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need help gaining perspective, teen son
Old 08-10-2009, 02:29 PM   #1
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need help gaining perspective, teen son

So, many of you know I have a teenage stepson, he recently graduated high school and I'm finding myself a little stumped on how to support him at this age/point in his life.

He's going to the local community college, but as with some of his earlier academic challenges, he's failing to "get it" and his lack of motivation has already cost him placement in any courses he needs for the fall.

The local cc is super crowded and I had told him earlier that the only barrier to him attending would be his failure to snatch his registration as soon as he had a chance. Well, fell on deaf ears, he waited and all the classes are full.

I've stepped in and said he needs to go to the office, talk with the counselors and see if they had advice on how he could get a spot in any class next semester, they may know some classes that are less impacted then others etc.

Still, after this huge failure on his part, he still has that look on his face like I'm bothering HIM.

I'm telling you - I've lost my patience. I think perhaps cuz he doesn't look like the helpless little boy from long ago, he did well his last two years in high school my expectations went up too high?

I knew the transition to college would be tough, but perhaps overestimated his independence - partly cuz of his attitude that he had it all and we told him - please let us know when you need help we are here for you... (enter crickets).

Aside from that, his general attitude towards me is not endearing me at all. He never shows any ounce of gratitude, hides in his room and then only comes out to eat all the food in the house.

I guess my expectations that as he got older, he'd evolve into someone who appreciated his home, family and contributions to his ability to get this far were overblown...but I'm about to just squash my expectations and have a fire burning ceremony, so as not to feel this way any more.

Anyway, any bits of advice on what to do with a young man this age is appreciated. I've run out of books to read. He has a great relationship with his dad, btw, but his dad isn't exactly a wealth of advice on how to handle the college stuff so that usually lands on me...
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Old 08-10-2009, 02:35 PM   #2
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dh2b has 3 sons, all different ages and completely unmotivated. None live here. Each has his own financial enabler.
I tried to give them leads, at dh2b's request, to "help" them get going. I finally gave up after 3 plus years. Nothing I said was ever listened to.

Charge him rent and food expenses.
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Old 08-10-2009, 02:44 PM   #3
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Not a parent, so can't give you any useful advice. I will say that my dad's, who was the disciplinarian in the family, IQ increased about 30 points right around my 22nd birthday.

If you are lucky he'll grow out of it. We do mature slower.
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Old 08-10-2009, 02:46 PM   #4
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Get him get a job that requires hard physical labor and pays barely more than minimum wage. Let him sweat it out for a while.

Of course this might require tough love - charging rent, food expenses, etc. as freebird suggested. If he is like some unmotivated people I have known and he has no reason to try to make something of himself, he will be thirty, employed off and on, and living in your basement eating your food. He's an adult so he should be treated like one sooner rather than later. Just IMHO.
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Old 08-10-2009, 02:49 PM   #5
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I knew the transition to college would be tough, but perhaps overestimated his independence - partly cuz of his attitude that he had it all and we told him - please let us know when you need help we are here for you... (enter crickets).

Aside from that, his general attitude towards me is not endearing me at all. He never shows any ounce of gratitude, hides in his room and then only comes out to eat all the food in the house.
I'm not a parent so I may not be the best datapoint out there, but it sounds to me that the choices are either go to school or get a job and pay for room and board.
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Old 08-10-2009, 02:50 PM   #6
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Charge him rent and food expenses.
It was said with a wink and a smile, but this is probably the best advice.

Does he even want to go to school? Sounds like he doesn't. What are his ambitions? If his ambitions have nothing to do with college, there's nothing wrong with him working for a living for a year or two. When he sees how difficult it is to pay his own way through life on minimum wage, he may decide that school isn't such a bad idea after all.

Whatever you decide to do, I think you need to get his Dad onboard beforehand, and actively involved in the conversation, so that you don't end up wearing the annoying/nagging/wicked step-mother label.
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Old 08-10-2009, 02:51 PM   #7
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I figured things out and straightened up around age 23. There is hope.
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Old 08-10-2009, 03:02 PM   #8
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If I was in your situation, I'd ask him "What are you going to do?" and hope he answers it with respect to school this fall, but see where it goes, and make sure it gets to fall plans at some point. If he has no plan to fix things for CC, I'd try to get him to the conclusion that if he has no plan, nothing will happen. I'd make it clear that this isn't acceptable to me, and that if he's not in school I expect him to get a job and pay rent/food bills, or find his own place. Of course you'll decide whatever the rules are for your situation.

