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Need a reality check, please

(14 Posts)
BinkyandBunty Wed 06-Dec-17 01:14:07

My sons aged 13 and 12 are doing my head in at the moment. They've had a tough year with the breakdown of their parent's marriage.

I'm trying to get a sense of whether their behaviour is really concerning or my expectations are too high - which they keep telling me they are, compared to friends ' parents, of course!

So tell me, how would you react to these on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is a "teens, lol!" eyeroll and 10 is "OMG send the little shit off to military school!":

1. Homework almost always late or incomplete, to the point where teachers are emailing me. Not due to a lack of opportunity.

2. Complete lack of impulse control with food. Eating enormous amounts after school and in the middle of the night including food set aside for dinner, sugar out of the bowl, peoples' birthday treats. Will hunt out that is hidden away and hide wrappers all over the house.

3. Lack of respect for parents' privacy and belongings e.g. most recently, rummaging in bedroom for hidden Xmas presents.

4. Minor damage when angry e.g. denting furniture by slamming something down too hard, losing patience and forcing a fiddly lock, breaking it.

5. Terrible attitude when called out on any of the above e.g. lie, deny, blame brother, go on attack. Completely unrepentant.

Please help!

CheapSausagesAndSpam Wed 06-Dec-17 01:37:10

I have girls ...one's 13. To me, everything you've listed is not good.

I'd be making some BIG changes in their lives OP. For the homework I'd insist that it was done immediately after school...failure would result in removal of all devices....until it was up to date.

The food issue...I'd stop buying anything remotely "treat-like" and make sure their main meal was ready to go straight after school...my DC both eat their main meal at 4.30 as soon as they get in from school.

This is because they're completely starving and would want snacks otherwise.

Then they're free to have fruit/nuts/toast after that but in reasonable amounts.

The rummaging...again, removal of devices....same with the damaging items or lack of respect for other's things.

Do they have contact with their Dad?

BinkyandBunty Wed 06-Dec-17 04:38:45

Thanks, what you've written is largely what I already do so that's reassuring.

Homework before devices is tricky, because almost all their homework is done on devices! It's so easy for them to flick over you YouTube if I'm not watching like a hawk. I also wonder if I'm not actually motivating then to take shortcuts or lie that they don't have homework because they want to get on the devices quicker...

BinkyandBunty Wed 06-Dec-17 04:40:01

And yes, they spend equal time with their father. He's also frustrated but less interested in doing anything constructive to fix it, would rather yell a lot.

pallisers Wed 06-Dec-17 04:50:17

I have 3 teens, one who struggled a lot with MH issues.

All of these would worry me. Honestly the food thing raises the most flags for me. I think this child is trying to distract from his overwhelming emotions. At least he is using food and not anything worse.

Ideally I would do family therapy. I suspect the break up of the family and the onset of adolescence has been hard for him/her.

BitchyHen Wed 06-Dec-17 05:13:53

None of that seems terrible to me, but my son had a particularly difficult time aged 13-16. I used to do a lot of calm chat with ds about how his behavior made me feel and consequences for that, for example, I won't be buying takeaway on Friday because I have to replace an item you broke. I found getting angry led to defensive, blaming behavior. Keep talking to your boys. Talk to them one to one if you're giving lifts and chat about what's going on in their lives, get them to dry dishes while you wash up, anything where you don't have eye contact.

The food issue - teenage boys eat so much make sure meals are filling and there is a lot of food. My son can easily eat 3x what I do and I've got a good appetite. They can be very selfish at that age, so maybe give them their own snacks at the start of the week and allow them to keep them in their own rooms, and when they're gone, they're gone. Keep plenty of bread and cereal in though as they will eat loads.

How do you feel about speaking to school about their lack of homework, and encouraging school to use their policies to put consequences in place, detention etc. Then you can back off a little, taking away another battle. They have to learn to take responsibility for their homework, and its better to do that before GCSEs.

lljkk Wed 06-Dec-17 05:31:34

I have 3 teens age 13-18.

1. Homework almost always late or incomplete, to the point where teachers are emailing me. Not due to a lack of opportunity. Did they used to do their h/w perfectly or is this continuation of same-old-same-old?

2. Complete lack of impulse control with food. Eating enormous amounts after school and in the middle of the night including food set aside for dinner, sugar out of the bowl, peoples' birthday treats. Will hunt out that is hidden away and hide wrappers all over the house.

Could be Normal, sigh, but maybe b/c I think OP is exaggerating how constant it sounds. There are a few funny stories about DC midnight food raids in our household. Although DS13yo hasn't started yet & thinks it's weird (he's also had the sum total of one spot in his life so far, not really doing puberty). I do find the 13yo mini binging on his sweet stash which he never would have done 18 months ago.

3. Lack of respect for parents' privacy and belongings e.g. most recently, rummaging in bedroom for hidden Xmas presents.

mmm... borderline normal. However, DD regularly raids my clothes & jewellery & pisses her brothers off by using their favourite pint glasses Other DC were more likely to do this when younger. Scold & set firm boundaries. Presumably OP doesn't rifle thru their stuff, keep harping on that point, about reciprocity.

4. Minor damage when angry e.g. denting furniture by slamming something down too hard, losing patience and forcing a fiddly lock, breaking it. That's careless & pushing boundaries. Again, calmly reading the riot act would be called for, escalate to removal of vulnerable items if required.

5. Terrible attitude when called out on any of the above e.g. lie, deny, blame brother, go on attack. Completely unrepentant. Don't get emotional, set firm boundaries. Do a quick sharp scold, notify of future consequences if it continues, & move on.

