Dear Dr. Darcy:
I have a 16-year old son who is going to be the death of me. He never helps out around the house unless I’m threatening him, and all he ever wants to do is be with his friends and girlfriend. We had his I.Q. tested many years ago and he tested at 140! He could do anything with his life but he does close to nothing in homework and manages to get B’s. And despite his I.Q., he’s not in any A.P. [Advanced Placement] classes. I’m at my wits end, Dr. Darcy! We give him whatever he needs ~ a car, cell phone, weekend spending money… I had him when I was very young and probably too permissive and now I have a monster on my hands. Please Help Me!!!
Let me get this right: You have a 16 year-old son who you had when you were very young ~ probably when you didn’t have a clue about how to raise a child. He’s a genius, but because of his developmental stage, he doesn’t apply himself in school. Instead, he’s coasting along in honors classes, getting B’s. His primary focuses are his friends and girlfriend, so we know he has some social skills, unlike many of his Mensa cohorts. A further distinction is that he’s mature enough to be in a committed relationship, unlike most 16-year-old teenage boys. And despite the fact that you speak in generalities (never, always, nothing, ever), despite the fact that you ‘give him whatever he needs’ without leveraging his needs to meet some of your own, he does eventually respond by doing what he’s asked. What a piece of shit!
What you need is some gratitude and some parenting skills ~ in that order. You have yourself a kid that many parents would kill for, yet you describe him as being the death of you. Wake up, B.M., or your pessimism will cause you to miss out on the last of your son’s teenage years.
Here’s what I want you to do: I want you to pick 2 small/specific chores that your son can do daily (5 days a week). The combined chores shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to complete. Then take his weekly spending money and divide it by 10, so that each dollar amount coincides with 1 of the 2 daily chores. Now take out an envelope and mark it “Spending Money Earned” and leave it in the kitchen. Each day, you’ll put a dollar amount into the envelope that coincides with the number of chores he completed. If he does his chores, he earns money. If he doesn’t, he’s out of luck. No yelling. No threatening. Peace, if you will.
Last but not least, every day I want you to catch your son doing something right and acknowledge it (meaning, verbalize it). Not for him, but for you. You see, you’ve convinced yourself that you birthed the devil, and it’s going to take some time to retrain your brain to see and process the good in him. This Gratitude for Thy Son exercise is the most important of my feedback, because you’re so busy counting the clouds that you’re missing the sunshine. And you can’t get these years back once they’re gone.
WRITER’S STATS: Female, heterosexual.