‘My teenage son can’t be trusted’

Northern Outlook - - OUT & ABOUT -

Q: My son has just turned 13 and he’s switched overnight from be­ing a mo­ti­vated boy to a dis­or­gan­ised one.

He’s started high school this year and he’s off to a bad start. He for­gets about home­work and mis­places his books. He wants to quit mu­sic lessons and he never has the right kit for sport.

He’s lost his new shoes, his lit­tle sis­ter’s gad­get watch and his lit­tle job of feed­ing the neigh­bour’s an­i­mals ended badly be­cause he didn’t lock up the shed. The dog nearly died from eat­ing too much food.

He’s ex­haust­ing. What am I in for?

Be­lieve it or not, your son will be feel­ing anx­ious and over­whelmed by this sud­den switch too. He won’t want to be this hope­less and he prob­a­bly feels as if he’s be­ing buried un­der a land­slide of chaos.

Maybe try to share a laugh over this change but put some ur­gent struc­tures in place. A good tool to start with might be a wall


plan­ner or a star chart. He prob­a­bly seems too old for a star chart but if you set it up so his re­ward is age-ap­pro­pri­ate, then he’ll buy into it. The good thing about this sys­tem is that some­one has to check the jobs off – for a while. (Less dan­ger of the dog gorg­ing it­self to an early death).

Per­haps your son is do­ing too much? Maybe the mu­sic lessons or some other ac­tiv­ity have to go on hold? Your son will be find­ing his feet and watch­ing his peers to as­cer­tain his place in the new school. That takes a lot of en­ergy, es­pe­cially if he’s the first in the fam­ily to go to high school.

Have a set home­work time and maybe he could work near you for a while. You don’t want to nag him, or do his home­work for him, but you can help him avoid long pe­ri­ods of blank wall-star­ing or pen dis­man­tling.

You and your son could write a check­list for morn­ings which in­clude such ba­nal things as lunch, home­work, sports kit, jacket etc. Thir­teen-year-old boys are uni­ver­sally grate­ful for food treats so have some­thing ready to add to his lunch when the morn­ing rou­tine has been suc­cess­fully com­pleted.

And here’s a catch. Your in­volve­ment is cru­cial in the for­ma­tion of his new habits. Where th­ese things of­ten fall down, is that you’ll lose mo­ti­va­tion be­fore he does – no one’s re­ward­ing you for your dili­gence. Even­tu­ally, the check­ing and re­ward­ing be­come bur­den­some and the habits don’t have time to be in­grained.

If you per­se­vere and put the work in now, it might save an­guish when the pres­sure comes on in years 12 and 13.

Mary-anne Scott has raised four boys and writ­ten two nov­els for young adults in­clud­ing

As one of seven sis­ters, there aren’t many par­ent­ing prob­lems she hasn’t talked over. To send her a ques­tion email life.style@fair­fax­me­dia.co.nz with Dear Mary-anne in the sub­ject line. Your anonymity is as­sured.

Teenage boys may need help learn­ing to or­gan­ise their busy lives when they reach high school.

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