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Help - Need Santions that REALLY work for 14 yr old DS!

(27 Posts)
missprocrastinate Tue 19-Mar-13 13:13:31

Hi everyone, I'm at my wits end with my 14 yr old DS. His attitude sucks, he's surly and grumpy most of the time (typical "Kevin"), but more importantly, his behaviour is getting worse.

Since Year 3 he's always wanted to be the "class clown" and we've constantly told him there is a time and place for silly behaviour - in the playground, NOT the classroom.

However, this is obviously a trait that he can't shake off and he's constantly getting "sin" points at school mainly for low level disruptive behaviour (although in some instances they have been a little more serious). I've worked out that on average, since Sept, he's been getting around 13 sin points per month as opposed to 7 achievement points (gold stars).

He goes to a v.good school and his teachers all think he has the potential to do well. We're not pushy parents, but we want to encourage him to do his best. However, he just does the "bare minimum" and isn't willing to put in any extra effort. Just trying to get him to do his homework/revision results in a row! Some days I dread him coming home because I know there will be a row - I'm tired of it all! It's mainly me that has to deal with it all the time due to DH's work, but he does support me when he's here.

As a result of his bad behaviour, we have done various sanctions such as banning TV, video games, grounding him, withdrawing mobile phone for 24hrs, etc. However, I don't think we've found anything that actually gets through to him - is there such a sanction that will?!

For example, if I tell him he's lost his XBox for 24hrs, I just get a moutful of attitude from him - not a "sorry"! There's never any remorse. He's so argumentative and can't see that he's doing anything wrong. We take into consideration the fact that he's a typical teenage boy with raging hormones (puberty kicked in early), but I don't feel this is an excuse for all of this.

I'm really worried that he's just not going to pull his weight enough with his school work and won't get the results he needs.

I'd appreciate any advice from other parents about this as I'm getting so fed up with it now.

chocoluvva Thu 21-Mar-13 10:15:13

I agree with Flow4 about the probable consequences of meting out more and more severe sanctions. This has been my experience with my DC. It ends up that they have nothing to lose and they direct their energies to doing battle with their parents.

If you can mange to appear to ignore smaller 'sins' you will have more effect when you do express your annoyance.

"his teachers all think he has the potential to do well". Did he do well before starting at this school? Boys aged 13-15 often go through a patch where they mess about at school then settle down when they approach important exams. As Flow says, he might have a problem with the demands of sitting doing highly directed 'pencil and paper' tasks, but it may be that there he has an underlying insecurity in himself as ILoveJudgeJudy says.

I would agree 100% with ILoveJudgeJudy about not doubling the sanctions he gets at school when he's home. You will damage your relationship with him if you ask him too many questions about his school day and give the impression that school is the most important thing in your lives. Demonstrate, in a low-key way, that you are proud of him when he's kind/not making a fuss/humourous/anything that you spot.

IloveJudgeJudy Thu 21-Mar-13 01:23:36

We have two DSs, 18 and 14. DS1 was a bit like this until it came to a head at school. We asked for a meeting with HoY who told him that the reason he was not in the top sets was due to his behaviour, not to his capability. That stopped him short. In fact, he stopped misbehaving almost immediately.

Also, he and I talk a lot and I had said to him that his friends were saying that they didn't do the homework that was set and didn't do any revising, but they did really. He came to realise that. He came to realise that the only person he was hurting by all this clowning about was himself. Others were very happy to laugh at him and egg him on, but they weren't the ones that were having sanctions.

He became mature enough to realise all this.

I do sympathise, as it's very hard, but I would only punish him at home for what happens at home. Don't punish him for stuff that happens at school (unless it's really unacceptable, like swearing at an adult or hitting someone). I've quickly skim-read your OP again and it seems as though nearly all the problems begin at school and his attitude is because you are applying sanctions for school-based misbehaviour.

flow4 Wed 20-Mar-13 17:54:30

I understand (and have felt) the frustration that leads parents to raise the punishments over and over again... Ground him for the weekend!... Didn't work? Well, ground him for a week!... Didn't work? Ah - ground him for a month!... Didn't work? So - ground him for a year! Take away his phone, his consoles, his worldly goods! angry

Teenagers are absolutely bloody maddening!!

But seriously. Stop and think. Think about the impact of their bad behaviour on you. Then think about the impact of even attempting to enforce a year-long lock down and sanctions-war...

What on earth could they possibly have done that's worse than the impact of such sanctions (even if you could enforce them)?!

If you tried, you would create a stressful, miserable, intolerable life - not just for them, but for every family member, including you. And why on earth would you do that?

And once they are bigger than you, if you are locked into this kind of power battle, you are - frankly - totally stuffed. If you choose to fight them, they will fight you back and - the very, very uncomfortable truth is this - they will win.

