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.

Take them away. Permanently. Throw them in the bin. I feel your pain but you have got to be the stronger one or they will indeed have won. They have to know they can't get away with this kind of behaviour. hugs....

AnAirOfHope Tue 15-Jan-13 17:29:19

I agree put them in the bin and do not fund phones for them again.

You house your rule. You only have to make a stand on one thing for them to think twice about the other rules.

Good Luck

EmmaNess Tue 15-Jan-13 17:34:30

Stop paying the phone bills?

Cut off the £££ and if the internet is a problem, put a password on the wifi

HecatePropolos Tue 15-Jan-13 17:39:43

How do they pay for their phones?
Cut them off!
No pocket money.
Agree password protect wifi.
Hide the phone chargers!
You can take back control, honestly you can.
Don't be hard on yourself, teenagrrs are really challenging. Xx

WaynettaSlobsLover Tue 15-Jan-13 17:40:47

If it was me I would arrange a little get away and tell dh to tell them you have left and had enough. Go to hotel for a couple of nights and have no contact with them. This will scare them, trust me on that

CabbageLeaves Tue 15-Jan-13 17:44:37

Hmmm. I have a different view. At 16 my DD was able to organise her study herself. I never restricted the tech stuff although mealtimes were a no no because that's just polite.

What are your reasons for restrictions?
Meals? (Manners?)
Study? (Concentration?)
9:30? ????

I'd say reconsider and come to a compromise but make sure it's a compromise with boundaries. I.e. you can have tech during homework BUT ONLY if your grades and work comes first.

My DD used to have FB open throughout home working. She got about 5 Alevels 3 of which were A* (I should remember exactly but erm...it was a storming result whatever)

It's an individual thing obviously but I'd reconsider more objectively. Yes it's a power struggle. At 16 they need to have some autonomy however.

usualsuspect Tue 15-Jan-13 17:48:11

I agree with Cabbage leaves, you need to come to a compromise that suits all of you.

Laying down the law to a 16 year old doesn't always work.

Fairylea Tue 15-Jan-13 17:49:17

Hmm well I'm going to be brave and post against what I suspect the majority will say...

I think no iPods etc after 9.30pm is pretty strict for a 14 and 16 year old to be honest. Is this weekends too? Most of their friends are probably on them on facebook or whatever else chatting till 10.30 / 11 especially the 16 year old. I can understand why they are rebelling a bit. What is the reason you don't want them on them in the evenings, especially if they are doing their homework etc ?

I agree with your rule about meal times and homework - maybe you could sit down with them and agree to meet half way ? Ie you will allow them to go on them in the evenings as long as homework is done and they actually speak to you over dinner ?

legoballoon Tue 15-Jan-13 17:49:58

I'm afraid I'm with the hardliners.

Sit down and discuss your expectations with the whole family. It's not unreasonable to say that phones are off when the family are eating at the table together.

It's probably harder to monitor use of FB etc. during home study, but couldn't you just switch off the router for 3 hours per evening (or however long it takes) and ask for phones to be handed over the during that period - to be recharged, or in return for credit. (I'm assuming you're paying for the phones somehow).

Failing cooperation there - strike action.
Think of what you do for them, and stop doing it. Easier said than done, but I'm sure after a week without clean undies, fresh food, and a taxi service, they might just start to notice your existence.

I wouldn't pretend to run off though - it would sound like you had lost it, and when they discovered you were pretending, you'd lose all respect. Just stick together with your supportive husband.

Teenagers can be horrible, and often wonderful. Try to focus on whatever positives you can cling to during the worst times. Let us know how it goes.

usualsuspect Tue 15-Jan-13 17:51:14

I also think no phones, ipods after 9.30 for a 16 year old is too harsh.

pootlebug Tue 15-Jan-13 17:58:15

Have you read 'How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk'? The sort of approach recommended there would be sitting them down and saying something along the lines that there is a problem because there are always rows over phones. And ask them what they think about the whole situation.

Maybe they will just demand their phones 24 hours a day. But maybe, if you can put across your specific concerns and ask them to think of a compromise, you might make progress.... phones away at mealtimes, but kept until later at they go to bed rather than 9.30pm or whatever.

I think they are more likely to buy in to a new plan if they have some say in it, and can see there is significant compromise from both sides.

Mrscupcake23 Tue 15-Jan-13 17:58:27

Time to compromise without backing down all the way.

Fair point not at meal time that's just rude. But half nine? At sixteen I will be grateful my sixteen year old was in..