Mistigri Wed 06-Dec-17 06:45:48

Really hard to tell with some of this.

Food: my 14 year old DS will snack on bread at teatime if he has half a chance, then not eat much at dinner. I think that's fairly "normal teen". Compulsive or middle of the night eating would be a red flag though.

Homework: my DS does the minimum he can get away with (and unless my friendship group is unusual I would say this is par for the course with early teen boys). But he is at a French high school so he can't get away with much ;) A secondary school should have measures in place to deal with students who don't complete compulsory assignments.

Device use when allegedly doing homework: this is fairly par for the course too. I'd insist on homework being done in a communal room like the kitchen or living room.

Frustration, slamming doors etc can be normal, but repeatedly damaging things as a result isn't.

AuntieStella Wed 06-Dec-17 07:07:36

I have teenagers, and would be most concerned about lack of effort at school.

But that's compounded by all the other points - which I see as normal to a certain extent (though eating vast amounts during growth spurts is totally normal and not ever eye-roll territory - however that does not encompass leaving mess)

The underlying issue seems to be lack of motivation and loss of basic manners/consideration.

I don't think you can tackle everything at once. Which behaviours of these irritate you the most? I found it helped to think of them as large toddlers, and to be ready to say the same instruction over and over and over again. I agree with lljkk that you need to set boundaries and be very clear about them.

Try not to be telling them off all the time, though. That's always counterproductive. I had a breakthrough with one teen who was going through an intractable phase (for bad patches really are very common) when I stopped trying to tackle too much, but really did pull up on changing the sulky/cross tone of voice every single time.

nooka Wed 06-Dec-17 07:12:49

My teenagers have been relatively easy (now 17 and 18). At 12 and 13 they were quite different. dd has always been very conscientious about school work (in fact I've worried more about perfectionism) where ds was a pain all through primary and then really got motivated at around 13/14. I'd be worried about this. We were lucky to be at a high school which had everything online so I could check proactively and they knew I'd see any poor marks or missing stuff and it could be addressed early. In your shoes I'd like to see school putting in sanctions.

Food wise they've mostly both been OK at only eating stuff that was on offer, but we did lay in supplies specifically for the two of them. dd had a good stock of potato junk stuff in the freezer to cook up when she felt hungry. ds ate weirder stuff, lots of dry pasta, noodles, crackers and cheese. There were rows when they ate each other's stuff and they did both raid dh's treats too. I'd be pissed off about food for dinners and the hiding of wrappers. I think I'd sit them down and talk to them about you providing a decent sized snack for after school and before bed and them leaving everything else alone. My two also started cooking a family meal once a week at this age.

dd 'borrowed' lots of my clothes right through her teens. She's better at asking now, and sometimes I borrow her stuff too. I don't think they looked for presents, but I know I did and really the peeker loses out. You might want some house rules about going into each others rooms when the inhabitant is not there, but this might need to be accompanied by them cleaning their own rooms/ you not going in there.

Damage when angry depends on how much control they are losing. My dh has broken way more stuff then my teens! I'd be worried if they are regularly angry given your difficult year, they might need an outlet for that.

Terrible attitude is I'm afraid part of being a teenager. Doesn't mean you shouldn't pull them up on it, but recognise that it's pretty normal. My two were good at apologies later (me too when I really lost my top). Some of the attitude may be related to anger issues, if you find it hard to talk to them about change, their emotions etc then some family counseling may help. My two felt out of control at times which I know they found a bit scary. They liked to hear about issues I had at their age.

wheresmyphone Wed 06-Dec-17 07:15:36

Have you moved into my house without telling me? I am hoping some others will pop along soon and say this is a temporary phase. Otherwise we are both in trouble. smile

Oblomov17 Wed 06-Dec-17 07:51:15

Actually, I don't think any of the things listed by OP are ok.
And I've got some of them going on myself with Ds1, but to a lesser degree.

Homework not completed or being contacted by school results in a sit down chat with Dh, me and Ds1 and a talk about how it has to be done/ and if it's not there will be no football training/no going to that party on Friday night etc....

I have rude, answering back, grunting - almost living with Kevin and Perry - most other parents of 13 and 14-year-old say that they have exactly the same.

Yes, I find chocolate and Crisp wrappers all over the house, stuck behind the bed, but he is also eating full proper meals and plus extras - this is ok.

The rummaging around for presents/ lack of respect for other peoples boundaries and damaging furniture; to me is simply not ok.

this pushes OP's business to a higher level than what I currently have going on here.

I think the marriage breakdown means boundaries are being pushed to beyond reasonable and you really need to be firm in this instance.

wheresmyphone Wed 06-Dec-17 08:17:04

You are right. None are ok. All should be challenged and dealt with in various ways. But I do think others will pop along to say their teenagers are exhibiting some or all of these. I can't offer anything except a virtual hug. Good luck. It has helped me reading other stuff on other old threads about how their teenagers are behaving.....just makes me realise I am not alone in "the horror, the horror" . Here are some flowers anyway 🌻

BinkyandBunty Wed 06-Dec-17 10:14:06

Thank you all so much.

I think the middle ground of the replies is that this is a borderline bad case of normal/support might be needed. I'll start by seeing what the school can offer.

You've pretty much all consistently recommended staying calm and sticking to firm boundaries which I do try to do, struggling with the calm bit some days! The home environment is 100% less stressful for all with XH gone.

It also sounds like I really need to boost the food intake at meals and the amount of food they can help themselves to freely.

It's nice to know I'm not the only one going through this!

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