Avatar universal

Help for my brilliant, but unmotivated 14yo son

My youngest son, who is 14yrs old, is (hopefully) in his last year of middle school (8th grade).  He's had issues since elementary with behavior and lack of doing his day to day work, but nothing out of the ordinary, from what his teachers have said.  However, the past 2 or 3 years in middle school, his attitude towards his school work, and school in general, has changed drastically.  I have an open rapport with almost all of his teachers, front office workers and even his principal.  They call/txt me anytime they have any issues with him in class and I welcome any feedback or advice from them.  Nowadays, not only does he refuse to do his day to day work and homework, but he will sit in class staring into space and blatantly ignoring his teachers or disrupt the class by talking with other students.  What frustrates his teachers and me is the fact that he makes near perfect scores on any tests, quizzes or exams.  Going to conference night is like listening to a broken record as we go from teacher to teacher... he's absolutely brilliant, aces his tests, but refuses to do any work... and as they have no day to day work to "prove" his grade, they cannot give him passing marks.  I should also mention that my son is already in honors classes, as we hoped this might help him feel more challenged, and therefore want to do better/more.  I have conversations with my son on a regular basis about what's going on in school and where he sees himself in the future, and it breaks my heart the answers that he gives most of the time.  He's constantly talking about how stupid he is and says he just doesn't care, and it kills me that as much as I love and care about him, he doesn't seem to care about himself.  I had a very sheltered life growing up as an only child of a single mother, so have very limited experience with family dynamics outside of my own with my children.  I try very hard to make my children confident in themselves and let them make certain decisions for themselves to try to give them an idea of how life works and that there are consequences to their decisions and actions, but that they shouldn't be afraid to make mistakes and should take those mistakes and turn them into lessons.  This is very different from my childhood, as my own mother kept me in the house and as far away from the world as possible until I began rebelling around the age of 15.  I also talk to them about the mistakes I've made, to try to show them that sometimes they can learn from others, so they don't have to make the same mistakes themselves.
I know that our background certainly plays a role in why my son acts like he does.  I was in a relationship with his father for nearly 10 years. He was born about 15 months into that relationship and his father was very abusive.  The abuse began when I was pregnant with him, and, of course, looking back, I know I should've left much, much sooner than I did, but without making this question any longer than it already will be, I won't go into the details of why I stayed for as long as I did.  It was definitely a huge mistake on my part and one I feel massive amounts of guilt for and will probably regret for the rest of my life.  There was only one incident in which my son's father abused him personally, as I refused to leave them alone together knowing my ex's hair trigger temper and when I heard my son's cries and my ex's yells, I ran in immediately and got between them, taking the abuse myself... which was usually the case when my ex would hone in on any of the children, mine or his.  I understand that while the kids may not have been abused personally, simply seeing or hearing it going on was abuse in and of itself.  I have 2 older children, but neither have any issues even closely resembling the ones my youngest has.  I should also state that my older children go to a private school, not paid for by me, as I cannot afford it, but my youngest is in public school as he was kicked out of private school for his use of profanity and disruptive behavior.  I am aware that counseling is vital for my son, but cannot afford to pay out of pocket, do not have insurance (or any help from the state/govt.) and my son is covered under his father's insurance, but after 7 or 8 years of literally begging everyone I know to beg, I have not been given a copy of his insurance card and without one, cannot make an appt for him to see a counselor/psychologist.  I have researched help in my area, but due to the fact that my son is covered by his father's insurance, they will not help us and tell me that appointments must be made using the insurance.  I am at my wit's end and have no idea where to turn next.  I've spoken to his Dr., school counselors, teachers... tried to get him into community sports leagues, etc... It seems the only thing that can keep his interest are video games, which I limit and monitor him on.  He has very limited interaction with his father, seeing him maybe once or twice a year, not only because I am no longer there to protect him, but simply because he is not interested in spending time with him, and thankfully I suppose, his father doesn't seem interested in pursuing a relationship with our son either.  I have looked into, and tried, for several years, to enroll him in magnet schools in our area, but to no avail.  I guess my question is, does anyone have any other advice as to what the problem might be.  I've been told by friends that he could have anything from autism to ADD/ADHD (though with all the talks I've had with his Dr, it's never been suggested by him), or that I should try to send him off to military school, etc...  I do not want to send my son away and I refuse to just let this be or assume that this is just the way he is and give up on it.  My children mean everything to me, and as such, I am open to any suggestions or advice (minus that given by trolls, of course)
Please help!