Those of those who said put them in the bin that's just childish. Pick your arguments with teenagers. Look at other threads and be grateful that's you only problem.

outtolunchagain Tue 15-Jan-13 18:02:27

Was all set to sympathise ,and i do ,to an extent but I do think your rules are a bit restrictive and rather inappropriate for their age .The 16 year old is old enough to get married FGS.

I think I would back off a bit ,it doesn't mean giving in but you are dealing with young adults here not primary age children.My ds at 16 would still be doing homework at 9.30pm so a bit of phone and Facebook is some downtime.At 16 they should be taking some responsibility for themselves ,he needs to understand that if he does no homework and just plays on computers he will get bad marks and not get good results which will impact on his life ,thats his responsibility .

The 14 year old obviously needs more guidelines but even so you have made the whole thing into a massive battleground,is she going to spontaneously combust if she facebooks at 10 pm.No she won't but she will be tired .Again ,her consequence.

Our rule with ds2 (15) is that tech stuff must be on landing at 10.30pm ,before that he self regulates on the understanding that if his marks are not good enough,he is rude etc the laptop will be taken away.This has happened !so he knows we are serious.

ds3 (11) has no stuff upstairs except an ipod nano on which he listens to audiobooks at bedtime.

I agree about mealtimes though

sheisold Tue 15-Jan-13 18:02:38

I'm with the hard liners too and you absolutely have my sympathy I've been thete

Badvoc Tue 15-Jan-13 18:02:42

Cut them off.
They are old enough to realise they are behaving like toddlers over a new toy.

usualsuspect Tue 15-Jan-13 18:11:08

You can't treat a 16 year old like a toddler though.

It won't work.

outtolunchagain Tue 15-Jan-13 18:11:10

By the way I am not sure how your daughter not giving you her phone is her controlling you ,it sounds more like you failing to control her ,and to be frank surely your role is to encourage her to understand about making the right choices in like not about controlling her .

However I speak as a mother of 2 teens and a tween and am so exasperated with the oldest at time that i could throttle him so i know how hard it is when you have backed yourself into a corner.But the thing is ,you can't control what they do but you can control your reaction to it .

I can't agree with those saying they should just rearrange the rules to fit in around what the DC are already doing, ie, more hours with their tech. That is letting them win.

If the DC felt the rules were unfair, all they had to do was discuss it with their parents and present their case like adults, instead of rebelling and completely disregarding the rules.

OP, if your DC had asked to have a discussion about the hours they were allowed their tech, would you have listened to them openly?

Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in the middle - they can re-negotiate terms and hours, but if this doesn't work and the don't follow the new rules the tech is removed for good.

Badvoc Tue 15-Jan-13 18:19:46

I would treat them like toddlers is that is how they are behaving!
They need to learn that respect and compromise is a two way street.

usualsuspect Tue 15-Jan-13 18:21:39

It's not about winning. You don't have to fight with your teenagers just so you can win.

outtolunchagain Tue 15-Jan-13 18:24:49

But Badvoc in the long run what would that achieve and what would that teach them .

Rudeness etc should be punished but all this talk of winning and losing is very depressing . My relationship with my teens is not about winning and losing. It sounds to me as if relationships have broken down quite badly and the OP needs to decide what is important and in my house 'winning ' wouldn't be the most important factor.

specialsubject Tue 15-Jan-13 18:25:26

so if your daughter doesn't get her own way, she runs off and you have to get the police out? And they are so disobedient that they fight their own parents?

she deserves no respect and no treats until she learns to stop behaving like a two year old.

moisturiser Tue 15-Jan-13 18:29:46

Is this all you are exasperated and close to walking out over? I don't mean to dimish your feelings but really this is a manageable issue. There are far, far worse things to be dealing with (or perhaps you are and this is the straw that broke the camels back).

You need to sit them down and say that phones are not to be used at mealtimes, out of respect. I think that there could easily be a 'fair use policy' re homework, i.e they are allowed them if they are getting good marks and not spending more time on the phones than on the work simply because homework can be difficult and very dull even if you're really bright and chatting via text every half an hour can help you get through it. I'm sure I did that all through uni and got great marks. If their school work is suffering then they get the threat of having them taken off them during that time. Phones after 9.30 - let them have them! At this age if they're going on them too much and getting no sleep that is their responsibility. You taking them off them and making them go to bed early is not going to work if they are resentful. They're just going to stay up late sulking. Treat them like adults.

If they are being mardy so and sos and can't respect the above, I really don't see what's wrong with taking them off them altogether. But give them the chance to be adult and take responsibility for their own phone usage. How are they going to cope otherwise as adults/at uni or a job and they need to manage their time online/on the phone?

