Almost-Teenage Boys Are Not Fun.

Oldest One has spent the past few days pushing every button known to man in what appears to be an attempt to get himself in as much trouble as humanly possible. Other than literally holding his hand and guiding him from one task to the next, I’m at a loss as to how to improve this situation.

He wants freedoms – sleepovers, paintball parties, staying up really late – but makes no effort whatsoever to follow even the simplest of family rules. He ignores his chores, pouts when he doesn’t get his way, cries when everything is “unfair” and resists all attempts by Coffee and I to lead him down the right path.

Every consequence we put in place has a means to resolve it – either by making amends or exhibiting wonderful behaviour for a certain time period, or something else that’s spelled out clearly. He ignores us and, instead of working on those goals, he simply adds more consequences to his life by doing something else.

Then he complains that he has no freedoms.

Then I remind him of what he needs to do to get those freedoms back.

Then he ignores me.

Wits end? Why yes, I am THERE.

But that’s not all!

About a week ago, I told him that he couldn’t have his desk light on the carpet because it’s not safe – it has a halogen bulb that gets really, really hot – and that he needed to keep it either on his desk or on his bedside table. He said he understood, moved it and, two days later, it was back on the carpet.

When I asked why it was there, he looked at me like I was a complete idiot and said, “Because I wanted to read while lying on the floor.”

He seemed surprised that I took the light away.

Need another example of why I’m losing my mind?

In anticipation of the kids possibly babysitting themselves for an hour or two when I’m at school next year myself, we’ve been getting the kids into a routine each day. At 3:25, when they’re on their way home, I lock myself into the bedroom and pretend I’m not home.

The boys come home to find a note from me on the table. Every day, the note reminds them to empty their lunch bags (Oldest One, in particular, tends to have a lot of goo and garbage in there), eat a snack (and clean up after themselves) and get their chores done before they play.

All told, this takes about 45 minutes at the very most, and part of that includes homework from school. We have a “work comes before play” rule and, given the number of evenings where we normally have Scouts, Cubs, Beavers, Writing Club and other events, we have to get things done!

After the chores are done, they’re able to play – whether in the playroom, on the Wii, the xbox, on the computer, or watching a movie. Free time! Do whatever you want!

Oldest One is “in charge” inasmuch as he’s required to keep an eye on his brothers and make sure they’re getting things done. We have explained his responsibilities to him and, tomorrow night, he’s attending a formal babysitting course, too. We’re paying him for every day that he looks after his brothers – even though I’m actually still home.

The problem is that he ignores my letter, leaves pools of milk on the table from his snack, doesn’t empty out his lunch bag, and ‘forgets’ to check his chore chart. He’s mean to his brother. I seriously have no idea what he’s doing on those days when things don’t get done – he shrugs and his brothers say he’s “goofing around.”

Meanwhile, Middle One and Maymo are getting their stuff done. The 9 year old and the 5 year old are MORE RESPONSIBLE than the 12 year old.

Oldest One cannot see why this might bother me a little bit.

I have added notes in “ALL CAPS” reminding him of what needs to be done. I’ve reminded him that on a particular day, he needs to get everything done so he can go to Scouts. I’ve reminded him that he needs to put forth an effort on his tasks if he wants to go to a friend’s place on the weekend.

NADA.

Today he came home, using his key, and locked the door behind him (as he’s expected to do.) A few minutes later I heard what sounded like someone hammering – a repeated banging and banging and banging. I could hear Oldest One moving around, talking to Maymo, and the banging continued.

After about 10 minutes, during which time the banging was off and on, I decided the kids were doing something inappropriate that required me to check it out. I found Middle One locked outside, sobbing hysterically, banging on the door.

Oldest One knew he was there but didn’t let him in and instructed Maymo not to let him in, either.

He couldn’t figure out why this might be a problem. Why locking your brother out in the yard – the brother you’re in charge of – while he sobs and bangs on the door, isn’t acceptable. After all, isn’t it Middle One’s fault for not remembering his key?

Maymo, on the other hand, was upset. Middle One was obviously upset.

And I’m upset!

The undone chores, the “unfairness” of everything that goes on, the meanness to his brother, the unrealistic expectations, the refusal to fix the mistakes he makes.. I’m losing my mind.

We have tried rewarding him for good behaviour, we’ve tried consequences for bad behaviour.

We have tried long talks. We’ve tried short talks.

We’ve tried asking him for his input on “how we can solve this problem together”.

Nothing. No progress. He slumps around pissed off that we have expectations and consequences and won’t let him just do whatever he wants. He shows no urge whatsoever to work toward any of his own goals – whether in the short term or long term – because, in his own words, he’s “lazy”.

I can accept lazy if it’s balanced with an acceptance on his part that laziness isn’t going to get him anywhere in terms of the freedoms he wants. Really, in life, those who choose not participate don’t get to reap the rewards of hard work – and if they’re okay with it, well, who am I to say otherwise?

Yes, therapy this summer. Yes, I need to do some deep breathing. No, I do not think I am going to enjoy the coming teenage years.

6 comments

  1. Olya says:

    Ugh, it sounds (to borrow one of Scott’s expressions) like a donkey ride through hell ;-( I wish I could offer some sage advice, but I can’t even handle my 4-year-old, so I am just going to send good thoughts your way!

    • violet says:

      Well, we had a “talk” this evening about the whole deal and he thinks he can “make some changes” and, oh god, THE DRAMA.

      We shall see.

  2. Naomi says:

    Best of luck with everything. I taught teenagers for five years and never got the handling of adolescent testosterone down to a science. I think of Simon’s teenage years with great trepidation, but thankfully I’ve got Chris, who reduces teenage jerks to applesauce quite readily as a high school English teacher (thanks to him, some kid at his school is still known as Tootsie Pop. I’m not sure how I feel about this.). It sounds like you’ve got good instincts, so you’ll get it figured out, and if he’s only 12, you’ve got lots of time.

  3. Robyn says:

    I’d be tempted to take away his key after that little stunt.

  4. Aunt Em's Husband says:

    I am sorry you have to deal with Oldest One like this, but I fear alot of almost teenage boys are like this. My own mother confided to me once when I was in my twenties that between 8 and 16, she still loved me, but didn’t like me. Ouch. But as the saying goes “this too shall pass”

    • violet says:

      Part of my concern is that he’s had, really, a year and a bit to bond with us – while now suddenly finding himself in the land of the deranged (puberty, hormones, girls, etc.) which complicates matters in ways that are hard to express (for all of us, including him.)

      I have recognized my mistake, however, and have now expressly forbid Middle One and Maymo from turning into teenagers. At all. ;)

      To be less flippant, however, a good portion is (I think) attributable to the lack of bonding. Another part is personality (of course) including how mine and his clash at times. And then we have the hormones and the puberty stuff and the other bits and pieces. I was absolutely NOT an easy teenager myself, albeit in different ways, so I s’pose this is payback of sorts. :)

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