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How can I give my 11 year old a "childhood"; in London. What can we do?

(126 Posts)
Quinteszilla Wed 26-Mar-14 10:23:22

Please dont get me wrong. I am an adult, I grew up in a different world, in a different time, where kids were kids and roamed free, and where school and homework was a natural part of life. I never questioned things much at that age, I went with "the flow". I also did what my parents told me to do.

I struggle with our 11 year old. We are in London where kids dont roam free, and where you dont just go knock on somebodys door to play or hang out.

I honestly dont know what to do! He comes home from school, is knackered, sits in front of his pc and aimlessly go between minecraft, and youtube videos. He seems obsessed with shooting games, bb guns, guns, and we found him looking at some gory stuff yesterday where people were impaled. He had found a reference to this on a Fails video.

He has a strong will. I cannot "make" him do anything. I struggle to get him to stop playing games, struggle to get him to do homework, he has lost interest in the trampoline, his skateboard, lego mindstorm, wont read books, not interested in good programs on tv. Nothing. Everything is a battle. I fight with him over homework until last minute where he suddenly blows a fuse because he had not done homework. I am incredulous, because I have told him Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday that he has a special homework in for Wednesday, and on tuesday night all hell breaks out because he is frustrated that he has not done it and he will get detention. I tell him he will take the consequences and get detention, and he freaks out.

What am I supposed to do? All weekend was spent on minecraft. I could not get him off that game. In the end I and ds2 went out without him, and just left him at home. He baked an apple crumble on his own, which he eventually binned without letting us have any, because we did not eat it straight away after dinner. We were watching Top Gear together, and he made a point of not watching because we were asking him to join us.
DH took them swimming on Sunday, and he refused to come, so dh left him behind with me. I was supposed to use the time he was away to study, and with ds1 home I couldnt. I tried to get him to do homework, he wouldnt.

He is too big to lift him off his chair and carry him out.

He is refusing to do everything and anything we ask of him, and shouts and screams if we try to restrict his minecraft.

I honestly wish we could afford to send him to boarding school. I have tried so hard to create a happy family life, and I am so drained by him.

I have not bothered to NC, so please go easy on me as I am feeling really fragile about this whole parenting lark.

oscarwilde Fri 28-Mar-14 16:09:09

Rather him than me. Bleurgh. hates poetry and bananas grin

Quinteszilla Fri 28-Mar-14 13:26:42

We are doing banana muffins this weekend. So I have been told! grin

No seriously, they have done work on Wilfred Owen, a soldier who was also a poet, in addition to Shelley. They are miles ahead.

oscarwilde Fri 28-Mar-14 13:20:02

I grew up in Ireland where you start secondary school rising 13 rather than 11. Everything was (and probably still is) much more rote learning and "churning facts back out" at that level. If someone had given me "turn of the century poets" out of the blue to discuss at 11 I would have really, really struggled and that's as a grade A english student.

The Irish system at second level was for me, much the same as primary insofar as it is fact based rather than discursive and encouraging independent thought. I really struggled when I started university as a result whereas the A level system here is much more university like in it's approach from what I can gather. I am very taken aback at the work he is being set at 11 though. I am clearly going to have to kick my brain back into gear by the time my kids hit that age.

Run/cycle and possibly cook grin Crumble making should be encouraged at all times !

Quinteszilla Fri 28-Mar-14 12:17:49

You are right oscarwilde , I feel utterly miserable when I feel something is above my head (currently doing an MBA and struggling with Method and connecting my proposed research topic) so I can only imagine how he feels.

I am leaning towards a tutor. A young male would be perfect, I can sort of imagine running in the park, and having a discourse on English turn of the century poets. (for him, not me) Sort of like an older "buddy" who can run/cycle with him, and help him get to grips with English.

oscarwilde Fri 28-Mar-14 11:21:38

OP - I find your last post really revealing.
He's upset about his French score = he's used to being a high achiever in school and is coming down to earth with a bump in his new school.
He started school earlier than his peer group in Norway = he was quite possibly ahead of his class in some areas as a result, and is used to being a high achiever.
Struggling with subject where independent thought etc. You mentioned his ethics homework up thread somewhere and I was shock for an 11 yo to receive homework at this level. Add in a schooling gap, different teaching approach and a gap in his English and it's not a big surprise that he's a bit miserable. As an adult I'd be stressed and miserable if I started a new job in an area I was used to doing well in and found I was not achieving and actively finding it a real struggle. Had a similar experience after mat leave returning to find that my brain matter appeared to have died.
I really am no expert, but I think the English tutor suggestion is good. Particularly if you could get someone to mix it up and take him out for a few hours on a Saturday morning (fresh brain) sometimes (depending on the topic) so it is more discursive?

