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Banging My Head Against The Wall
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Banging My Head Against The Wall

I'm writing in the hopes that someone else has/had a child similar to mine and can help me figure out how to get through to him. My son is 13 and lives with me full-time. He is not loud, brash and openly defiant and abusive like some of the other parents describe. He is extremely passive when it comes to his defiance. I'll give you a few examples:
My wife and I recently went to parent-teacher conferences for the first grading period this year. The first stop was his math teacher. She smiled, told us he was doing well in class, "but he certainly does love to read." He's been reading novels during her class and she has had to tell him several times to put the book away. At least a dozen times so far this year ... and it's only been a month! As a result of his reading addiction, he missed a few homework assignments because his nose was in the book instead of listening to her give out the assignment.
This novel reading extends to his science class, english class and possibly his social studies class. If it did, his social studies teacher didn't rat him out.
That leads me to his social studies class. He routinely neglects to bring home required materials to do his homework. He's behind by 3 assignments in social studies class. When I ask him at home what he has for homework, he will often say "nothing" or "we just have to read our book for reading class". Occasionally, I'll get "I have a math worksheet".
Why is this such a big deal? Why should I care that he's reading in class when he's getting A's and B's in his classes? Because he did the SAME THING LAST YEAR and nearly failed. He was told, under no uncertain terms, that he was NOT to read in ANY CLASS except for READING class. But, since I'm not sitting next to him in class all day, he figures he can get away with it.
We told him to bring EVERYTHING home the next day so he could catch up on all missed work over the weekend. I picked him up from school and asked him when he got in the car, "Do you have EVERYTHING?" He answered, "Yes." I said, "Are you SURE?" He said, "Yes." He managed to leave one worksheet behind. His excuse: "I forgot that it wasn't in my take-home folder, it's in my permanent in-class folder." One would think that with the amount of trouble he was in the day before that he would have found a way to bring his entire 7th grade career home in that bag.
It's not just schoolwork.
He helps with household chores like dishes and laundry. He's been doing the dishes since he was 10. You would think that after 3 years and repeated criticism of the condition of the glasses and dishes that, by now, he'd be an expert at it. Nope. We still find glasses with lip-prints and syrupy remnants in the bottom of the glass. He is told EXACTLY how it is to be done, yet he insists "I thought that if I did it this way...", which usually results in the job being done wrong. Laundry; same thing. He's given a certain order in which to do it, but he thinks his way is better because "I didn't think it would matter." And they end up wrong.
Now, before you all start saying "What's the big deal?" let me say a few things.
We are very poor right now. I'm supporting him, my wife, and partially her two teenagers on my salary. We don't have the money to keep re-washing things or buying new clothes that get ruined. We don't have the money to waste food. He needs to keep his grades up. The only way we can afford to send him to college is on grants and scholarships and if he's not showing an effort in his grades, it won't look good to try and get student aid.
My wife's oldest son will be 18 this February. He's supposed to graduate high school this June. I say "supposed to" because whether he does or not all depends on him. He's an honor roll student ... when he actually goes to school. He's been raised by his father to think that anything he does is fine. Good, bad or ugly. He's been taught that his daddy will "fix" any problem that comes up. He feels he can do absolutely anything he wants .. and he frequently says so: "I do what I want."  Just in the past 18 months, he's been arrested 3 times. He's overdosed on medications. He's gotten into altercations with police officers. He's stolen his father's vehicle while dad was asleep to drive to his friends house to party and on the way back, drunk, struck several parked cars, destroyed private property and totalled his father's vehicle. He fled the scene on that one, leaving an empty vodka bottle and an ounce of pot in the car.
The point of that last paragraph is to say that I don't want my son to turn into that. He needs to know NOW that there are consequences for his actions. Even the small choices have consequences. He can't just "do what he wants".

Again, I get no "F*** You" from him or anything like that, but it's plainly obvious that he still thinks he can just do whatever he wants as long as I don't find out about it. The trouble is ... I ALWAYS find out about it. A logical, sane person would just give up and stop doing it, knowing it's pointless to try. Not my son. He continues to defy me, passively.

I'm at the end of my rope. My wife, while she knows how to handle her own kids and their agressive defiance, hasn't a clue how to deal with this.

I need help.

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Avatar_f_tn
I just have to ask why does your son have to do laundry and wash dishes. Why not something easier like take trash out, clean his room. He goes to school all day and maybe he does not do it right because it seems like you fuss. I remember very clear when I was that age and would leave food ext. on the cups or dishes not on purpose but of course I got yelled at after a while you figure who cares. If the wife is not working she should be doing most of these things. Take his novels dont give them to him until he gets home check his bag before he leaves and check before you leave the school to make sure he has his homework are you punishing him when he doesnt do his homework
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Avatar_m_tn
Hi,
I realize this post is from several years ago, but I was just curious as to any conclusions or solutions you came to with your son's passive defiance? I have a 14 year old daughter who acts EXACTLY the same! And her father and I are at our wits end on what to do about it or how to help her get passed this. If anyone has any positive suggestions, please let me know.

Yvonne_H
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