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Discussion:
16 year old son, grades, attitude
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Hi all, first post. My son is 16, his mom and I are divorced, but we get along fine now (been divorced for 13 years). We all live in the same town. she has two younger kids w/ her husband. Over the past couple of years, things with him have been slip, slip, slipping away. Below is a quick chronological recap, starting in Freshman year:

Mediocre grades
Arrested for shoplifting
therapist
Arrested for pot
probation
outward bound intercept program
drug counseling (court mandate)
still smoking pot we think
Sophomore year---
Grades get worse
Apathy
Ds and Fs
A lot of time with girlfriend (who is nice, but not motivated either)
Attitude stinks towards me, won't spend time with me

I'm kind of at my wits end. Our relationship is almost nil, since he doesn't want to spend time with me anymore, or stay over my house at all. He still plays some sports, but is not really that interested... he spends a lot of time at his moms with his girlfriend, but seems to just ignore homework and sees zero value in getting good grades... he's definitely bright, scored extremely high in all standardized tests when he was younger (top 5%)...

His Mom and I have different styles, she's more lax I think, less of a disciplinarian (but supportive and caring for sure). We are a little concerned about the amount of time he spends w/ the gf, but this was better than the alternative, which was a tough crowd that we think led to some of the earlier problems. So time with her seems to have very much reduced time with what we think are "worse" influences, and again, she's a nice enough kid.

My question is... where do we go from here? He HATED counseling, and would not go willingly. We're wondering about boarding schools, or a private school, but I'm not sure who would take him... and I'm 100% sure he would resist with every ounce of his being. I'm not sure how much of this is normal teen angst that will work itself out, or if there is a major problem that requires deep intervention. I also feel very out of the loop, since he won;t communicate with me much, and I almost never see him anymore except for a dinner here or there, driving to a soccer game, or the periodic family event.

Any advice? Anyone with a similar story?
Posted on 05/24/09, 07:25 am
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Reply #1 - 05/24/09  9:15am
" I'm not there yet but I'm horribly afraid we could be going in that direction. I have a 16-year-old too - hasn't found quite as much trouble as yours (and honestly yours is nowhere near as bad as some I've heard about) but I think that could change. Like your son, he's very intelligent but his grades are a horror show and his only motivation seems to be to keep me from punishing him. He does live with me, making it a little easier to put punishment into place. One of my biggest concerns is what happens in two years when he turns 18?

The only suggestions I have are probably things you've though about. I know you said he had been in therapy but have you done family counseling or gone into individual/group yourself? Teenage boys are not necessarily the world's best candidates for therapy (do they even speak to anyone but friends?) but someone who works with parents may be helpful to you.

The other thing is have you looked into whether he has learning disabilities? Again, this may be ridiculous but I know that some things can turn up once a kid hits adolescence and chemistry starts doing flip-flops. Lots of diagnoses of ADHD get made around that time and while I do believe that's a diagnosis made way too much, I also think it's quite legitimate sometimes. If he's simply not able to do his work anymore then it makes sense that he's not motivated to try. This is a piece of the problem with my son (though not the whole problem for sure) and we're working on in it.

Please keep writing - I'd love to know how things go. "
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Reply #2 - 05/24/09  4:05pm
" I think family counseling is a great suggestion, for some reason he has more "issues" with me than his mom... I think getting us all together would be a good idea, but I know he would resist. Maybe if we said its either family counseling or changing schools that would be the lesser of two evils! I'm no expert but I tend to think it's not a learning disability, just pure laziness and a good dose of shortsightedness. I know what you mean about turning 18... although even now it seems like the change needs to come from him, parental lectures seem to be just about worthless. "
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Reply #3 - 05/25/09  8:42am
" rs I love your comment : "very intelligent but his grades are a horror show" I have a 16 year old boy this describes perfectly. This topic seems to be a recurring theme in this group ..Underperforming teen boys who do not seem to care about their grades . Greg "
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Reply #4 - 06/01/09  10:18am
" My son went through the probation thing and is still abusing substances. Social activity is more important to him than anything.

At one point, I shared an article with my son that I found (and lost, sorry) about research showing that boys who got higher grades were much more attractive to girls than boys who played video games and such. It really got his attention for a while. Now he's in college (just finished his freshman year) and his grades are too low for him to continue getting the scholarship money that he earned. During the little bits of time we have had together during this past year, my non-judgmental questions about how he was spending his time, and my support when he considered asking instructors for help might have helped him to pass his courses.

Every moment that I have with him, I look for some sign of improvment that I can reinforce. I look for progress, not perfection.

Praise your son for finding such a nice girlfriend! Praise him for spending less time with the tough crowd! Take advantage of every dinner, car ride, etc. to tell him about what you went through when you were his age, and ask him what he would do if he were in your situation at that time. I understand that sons need their father's acceptance and approval more than anything. Make sure he can get it from you!

I hope you will meet with a counselor who has a PhD to get more personalized advice. I worked with counselors who had Master's degrees and they were not qualified to see who my son really was, or to offer effective ideas. "
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Reply #5 - 06/05/09  5:46am
" Thanks Glinda, for your excellent advice and sharing your experience! One challenge is that he will surely resist all counseling attempts. I'm sure if he approached it with an open mind he would benefit from it, but as he says "talking about his feelings" is a tough sell for a 16 year old boy! Has anyone had any success in getting an unwilling teenager to go to counseling? "
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Reply #6 - 06/06/09  11:23pm
" I don't know how you'd get him there... Maybe a heart-to-heart talk with him, you and his mom, calmly saying how concerned you are would help... so concerned that you both are willing to drop everything and everybody else to try and help. Just the fact that you both are putting him first, working together, may get his attention.

I worked at a counselor's office for 2 years and saw many teenagers come in. They all seemed so MAD at first. (First the parents came in without the teen, then the family together 1-2 times, then the teen by themself). After a few sessions, the attitude of the teen coming in was so much better. They got so much off their chests. All I'm saying is to find a GOOD counselor that works with families and if you can get him there at least a couple of times, it should get better.

I have a 17 year old son. 16 seemed to be a year of inner turbulence for him. This summer is looking MUCH better. Have faith! "
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Reply #7 - 06/07/09  9:06am
" My 16 yo son has been going to therapy for 4 yrs. He has gone through periods where he would lie to therapists because he felt he was being forced to go, and wanted to prove that he know more than the therapist. The one he sees now is clever, and doesn't let him get away with anything. I disagree with the post about finding someone with a particular degree. Although a good education from a good school is important, the most important thing in finding a therapist is finding the right "match". For my son, it has to be someone very schrewd, has to be a woman, and has to be someone very familiar with anxiety issues, drug issues, and how medical issues can complicate someone's phychological situation. If you can find the match, then you have someone on your team, it's like having a third parent. We went through 3 before finding her. He asks to go to therapy now, mostly to cope with how he hates us and doesn't feel understood by us. We get reports of what they talk about in general, but not specifics, which is ok. She gives him "assignments" to work on to improve his relationships and to help him reach goals. It's a slow process, you cannot force your son to go unil he feels there is a benefit for him. Otherwise he thinks you are trying to "fix" him. "
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Reply #8 - 06/09/09  10:47pm
" Your son and I have some things in common like the lack of motivation, but (no offnse) instead of being a rebel, im a quiet, but low confidence kid. i went through the same "apathy" phase too during sophmore year and before high school, i've been in the top class since 4th grade, but everything crashed as high school progressed. so even though this support sight is more for older people dealing with their children, i am having this problem right now so i really need some help. its prolly intimidation from the tough kids. "

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