The only other suggestion I would make is has he tried indoor climbing? Fab fun (for everyone actually), particularly appeals to boys, there's usually a good social scene with it, it's a safe warm indoor environment in the depths of winter with no booze (thinking a few years down the line). Quite a few centres will do a teaching session as part of a birthday party for a few hours too.

MavisG Thu 27-Mar-14 16:04:23

Could a tutor not do his homework with him?

mummytime Thu 27-Mar-14 11:15:33

If he is willing to have a tutor and you can find a good one (I could do with a good English Tutor they seem even harder than Maths ones), then I would go for it. My DD sees her Maths tutor once a week (and is a very busy little thing anyway), and it has totally turned things around. At the beginning of the year she was worried she would pass Maths GCSE now she plans to take A'level and loves Algebra.

One hour intense tuition is worth more than hours of struggling over homework.

Quinteszilla Thu 27-Mar-14 09:46:52

Thanks all.

Yesterday evening was pretty good and normal. He came home happy with an 80% score on his maths, upset about a 66% score in French, but generally happy. Went to kickboxing on the bus by himself, and keen to find out more about sea cadets. He only did 30 minutes of minecraft after homework was done, and we watched the rest of Gandhi, which shook him. From glorifying war, seeing innocent people, and children killed and injured so unfairly made an impact. It feels like really murky waters to paddle through.

Smerlin thanks for your input. I have already had a chat with head of pastoral care and his form tutor about him struggling with some of the subjects where independent thought and analysis is required. Mostly because he is not used to education this way, as he has been used to remembering facts and churning them back out. But even more because his education has been topics based, with geography and history facts mixed in. Also, he has a gap in his schooling from spending three years in Norway, where they dont start school until the age of six, so he went from London Y1 to start fresh in Norway, then jump from Norwegian Y3 to London Y5. He has been working really hard to catch up, but it is hard, and some things you just cant get overnight, like his English, which is his worst subject. I am hesitant to get him a tutor as his days are already so long, I dont want to overdo it. I just want him to not battle me over homework.

cottonwoolmum Wed 26-Mar-14 19:30:41

LOL Joni. You sound like a very practical mum!

Smerlin Wed 26-Mar-14 19:09:58

Quinteszilla I am Head of Year at a secondary school so here's what I would suggest from the perspective of dealing with lots of 11/12 year old boys rather than as a Mum.

* work out how to set parental controls on PC yourself/be prepared to take power cord away
* decide on your 'rules' about when homework is going to be done and how PC time will be granted afterwards and stick to them. If he doesn't do it when you specify, do not help him another time, let him take the detentions and don't allow PC time. He will scream and shout of course but you have to not give in and then he will learn you mean business.
* speak to your son's FT/HOY. Lots of Y7s really struggle with the enormous hwk burden at secondary and need guidance from school and home on how to manage it. Knowing you are all working together and singing from the same hymn sheet will help. While having this meeting, you could also go through the after sch activities timetable together and see if he fancies anything. If things get really bad, they can give him targets on a Pastoral Support Plan so he gets extra support with homework
* I would be very surprised if your son's school didn't give access to PCs for hwk purposes at break/after school for those without computers at home.

It sounds to me like you are feeling worn down by it all and seeing the situation as hopeless - it really doesn't sound it but I think you need to be super firm and consistent- this is a massive age for testing boundaries!

Sorry for the essay but hope some of it helps!

andsmile Wed 26-Mar-14 18:50:46

Have you share how he is making you feel when he is angry and destructive. Didnt someone on here write a quirky note and pin on the door (think the idea is from a book about getting kids to listen)

The note was all tough, but funny at the same time.

Have you offered for him to have some people over or a sleep over or chaperone a cinema visit (sorry by DS is 8 so not sure of 11 get chaperoned at arms length?) Would these help with friendship thing?

Get your DH on board - what has he said? Do they miss him as you alluded to this up thread.

<dreads angsty hormone stage face>

Good luck OP

BeCool Wed 26-Mar-14 15:48:43

I'm pretty sure if you started to seriously mess with his online time he would start to listen to you and do his homework.

BeCool Wed 26-Mar-14 15:46:00

Quint I just had a look on the BT website (my router is from BT) and you can actually block certain websites used by individual IP addresses and also time limit them. So you could block your DS from Mine craft on his laptop/ipad/phone for example, and then once he has done his homework you could allow him X hours on these sites for the rest of the week.