I've slightly changed my mind. Take everything off them for a fairly lengthy period, eg a month. THEN re-negotiate with the clear message that any more disrespect and disregard for the rules will result in permanent removal. Otherwise they'll think that if they behave badly enough you will back down and let them have their way with no consequences whatsoever.

Those of you who say they need to be responsible for themselves and learn consequences are right. But if they just get more tech time out of behaving so badly they are learning that bad behaviour has positive consequences.

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

jessabell Wed 16-Jan-13 19:40:40

Son is fourteen. We take everything off him laptop/xbox/tablet. When we go to bed. he's allowed them on friday/saturday night. Daughter spent hours on it in first year of college. Disappointed with grades. Seen a difference recently. She leaves it downstairs now. Finds facebook boring. Eldest now at uni can not be without phone. Does not go on facebook as much now.

mathanxiety Thu 17-Jan-13 02:08:25

Cory -- wishing you courage and strength.

flow4 Thu 17-Jan-13 23:38:14

I will come back and answer you again emma, when I can... I have been thinking ... Had a difficult week with my own DS, so haven't quite had the energy to come to any conclusions (wise or otherwise!)

exasperatedemma Fri 18-Jan-13 09:39:11

thank you flow 4, hope things resolve with your DS.

febel Fri 18-Jan-13 18:48:29

Can I just put in my half pennyworth..and it's not a solution...but would just say I work with post 16s and we have trouble with some of them because they are used to being on laptops/x-boxes etc and are not regulated at all. Consequence is they are exhausted and can't concetrate in class. One lad was appalling the other day...and i found he'd got up at 3AM to play x-box live until he came in. Can't be right....

flow4 Sat 19-Jan-13 12:44:21

Hi emma, thanks for your good wishes. smile It wasn't a big deal with my DS - he was just being an arse!

I've been thinking about you on-and-off all week... I think the 'technology issue' is almost beside the point, to be honest. It sounds to me like you are struggling badly and totally miserable - your title shows me clearly how bad you feel. sad I have been at that point, and I do know how awful it is, and I really feel for you.

You say you "don't know how to carry on", and that's the phrase that's been going round my head, so I'll try to address it, and suggest a possible way forward... smile

I think the key may be to take the focus off your kids for a little while, and prioritise you. I know this sounds shockingly neglectful, and no doubt many people will disagree with me, but it sounds to me like you are exhausted and your self-esteem is rock-bottom, and IMO no-one can parent effectively when they're in that sort of state. Teenagers scent weakness like a pack of hyenas are not generally known for their kindness, empathy and compassionhmm so you can end up feeling like a total failure - and that is what I am hearing from you.

So (if you think I might be right) what I suggest is this...

- Do go away by yourself if you possibly can. You talked about wanting to, so try to make it happen... A visit to a friend, a spa stay, a youth hostel, a B&B by the sea... Whatever takes your fancy grin... Just two or three nights, or even just one if guilt gets the better of you or more if you can get away with it! Everyone needs to recharge their batteries, and yours are almost flat. You owe it to yourself, and (ironically enough) to your kids.

- Whether or not you can get away, start to do things for yourself regularly. A very wise and experienced health visitor once said to me that "Children are happy if their mums are happy" - and I think that's true. Also, looking after teens often takes a huge amount of energy, and can be really horrible, and make you feel rubbish - but you can sort of 'balance out' some of the shit by doing nice things for yourself. Over the years I have come to think that looking after yourself is not a luxury for the parent of a teen, but a survival essential. So do some things you enjoy, that will make you laugh or relax - a swim, a walk, a sauna, a coffee with friends, a comedy club - whatever makes you happy! every day is best; every week is essential. I honestly think that any mother of teenagers who doesn't do something nice for themselves at least once a week will become miserable, and probably ill.

- Find someone to talk to about how you're feeling. I really recommend counselling. You can ask your GP to refer you. Some people see this as a sign of weakness, but personally I see it as a sign of strength to recognise your own limits and get some support when you get near to them.

- There is an old saying: you can't control anyone else's behaviour and reactions, but you can control yours. I have found it incredibly useful to remember that with my own DSes. In emotionally-charged/difficult/conflict situations, teenagers tend to behave so dramatically that all your attention is drawn towards them. As an experiment, try focussing on your own reactions instead. I try to behave in the way I would have chosen to behave even if they weren't screaming or carrying on. I don't always manage it hmm grin but when I do, the results are great! I feel calmer and more in control, and often handle the whole situation better.

