as if you have been doing most of the therapy work with your DS by yourself? You must be so tired! You’re bound to feel worn down at times and wonder if all that hard work was worthwhile.

The fact that your DS’s ADHD symptoms are gone is a tribute to your hard work and a great success. I guess he has underlying disabilities that mean he will always find some things a bit more of a struggle than most people? My DS who has some developmental issues - an ASC, so different from your son - but I know a lot of other kids with ASCs and I can compare my DS to them, and not just with the NT kids, and that helps to keep me grounded and keep my expectations realistic. Like ASCs, dyspraxia and ADHD can improve with age and therapy / education, but they can be life-long conditions, and parents or even therapists can’t fix everything. We and our children have to learn to live with the disability – and how to live well with it. In many ways your son is doing very well indeed!

Have you talked to the school about the dyspraxia and potential ADHD, and about the things you’ve been doing to support him? It sounds as if they’re becoming aware he’s struggling so now may be a good time to share this with the people who can help. Help can exist in schools even without a full statement, if they know what his underlying difficulties are.

Palika Tue 25-Jun-13 21:48:17

thanks guys, for the support. You are very kind.
You are right, I have worked extremely hard on the symptoms of my DS for many many years and I am worn out.

AmberLeaf Wed 26-Jun-13 08:09:46

I am sorry your child is autistic but you do not solve your problem by suggesting that other people have problems that they clearly have not

Don't be sorry that my child is autistic, I'm not, I accept him as he is and he is a wonderful child even with autism.

'Solve your problem'? what? I don't have a problem to solve.

How am I suggesting other people have problems? you have said what you diagnosed your son with, I haven't said he has something he does not, please show me where I have. Im going on the information you have given here.

I am very sorry that your child is autistic and I wish you all the courage and strength in the world to deal with that successfully

I don't need courage or strength to deal with my sons autism. I'm doing just fine. I accept him as he is, difficulties and all.

I came here to find support for ordinary teenage problem like lying and underperformance

It is being suggested to you that maybe those issues are as a result of your sons SNs, not just normal teenage stuff and that you may find help and support for both your son and yourself if you approach school/GP and request it.

That is obviously not what you want to hear, but I think it is worth consideration at least.

havenlady Wed 26-Jun-13 08:53:08

Here is a good phrase which I say to myself every day that the effort gets overwhelming (and I have written it on the notice board by the door).

Start where you are
Use what you have
Do what you can

No one could expect anything else of you.

Palika Wed 26-Jun-13 11:27:00

The actual conflict that kicked off my post yesterday was that I was suspecting that DS did not do his homework properly and was lying about it. But I did not want to go back controlling it as I did when he was younger.

I had since a long chat with my DS and he was incredibly nice and mature. We worked out that he would do his homework in the kitchen, so that I can see that he does something.

He will show me what he has done from 3 meters away - lol - so that I can see something has been done and it looks neat. But I do not get into the content of it, so there won't be any discussions and possible arguments about how well he has done.

I also made a list about all the positive things about DS. The two most positive things are that he has a clear career goal (engineer), which really motivates him. For him to have this motivation his so precious and I am sure will help him more than anything else I can do for him from now on.

The second most positive thing is that he really listens to me when I come up with a solution for a problem and really tries to implement it. He has always done that, otherwise I would have not been able to do all these exercises with him.

The problem is that I do not always have a solution or at least not immediately. It is for these times that it is nice to have a forum like this and feel the empathy and compassion of those who are in similar situations.

thanks guys!

Kleinzeit Wed 26-Jun-13 17:36:55

I’m glad you found a solution to the homework problem, and you found your way past the dishonesty too! I do something a bit similar for my DS’s homework, if he’s getting distracted he sometimes asks me to sit in the room with him (I bring something to do, like my laptop or some knitting, so I don’t get drawn into helping / criticising!) I also had a problem with nagging - I would nag my DS to do his homework, then he would snarl at me. So in the end I asked him, did he want me to remind him or not? He said yes and I said I would carry on but only if he stopped snarling, and he agreed grin

I am definitely finding it harder to problem-solve for my DS as he gets older though. Do you practice problem-solving with your DS? You know the drill – you state the problem, then brainstorm as many solutions together as you can (including silly ones!) without criticism, then go through all the solutions and see which ones suit you both and could be made to work? I know I don’t do as much of this as I should! I used to do it more when DS was younger, and it did help.