Sorry for this being so long, but felt all info included was pertinent, and I'd like to thank any responders, in advance, for advice or suggestions given.
6 Responses
189897 tn?1441126518
    Oh, boy, I have always felt that I can tell the level on a persons despair and commitment by the length of their post.  I feel for you and hopefully, I can help a bit.
     First thought is if he is seeing a normal doctor (which you mentioned), they should have a copy of his insurance card - or he would not be getting treatment. So ask them for a copy.  Or, if they will not give you a copy they certainly should be able to send it on to another doctor. Second, what would happen if he had an emergency and needed treatment? Without a card he would not get the help he needs.  Do you have full legal custody?  Because not having a card is dangerous for him, and any judge would see it that way.
    But, on to your major question.  I am also the CL of the adhd forum - http://www.medhelp.org/forums/ADD---ADHD/show/175 and I have seen these symptoms many times.  Sometimes even in kids in college.  And as a person who taught middle school for many, many years - this is also very familiar to me.
   He has many of the symptoms of ADD.   And, I have seen so many kids who are intelligent and have just given up due to their ADD.   Doctors, teachers, tend to miss it because of the child's intelligence.  For me, the best clue was always frustration...followed by giving up.
   My experience (in education, on this forum and the adhd one) has been that private schools usually do not have the experience (or simply cannot afford it) to detect AD/HD problems.  In an elementary school where the teacher gets to know the child, many times this can be caught early.   By middle school, where the teacher only sees the child for less then an hour a day, they just don't get to know them.
   Anyway, here is a pretty good link on ADD - https://www.additudemag.com/slideshows/symptoms-of-inattentive-adhd/
   I think you will find that a lot of it looks familiar.
   And, just for a bit of perspective, here is a link on adult ADD. ...  https://www.additudemag.com/slideshows/do-i-have-adhd-adult-symptoms/?utm_source=eletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=october&mc_cid=fe16e43f19&mc_eid=34d357d554
    Your next step after reading this links is to ask me any questions you have.  either on this forum or the adhd one.
     The next step is more difficult.  He needs to be tested.  It sounds like this is out of the area of expertise of your doctor.  Perhaps he could refer you to a psychiatrist that specializes in ADHD?  That might also help insurance wise as hopefully they could provide that information.
   If that does not work, then your school might be able to help.  Make an appointment with the school psychologist.  Time is very important here!  If you wait till high school, all of his history could be gone.
   And, yes, sending him away to a school that attempts to solve his problems with discipline rather then fixing the problem - would be a disaster.  
   I hope this helps.  
134578 tn?1614729226
Regarding the insurance card, you say you have spoken to everyone you can think of to get a copy, but you don't mention that you have spoken to a lawyer.  Why not?  If it is in the child's best interest to be diagnosed, it should be a relatively simple matter for the attorney to get to your ex's attorney and get a copy of the card.
Avatar universal
I have a 13 year old and what i have done is got him a male mentor that spends time with him. He is in the big brother big sister program and for him having "big brother" has helped him. There are also programs that can help (free programs) try to find ssome free children's counseling peograms that might help. There is help out there just doing a little research will help. A friend of mine also went to CPS ( child protective services) foe help with her son and they helped her out (without taking him from her). But what it seems like he need someone to underatand him. The boys and girls club can help with that. If you have any questions please contact me on here
973741 tn?1342342773
Oh my goodness, I have a 7th grader and I was describing to a friend of mine with younger kids that the middle school years are a huge change and I really noticed that the effort factor of school dramatically shifts.  You have those who WANT to do well and those who really are indifferent. And if you don't make effort in middle school, it goes badly as the work is markedly harder.  Kids start separating into scholars/academic minded kids and those who aren't.  Sadly, a lot of kids do not really get the importance of doing well until it is too late.  And if a child has never found their own internal motivation to do well, a parent has a hard time influencing them when they reach this critical time.  Boo.  It's hard.  

My son has a developmental delay called sensory integration disorder.  This has always made him feel less than his peers.  However, he is quite intelligent.  A theme throughout elementary school was definitely that he felt he was stupid/dumb/not good. The kid never got a B!  Straight A's and in advanced classes.  His picture of himself didn't match reality. It IS heart breaking as a mother.  However, he got his motivation in the feeling of success when he wanted to prove to others that he wasn't.  He got more confident.  then middle school hit . . .

