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Teen trouble! Help!

Abbondad posted 4/3/2021 09:18 AM

Hi, Everyone.

I will say beforehand that what I am going through with my 17-year-old son is nothing so out of the ordinary. He is, I guess, being a 17 year old boy in all his glory. And I also want to say that he is a wonderful kid in all the important ways: he is sweet, loving, and has gone through a traumatic experience as a result of his mother's actions since 2012, which completely upended his childhood (Standard cheater story; we are now divorced 7 years).

He has suffered greatly but has not lapsed into drugs, alcohol, violence.... The worst you could say about him is he does terribly in school. He hates it, and is totally uninterested in even trying. I get it. It sucks. I hated it too.

Here's the situation: he lives with me pretty much full time since his mother abruptly moved 200 miles away with my daughter six months ago (a whole other issue). We get along very well when we see each other: he's got a thousand friends that he prefers to his boring Dad. No problem. I'm glad he has a great social life.

But he is an irresponsible, lazy slob. There, I said it. And again, I say this with all my love.

He outright refuses to help around the house: I can't right now, later... or he simply ignores me and leaves. I'm left fuming and stressed.

His room is disgusting. It's gotten so bad that we are now infested with moths and roaches. He does not care. Bird poop covers the floor and he is indifferent. Many times I've checked on his birds and there is no water, no food.

Every few days he begs for money and escalates to a hounding and harassing, following me around the house pleading.

He will not get a job. And honestly, I know that if he does get a job, school will fall even more to the wayside than it already has. He is in serious danger of not graduating. My most important goal is to get him through his last year of school.

I have threatened. (Yes, I've followed through.)

I have rewarded and I have bribed.

I've given him tough love and I've given him gentle, empathetic love.

I simply can't deal with it any more. My stress is at an all-time high. I've sat him down countless times and tried explaining to him why his behavior is intolerable and that it is affecting me badly. Usually he is apologetic and assuring that he will change. He doesn't. I don't know if he doesn't really get it, or that he does get it and simply doesn't care, or at least not enough to change.

Again, I am sure many of you are nodding your heads in recognition: this is not so unusual.

So here is where I'm at: after he graduates high school next year (fingers crossed), if he has not changed, I want to tell him he must leave. I no longer want him to live with me. It's just not tolerable. He may move in with his mother or he may move in with friends. The choice is his. I am just at the end of my rope. I love him so much and he loves me so much. But I no longer want him to live with me. (There are more awful behaviors, but these are just some examples.)

I almost feel guilty complaining as I know it could be so much worse!

Any thoughts or advice is greatly appreciated!

Notthevictem posted 4/3/2021 12:16 PM

I think you're better off thinking this through in the context of the motivations of a teenage boy: video games and girls.

I recommend using those as props for the conversations you want to have.

As in, "man, when you get your own place, it'll be a helleva lot easier to convince girls to stay if its clean, ya know?"

"Did I ever mention the date I had at your age with [insert random name]? I was working at x, and was able to take her out to the movies, but didn't have enough for popcorn and, blah blah blah."

If you can frame it that way, you might see some movement. Don't forget that nearly every boy that age dreams of having their own bachelor pad with a leopard print blanket and a hot girlfriend. And an awesome videogame setup to stay up late playing without anyone to tell him not to.

ZenMumWalking posted 4/3/2021 15:14 PM

I know what you mean- I have 3 boys (fortunately all past that stage and 2 of them live in different countries, 1 with a gf).

First, it's nothing personal so let that help in reducing your stress.

Second, if he's not taking care of his pets then they go. Period. Having bugs and poop of any sort in your house - YOUR house - is just not ok. Don't threaten, just explain to him that you see that he is not able to take care of the birds and you will be removing them from the home. Then do it.

Third, does he do his own laundry? Major source of 'teen boy smell'!!! If not, show him how to and then he does his laundry once per week. If he has more clothes than 1 week's worth, box up the surplus and put it where he can't get to it. He gets 1 week of clothes and launders them each week. Consistently. Once he succeeds at this, you can gradually release a few more clothes - but he still needs to do his laundry once per week.

Then one thing that I did was tell the 'offender' that his room was going to be cleaned (on some date that you choose). The only question is whether you are going to do it or he is. If you do it, you cannot guarantee that whatever you choose to get rid of would be his choice.

So pick a date and explain to him that he should clean his room TO YOUR SATISFACTION by that date, otherwise you will clear it out in whatever way you see fit. Do not remind him.

Once the room is cleaned the way you want it, take pictures. Post those pictures someplace he can see them and tell him that you will have a weekly inspection of his room and that it should look like the pictures.

And give him a few high fives for accomplishing this. (I'm assuming that he will.)

If he refuses to clean his room, take everything out except for a mattress, an alarm clock and his 1 week of clothes. And you can take the door off as well if you like. He needs to take responsibility for some of the household chores, at the very least his bedroom.