- Also, learn to detach from what your kids are saying. It feels incredibly personal, but it isn't. It's aimed at you because you're there, and because they trust you to keep loving you even if they're horrible the little buggers . hmm confused When one of them screams abuse at you, learn to say (as calmly as poss!) "Oh please don't speak to me like that". When your DD gets hysterical at night, learn to say "Oh dear, you're upset. I hope you feel better in the morning darling" and walk away!

- Have you come across this book ? If not, I'd recommend it. It doesn't tell you what to do; instead, it tries to explain what goes on inside teenagers' heads! I found it interesting and useful smile

Good luck! And remember, however difficult it feels, it will pass, and one day they'll grow up! grin

exasperatedemma Sat 19-Jan-13 17:08:10

febel-I share your view, I just know that if I let my DS and DD have their tech in their bedrooms at night, they just don't have the self control to leave it to one side and go to sleep. Given that they have it from about 7am when they wake up, to 9.30pm at night, I think that not having at bedtime is no hardship - they need their sleep. The reason we try and get them to put it down at 9.30pm is to give them enough time to get the stuff out of their heads so that they are calm enough to sleep. but it is SO tough to do.

exasperatedemma Sat 19-Jan-13 17:13:51

flow4 - I'm going to print out your post and refer to it when I feel weak! your advice is sound, and yes I do fantasize about booking into a seaside B&B and walking for miles! I think I have allowed myself to get sucked into the drama and certainly do need to learn to detach a bit - I will remember your words when the hysterics occur late at night! I did have about 5 months of counselling last year when I realised that whilst I wouldn't be able to persuade my DD to have counselling (this was during a long period of very irrational behaviour and threats of suicide from her) that perhaps I would benefit. It was very good and I finished it in September, things had been pretty good since then but have deteriorated over the last month. Perhaps I need to go back to counselling. I do have that book - need to re-read it I think! thank you, I really appreciate you taking the time to help.

flow4 Sat 19-Jan-13 17:34:12

You're welcome emma. Glad it's useful. smile

AnyFucker Sat 19-Jan-13 17:50:07

wow, flow you are damn good grin

flow4 Sat 19-Jan-13 20:20:51

Blimey AnyFucker, I'm flattered! grin

mathanxiety Sat 19-Jan-13 21:36:56

Terrific post, Flow. I second every word of it.

Mama -- if anyone threatens suicide, you would be wise to call for an ambulance and let the staff in the A&E decide how to deal with her. Suicide threats that someone has no intention of carrying out are the height of disrespectful and bad behaviour. Suicide threats that are real need sorting out by professionals.

It is very hard for anyone lacking professional training to tell the difference and absolutely unfair for a teen to expect a parent to deal with it, plus unrealistic for a parent to try to deal with it herself or himself. Therefore the ambulance to A&E is the way to go.

marriedinwhite Sat 19-Jan-13 21:55:58

That's a lovely post Flow4. We all need to keep it and read it when they are driving us to distraction. Mine do all the time although I love them to bits. My DS knew every dodgy shopkeeper who would sell fags and booze to under aged kids South of the Thames. He's 18 now.

I don't think it matters where you are, who you are, or what you do - they find the buttons to press and bells to pull.

ElectricSheep Sat 19-Jan-13 23:17:25

That's very very good advice Math.

Suicidal feelings can stem from serious mental health problems and cannot be addressed by parents on their own.

As math says it can be hard to work out the difference between serious problems and dramatic overstatement with a teen - and it may be that the teen themselves aren't too sure how serious they are. But I too would err on the side of caution and get professional help.

cory Sun 20-Jan-13 10:49:28

slight hijack: thanks for kind messages, marriedinwhite and mathanxiety; dd is now out of hospital and we will pick ourselves up and start again

back to OP:

I do hope you are feeling better now, emma. Flow is absolutely right that you must find time somehow to look after yourself. Is there any way you actually could dump your dds and get away for a few days? Any way you can plan me-time into the week? Even if it's something small. I've just had two days in bed after a minor op and even that small amount of cosseting has made a big difference to my resilience- and also to family dynamics! Somehow we needed to get it established that I am allowed to have needs too- even if our whole world is breaking down around us. It's far too easy for the family to get used to the idea of mummy as a piece of equipment that simply doesn't need any servicing.

flow4 Sun 20-Jan-13 11:29:37

Blimey cory: "mummy as a piece of equipment that simply doesn't need any servicing." is absolutely chilling... And spot-on. sad

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