In middle school, it's a much bigger pond than elementary school.  My son was always one of the smartest, praised for grades, etc. in elementary school.  Lots of smart kids in middle school---  harder to rise to the top.  He wanted, so badly, this honorary thing they do every month for what they call their top students.  He finally got it in March!  It was killing him.  He's got a 4.0 but went immediately to that old stance that he must be stupid and that was why he wasn't getting this honor to be student of the month and others were.  Anyway, he encounters many more kids in middle school and to rise takes even more effort----  he notices this and it makes him question himself a bit again.  And the work IS harder.  He too is in Honors Math and it doesn't just come to him.  He has to work at it.  But we try to emphasize EFFORT verses Result. This helps him to relax.  

I think psychologically, the issues with his dad could absolutely be playing a role.  Have you discussed depression with him, his doctor, a therapist?  I would.  Please do not doubt the depth of inner turmoil that goes on when a child has had trauma with a key person in their life, has a lack of a father in their life, is rejected by his father.  This is devastating.  It needs to be explored and seen as a key aspect to every other aspect of his life and why he has difficulty.  

It does not sound like add/adhd to me.  Sometimes this gets the blame when a child chooses to not make effort.  I don't think the route of add/adhd is going to change this pattern for your son.  Just my opinion.

I'd work on his psychological state in general though as I said.  Does he have friends?  Does he say he is unhappy?  Are your goals aligned with his?  By this, I mean, you see him as someone that needs to do well at school.  He's clearly smart but not everyone is cerebral or interested in academics and higher learning.  We need to accept that as parents.  It's so hard.  WE want want is best for them and know education is key.  But if he is not motivated for it, military school, punishments, etc. will not make him more so.  Instead, HOW can you help him find what he needs to get a plan for life together.  Talk to him about options.  What if he wanted to be a plumber?  Tech school is the option.  He could make a good living at this.  And that is the key point to discuss with him.  In his future, he needs to be able to support himself.  Doing really well in school opens more doors for him.  But regardless, he has to think big picture.  Find out what he is interested in and find a way for him to explore it.  My boys do scouts . . .  they can spend a day with a professional to learn about what they do.  Maybe they'll love it or maybe they'll see that it would be a rotten way to spend every day earning a living.  But valuable in the process of figuring life out.  

If he is not athletic, what about some individual things such as a punching bag in the garage, running, bike riding, karate is so excellent for character/strength and discipline.  And what kinds of clubs do they have at your school?  Ours has a minecraft club that a boy we know and are friendly with that sounds very similar to your son ---  he loves.  He found his tribe so to speak in that club.  

Anyway, we are here to talk and help if we can!  I understand how you feel and know many parents in this same boat in middle school and high school. And it is frightening as you have an at risk kid----  we know if a child is untethered and struggling, they are more at risk for activity that we dread  in high school.  so, you are wise to be working on this.  hugs

Avatar universal

I was this same exact way. Your son is fine hunney, I'm not stepping on anyone's credentials, but these Doctors, Psychologist, and Psychiatrist go to school for years to pin point what's wrong, not to see the obvious. And that puts children like your son and myself, when I was a child in a dangerous place. I was the same way in school, when I was younger I had behavioral problems, not doing homework or assignments but I could ace every test they'd give me.

The bottom line, my personal opinion and my personal experience is this. Your son is brilliant, he's probably more brilliant than you and any of his teachers that's why he probably does minimum studying and minimum class work and homework and can still ace a final exam in the blink of an eye! However, just like me he feels likes nothing in this world because that's what your telling and displaying to him. In his mind he thinks "why do this homework, I already know it" "why show this math work when I can get the answer in my head" " why sit here in class and discuss this crap, I know it already".

More than likely the thing that ticks him off like me, is a teacher marking a big red X on math problem #2 as wrong because I simply wrote the answer, that I know is correct, (187×1965=367,455) because I didn't show my work. Hes thinking OMG lady you cant solve that without writing it out? Like me, he probably thinks its a waste of time to go thru that when I can do it in my head. But it's wrong?

That would frustrate me so much until Id go off so bad, throw a chair and get suspended. In my mind I was thinking these idiots can't multiply in their head so I have to show my work and waist time when I can be done and THINK!

