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Am I the world's most unfair mother?

(53 Posts)
allchocolatedout Tue 02-Apr-13 13:20:34

I need to get some persepctive on this so what better way than to throw myself on the mercy of aibu?! grin

DS1 is 16. He is pretty bright, but incredibly lazy. He has never put in any effort at school and at times there have been issues wth his behaviour at school. Parents evenings have always been cringeworthy and sometimes utterly hideous.

He is now in year 11. All his teachers have said he is capable of A grades with some effort. His predicted grades are Bs. He is getting between C and U, averaging around a D. He takes no responsibility, lies about results, puts in no effort etc etc.

We have maintained a very good and positive relationship with the school - we have a lot of contact with teachers, due to his lack of effort. The school really have bent over backwards and I don't think they could do any more, other than sitting exams for him.

We are now in the realms of re-sits, plus more exams due in may and June.

We have tried everything possible over the years to get him to work hard. We have had periods of backing off, which produced nothing. Enforced revision, which resulted in him sitting with books, not revising.

As an aside he has a few chores which are meant to be done in order to earn the £40 per month pocket money which he can get. This includes waching up after dinner each night - we have a dishwasher so he basically has to stack it, wash up the stuff that can't go in and wipe the surfaces. I tend to wash up as I go along anyway so there really isn't much. I would say at least 3 nights a week it isn't done properly. He has to clean the bathroom once a week, on a set day. Only an antibac wipes clean. Invariably this isn't done or is done very badly.

He has had numerous chances and has previously lost his xbox, phone or internet due to not doing school work.

We have now reached a point where the wifi password has been changed and he is not allowed access to it. We are currently averaging 2-3 letters a week from the school - sometimes regarding extra revision classes, other times stating that he hasn't attended or is behind with work. Then there are phone calls from teachers.

He was told that to earn the wi fi password, this has to change. It hasn't. He also gets no pocket money as the quality of the jobs he does is so dire. However, he is currently still doing them.

The password has been given back to him on occasion where he seems to be putting in more effort. Always, within days his attitude is bad and he gets detentions for not doing homework, so the password is changed again.

It is now the Easter holidays and he wants to go out. Apparently, all arragnments are made on facebook so he is missing out. He also has hardly any money. Plus he has revision classes for 4 days over the two weeks. He wants a trial period with the internet back. I have refused as he has used up all chances. As a compromise I have said he can have a small amount of access on the family pc. So he has been on this morning to discover that he has been thrown out of a certain group he attends as he hasn't been to any meet ups or practises. Apparently this is all my fault as I have removed the internet, even though he had warnings before it was removed and knew what he had to do to keep it. It is also my fault he has no money, as I should give it to him as his mother.


So, am I being unreasonable? Part of me thinks I may be, as he is 16, has no internet and no money. He does earn a very small amount with some occasional work he can do for my dad, between £15 to £40 per month. His phone is very basic as he has broken all nice phones, plus he has no credit as he has no money. But he just has to revise and do his chores, then he can have them. But he obviously wants them re-instated and then do the work.

He has now stropped off as he is upset at being thrown out of this group and I am wondering where it all went wrong.

So wise mumsnetters. What do I do now?!

Thumbwitch Tue 02-Apr-13 13:25:26

Join the teenager's board and ask Maryz what she recommends, among others!

I don't think you are being unfair, exactly, but it clearly isn't working for you or him, so you need to find another way to deal with the issues he has.

As for the whole being thrown out of a group business, well that IS his fault for allowing his poor behaviour to continue, causing you to follow through on your thread to remove his internet privileges. If he can't see that his behaviour is the root cause of his loss of group membership, then you need to somehow get him to understand that.

I have no idea how, I'm sorry sad

What does he want to do when he leaves school, does he have any ambition? can you tap into that somehow?

ReluctantBeing Tue 02-Apr-13 13:27:40

He has to WANT to do it for himself at his age.

Snoopingforsoup Tue 02-Apr-13 13:31:06

So sorry, it sounds like hell and I'm sure I have this to come!

It doesn't sound to me like you are being unreasonable. I'm sure some too tips will come your way from here soon...

Thumbwitch Tue 02-Apr-13 13:33:02 - here, this might be a good place to ask for help too. Less traffic of course but parents with experience. smile

Good luck.

allchocolatedout Tue 02-Apr-13 13:33:52

Sorry, shoudl have mentioned I have been on teenage board before, I wanted a wider perspective I suppose smile

Reluctant we have told him previously that it is up to him and really it is his choice, up until it impacts on us. The letters and phone calls have got to a ridiculous level - 3 letters in the last two post deliveries plus two calls last week (one for horrendous attitude to a teacher).