Putting a noose around him and dragging him off to CC to get into classes probably won't work, but of course I don't know the kid.

College isn't for everyone, and it certainly isn't the only answer. Maybe he'd do better going out into the working world now, or maybe a few months at a crappy job will motivate him to go to school.
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Old 08-10-2009, 03:02 PM   #9
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It was said with a wink and a smile, but this is probably the best advice.

...so that you don't end up wearing the annoying/nagging/wicked step-mother label.
Actually, it was a devilish grin.
My lack of offspring is showing again. BTW, I wear those labels proudly.
In all seriousness, this is a very tough situation for the OP. Damned if you do...you know the rest.
Kid's father needs to step in firmly and give the kid the tightest possible options, none of which include lazing around feeding from the trough.
Good luck and try to keep your cool. I've been baited by dh2b's kids in many ways and formulas and always rewarded them with the best smile I owned.
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Old 08-10-2009, 03:02 PM   #10
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His dad needs to be on board with any plan, , but IMO you need to give the ungrateful little b*st*rd kid a few choices:

1. Go to school and live at home rent-free as long as he maintains a C? B? average in his classes (CC, Trade School, ITT tech, whatever)
2. Don't go to school, pay fair-market rent and contribute proportionally toward the family food costs. Also, since he is deferring adulthood, he will need to continue to live by minor kid rules- curfew, etc.
3. Move out and do whatever the heck he wants.
4. Field trip to the Armed Forces Recruiting Office-- to discuss applying for the University of the Middle East work- study program.

I'd give him 30 days to decide what he wants to do, then schedule the U-Haul.

He needs a kick in the pants, hidin' in his room and eatin' all the vittles shouldn't be an option.
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Old 08-10-2009, 03:03 PM   #11
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Get his father to have a come to Jesus. School with decent grades, pay rent or head to Uncle Sam. He is part of a family and if he hides out that is B.S. everyone has chores. If he does not like it maybe he needs to meet the front door and see how well the world treats folks with limited education and an immature streak.
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Old 08-10-2009, 03:03 PM   #12
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He does want to go to college, but I think his goals are not matched with the understanding/plan to get him there. He thinks things will get handed to him or "work out" - even though his own history shows him that that is not always the case...He is handsome and gets away with too much because he does well socially... a curse he earned from his father - who didn't finish college (took some classes at cc but no degree) but still earns a high income because he works his butt off and is good at his job which is a relatively high paying career (esp given education).

Anyhow, I appreciate the growing up sooner advice. I'd started to think I'd gone too far...We've told him since he was little (hehe) that he would be paying rent if he wasn't going to school...just didn't think that would come sooner, rather than later!

His dad is usually on board with whatever approach we take. I think I'm just starting to take his behavior more personally than I used to which I'm trying to stop doing so much - since he's older, I thought he'd grow out of his insolence.

And frankly i'm jealous that his dad gets to always be the good guy and they have a great relationship now - which they didn't long ago and i really helped them work it out...and in the end i have less of a relationship with him, didn't figure that one out in the equation. Seriously had to walk across broken glass to get them there and now i am feeling the burn... boo hoo for me. also with all the stuff we went through with him academically, he has no idea the stress i went to through to help him get thru that.
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Old 08-10-2009, 03:28 PM   #13
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Since you asked I wouldn't even let him go to college just yet since he doesn't seem to be ready for it. I'd tell him he needs to work for a year or two and then you/his dad will help him with school.

I know a couple of young men who started college too early (for where they were, not being able to handle it) and it was a disaster for them. I know two other young men who did something else first and they were very successful when they did go to school.

But good luck--I do hope it will get easier as he gets older and you've been a good stepmom.
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Old 08-10-2009, 03:35 PM   #14
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If the guy can work a room, maybe he will excel at sales. But having a degree would allow one to get a foot in the door and make serious money sooner.
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Old 08-10-2009, 03:35 PM   #15
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Dad needs to talk to him. One on one.
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Old 08-10-2009, 03:53 PM   #16
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So sorry to hear that your son is not living up to your expectations.

When my daughter was in her late teens, it became obvious that she was not the college type. It was disappointing to me, but it tuned out OK. College isn't for everyone.