My teacher would call my mother because I would stare at the ceiling for 35 minutes. Why? Because you're explain something I already know, and your explaining how to do it one out of 5 ways and it's the most difficult, and your not even explaining it correctly you dummy! Lol. Then I'd think about things that intrigued me, not math, I know how to do math, they dont, so teach them, not me!

Just like your son I was thrown in honors classes, did I think it was a challenge, not at all... It was as remedial as saying the alphabet backwards, or learning a new time table every week. Why can't we do 1-10 the first day and so on and by the end of the week we'd know 1-50? In my mind that was logical. I was wondering why are we  stopping at 12×12?

His mind is probably too advanced. And to him it's so frustrating for him to sit there and have to relearn with the class, by the teacher, when he already knows how to do it several easier ways! But yet you fail me? Really? Now I know math is meant to build thinking and problem solving skills, but what if you've already got that mastered!

I'm sorry so long, I wish I could tell you all this in person so you can absorb it without having to read.

He has a lot on his mind. Ask him? What does he think about when he's staring into space! He thinks he's nothing because people are telling him he's nothing because he can ace a test without studying. It made me cry when you expressed  "hopefully" he was in his last year. Because I know what it's like to feel WORTHLESS because you know the material yet "hopefully" they'll pass you. That makes him feel like he will nevery amount to anything because he didn't show his steps and its correct yet he just got a big red X. Take some time to think about that.

I'm not saying he's exactly like me, he may be better but my childhood years were miserable because of a cookie cutter school system that convinced my mom I was AD HD, gave her a check for me, along with more psych meds than the law should ever allow, that turned me into a zombie! I was put into 4 institutions for troubled adolescent children, special behavioral classes within my school where I was picked on for being "slow" which turned into more fights and more suspensions. And when you challenge teacher by passing a test without doing any training material, guess what? You should have just spat in their face. Because guess what, when your being picked on for being the dumb one, for failing an assignment, you think that teacher will take up for you, no, because your the problem.

I'm 35 (06/24) almost, I'm a Gay black man with a degree and I work in Law Enforcement now, specifically the prison system. Being diagnosed with ADHD ruined my childhood and the beginning of adult hood, I was addicted to Adderall, which treated my alleged condition, and I graduated to Heroine when the Adderall wasn't enough! I absolutely love my job, which I actually didn't need a degree to perform but I got it to prove something to my son, it's not for everybody, it wasn't for me, I did it online QUICKLY (LOL)! I will be a Warden one day!

You want to know why I know I will, because that's what I used to stare at the ceiling and think about. Not corrections, but how I could help people that society throws away as trash! Statistically more than 1/2 of the prison population is diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and I was supposed to be one.

Sorry this was so long but I had to give this information to you. Be cautious of the labels and diagnosis that we allow these persons that went to school for 12+years to pinpoint what's WRONG with our children! I'm not saying don't look into it, just do your own research, YOURSELF! DONT RESEARCH MATERIAL A DOCTOR GIVES YOU! BECAUSE  ITS MORE THAN LIKELY INFORMATION THAT TELLS YOU WHATS WRONG! I'm convinced at almost 35 years of age nothing was ever "wrong" with me.
Avatar universal
One last thing don't discuss with your son that someone thinks he could possibly be ADHD! DONT PUT THAT IN HIS HEAD! Anything he does is going to be knocked up 10 notches more due to that diagnosis.

I was put in an institution for 6 months because I put a match under the sink faucet because I was curious about how soot forms on certain objects! They put in my file due to having ADD I tried to burn my house down! Serioulsly? Really? I remember before they sent me away the judge or whoever he was asked me why I did it. I asked him why did I do what? He said, why did you try to burn your house down? I said, I knew one single match wouldnt sabotage a whole apartment complex buy putting it under an all metal faucet attached to a stainless steal vanity! His response was, what is a stainless steal. I said, it's a FIREPROOF metal that's processed with chemicals and other metals to prevent rust and other calcium or lime buildup! He said just because its fire retardant doesn't mean you couldn't have caused damage. I said, exactly I wouldn't light anything that was fire retardant because that could cause smoke damage and still cause a fire with high temperatures, I said fire proof. Lol!  And they admitted me to Cumberland Hall Institution for six months in Nashville, TN.
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