Do I get firmer or let him make his own life?

(16 Posts)
mumtogrumpyteen Tue 02-Jul-13 11:31:08

I have a 15 yr old DS. Generally he is pretty good, gets on OK at school, a bit above average, could work harder but makes some effort.

He is computer mad, and I mean mad. He is ambitious and wants to get a masters degree in computing and work at a computer games manufacturer designing computer games. He already has a lot of university prospectuses and has a firm idea of which uni he would like to go to. He has volunteered for a year at our local computer shop for a few hours a week completely off his own back. He has also spent 2 and a half years saving every penny he had (he asked for money for xmas and birthdays) and built himself his own computer to have in his room. He has read every computer building book and watched every you tuber who builds computers.

He is my only child but I live with my DP who has kids and have done for 3 years, DSD aged 15 lives with us full time, the others are part time. DS gets on well with all of the step kids and they all really like him. There are no issues at all between the kids. I, however, will admit to struggling to go from being a single mum to having to share DS. We were very close as I was single mum to just him for a long time.

DS Dad has 4 older grown up kids and now has a 1 yr old too. I don't think DS has ever felt part of his Dad's life (most of his older kids don't talk to their Dad). DS Dad has been terribly unreliable over the years and we have been apart since DS was 4 year old. I have never slagged off his Dad and have kept an amicable relationship throughout DS life for his sake and I used to have to be very firm with DS about seeing his Dad when he used to whinge he didn't want to go. DS has become quite defensive of his Dad the older he has got. Something I would not have expected to happen! I would have thought he would have started to see just how unreliable he is when he is arranging contact through DS and lets him down at the last minute (or several hours after agreed pick up time) but DS makes constant excuses for him. :-( He has told me he wants to see his Dad more and accused me of stopping contact, when for example ex decided at last minute to have DS for the weekend when I had plans on "my" weekend. Of course, on the weekends when I haven't made any plans, his Dad lets him (and me!) down. Despite DS saying all this, there are still times he says he doesn't want to see his Dad and chooses to stay at home instead!

I understand he is getting older but he just sits in his room the whole time lately. I have a rule where both kids need to come off computers at 8pm (DS will be on it from the moment he gets home with the exception of having dinner) so they can shower and get lunches etc ready for the next day. Also, so they can come and sit in the front room for 20 mins before bed (they both sit on their phones when they do this anyway!) and interact with us for a little while. I have to constantly nag DS at 8pm every night!

I've taken to turning the internet off at night and making him charge his mobile phone downstairs as I have caught him on the phone or on the pc late at night before. Of course, he could still play on the pc (or x box) without playing online.

I tend to be less strict at weekends in the vain hope that he will self regulate but he will sit up all night and sleep all day, will literally only come down and eat a slice of bread (too lazy to make a sandwich) and then chocolate, he will go 24 hours without a drink! He is then absolutely knackered on Mondays.

He will see friends but only if I nag him to do it. He often leaves it to the last minute and then it's too late to do anything.

We always go and see my family in the summer but he is moaning and whingeing about having to go. He is also staying with a friend of mine this weekend whilst DP and I go away for 2 nights and he is already asking if he can take his pc with him and moaning about having to go.

If I try and encourage him to see friends and then ask him what the plans are, he snaps at me to stop nagging. I point out to him that I am going out that night so can't bail him out with a lift and he snaps again. I leave it. He goes out, then texts me demanding I pick him up! I refused and someone elses Mum stepped in.

He is very shy at family events and really doesn't seem to enjoy them but I feel opting out teaches him the wrong thing and will only make his shyness worse long term. I see my DSD's making conversation at the table and DS is just slouched in the corner. :-(

I try making him come out for a bike ride, tried encouraging him to take up running with me when he expressed an interest, recently got the movie channels on sky so he could watch those with us, ask him to help with cooking etc. but he literally just wants to sit in his room in front of the computer. He is complaining of neck ache at weekends and I know it's because he is sitting at the pc all day! If I do push him to do things and make him do it, he is always very negative and moany although sometimes does seem to enjoy it once he actually gets away from the pc. I managed to coax him out of his room at the weekend to muck about in the garden with DSD aged 10 and myself but literally had to be there with him otherwise he would have skulked back to his room and even then it was only for 30 mins.