Also, she had some personal issues that affected the entire family negatively. We found that tough love really helped her mature into a responsible adult. By that, I mean that we gave her choices, outlined consequences for each, and let her decide which path to take. We gave her the choice of going to college with paid room and board - or move out and support herself. She chose the latter, struggled a bit, but finally pulled it all together. She worked the fast food circuit for a while at the start. Today, she has a decent job working in a bank.

The medical experts say the mind doesn't finish maturing until about 24. And boys may take even longer than girls. I certainly believe it.

Anyway, you might consider forcing him to make some key decisions about his immediate future instead of just hanging around.

Best of luck.
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Old 08-10-2009, 03:53 PM   #17
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He does want to go to college, but I think his goals are not matched with the understanding/plan to get him there.
I "want" a lot of things but I'm not willing to work for them either!

It's difficult to expect him to appreciate the connection between results and focus/hard work. In the first place, according to fMRI research he may lack a critical-thinking cerebral cortex for at least another five years. In the second place, he probably knows plenty of 20-somethings who are able to look back on the decade since HS graduation and say "Yeah, sure, brah, it worked out OK for me, and you'll do fine too."

I wouldn't expect any appreciation for your parenting until (1) he has to live on his own, eating his own cooking and doing his own cleaning and (2) he has to raise his own kids. At least that's my experience with my parents.

You don't specifically mention it one way or the other, but at his age he should be doing his own laundry, cleaning his own room/bathroom (to a least CDC public sanitation standards if not basic hygiene), doing his share of the housecleaning, and helping in the kitchen with trash/dishes. If he's gonna eat your food then he gets to cook a family meal at least once a week. Car insurance is negotiable but he should be buying at least every other tank of gas without expectation of reimbursement.

To hasten the inevitable, you could start charging him rent. The money can either be saved to return to his IRA (assuming he has earned income) or for down payments on renting his own room/apartment.

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And frankly i'm jealous that his dad gets to always be the good guy and they have a great relationship now - which they didn't long ago and i really helped them work it out...and in the end i have less of a relationship with him, didn't figure that one out in the equation. Seriously had to walk across broken glass to get them there and now i am feeling the burn... boo hoo for me. also with all the stuff we went through with him academically, he has no idea the stress i went to through to help him get thru that.
Speaking as a control freak very involved parent, I'd say that you shouldn't feel the need to step in and be a disciplinarian. Your spouse is certainly not trying to set you up or force you into an adversarial role. You can be a coach or a good guy too, or at least an apathetic bystander. Call your kid on bad behavior, sure, but tell him you expect better out of a young-adult roommate and leave it at that. (You can always pile the trash & dirty dishes on his bed & pillow later, or so I've heard.) If you wouldn't put up with noise or smoking or alcohol or drugs or "sleepovers" from your spouse then enforce the same rules with the adult kids. It requires some teeth-clenching to overlook this transition phase but the trick is to spend no more time "fixing" or punishing him than you currently feel obligated to spend on your spouse.

Of course if you feel strongly about illegal behavior (drugs or underage alcohol) then that's a rule with consequences. Follow it or move out. Otherwise point out problems with disappointment and express your wish that he'd "grow up" and start behaving like a responsible roomie.

Since our kid got back from her summer Mainland college trips, I've told her that I'd like to stop being a parent and be more of a coach. (My spouse said "Yeah, sure, that'll work-- until she does something to piss you off!") Some things are "too important to fail" (Roth IRA deposits) but I'm not going to be a whipping boy for budgeting & balancing checkbooks. College applications? Let's review them at a certain time and get them done by a certain time or you can go buy your own degree. Homework? Totally not my problem. I'll ask what your plan is and comment on how it sucked when I was your age, but you have to make the time & effort. I'd like to take the 2nd dan test with her but improving her run times is her problem-- if she's not ready this year then I'll do it next year while she's at college. She needs to work on her pullups but if she doesn't then I'm sure the NROTC instructors will be more than happy to help her find a little time in her schedule to fit in that extra effort.

If the kitchen/house start turning into a pigsty because they're not doing their share, then stop cleaning. "Fire" yourself from the job and declare that if no one appreciates your efforts then they'll all have to do their share themselves. Nothing focuses attention on labor/management problems faster than a strike.

