Should I enforce this punishment or am I being mean?(55 Posts)
I'm not sure what to do.
DS has just done his DofE camping weekend. He got back on Sunday about 12 and had a massive strop at me because I had had the temerity to leave the house and he didn't have his key and hadn't called ahead. Hung up on me. He had to wait 15 minutes and was in a strop. We had bought him all new stuff (walking shoes etc.). He had all day SUnday to recover, ate a huge dinner, said he was shattered etc. On Monday morning he refused to get out of bed, declared he had a temp, he didn't. then he said it was just that his muscles were aching. I told him that while I sympathised, he should still go to school. He refused point blank to get out of bed. I said I would dock him a week of his pocket money if he didn't go. He said he didn't care and didn't go.
Am I being mean? My mother always made me go to school unless I was actually ill.
For background, he is not my son, he is my DH's nephew who has been with us for 3 years.
That's very impressive.
(I don't know if I'd have been up for DofE at the age of 17 either. The physical activity would have had to be table tennis and the skill would have had to be driving-my-mum-mad-with-worry!)
Chocca if I may boast, for his DofE he's learning Spanish (tutor every week) as the skill and doing the scuba diving course as at the physical activity. So much more than I would have done at his age!
mamateur I haven't read any of your other threads but I'm really impressed that he's doing the DofE.
And I completely agree with Maryz about 13-15/16 being the most difficult stage.
I take my hat off to you for taking in your DN - I was anxious about the possibility of having to have my DN (16) for just the weekends in term time!
I know how difficult it is when other adults are undermining too - just awful. You can't say anything in front of DN. He will increasingly appreciate the support you've given him as he gets older.
My parents still blanche when they talk about 'me at 15'. I remember it felt like solid PMT.
Thanks for your post Maryz, I think he does know I'm on his side
I think I need to relax really. The first two years were so intense - a depressed, angry, confused 12-13 year old, a partner who against all expectation stepped back and left me to it and the granny who undermined me and sided against me with him. The problem was always more about the circumstances than DN who has pretty much risen to every challenge and listened more than anyone else in his family. Now granny is more distant (new man on the scene) and I no longer need DP as much because I have it pretty much covered. I am going to make big changes this year, now he is a bit older and we can share some interests.
I realize most 15 yo's are ruled by money, and I do think this issue is about the rudeness. School will obviously deal with missed work etc ( our school sets loads of work on the first day back, it encourages the students to come in). But regarding the rudeness I would have, and have done on occasion, had ds write me a detailed letter of apology. He hates wriiting, it takes time, doesn't cost anything and it does make him think. Just my 2 penny worth. Also at 15 you might want to think about moving up to a monthly allowance for budgeting practice.
Fwiw I think you sound like every other mother of teenagers. It's hard and reasonable to question yourself. Keep up the good work and don't be too hard on yourself.
Thanks for your kind words, yes, DS will have no chance as I will have written the book on teens by then!
It's massively reassuring to know the physical distance between us is not so strange Maryz. He is a very good kid and I have high hopes for him. I think there are anger issues that could be dealt with but how do you get a 15 year old into therapy? You don't. He is happy though, good friends and healthy guinea pigs. The rudeness stuff will be hard to stamp out completely (DH is still very rude - never been told off in his life, can you imagine. Two men from the same stable ).
^^ What Mary said. Definitely.
I remember telling you once before that you under-estimate your care for him and worry unnecessarily that you don't 'love' him... Many teenagers become unlovable, at least for a while, and it's only the history or memory of past love that keeps us mothers hanging on in there, I often think... You are hanging on in there without this memory, which is pretty impressive.
He was full of beans that night, told me everything that had happened on the trip, so I don't think there was a problem. that was my first thought, actually. He went in the next day no problem.
Queenie, he definitely could have been hungry.
Basically, he goes through phases of being all lippy and then I take him to task over it and we have a phase of better behaviour. Like all of them I suppose. Our situation is a bit extreme so I tend to think that everything that happens is because of it, but most of it sounds pretty normal.
15 year old boys (ime) can switch from being near adults to toddlers in the blink of an eye. With my ds1 real rudeness and bad behaviour is 99% of the time linked to low blood sugar. He was very likely tired and hungry when he was rude on the 'phone and being "locked out" was the last straw.
You sound like you are really doing so much for him and taking in and taking on a teenager is a huge responsibility and challenge. I know nothing about his story and how he has come to live with you but I think needs a lot of thinking about in terms of his emotional needs alongside all the practical things. Being a 15yo boy is really tough I think. If you've had a difficult start and aren't living with your parents that is a huge additional burden. You're absolutely right that he needs clear and firm boundaries but he also needs lots of warmth and empathy.
I think a proper talk and the chance to explore his feelings about what happened would be good and the chance to earn back the lost money a good idea too.
I know you are upset that the phone rudeness has happened before.. but we don't all learn from our mistakes without making more.
Another thought - do you think something embarrassing or upsetting happened on the expedition which made him want to avoid school for as long as possible? (unlikely, but it just occurred to me)
Flow, I don't know. I did give him the benefit of the doubt on the illness as there was nothing else I could do. A mother could undoubtedly have pushed it more, but I don't really have the benefit of that proximity, if you know what I mean. I have not enforced the punishment. I still could because we haven't sort out his pocket money for this month yet but my general feeling is that the moment has passed. He definitely knows how I feel about rudeness and knows it will have consequences.
