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.

Palika Tue 02-Jul-13 21:57:03

Salopia, Antimatter, Thongthai and Cori
thanks so much for your kind and encouraging posts. It's so good to know I am not alone in all this.

I am an 'older' mum, so have not many friends with children of the same age. It's nice to go on a forum like this and receive support. smile

I do think the point is to find the right balance of accepting your child and also 'push' them to be better than they are. But to find this perfect balance is never easy.

I do not believe that sheer acceptance is the answer to all our childrens' problems as the two very angry posters in this thread seem to think. But obviously, being too pushy is not good either.

My DS has always thanked me (and still does on occasion) that I helped him to overcome the dyspraxia and adhd and also improve his social skills. So, I kind of know that that was alright.

But with his underachievement in school he is less influenceable. Having said that, while we were talking here he has actually brought a very good mark home, which is making me hopeful again.

thanks again to you all!

salopia Tue 02-Jul-13 15:48:52

In answer to your original question, yes, you are , but this is with a huge dose of hindsight . we can never expect our kids to turn out like us, I should know , mine are nothing like me ,or in ways, like my DH.

I was fairly academic, artistic and confident , DS1 has stuggled at school, was a good all rounder at sport , but not competetive, so never won anything, and suffered with anxiety in his younger teenage years, for which I blamed myself (too much pressure ).

He has just qualified as a fitness insructor, and got a job at 19yrs on his 2nd interview ever.

I am so proud of him. He didn't really start working at school until he was 17yrs and found what he really wanted to do.

Your son may be a great engineer, he may also be a great car mechanic or plumber ! I am sure you will be proud whatever he does because you love him and you have both done the best you can.

Lastly, smile sweetly at tales of other peoples kids, their parents may rue the day they boasted !

Palika Mon 01-Jul-13 14:25:18

LongTimeLurking
I feel your post comes across as incredibly judgemental!!! You are judging me, yet your criticise me for being too judgemental. That just does not add up.

You probably also judge yourself very harshly. My advice to you is to be kinder to yourself and then you can also be kinder to someone who asks for help.

To the others:
thanks so much!
yes, I have thought many times that my sister in laws may not tell me the whole story about their kids. Some would call it being positive and others would call it boastful. I try not compare...only when I am weak...

I feel much better...

antimatter Sun 30-Jun-13 14:46:01

if your son wants to be an Engineer does he know what does it take to become one?

maybe he doesn't realise that he needs to be very well organised and thorough to become one?

maybe seeing a goal of becoming one would help him to focus?

I would question teacher's assessing a child as silly - the behaviour is probably inappropriate, where is it coming from?
Is he trying to impress his friends, why is he not given tasks which are engaging and right for his level of knowledge and concentration.

Besides - praising always gets better results than criticizing. Esp at that age!

cory Sun 30-Jun-13 12:51:16

Maybe it would help to sort your feelings into a few separate categories. There are

a) *legitimate grievances*:

As alemci points out, it is extremely annoying to have to listen to complaints from the school because your offspring is not behaving as he should. We've had the laziness too, and I keep assuring the school that we are 100% behind any measures they take to kick ds' backside. Laziness and inattentiveness spoils it for the whole class and you are perfectly entitled to feel angry and embarrassed about that

b) *parental dreams*:

This is the area where you have to accept that you cannot change other people, you can only change your own reactions to them.

I was surprised to find that ds didn't enjoy reading at all, couldn't care less for the natural world, had no interest in history or art and really didn't see the point in playing an instrument. (I was perhaps less surprised to find he didn't want to join any organised sports either as I hate organised activities myself.) Really, for a long time it seemed as if he wasn't interested in anything.

Lately, partly through my observing him more closely, partly through him getting confident enough to claim his interests as legitimate interests, I have come to realise that he does have interests: they are just things that I have never thought of as interests children should or could have. A bit like my mother never recognised my brother's Beatles obsession as an interest in music; to her, music meant something very different.

c) *worries for the future*:

This is a tricky one because it does so much seem part of our duties as parents to take thought for the future. But worrying rarely helps things, and quite frequently makes them worse. Worries about a child's social skills or coping abilities can so easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy ("I am hopeless socially, even my own family think so, so there's not point in trying").

Perhaps best to focus away a little bit and remember that "even the very wise cannot see all ends".

On the whole, I think I'd have to say that the things I have worried most about concerning dc haven't happened and some totally unforeseen things have, so the time spent worrying was probably time wasted: I should have spent that building up my own resilience instead.

d) need to compete with other parents

Well, we're only human, it is a natural thing to want.

But I do try, every time I find myself getting caught up in this, to step back a bit and do something that makes me feel good about myself instead. begs the question what I am doing on MN this bright and sunny morning when I should be courting fame and glory by finishing my article

tungthai Sun 30-Jun-13 09:40:11

Palika, there is no harm in continuing to provide support with organisation. Keeping a detailed planner on his wall listing when he has to certain tasks doesn't mean that you are being a helicopter parent, you are just helping him with an area that he needs more help with than most.

Keep talking to him about his dreams and ambitions, he probably has dreams but possibly lacks the confidence and self esteem to achieve them on his own. He might feel embarrassed to share them.

Often children like your ds come into their own and find their niche when they leave school and start work.

AmberLeaf Sun 30-Jun-13 09:13:39

Longtimelurking. No you are not the only one.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.)

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.

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.

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 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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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 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.

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