I used to feel the need to run the kitchen, create the grocery list, fill the dishwasher, clean up after meals, kill all insects, unplug all plumbing, and generally be a cleaning control freak. Over the last five years I've managed to fire myself from all of those jobs and return their shares to the family members. I still feel that I do more than my fair share of the cooking, but I don't have any particular reason to pick a fight over it bring it up for discussion. Or maybe I just did...

A generation ago at this age our parents would have seen two solutions to this not-yet-ready-for-college issue: (1) Peace Corps or (2) military.
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Old 08-10-2009, 03:53 PM   #18
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I had an older buddy who told me his story.

He came from a working class family, and was apparently an non-distinguished student in high school. After graduation, he took classes in a community college and fooled around. This was during the Vietnam war, so after a year or so out of HS, he figured that his number was up when they started calling for the draft. So, he volunteered first in order to have a choice of assignment. After a tour as an Army helicopter pilot, when he got out, promised himself that he would repent. And he went back to school and really studied.

He was one of the very best engineers at that megacorp. Having an elite status meant that different departments would be fighting each other to have you on staff. You would be protected from political BS, and mostly sheltered from the fractious infighting. He was and still is among the people they would fire only if they were to close shop. People like that were called "golden".

So, some people need to learn things the hard way. I myself, being a nerd, loved school and the stuff that was taught (but not too much to become a perpetual student), and never needed external motivation. Different strokes for different folks. I would say that the boy under discussion needs some time out in the real world.
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Old 08-10-2009, 03:55 PM   #19
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Old 08-10-2009, 04:03 PM   #20
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So, many of you know I have a teenage stepson, he recently graduated high school and I'm finding myself a little stumped on how to support him at this age/point in his life.

He's going to the local community college, but as with some of his earlier academic challenges, he's failing to "get it" and his lack of motivation has already cost him placement in any courses he needs for the fall.

The local cc is super crowded and I had told him earlier that the only barrier to him attending would be his failure to snatch his registration as soon as he had a chance. Well, fell on deaf ears, he waited and all the classes are full.

I've stepped in and said he needs to go to the office, talk with the counselors and see if they had advice on how he could get a spot in any class next semester, they may know some classes that are less impacted then others etc.

Still, after this huge failure on his part, he still has that look on his face like I'm bothering HIM.

I'm telling you - I've lost my patience. I think perhaps cuz he doesn't look like the helpless little boy from long ago, he did well his last two years in high school my expectations went up too high?

I knew the transition to college would be tough, but perhaps overestimated his independence - partly cuz of his attitude that he had it all and we told him - please let us know when you need help we are here for you... (enter crickets).

Aside from that, his general attitude towards me is not endearing me at all. He never shows any ounce of gratitude, hides in his room and then only comes out to eat all the food in the house.

I guess my expectations that as he got older, he'd evolve into someone who appreciated his home, family and contributions to his ability to get this far were overblown...but I'm about to just squash my expectations and have a fire burning ceremony, so as not to feel this way any more.

Anyway, any bits of advice on what to do with a young man this age is appreciated. I've run out of books to read. He has a great relationship with his dad, btw, but his dad isn't exactly a wealth of advice on how to handle the college stuff so that usually lands on me...
I have 2 sons, one 26 and the other 31. I also know several women with teenage sons.

Basically, guiding teens is a hard job. Usually fathers have better luck than mothers; so maybe you could prep your husband and he could be Mr. Outside to your Mrs. Inside?

At times being less well informed works even better, as it is less intimidating to some young guys. My younger son was a comp sci major at huge state school. The department was very crowded and he really would have benefitted from a little smoothing of his way. Both his very successful older brother and I would try to influence him to schmooze everyone from his professors to the department secretary, but it wasn't for him.

So he took 6 years to graduate. It was likely a blessing in disguise as he was always able to work at a highly paid part time and summer programming job, made contacts and learned things he never would have learned in school. His focus on work kept him sober and maybe as important enabled him to graduate into a well paying professional career without much in the way of student loans. I didn't contribute anything to his college beyond the occasional gift or $100 bucks to entertain a woman. If parents can give up their control over their (adult) children a lot of things work out better.

I think a lot of this is just biological. A high testosterone young man really has no interest in listening to anybody. I didn't, and although things worked out it would certainly have been easier if I hadn't been such a blockhead. But if I went back, I would still be a stubborn blockhead. So best not to fight nature.

Ha
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