You can make a chores chart that you two alternate - one week you do the vacuuming while he cleans the bathroom, the next week vice versa. Alternate days cooking/ doing dishes.

Once the house is under control you can work together with him on his school issues, it's important not to require too much from him at one time.

You have to take control and I know you can do this.

((((Abbondad))))

The1stWife posted 4/3/2021 17:18 PM

Zen has great ideas.

How about counseling? Maybe he needs a place to vent about whatís bothering him. Is he bullied at school? Is he having problems due to his mother?

Been through this with son too. Didnít care about school. Hated the work. Would not keep his room picked up. Until they wanted a car or gas $ or extras.

Both kids had to work. Not an option. No $ forthcoming.

You need to change the dynamics. I think you need to give a clear plan of future expectations. Start with pets. If you find out they are not cared for or cleaned upó they will need to go. No discussion.

Then do it. He can get mad. But choices have consequences.

I can tell you my sons are young-ish men and they know they cannot bullshit me. Zero tolerance. And they know I mean what I say.

tushnurse posted 4/3/2021 17:40 PM

Number one it is your home. Not his. You set the rules and boundaries and enforce them. Period.

Neglecting the birds is NOT ok. Find a rescue. Those go now. Period. Endof sentence do not negotiate. Tell him the next time you find them without food or water they are gone and follow through. This is a non negotiable situation. Its animal abuse. Period.

Next he gets no cash and goes no where until his room isn't condemable by DFS. All trash and food out. No more plates silverware or dishes are allowed out of the kitchen. He wants to take food to his room it goes on paper plates and he only is allowed disposable utensils. This was a giant ordeal in my home and this fixed it. Solo cups. Cheap paper plates and plastic ware.

Buy him his own trash bags and can. He keeps the mess contained in his room.
Laundry stays in his room. If he leaves it out in the main part of the house it goes in the nearest container and tossed in his room. Please tell me he is doing his own wash. If not that starts today too.

My 24yo still lives with us as he has had a slow rough start into adulting. His room is his Territory. He can do whatever and be as filthy as he wants there. But not with my stuff and not if it infringes on the health and safety of the rest of the household.
He works nights so often laundryget left in the dryer. If I'm in a good mood and he is being a decent human I might fold it and put it on the steps. The upstairs is his space. About once a week I have to ask he take all his shit upstairs but he does.

When this started in high school it was scary to go in his room. It was filthy and a mess. But eventually he started to realize if he wanted to find things, look nice, have clean clothes, and function he needed to do better. So every Monday morning (trash day) he cleans it up a bit takes all the trash out ( one of 2 chores he has still) and usually does q few loads of wash before heading to bed.

The point is he needs to respect you and your home. He wants to be a pig. Fine do it in his room with the door closed. But if it starts to spread don't be afraid to throw away a trash bag of clothes or take away the phone, computer, or some other consequence.

He needs to respect you and what you want. It's not that hard to do. His future roommates and wife will thank you.

Lionne posted 4/3/2021 17:51 PM

I agree. Tough love with a huge portion of love. Remove emotions from the interaction, he's pushing your buttons.

Treat him like a toddler, not "what do you want wear today" but "do you want the green or blue shirt?" I love Zen's suggestion for the room cleaning.

Get him evaluated by a really good physician, psychologist and psychiatrist. Not an HMO doc. My failure to launch kid was clearly depressed, later diagnosed bipolar, but not until we went through his early 20s by developing alcoholism, which we believe to be an attempt at self medication. I kick myself for not doing this sooner.

I remember you, remember how fondly you spoke about your kid. His mother moved far away with his sister? Sounds like this may also be cause for depression.

If someone had told me then that it would all work out and my two sons would be happy, adulting, married/engaged/expecting a baby, contributing to society in positive ways, and yes, NEAT and CLEAN, I would not have believed it. I think we have to let them fail (ie. lose the birds, live in an empty room) before they can succeed.

Hang in there. Parenting isn't for dummies.

[This message edited by Lionne at 5:52 PM, April 3rd (Saturday)]

UnstuffedGiraffe posted 4/3/2021 18:33 PM

I have girls and they are younger but confiscating clothes does help. The only thing allowed out of my kitchen is water.

leafields posted 4/4/2021 02:00 AM

Have you thought about looking at roommate agreements? When he moves out, he'll need to know how to be a good roommate.

Can you come up with a roommate agreement that will benefit both of you, and ask him what would be reasonable consequences if he doesn't follow through? Let him know that what is happening now is not acceptable, and doing this now will keep him from being homeless later?

homewrecked2011 posted 4/4/2021 03:52 AM

I think itís anxiety. Heís scared heís not going to graduate, too. Just doing the minimal to get thru life is overwhelming to him. Plus the uncertainty of the virus, and itís really enough to send people with no family issues into anxiety. But his mom moved 200 miles away. Thatís a lot to process. But, he can get back on track... First Iíd snoop on his phone and see if your xw is playing head games with him via text messages/messages left on vm. My sons usually spiral when their Dad pulls that kind of crap.