Not much ambition unfortunately. Knows the life he wants but has no idea on the job. He has been accepted to do Alevels at 6th form, reliant on grades and also a science course at college which he seems excited about, up until he has to do the work required to get there.

allchocolatedout Tue 02-Apr-13 13:36:34

I should also add - he makes me cuppas without being asked. Will babysit his younger brothers. Bought me a very thorughtful birthday present etc.

Most teachers think he is lovely, if not a challenge and mostly his behaviour is now fine. He is a prefect.

He seems quite lost and we are all trying to help, but throwing money and the internet at him just seems to make things worse.

Bridgetbidet Tue 02-Apr-13 13:37:37

Tell him if he's behaving like this he can leave school and take care of himself. Tell him to get a job, don't give him any money, any internet, any home comforts apart from basic food from which no choice is given. Don't make this easy for him so it's some kind of long school holiday.

Ideally if he gets a job kick him out to a bedsit. If not take a large portion of his earnings as housekeeping.

Basically give him a couple of years of REAL life with no qualifications working in shitty jobs and having no money. THEN discuss resits.

I think you may find he is more amenable after that.

allchocolatedout Tue 02-Apr-13 13:41:19

He can't leave school - he is in the first year that has to stay on. The resits are taken during year 11. They do a topic, then do the exam. If they don't get a high enough grade, they can do it again. I don't think that helps as it never seems to be that important to him as he always thinks he can do it again.

The worst bit is he seems so surprised when he does badly. Erm, you did no revision and your school books are empty. He has alwasy got away with just being clever. Unfortunately he doesn't seem to realise you need to learn the information first!

butterandbread157 Tue 02-Apr-13 13:44:43

Has he been involved in meetings in school, is he present, might be an idea to get him into meetings to hear that they do believe in him and want him to succeed, the reality of what failing these exams means etc? To make him feel that he is the one in control and he has to make the decisions.

I'm not sure what else you can do re incentives, make it a big one i.e. a holiday, a ticket for a gig in the summer/festival or a new phone once results are in (and passed!)??

Thumbwitch Tue 02-Apr-13 13:47:06

Ah sorry to refer you back to where you'd already been!

Some of what you're saying is ringing bells for me, because I was a bit like that - trouble was, I always managed to turn it around for the actual exam that mattered, so never really stressed myself doing the prelim work. Doesn't sound like your DS has grasped that he can no longer do this though.

Does his school have a school counsellor? Can he see the counsellor to see if there is any reason (apart from arrant laziness) that he's not got any incentive to do the work?

Bridgetbidet Tue 02-Apr-13 13:48:31

Sorry, I am not up on the rounds of exams. I assume that he is doing GCSEs and will be failing them at the end of this year? Are the resits in the middle rather than the end of the GCSE period? I'm not sure what you can do to prevent him failing his GCSEs altogether but if he does I would suggest, as I said, sending him out into the real world of work for a few years so he could see how the land would lie with no qualifications.

I did that and went back to uni in my mid twenties as I realized that a life without qualifications is a life being treated like shit.

Alternatively, is he practical? Do you think he might enjoy learning a trade, perhaps carpentry or plumbing or similar? You can get very well paid and go all over the world with them. Sometimes people who are not interested in academic things can do much better in that type of learning environment.

LittleMissSnowShine Tue 02-Apr-13 13:59:39

I don't have a teenager but I do work with 14 - 17 year olds who have been excluded from school, either because of behaviour, very poor attendance or substance misuse / addiction. The kind of behaviour we deal with runs the gamut from physically aggressive, disengaged, hostile, abusive or just very passive, lazy, taking no responsibility for completing work etc. and expecting everything to be spoon fed to them or handed to them. I'm afraid that it really is becoming more and more prevalent as a general behaviour among teenagers - I work in a small city and there's 6 such centres and we all have waiting lists, even though lots of local schools have specialist units on-site to deal with this kind of thing.

It's a very tough line to walk - of course it seems horrible to be so hard on a 16 year old, making them miss time with friends, not giving them any money etc. At the same time, it's obvious you really don't want to see your son throw away his opportunities and you do need to be consistent with him.

I wonder have you been able to get him to sit down and talk about what he wants to do next year? Does he want to stay on in school or go to 6th form college? Does he want to leave and try and get a minimum wage job? What about a trade - is he interested in mechanics, plumbing, anything like that? The bottom line is empowerment - if you can get your son to feel like his choices matter and that they have consequences to himself and to his future, you may get hm to start working harder in school or you may find that he admits that he's not interested and wants to do something more vocational next year. Either way it's important to be positive about his choices and supportive. You can't be expected to hand out money to him if he won't fill his end of the bargain to earn it, so is there a possibility he could get a Saturday job and then he will have to take some responsibility about showing up and doing what he's supposed to in order to get paid? Putting the power in his hands might put a new perspective on the situation so you feel more like a parent and less like a disciplinarian. Good luck!!

lecce Tue 02-Apr-13 14:04:40

This may not be a very popular view and I must say upfront my own dc are 3 &6, though I do teach teenagers. I am basing this suggestion on what my parents did with me.