Your only chance is to use your brain.

I realised a deeply unsettling truth about three years ago: if you rule out violence (which I hope all of us here do) then discipling teenagers depends on their co-operation.

Terrifying, isn't it?

But I'm afraid it's true.

Once your teenager shows you they are not going to co-operate with the sanctions you impose, you have a brief opportunity to persuade them that it is in their own best interests to step back into line. You get just a few goes at it: Refuse to co-operate with this weekend's grounding? Right, well then, you'll lose this week's money and be grounded next weekend too.

Give it a go. Of course most of us are giving our teenagers plenty of perks, and they know they've got plenty to lose... Many of them will step back into line... smile

But if your teen continues to fight you, and/or as soon as you raise the stakes so that is no longer in their interests to co-operate (and a year's grounding is definitely beyond that point), then you have to change the game. You've lost control of them; and you will struggle, unless and until you can get them to control themselves.

This is a bit of a diversion from misspro's original post (sorry blush ) . My earlier post should make it clear that I personally think this is a school problem, and 'sanctions' aren't needed at all, or likely to work.

But even if they were, 'extreme sanctions' certainly wouldn't. Which is why parents don't actually tend to use them. Except in their fantasies. hmm grin

Really, if there are any hard-liners out there: stop trying to control your teens past the point where they refusing to co-operate, because you cannot succeed; instead, help them learn to control themselves.

>> folds up soapbox and carries it away <<

specialsubject Wed 20-Mar-13 15:41:30

if they really need a phone, Tesco sell them for £10. it makes phone calls and sends texts, and is on a cheap pay as you go.

no camera, no internet etc. No child needs mobile internet.

really light to carry and battery lasts for ages. I love mine!

nickstmoritz Wed 20-Mar-13 15:19:09

mungo have you had success with this? I think DCs do need a phone even though I am happy to take it away at bedtime. Saying you are going to take things away for a year sounds a bit hysterical. But good to have all suggestions in the ring.

mungotracy Wed 20-Mar-13 14:51:01

Give real sanctions and enfoce them......Stop giving in remove his mobile for a whole year. NO child needs one. Mean it Do it. Dont give it back. Give him three warnings...... same with X box...then all consols gone for a year. Actually doing things works takiing away a phone till tomorrow doesnt. If he cannot behave supervise him.... Pick him up in person from every activity and at the school gates.. in front of his friends....

nickstmoritz Wed 20-Mar-13 14:42:27

Flow I agree with you. DD2 is a classic kinaesthetic learner. Luckily I realised this at a fairly early stage and it was discussed on a course I went on for dyslexia so that confirmed it to me. DD is going to do PE, dance and drama as her options which does raise a few eyebrows (from other parents in.. oh she must not be very clever!) actually she is at a state girls grammar and is fairly bright but it doesn't bother me - doing those active subjects will have a positive impact on the sit down study type lessons.

OP sorry you are having a hard time with DS, unfortunately his behaviour sounds pretty common. If you have had the chats, offered to help etc then in the end it is up to him. He knows the consequences of not putting in any effort and you mustn't blame yourself. What does he want to do after GCSE's? it can help to look at the options - colleges, 6th form etc if he sees something that he wants to do it might motivate him. He might need certain grades to do the course/A levels that he wants so might make him buck up. As long as he knows all this then tbh I would leave it at that. If you don't let the school side stress you out you might feel less stressed with him at home and can back off. I know it is hard believe me, I have to bite my lip sometimes (and do a great nag myself).

flow4 Wed 20-Mar-13 13:40:09

Wow Sanity, I'm so pleased you found the link helpful, and thank you for the compliments smile I'm not sure that I'm exactly wise, but after 18 years of parenting, and learning from my mistakes, I'm wiser!

SanityClause Wed 20-Mar-13 09:11:24

Thank you so much for that flow4 .

I often see you posting on here, and you seem so wise. That link is really going to help my DC. I feel so excited about it, and I am going to find out more about it. (I have that teary sort of feeling you get when you have had a revelation!)

thanks thanks thanks thanks thanks and wine for good measure!

breadandbutterfly Wed 20-Mar-13 08:58:06

Agree with the carrot. Utimately, he needs to do homework because he wants to and getting good results will help him achieve what he wants. You can help by clarifying the links between what he does now and future achievement/success eg talking through what he wants to do (or not do) and what impact his behaviour now will have on his ;life (not yours). As ong as he thinks he's doing homework to please you or his teachers, rather than benefit himself, it will always be an uphill struggle.

Him seeing you as the enemy, forcing him to do 'hard work' is not likely to make him knuckle down to it - it just becomes a pointless battle of wills.

Offer help, support (incl in organising his time), so better to let him earn screen time by doing what he needsto do first, than punishing him when he fails to do it.