When my son was like your son , a few years back, I was already seeing a counselor. I was going to bring him in to my IC. She actually helped me figure out what to do and how to help him, step by step. He actually now has the cleanest room in the house! Like really clean-clothes hung up by color!

I was wondering if your son is a Junior or Senior in High School? He probably thinks he will fail at college or trade school, but tell him everyone feels that way.
Either way really be sure he gets a summer job. My kids did school during school time, work during summers. It really helped their mental state to be up, out of the house, interacting with people, earning their own money. This is the hardest part of parenting. Getting them prepared to fly, and yea, I had to push my sons out the nest. One had a full scholarship to a huge college. A week before leaving he said he was going to stay home and go the next year. I told him, ďYouíre going, you donít like it you can come back in Dec, but youíre goingĒ. Heís glad he did. The other son, same thing. I told him it was trade school, comm college, job, or 4 yr college, but he had to make his own way thru life.

Also, for a weekend forget the house and take your son somewhere if heíll go. It really helped my kids to just get away.

[This message edited by homewrecked2011 at 4:10 AM, April 4th (Sunday)]

StillLivin posted 4/6/2021 02:27 AM

What are his consequences when he refuses to do what you tell him, walks away when you're talking to him, leaves his room in a disaster?
My youngest and my niece (I had guardianship at the time), were absolutely disgusting. Initially they had video games taken away, then grounded. After that didn't work, I took everything on the floor, bed, etc. and tossed it in my vehicle, drove on base and tossed it in a dumpster. This included their bed linens. If they can't take care of it and keep it presentable, then they just wouldn't have it. It took them months to earn a full bed linen set again (same with their clothes).
One consequence would be to give his birds away. He's not taking care of them. That is a natural consequence.

Bigger posted 4/7/2021 11:18 AM

I have commented on other threads about the role of parenting and when/how/if that role ever endsÖ This post will probably end up going all over the place, but itís a collection of my thoughts on parenting and what you might have to do regarding your son.

I think our role as parents is to best prepare our kids to leave us. Sort of like when birds teach their young ones to fly, knowing once they reach a certain competence they will leave the nest possibly never to return.
It might vary between states and countries but generally when your ďchildĒ turns 18 they are considered legally independent and accountable. I think we Ė as parents Ė need to realize this and have them prepared to deal with the added responsibility that age brings them. We can ease that load, maybe even prolong it for some time, but eventually our kids need to be independent and responsible for their actions.

We might think that is only limited to extremes. Like we donít want them to go to jail or do drugs or whatever. But itís so much more IMHO. Like he wonít go to jail or be stabbed for being late to work because he was online gaming late into the night, but he might lose his job. That in turn might make him late with the rent and cost him his apartment. Not maintaining a basic level of cleanliness might allow the landlord to keep the deposit. Itís this ongoing action->consequence that we all deal with all our lives.
Itís also making them understand that all through life there will be tests and ďgraduationsĒ. With limited qualifications and no experience, he might get an entry-level job and if he does a good job (the test) he might ďgraduateĒ into a higher wage, better role, team-leaderÖ
Itís also making them understand that there are tests we fail in, and then being brutally honest to ourselves why we failed. I have been fired from a job for purely my own fault and I have been laid off for reasons way beyond my control. One was definitely a failure, the other maybe a failure in not placing myself in a situation less likely to be sensitive to the economy.
It can even be more subtle and in forms many adults are battling with all their lives, like in overspending and dealing with credit-card debt and car loans well into your later years, or not having retirement, or not being able to do what you want to because you canít plan and implement.

Basically and what I might be trying to get across is this: Once your kid leaves your home you want someone that realizes the effects of action/inaction and itís consequences, the importance of planning, the importance of being in control of what he/she can control and the importance of accepting the consequences of his/her actions Ė both the good consequences and the bad consequences.
We might focus on the bad consequences: Donít show up at work and you get fired, donít pay your rent and you get evicted, donít have insurance and your car getís booted, donít have money and you go hungryÖ But we also need to focus on the good: Get a job and you get cash, learn to handle it and you can get a vehicle, save for the down-payment for an apartment, take holidays, buy stuffÖ

The best and safest environment to learn this is at homeÖ

IMHO your son probably knows all this. He knows he should feed the birds, clean their cages, pick up his laundry, do his choresÖ But he getís away with not doing it. In real-life he wonítÖ If he mistreated a spouse, a child, heckÖ even a dogÖ he could end up in trouble.
He getís away with demanding cash of you because he knows you will eventually give. Once in the real world itís the collection agencies that are harassing HIM, the repo-man after his vehicle and the bank with the foreclosure because with age his issues escalate beyond what dadís 20 can cure.
No matter where and how he lives he will lose his room-mate, GF and even his lodgings if he doesnít take part in cleaning and maintaining the home.