It seems to me, you have ended up with two areas of conflict - the school issue and the chores. Which is the most important to you? I'm guessing it's the school-work, so why not let the chores go? I'm not saying you were UR to want him to do them in the first place, but it seems he hasn't responded well and you could think about cutting your losses.

My parents were of the opinion that, at 16, it was my job to do well at school, That and nothing else (well, I did make seemingly endless cups of tea, take the dog out and nip to the shop, but that was it - and that could all be avoided my saying I had homework to do).

I know that, having started that system, it would seem like giving in to drop the chores but it would just cut out one area of conflict. Could you sit him down and explain how all you want is for him to fulfil his potential and you just want to see him making a concerted effort to catch up. Once you see evidence that he is doing that, you will reintroduce some of his priviliges. Do his school operate a report system, and if so, is he on it? If he is, it is an easy way for you to keep track of how he is doing and adjust the perks he's allowed as a result.

Good luck - must be so frustrating to see him throwing opportunities away - I'm dreading this age!

allchocolatedout Tue 02-Apr-13 14:23:11

Sorry I am going to be an annoying drip feeder blush

He has been to the college ( he wanted to go with friends, not us) and found a colllege course that he seemed really excited about. He really wants to do it. He knows the results he needs. But that doesn't seem to be enough to make him do it.

He has done a little bit of revision today. But I really don't think he realises the amount of work that is now needed. He is probably now doing the level of work that was required in year 7.

We were both called to seee the head at the end of year 10 as he is someone likely not to achieve his potential. The head was great, said all the right things. It worked - for about 5 minutes.

He is on an intervention programme at school. He has a mentor. He has been lined up to see a counsellor. They are giving him one to one maths tuition, easter revision, after school revision. He has seen the head of year. heaf of KS4, plus all the teachers said the same thing at parents evening - 'you are very bright, with the bare minumum of work you can acieve B's - you are not even doing the bare minumum'

I honestly think he believes that the good results which magically appear and that we are all just getting at him. I think he believes he will be allowed on the course because he wants to do it.

We have tried the discussions about his future but he honestly has no idea what career he wants. He is not practical in any way, so unfortunately plumbking, electrics etc would not be for him.

It causes a lot of tension. DH (his stepfather) works very long hours and is very focussed and driven. DS is obviously not and DH doesn't see why he should hand him pocket money when he doesn't do his chores. I tend to agree, although also see the point that he is 16 and maybe we should concentrate on the school stuff.

His dad is a waster and does not provide for him. Contact is sporadic unfortunately. DS has been very sensible about his dad and has pointed out he does not want a life like his. He has seen where he could end up. But still cam't seemt o make himself do it and blames everyone else- well me and the teachers. Not DH or his dad.

My head may possibly explode very soon!

allchocolatedout Tue 02-Apr-13 14:24:14

Regarding the part time job - he has looked on a couple of websites (on family pc). Once. Can't really be bothered to do it again it seems.

neunundneunzigluftballons Tue 02-Apr-13 14:38:37

allchocolated out I cannot give any advice on having teenagers mine are too young but from my own teenage experience I think you need to hang back on the study front. My mother basically sat on me to study. I was bit like your lad it came pretty easy too but once I left home and went to university I had a melt down when it came to study. I really had never motivated myself to do it so I did not know how to. I plodded along for a while, a couple of sets of resits in I copped myself on and never looked back. I learned the valuable lesson that you son will hopefully learn too - you reap what you sow. As for the rest I think you are probably doing a great job, teenage son making you cups of tea and nice presents can't be bad parenting.

Cookingmonster Tue 02-Apr-13 14:40:28

I am not a mother of teens but I will be soon enough! I'm just wondering how he would react if you were to sit down with him and draft out a homework timetable then reward for each day completed rather than at the end of the week/ month. My parents did similar to me to move my lazy butt when I was in secondary school and it worked!
Good luck in whatever you decide!

allchocolatedout Tue 02-Apr-13 14:44:30

Actually cooking that is a good point. We have done it weekly / monthly etc but never daily. Hmmmmm good idea

butterandbread157 Tue 02-Apr-13 14:46:24

sounds like school and you are exhausting every option available.

As harsh as it sounds, you might need to let him fail? To give him a jolt? He does have to do the work to see results so you might just have to take a step back and let him make this mistake as hard as it will be to watch, knowing how capable he is.
I think you need to come to an agreement about saturday job, perhaps cut pocket money and he then has to get sat job to fund anything else he wants?