I say that knowing how hard it is - am trying to remember this with my dd who is big on attitude - trying to remember that it's better she fails and learns a lesson from it than that I make her do it and she sees it as my responsibility...

flow4 Tue 19-Mar-13 23:18:16

You're welcome. It's a bit of a bug-bear of mine. blush This happened to my son, and I didn't realise it - despite the fact that I am a qualified teacher, and spent years teaching on an Access course in an FE college which was filled with people who had had this kind of experience at school... sad

missprocrastinate Tue 19-Mar-13 22:12:18

Thanks again guys. All advice really appreciated.

Flow4 - thanks for such a lengthy and detailed reply. There could be something to what you're saying. He does tend to enjoy creative subjects more ( he prefers a more hands on approach to his work). I shall look into this in more detail.


chocoluvva Tue 19-Mar-13 20:45:15

Sometimes a carrot works better.....

Class clowns often lack confidence despite their apparently extrovert natures - he might be doing it for attention or because he thinks he needs to act outrageously to win friends, which is sad - he must have a low opinion of himself. Also, it's probably a hard habit to break.

"I dread him coming home because I know there will be a row - I'm tired of it all". Your sanctions aren't working and he's getting older - it will get harder and harder to influence his behaviour in this way.

Avoid asking him lots of questions about his school work/behaviour. Ask him how he is instead and ignore his surliness as far as possible unless it's downright rude. Ignore mutterings and grumblings and drop everything to listen to him when he is talking to you.

IME 14 and 15 are the most difficult years. My sympathies - I had NO idea that the teen years would be soooo difficult.

flow4 Tue 19-Mar-13 20:06:22

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like most of the problems are school-related, and the problems you have with your DS at home arise because you are 'on his back' about his behaviour and achievement at school... Which is perfectly understandable, but possibly not an approach that will actually work.

I'd be willing to bet that he is one of a largish minority of kids who learn through doing (known as 'kinaesthetic', 'activist' or 'experiential' learners), and who are not well-served by a school system that expects them to sit still and listen. This is to do with how their brains are wired - how they naturally learn - though many children like this do learn to adapt...

Kids like this find sitting still very difficult, and really someone ought to be teaching them maths (say) by getting them to build a wall: count, weigh, measure the bricks, mix the mortar, learn angles for corners, develop engineering skills if they're especially bright, etc... But instead they'll be expected to work from theoretical examples in textbooks that mean nothing to them and don't engage them. And when they can't and don't, they get into trouble...

IMO, schools punish a lot of kids because they simply can't offer them learning opportunities that suit them. If you think back 30-40 years, to times when left-handed children were punished for using their left hands, you'll get the idea... sad

Some stop trying altogether, and some start to behave badly. Bright kids get especially bored, and often engage in low-level disruption because of it. It can also be pretty puzzling for them, because they know they're bright, and yet they find what they're being asked to do difficult, and they don't understand why. What's more, they're often discouraged from doing the practical subjects they would enjoy more, because they're bright (and we have this weird academic/vocational divide in our education system hmm ), and pushed to do more 'academic' subjects - then criticised when they don't do especially well.... It's frustrating, and some of them get quite angry and alienated, which then leads to further bad behaviour, and can turn into a really negative 'vicious circle'.

If this sounds like your son, then the chances are that's the root of your problem. He can't help how his brain works, and it's not his fault the English education system doesn't meet his needs; and even if he's not consciously aware of the problem, at some level he'll think it's unfair that he gets into trouble.

If he is also getting into trouble from you - his mum and dad - the people who ought to be 'on his side' - then he's likely to be quite angry with you.

Those of us with kids like this can tie ourselves in terrible knots, because we want our DCs to do well, and we feel we ought to back up the school if our kids are being disruptive. But it's not always the best approach... About a year ago, someone here on MN (and sadly, I can't remember who) said something wise about schools: they pointed out that our relationship with a DC's school only goes on for a few years (7 at most); whereas our relationship with our DC goes on and on for ever. It is simply not worth letting problems at school get in the way of your relationship with your child.

Of course, even if we campaigned to change the education system to suit kids like ours, it won't be done in time to help your son... And you probably don't really want to change your son (or not very much! wink ) just to suit the system.

You will have realised by now that I don't think the 'sanctions approach' will work. In fact you know it doesn't work, because you've been using it, without success!

Instead, IMO, you need to help him learn techniques to cope with a school system that doesn't suit him...

In my own case, I didn't work out what was going on until my son was already angry and disengaged - under-achieving in his GCSEs and trying to drop out of education... sad But if I had the time again, I'd do this, and I suggest you try it with you son...