Kids vary in their development, but that doesnít change the age of accountability. If itís 18 in your area then irrespective of his maturity heís a ďgrown manĒ the day he turns 18. He can walk down to the Marine recruitment office and sign up without your consent.

I think you should emphasize this to him. That heís reaching an age where society considers him an adult. And as an adult the roles changeÖ
Talk to him like an adult because heís only 12 months from being legally an adult.

Right now heís in your home for two reasons: You love him and want the best for him AND you have a moral and legal obligation. The minute he turns 18 your love and your desire for the best to him wonít change, and there can be moral reasons for why you let him remain in your home, but the legal reasons arenít there. That opens up so many OTHER ways for you to help him learn whatís needed to survive in life and your love for him and your moral compass might make having him move out the best option.
Donít tell him itís unavoidable that he move out at 18. Donít make it an ultimatum. But rather that if things donít work out then by the time heís 18 then if you two canít find a way to cohabit then the natural and best progression might be that you donít. Nothing mean, not throwing him out but rather a consequence of his decisions. Him eventually leaving is simply sensible because heís an adult and its your house.

I would be very clear that itís not necessarily what you want. You might be more than willing to have him in your home for some more years while he takes his first steps as an adult. But that would be based on you seeing him make life-advances. Furthering his qualifications/education, getting and keeping a job, partaking in the chores of home, being an active and contributing member in the family.

I would then ask him what HE thinks is reasonable. What are reasonable expectations from him? How can he contribute? He might not think itís fair that he mows the lawn all the time, but maybe if he realizes YOUR contributions and you two can see them as mutually beneficial then he might realize how cleaning his room, dealing with his laundry, mowing the lawn and cleaning the bathrooms every second week might be ďfairĒ.

The key to what Iím suggesting is to do what he wants you to do Ė only what he think he wants isnít what he expectedÖ He WANTS to be treated like an adult. Iím suggesting you do that by engaging him in a two-way conversation. No directives or one-sided discussions but a negotiation where both approach the table as equals. Of course as the home-owner you have the last word, but maybe he wantís to see to dinner on Mondays and Wednesdays. Maybe he accepts that you both take Thursday afternoon and evening to clean the house and order in pizza. Engage him in conversation and if things donít work out have meetings rather than confrontations.

If heís not raising his barÖ also have meetings where you warn him that maybe you just accept that you failed in your parenting and maybe he should prepare to leave once he reaches 18Ö

ZenMumWalking posted 4/12/2021 01:29 AM

So how's it going Abbondad??

Gottagetthrough posted 4/12/2021 07:18 AM

This kid sounds a little bit like me in high school. Not the messy part, but they just didnít do the schoolwork part. What worked for me was going away to college to be honest. And taking classes that I really enjoyed.

After getting my kid tested for ADHD, and talking to the behavioral psychologist, Iím sort of realizing that I probably have ADHD too. And the reason that I was at the bottom of my class in high school, and then went on to graduate with two graduate degrees with honors, not that many years later, itís probably because I hyperfocus and got to learn about what I wanted to.

Is there anyway that you can work with his teachers to get him through school, and perhaps encourage learning about topics that he is a danger of failing through one of his interests?


As for the messy room. Again from what Iíve read about ADHD, and I am no expert, I think people with ADHD a lot of times are kind of messy. I know for me my house is a wreck, but I know where everything is, and I get very upset when people move my piles or clean off my kitchen table. Because I knew my credit card was underneath the middle couch cushion because I put it there to make sure I wouldnít lose it. When I was a kid my mom kept the house very neat and tidy. Andwas very good about throwing away things or donating things. So I never had messy issues back then. I do have clutter issues now

[This message edited by Gottagetthrough at 7:38 AM, April 12th (Monday)]

annanew posted 4/12/2021 14:04 PM


Abbondad!!! I remember you.

First, the not caring about having roaches and moths in his room is a red flag for depression. Messy is one thing... this is beyond that. Even if you don't think he is depressed... he probably is. It's very common at that age. He probably needs to see someone.

Unless you fear he might turn violent, say no to the money. No matter how much he harasses you.

Good luck.


Abbondad posted 4/17/2021 19:12 PM

Hi, Everyone. I apologize for posting and running. My computer died and I cannot ever get on the site with my phone!

I will read through the responses and post again soon. For now, thank you so much for all the caring and thoughtful replies and advice!

PS: My son got a job and worked his first eight hours today! Kennel assistant at the local animal rescue. He is exhausted and happy! I'm really proud of him.

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