You can also block his access to the wifi entirely for chosen hours - say from 9pm till the morning which might help with his sleep.

I'm not techy but it doesn't look hard to do and I'm pretty sure other routers will function the same way.

An IT person told me about this in a www safety meeting at our school recently.

bigTillyMint Wed 26-Mar-14 15:39:00

Easter is nearly here, so he hasn't long to wait for the skiing trip and that will surely help with bonding.

They do need their dads, don't they? DS would be bereft if DH wasn't around as much as usual.

Driveway Wed 26-Mar-14 15:15:26

What about a cooking class? If he chose to make a crumble in his free time he might enjoy it?

jonicomelately Wed 26-Mar-14 15:04:04

Remove the lightbulbs!

cottonwoolmum Wed 26-Mar-14 14:44:12

joni - how do you increase their sleep? They desperately need sleep but get 8.5 hours max on school nights (ages 11 and 12.) Unless I stood like a matron checking their lights were out between 9 and 10.30 pm, it just doesn't happen. they switch off the lights when I go downstairs then the lights go back on again.

btw - I like Joni's idea of getting DS to fix the problem: asking what would make it easier for him to get it done, or what can he think of that he'd enjoy. If you shoulder all the responsibility Quint, you feel the guilt if it doesn't work. But it could be shared.

Quinteszilla Wed 26-Mar-14 14:36:16

DH is usually available at weekends, it is just the last month he has been very busy and not really present. Interesting coincidence though.
I guess it shows that he needs to be present, the boys need him.

jonicomelately Wed 26-Mar-14 14:33:10

It sounds like you and your DH have a lot on your plate at the moment! I'm sure you can sort out your DS's problems. Don't forget to ask him what he thinks he could do to improve things. What's making him unhappy. What would he like to do at weekens (other than the dreaded computer). You seem to be taking a lot of it on yourself. Your DH and even your DS should be given a role in trying to resolve the situation. Best of luck.

Quinteszilla Wed 26-Mar-14 14:26:48

Joni, he just started a new job, so he cant take time off now.

He is going skiing with the school in Easter, hopefully will make more friends. They are also going on a history trip for May half term.

Dh and ds1 will join me and ds2 for Easter at my dads, where there will be more opportunities for skiing and meeting old friends.

I honestly cant wait for Easter holidays. This is not helped by me doing an MBA, and I start a grueling schedule of exams after Easter. Roll on summer!

jonicomelately Wed 26-Mar-14 14:18:53

As an alternative to the Manny (a concept I've never heard the likes of before) what about your DH taking a bit of time off work? Could they go away somewhere together over the Easter holidays.

thesaurusgirl Wed 26-Mar-14 14:10:33

Challenging authority figures at that age is quite cool - he's probably really enjoying making you feel miserable.

I think the Manny thing works because of the age gap being smaller - they're not "in charge", they're a big brother figure.

Have a word with the school - I bet there's someone sensible in the Sixth Form who would bloody love a holiday job at £10 an hour before university.

squizita Wed 26-Mar-14 14:04:44

Quint re "It is mostly Ethics, or geography if it is really difficult." ring the school and see if they have subject-specific H/W clubs - just let them know he's doing his H/W except for these two.
Most schools have something in place to support younger kids with subjects they find hard. Who knows, the social element might be helpful too?

Quinteszilla Wed 26-Mar-14 14:01:57

castles I think I remember! The thing is, there are lots of great boys, and he mentions many names, form tutor tells me he is never lonely and always seen in a group of boys. I think the problem is the transition from school friend to friend you also bring home. He is the only one from his old primary, and many of his year group know eachother from before, so I reckon they would more easily pair up at home with kids they have known a while. He is skyping with old classmates.

I have just noticed a couple of boys on our street, I think they came off the bus from H, but I am hoping he might bump into them and make friends this summer.

I do appreciate your suggestion, it is very kind of you.

fs2013 Wed 26-Mar-14 13:59:13

"The computer. Yes. How can I restrict minecraft and Youtube at will, and only enable when I want to"?

You stand next/near to him and make sure he's doing his homework not going on minecraft or youtube. If he does (that blatantly in front of you) you unplug the computer and try again later when he's had his sulk and you can talk to him. In the meantime you make sure there's nothing else fun around and tell him you will not let the homework matter drop until he does it. You have to win the battle or he will do what he wants. Besides as those things are such a problem I would ban him from them for at least a week or 2 anyway to teach him some perspective.

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