So, I wonder if I should be imposing more limits on computer time, making him do more activities (If I can!) considering moving his pc that he worked so hard for, to downstairs in a communal room or should I just carry on as I am and let him be miserable in his pit all day long at weekends and when he gets in from school?

I'm hoping it's just a phase and he'll start making his own decisions and life soon enough but I'm also scared he'll get to 23 and still be sitting in his room playing computer games with virtually no social skills!

Palika Tue 02-Jul-13 12:50:35

Hi, when I had read your post halfway I already saw that you DS has internet/computer addiction. The rest of your post just confirmed this.

Internet addiction is real and will be put into the standard textbook for psychiatry or it's already been put there.

I saw a quite frightening documentary about this problem in South Korea who are even more wired into the internet then we are.

There is no self-regulation once an addiction has set in - so the answer is that you need to talk that through with your DS - maybe even get a counsellor or psychiatrist involved who could confirm the diagnosis and then of course severely limit all screen activity. This will be very hard for your DS - just like a recovering drug addict, so don't expect this to go smoothly.

My son would be the same but I saw the early warning signs already when he was very small and his screen time has always been very limited.

Hope this helps.

hillyhilly Tue 02-Jul-13 12:57:39

I think you need to get some limits in place, would he be receptive to you sitting with him and discussing the issue and your concerns, listen to what he has to say about it and try to agree a plan forward?
(I've no idea if this will work, am planning on trying it with my 8&5 yr olds this afternoon)

tinierclanger Tue 02-Jul-13 13:14:35

I can't see why this constitutes an "addiction". The OP's son wants to make a career in IT and obviously is very interested and engaged with it. It isn't random knocking about on the Internet. Sounds like fairly normal teenage behaviour to me which you're handling sensibly.

I have a 15 year old DS who fits much of your description. Also a 17 year old who has come through the other side and is human again grin.

I see my DSD's making conversation at the table and DS is just slouched in the corner. :-(

OP this is the difference between most girls and boys at 15.

Also perfectly normal teenage boy behaviour to resist doing the family things that were fun when he was younger and to not want mum to organise his social life.
His computer use doesn't seem that unusual, especially if you insist he comes off at 8pm - that seems early for a 15 year old even on a school night. The only thing I would be concerned about is his apparent alarm at being away from his PC for a holiday or trip. Maybe he's a bit addicted, but parents who don't have teens might be being a little alarmist here.
The closeness that you feel you have lost because of the step siblings would probably have gone or changed anyway.
My DS2 is up in his hobbithole far too much but I insist on family meals and I try to find something to do with him regularly one to one.

cory Tue 02-Jul-13 18:38:35

Not being able to tear yourself from mindless playing of computer games could be a sign of internet addiction.

Serious study of e.g. programming is only a sign of internet addiction in the same way as writing a PhD is a sign of history/biology/English literature addiction.

My db spent most of his teen years cooped up with a computer but he was learning about IT, eventually set up his own computer firm and has made a few successful inventions along the way.

I had Renaissance literature addiction when I was that age. Meaning that I shut myself up in my room and read Shakespeare. I have come out the other end though grin

FernieB Tue 02-Jul-13 19:40:30

He sounds fairly normal to me and you sound as though you're handling things very well. Don't stress. In the years before computers kids used to disappear off to the park for hours, or spend hours in their rooms reading - no-one worried about that. Enjoy your time with him when he does surface.

rusticlanguage Tue 02-Jul-13 22:17:02

A lot more positives than negatives by the sounds of it. He is intelligent and focused on his future. He is prepared to work and save to realise his ambitions. He accepts your rules - I'd suggest that the majority of 15 year-olds would refuse that 8pm internet curfew - even if he argues about them.

He has good relationships with others and has maintained a connection with his father without damaging his relationship with you. I think it all sounds pretty healthy.

monikar Wed 03-Jul-13 13:41:12

Your DS sounds very driven and motivated to pursue his ambition. I think the fact that his chosen career path involves computers has blurred the boundaries - it is not as though he is skyping or on facebook all day. He sounds like an intelligent boy who is determined to work with something that interests him.

Many teens go through a phase of being on their computers for a lot of the time - I have a 17yo, and I think this is quite usual. You say that he volunteers at a computer shop so this must be some time out of the house.

I agree with other posters in that the 8pm curfew is early even on a week night.