Palika Wed 26-Jun-13 23:29:29

Kleinzeit, your name sounds very German - are you? I am.
I just read out your post from yesterday to my DH and tears came to my eyes. Nobody, ever, has given me appreciation for what I have done with my DS. (apart from hubby)
My relatives from both sides always sink into embarrassed silence if I say something about the problems of DS (when he is not there) and what I have done about it. Or they make off-the-cuff remarks like 'no child likes to do homework' etc.
Your kind words made it clear to me just how unappreciated I feel by the people who actually know my DS and me.
I think it is this lack of appreciation that have made it so hard for me to keep going recently. I just wanted to have one of these 'perfect' children that are running around in the rest of my family and feel torn between envy, anger and trying to soldier on.

On a practical level: yes, I have talked to the school but it is hard to make it clear to them that I think that DS is underperforming because all his bigger symptoms are gone. When I tell him how bad he was they do not believe me because it is common belief that these problems do not go away so easily.
However, I kept on with his form tutor and made my point and at some point he completely changed and apologised and he has now put DS on the aggressive mentoring plan.

About problem solving: if there is a problem at hand I always give DS the first option to come up with an idea to solve it. He usually comes up with some form of draconian punishment. Unfortunately, he does not respond well to punishment - he just does the same things over and over and gets punished and punished. It's not a good solution.

At the moment I mostly follow the book Divas and Doorslammers: it's a mixture of giving massive amounts of small pieces of praise, small rewards and small negative consequences. We have a plan in which everything is written down and keep to that.

Palika Wed 26-Jun-13 23:34:08

Kleinzeit, your name sounds very German - are you? I am.
I just read out your post from yesterday to my DH and tears came to my eyes. Nobody, ever, has given me appreciation for what I have done with my DS. (apart from hubby)
My relatives from both sides always sink into embarrassed silence if I say something about the problems of DS (when he is not there) and what I have done about it. Or they make off-the-cuff remarks like 'no child likes to do homework' etc.
Your kind words made it clear to me just how unappreciated I feel by the people who actually know my DS and me.
I think it is this lack of appreciation that have made it so hard for me to keep going recently. I just wanted to have one of these 'perfect' children that are running around in the rest of my family and feel torn between envy, anger and trying to soldier on.

On a practical level: yes, I have talked to the school but it is hard to make it clear to them that I think that DS is underperforming because all his bigger symptoms are gone. When I tell him how bad he was they do not believe me because it is common belief that these problems do not go away so easily.
However, I kept on with his form tutor and made my point and at some point he completely changed and apologised and he has now put DS on the aggressive mentoring plan.

About problem solving: if there is a problem at hand I always give DS the first option to come up with an idea to solve it. He usually comes up with some form of draconian punishment. Unfortunately, he does not respond well to punishment - he just does the same things over and over and gets punished and punished. It's not a good solution.

At the moment I mostly follow the book Divas and Doorslammers: it's a mixture of giving massive amounts of small pieces of praise, small rewards and small negative consequences. We have a plan in which everything is written down and keep to that.

Kleinzeit Fri 28-Jun-13 18:09:27

Good for you Palika for getting through to your DS’s form tutor! I hope the mentoring is a positive support for him.

(I do have some German family though I’m British myself, the nickname comes from a novel I like.)

Chottie Sat 29-Jun-13 06:51:30

Dear OP - regarding your SiLs and their brood, people only tell you what they want you to hear, no-one's life is strewn with pink rose petals 24/7 so I would not compare your DS with them or anyone else.

LongTimeLurking Sat 29-Jun-13 17:32:32

Wow, reading this I am wondering if I am the only person who thinks the OP comes across as really negative and judgemental about her DS?

On one hand you believe/accept he has a problem which make it more difficult for him to do well in an academic environment and on the other hand you seem to agree with his teachers that he is 'lazy' or not trying hard enough.

You say: "He is actually quite good at math - at least at times - his achievements vary massively from one day to the next. Overall he has a happy go lucky attitude and thinks he is super-intelligent because he likes to watch The BigBang Theory.

*It falls to me to gently fill him in with the truth without destroying his self-esteem.*"

To me that reads like you are saying it is your job to deflate his confidence and denigrate what ability and interests he does have, rather than supporting and encouraging what he can do.

It seems like your problem is he isn't a budding musician, sports start or intellectual. This is YOUR problem. You sound pretty toxic and need to get over yourself here, love your child for who he is not what you want him to be. It is not his job to live up to your expectations.

cory Sat 29-Jun-13 19:53:44

I think Chottie has a very good point: you see other families from the outside and they tell you what they want you to hear. It may not be that wonderful on the inside.

In fact, if you are hearing far more positive things about their children than they are hearing about yours, it could be as much about differences in what you each think a parent should tell about their offspring. Maybe you focus on the negatives and they focus on the positives.

alemci Sat 29-Jun-13 21:13:11

no I don't think you are being too judgemental.. my ds can be lazy and we got so sick of school phoning about him not working. felt eembarassed as h
I felt he could try harder

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