LittleMissSnowShine Tue 02-Apr-13 14:53:37

At the end of the day, from what you've said, at least he doesn't seem to be taking drugs, stealing cars, getting wasted 4 nights a week, selling drugs or involved in a gang. Lol i know those are the extreme cases but you honestly wouldn't believe the number of perfectly nice, hard working, sensible middle class parents who end up with teens in the centre I work in regardless of family background, whose kids are chronic dope smokers and are aggressive when challenged.

£40 a month isn't a huge amount of money to be handing out and he is at least making a half hearted effort with his chores, albeit grudgingly. My own parents had a similar system and if I wanted more money for clothes or going out with friends or concert tickets etc. then it was up to me to earn it. If I were you I'd stick to a smiliar line, give him some money just to cover basic expenses in return for basic compliance around the house.

The main issue is probably studying and hoping he'll pass his exams. The school (and you) sound like you're being really proactive and hard working with this - mentor, one to one tuition, holiday revision scheme etc. But at the end of the day, your DS has to take ownership over this and get his head down if he wants to get his exams. If he doesn't do this, he will fail or at best do a lot less well than he should have done. That's the tough bit for you, you have to basically put in place all the support systems you can (and from the list above it sounds like you have already done this), be firm about how much he can go out / how much internet access he has without actually grounding him or completely cutting him off and then you have to just leave it up to him and hope for the best. From sixteen onwards, you can offer support, guidance, advice and encouragement but you can't do the work for him and as others have said up the thread, maybe once he sees the kind of jobs and lifestyle that are open to him without any qualifications he'll maybe return to education with a more positive attitude.

Again, good luck!!!

blobandsnail Tue 02-Apr-13 15:10:31

I'm sorry I'm going to be honest here and say YABVU. Your son is 16 he is no longer a small child so stop treating him like one. If he doesn't want to learn, revise or pass his exams you can't make him.

I was very much like your son at 16. I am very intelligent but gave up with school by the time GCSE's came around. School bored me. I find academic work very easy and I lose interest in it easily. I got 4 GCSE'S at grades A-C(in English maths and science). I got these because a week or so before the exams, I realised that if I was going to sit them I may as well get the useful ones and sat down and memorised revision guides for the core subjects. But I had to realise this myself. My parents were never involved and never nagged me. They treated me as the adult I was. As ultimately if I failed it was me that would have to deal with it. I then woke up to the world and realised if I wanted to do anything I had to play the education game and put up with attending college I resat some GCSE'S and moved on to A levels. I still get bored by academic work. But failing my GCSE's in the eyes of everyone else was a shock to my system. As an intelligent person I had always been treated as a success, but by failing I felt something completely different. I felt judged and I hated it. It made me change myself. The best piece of advice someone ever gave me was "you have to fail to succeed" and I think it's really true. Until you fail you don't realise how much you want to succeed and how working for it is worth it.

Leave your son alone and he'll work it out for himself. If he wants to move on and study something else after GCSE'S he'll soon realise what he needs to do and if he doesn't and he wants to do something that doesn't require GCSE'S then what's all the fuss about anyway?

HairyGrotter Tue 02-Apr-13 15:11:37

You have literally written about me circa 1996/97. I was EXACTLY the same, bright, but failing. I sat some GCSE's but barely scraped anything.

I am now in my final year of uni, on course for a 1st. You have to let him go make the mistakes. Education IS important, but it's not the be all and end all. It will be there for him later if he so chooses to do it.

He has to learn his own path. You have supported him, and the school, it is now his choice to either buck up or fuck up.

Ponyinthepool Tue 02-Apr-13 15:21:19

Does he have any hobbies or interests that he does throw himself into with intensity?

Kids with inattentive ADD typically have school reports saying 'lazy, doesn't live up to potential, I would look into that for starters.

I'd also take him for a session with a psychiatrist or an industrial psychologist to see what's going on - its not normal for anyone to feel demotivated to this level, there will be something afoot and you're right to be worried.

I would also try using the carrot not the stick. The stick isn't working, and if he makes you tea and buys you thoughtful presents its a sign he's strongly motivated by making you happy.

Lovestosing Tue 02-Apr-13 15:32:58

I'm afraid I feel the same as butterandbread OP, it seems as if you have done everything you can to try to motivate your DS, and I applaud you for that, it must be really hard to impose sanctions on a teenager. What else can you do? He just isn't responding to anything do just let him sink or swim.
I'd make it clear to him that you are willing to give him whatever help he needs regarding his studies but you are no longer going to push him into doing his work. He is old enough now to know what he should be doing in order to gain good grades. It is very easy to bury ones head in the sand at his age, I know I did. I think a massive dose of cold, hard reality may be the only thing that makes him realise.

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