It is hard for us mums but teens tend to want a bit of a separate life as they get older. Family outings and activities which they jumped at even a year ago start to lose their appeal. Trying to engage your DS in taking up walking with you or getting out in the garden is also going to be met with some resistance in my experience.

Is he year 10 or 11? The reason I ask is that if he is off to a sixth form in September, he may automatically become more sociable as there are so many more things going on. You may find that the computer holds less of a pull then.

mumeeee Wed 03-Jul-13 13:43:45

He sounds normal to me. Teens often don't want to sit with the rest of the family and do spend a lot of time in their rooms. He sound intelligent and is already thinking of what he wants to do in the future. We had a rule here that everyone eat the evening meal together unless they were out and they came to family events.

yamsareyammy Wed 03-Jul-13 13:50:04

I would say he has the start of an addiction.
I would first of all work out or monitor ho many hours a week he is on the computer.
And then I would go yourself to the GP and discuss it with him.

Yes, it is great that he could get a career out of this.
But he wont be able to stick at a job, I wouldnt have thought, if he ends up fully addicted.

Some of the other stuff about not wanitng to vicist family is normal 15 year old behvaiour.

I will have a more indepth read of your op later.

imnotmymum Wed 03-Jul-13 13:55:55

I would keep the options open of let's do this and that. Draw the line at him taking computers to friends etc but my DSS was computer mad but now at 19 doing well at college, socialising actually a nice normal person. And well done for bringing up a child so independent and strong minded to get a volunteer job and be focused ion his future.
Agree with mumeee though we have a rule at dinner table, family time, beach etc no phone, laptops.

mumtogrumpyteen Wed 03-Jul-13 14:46:49

Hi,

Thank you for all the replies. It's interesting to read the responses which vary between people thinking he has an addiction to people thinking i'm a bit strict with an 8pm curfew.

I'd had a few bad days with him where I felt I was constantly nagging and he was constantly moaning.

He is sent up to bed at 9pm along with DSD as he has always been a long sleeper and and up until recently (and the computer being in his room) I was confident he used to sleep from 9.30pm to 7am. I too need plenty of sleep as does his Dad. DP and I go to bed at 10am ish anyway.

We always eat an evening meal together and phones etc are banned at the dinner table.

He's staying at my friends this weekend and I won't be sending him with his computer, even though he has suggested it. My friends family play lots of board games etc so I'm sure this will do him good despite his initial whinges.

It's also good to hear that teen boys are different to teen girls and that maybe is sullenness isn't that unusual.

DSD was out last night and DS did come and sit with me for a while and we had a hug and he told me he loves me. smile

He's already talking about having a big sleepover in the garden in the summer and going to a theme park with his friends too, both of which are his ideas, so I'll try and encourage and help with those.

I think I might put a curfew on the internet in the afternoons in the summer holidays to try and encourage both DSD and DS off the internet during the day and out with friends. Or at least reading or watching tv.

I've also a book called "get out of my life" which is about teenage behaviour and was recommended to me, so hopefully that will help me/us too.

imnotmymum Wed 03-Jul-13 14:57:07

Oh he does sound OK OP peole can get a bit oh they are addicted to it in this day and age and that is why I try and not log onto mumsnet you see work not done today ...41/2 hours on here blush

yamsareyammy Wed 03-Jul-13 16:43:48

At 15, I would think that 9pm is too early, even for a long sleeper.
From say 14 to 20, he may need less sleep than before.

He is now a fully fledged teenage. And they can change from what they were, sometimes permanently, sometimes not.
If he wants to see his dad more, he wants to see his dad more.
He may always defend his bad behaviour. Maybe not. But he needs to work through that, much of it, by himself.

Weekends. I would have a few more rules in place than that.
He sounds very bright, but his weekend activities are not going to help if he is knackered on Mondays. And presumably still a bit under par on Tuesdays.

Teenagers have different sleep patterns. There has been a lot of research just google teenage sleep cycles. They function best on late nights and late mornings. I have found that from around aged 14 both of mine struggle to get to sleep before 11pm or later regardless of when they got up and they always want to sleep late in the morning. Trying to enforce early bedtimes is a recipe for conflict.

When mine were younger I had rigid time limits for screens plus one day a week with no screen time. It worked until they were about 14 and it then started to cause more arguments than it was worth.

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