I don't think he engineers situations like this - he gets recurrent rude rage in lots of different scenarios. I will bear it in mind though. I have sometimes, in quieter moments with him, tried to explain the idea that we do things that are driven by underlying thoughts we are not even aware of. For example, he cannot be in the same room as MIL and me together (well, I can't either, but that's different ). We talked about this and I always say that everything I do, I do because I think it is the best thing for him, or at the very least, for all of us.
He just loses his temper.
We had a nice evening last night, watched a film. We are planning holidays. I try to build on the positive and focus on his education. If he leaves us with good qualifications, as he certainly should do (bright boy) I will feel I have done well.
This is bugging me flossie: I think there may be something else going on under the surface that it would be worth understanding...
You say the two times he's been rude to you like this have both been when he's been locked out. I wonder if that's triggering some kind of fear in him? Fear that you're rejecting him or you're never going to let him back in again? Given his experience, that wouldn't be surprising, and IME, fear often underpins bad teenage behaviour.
I also wonder whether it may have been some kind of self-sabotage. My DS1 quite often follows a positive achievement with bad behaviour. It's as if he can't take praise, or perhaps is afraid it won't come, so creates a kind of 'diversion'. It's a very effective tactic: it often works with me, and it sounds like it's worked with you, because instead of celebrating his success on the expedition, and praising or even rewarding him, you're focussed on his bad behaviour, and you've punished him. (There's no implied criticism here at all: I would almost certainly have done the same). He has (perhaps, potentially, if my hunch is right) successfully engineered a situation where he's 'proved' to himself that he's sh*t, life is sh*t, nothing is worth the effort because he'll mess it up anyway... Or any number of other negative 'myths' about himself.
I offer these suggestions not as excuses, but as explanations that might help you to help him to understand his own responses, and therefore better control his behaviour.
I agree flow. I think it's important not to cave, but reflection and calm negotiation are skills every teen needs and as parents we need to model that.
Also sometimes it is the conversation after the storm that really helps with the relationship, so sitting down and saying 'let's talk this through' can be very positive.
I think I'd try a 'lets talk about this weekend' approach and aim for your dn being able to manage a you not being there when he got home situation better next time, as it sounds like that was the bigger flash point.
Being shattered and achy after an expedition seems par for the course really!
I don't think there's any way any of us can judge whether or not he was 'really' unwell or exhausted. 12km doesn't seem much for a 15yo, but we don't know his personal fitness level, and all kinds of other factors could have been at play, including lack of sleep, dehydration, heat effects, a virus... If this was the only occasion in 3 years, he's obviously not lazy or taking the mick... I'd have given him the benefit of the doubt.
Also, I want to challenge the old adage "Never back down". Personally, I think this is a disastrous rule for parenting teens. Consistency is important, but you need to be consistently fair and measured, not consistently right! Unless you are as infallible as the pope, you will parent better, and gain more respect, if you acknowledge when you realise you have made a mistake or over-reacted.
Even tho they claim we are irrelevant I think we are our teens most influential teachers, and IMO, when we insist on unfair punishments just because we've said them in the heat of the moment, we are teaching teens stubbornness and unreasonableness. I want my teens to learn to compromise and admit when they're wrong, so I think I have to model that, and show them how it's done.
OK, I will do it!
There are loads of jobs I can get him to do as well. He is very good with little DS so bath time and babysitting duties would probably work.
Stand firm with docking the money, I have so BTDT with DC. I am bracing myself for it again after DD has a weekend of "glamping" with Guides in June. She will be a wreck come the Monday, despite her assurances otherwise.
the only thing I might do different is dock just part of the pocket money, like 20% for each day missed, or half, or something like that. Not sure I'd take a whole week's worth. I expect mine to soldier on, too.
When my DS did it: he forgot both his walking boots and sleeping bag, so did it in school shoes, and had no sleeping bag. A farmer had also blocked the path very thoroughly about 1/2 mile for the start, which meant they all added hours to their route finding (a few groups needed that particular crossing point on their routes). However he still made school on the Monday with no issues.
DD does hers this weekend.
The rudeness when he got home I personally see as more understandable, as he was probably: dehydrated, very low blood sugar as well as tired.
I would discuss the whole thing with him when you have calmed down. If it was just the practise one, discuss what you can do after the full expedition (maybe hide a sugary drink incase you are late back?).
Also discuss how any future job or college course will need him to attend and be punctual.
If you gave him a punishment, then stick to it. If you feel guilty give him a chance to earn some money back.
I agree roshbegosh. As the OP has said she's going to dock the pocket money on this occasion I think she's doing the right thing, but a 15YO boy who regularly has no money at all is just impractical. And risks going down the route of "because you've committed X transgression no pocket money this week" What then happens if he commits a second transgression that week? Before you know it the 'offender' has nothing more to lose and therefore no incentive to behave well, as they perceive it.
beware of threatening punishment when cross
I am going to add this to my golden rules . Along with, always remember what you're trying to achieve...
MaryZ has come a long way hasn't he!
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