- Help him identify his learning style (if he hasn't already) using info like this
- Help him understand that if he's a kinaesthetic/activist learner, that's not something he chooses, it's how his brain is wired.
- Help him understand school activities aren't very well suited to learners like this, so he has to learn to adapt...
- Help him identify ways he can do things and be active without getting into trouble... Twiddling toes inside shoes? Writing more and faster?!
- Help to negotiate with the school about useful coping strategies - will they let him fiddle with a lump of blu-tack while he's listening, for instance? ('Fiddling' has been shown to help concentration and learning for kinaesthetic learners).
- Support him to manage frustration and anger generally. He'll probably experience a lot of it.
- Help him understand he'll probably enjoy practical subjects more than theoretical ones, because of the way they're taught, not because of how clever he is.
- Make sure he's involved in as many sports and practical activities as possible, to sort of 'balance out' the sitting still he has to do.
- Help him understand he'll have to work harder at concentrating, listening, reading and sitting still than many other pupils; being a kinaesthetic learner doesn't 'let him off the hook'! But because he's working harder, he needs breaks and rewards! Agree what these will be! smile Rewards for managing not to get into trouble area good idea, I think. smile

It's got to be worth a try, hasn't it?! grin

Madamecastafiore Tue 19-Mar-13 16:25:56

Whatever you do - do not argue back - put up your hand, say quite sternly - 'it's non negotiable' and walk away - never, ever argue. There is no need - you are in charge and they are not going to acheive anything by arguing with you - ARE THEY????

missprocrastinate Tue 19-Mar-13 14:04:56

Hi Startail, I really like your suggestion & I'm all for this type of method. We have tried similar approaches in the past but I honestly think he doesn't give a sh*t how we feel!

However, I think DH & I need to discuss with DS a suitable "action plan" to get through this.

Thanks everyone.

Startail Tue 19-Mar-13 13:50:41

There is a good chapter on talking rather than punishing in "how to talk to teens, so teens will listen"

It's a bit ££, but your library might have it.

I can't remember it exactly, but it's along the lines of explains how his behaviour makes you feel, stating expectations and thrashing out an action plan without knee jerk sanctions. Can't remember exactly, but it seemed very sensible.

My 15y DD is stupidly good and my 12 y just gets sent to her room and reminded that the taxi driver goes in strike if she insults it.

Living in the middle of nowhere is very handy grin

missprocrastinate Tue 19-Mar-13 13:38:08

Wow, thanks for coming back so quickly. He doesn't have his video games in his room (we have a rule of no TV's etc in bedrooms) - his games are set up on TV in front room.

I try not to argue back with him, but it's v hard. I stand my ground as much as poss - I firmly believe that once a sanction has been imposed you have to follow it through and I do.

Some good ideas here - thanks. Colditz, I like your suggestion about him keeping his sin points below a certain level each week otherwise he loses stuff. That could work as it gives him an incentive as well.

Thanks again - any other suggestions all welcome.

anotheryearolder Tue 19-Mar-13 13:34:18

Have you discussed why he clowns around in class?
When I did with DS he replied that his friends egged him on and he liked making them laugh. We had a long chat and I pointed out that HE was the one getting into trouble and his friends were letting him entertain them and then letting HIM take the rap.
He burst into tears but it did change him

I did warn him that one more detention and his xbox would go.For ever !
Is he getting enough sleep ? I turn the internet off at 10pm and its really helped with tired/grumpiness.

I agree withSoup mouthing off gets a longer ban !

dietstartsmonday Tue 19-Mar-13 13:32:55

I ahve stripped my daughters room, and have to say its done nothing really. Slight improvement for a day then back to attitude. She is 12 and i am at wits end

colditz Tue 19-Mar-13 13:22:32

And yes, strip his room. He has the right to a warm bed, his clothes, and toiletries, but everything else in there is a privilege.

colditz Tue 19-Mar-13 13:21:23

Hmmm. How about taking the emotion out of it, and making him earn all his electrical time?

So he has to keep his sin points below two a week, or he loses Internet access for the next week. If they go to three or above, he also loses his phone, to be replaced if absolutely necessary with a seven year old Nokia.

Madamecastafiore Tue 19-Mar-13 13:19:06

Do you argue with him when he gets argumentative or just ignore and carry on.

I find telling children once what sanctions are and then refusing to get drawn into any discussion works the best.

Have you tried removing everything from his room and just leaving bed and clothes and toiletries. A friend did this to her 14 year old and it shocked his so much he started towing the line.

SoupDreggon Tue 19-Mar-13 13:17:03

I once made an "XBox for sale" poster when DS1 had lost his orthodontic brace twice in a month with no effort made to find it. That focussed his mind a little.

SoupDreggon Tue 19-Mar-13 13:16:04

If my 14 yo DS gives me attitude when his XBox privileges are removed I add another 24 hours to the ban. He generally does apologise at some point (although not always sincerely or swiftly!)

However, he's my one "easy" child out of three so I suspect future teenagers may prove more difficult.

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