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Please Help! - A Completely Unmotivated Senior

dalgatordalgator Registered User Posts: 10 New Member
edited November 2008 in Parents Forum
Soliciting advice from Parents in a similar solution

My son is a senior in high school and it has become extremely difficult for us to get him to do anything for himself. He says he hates work, which is really odd considering he does no work at all. He is managing to stay above water for now with B grades in all subjects. With extreme reluctance he has done a shoddy job on his essays for colleges. He skips attending classes if he can. He has been extremely surly and rude when we recommend that he at least put in the bare minimum to get by. He spent all his money for eating out and overspent on his debit card and collected huge penalties. He was too lazy to check the balances on his debit card before using it and hence the overspending. He refuses to discuss anything saying that he is stressed out.

On our part we tried working with him. We offered for him pull out of school for a year. He refused saying that he can handle it. Though he is extremely bright, considering he does not want to work, we suggested that a vocational school may be good for him. He scorned that idea saying he wants to be a doctor. We explained to him that it requires several years of hard work inside and outside of school and since he has not shown any propensity to put in any hard work he ought to perhaps reconsider it. He believes he will do fine. He is constantly putting off doing work, getting stressed because of that, lying about work to his teachers and us, getting more stressed as a result and ultimately using rudeness as a tool to get people from talking to him. There is a huge disparity in life he thinks he will be able to lead and the reality of what his work ethic will enable him.

No, he is not doing drugs or alcohol. We know for sure. Essentially, he has been building a web of lies about him and believing it and using extreme rudeness as a way of keeping his parents and any caring friends away from him. He refuses to communicate. At times though , he admits what he is doing is wrong and the he knows he should be working and keeps getting distracted all the time.

He refused to discuss counseling at school. We will have to have a professional counselor meet with him. Any recommendations on how we determine the type of professional help we can use and have any of you that may have been in a similar situation had any success. Could it be a medical problem?

As much as we want to back off and let life mete out his just desserts, we are having difficulty ignoring the situation. He is only seventeen and we would hate to see him punished for the rest of his life for his short sightedness and missed opportunities.

Thank you in advance for any helpful suggestions.
Post edited by dalgator on

Replies to: Please Help! - A Completely Unmotivated Senior

  • historymomhistorymom Registered User Posts: 3,467 Senior Member
    Have you tried having a specific non-emotional conversation where you spell out his alternatives? Does he believe you?

    I know you said that he wants a career in medicine and that he seems to have no desire to do what he needs to do to take the first steps to get there. He seems to be the victim of magical thinking and in that he is not alone. If he can't get motivated this year, the truth is that he won't be punished for the rest of his life if he ends up working and attending a communnity college next fall. It isn't a punishment at all and he can get a certificate for phlebotomy or CNA and work in the field making reasonably good money

    Lots of boys just aren't ready, lots of them want a school that will prepare them for a specific career or trade because they are pragmatic and frankly tired of school. They want to finish quickly and get on with their adult life. Others literally have no clue and are stressed out by the process of applying because to them everything seems permanent and quite frightening. Avoidance is their way of dealing. Don't know if one of these or another is your son's story don't know if he knows, as many don't, but an honest conversation where you detail the "If, Thans" will perhaps help him a) feel like he has permission to choose another path b) help him know that if he wants to go to college he needs to get off the stick.

    Please emphasize that fact that you want him to have options next fall and that you want him to know that his options are tied to action at some point. Best of Luck. I feel for you as I can see myself in your spot in a few years time
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Registered User Posts: 26,432 Senior Member
    There was a time that I would have been more upset about this than I am any more. The fact of the matter is that these kids generally have a long life and mistakes made a long the way can be overcome for the most part. Not going directly to college is not a huge mistake. The college path may even be the best path not to take for some kids. Every year, there are many kids who flunk out because they do not want to be there, or are there for the wrong reasons. That can shortlist options much more than waiting to decide what you want to do.

    I suggest getting in the apps for some fits. You may as well choose them if he does not care. Yeah, I know a lot of moms who end up doing this. Then by May, he has some college choices and if he still does not want to go, then he can take a gap year, working for money or volunteer work. Americorp is a great option. The average college student is 24-25 years old and is taking classes part time and working his way through school. That may be the way he chooses. However, most kids end up getting caught in the momentum of what their friends are doing, and if they are going off to college, he will probably unenthusiastically do the same. At which point you are going to hold your breath that he stays in there and graduates in an acceptable time period. Actually very typical.
  • oreo45oreo45 Registered User Posts: 404 Member
    One of my brothers was just like your son, while the other kids in the family were high achievers, he barely graduated from HS. Didn't go, failed classes. He flunked out of an away college that my parents sent him to pretty quickly & then worked odd jobs for a few years, got married to his HS sweetheart. After seeing others pass him by, and realizing that he needed college to get a better job, he went to the local CC. There, as a more mature student he got all As, then transferred to a top LA college while his wife supported them. Then he went to law school. Very successful now.
  • PackMomPackMom Registered User Posts: 7,667 Senior Member
    OP, my S2 was very similiar, so busy with friends,football and the fun senior social life (which was his priority) that he was not movtivated at all when it came to talking about/visiting colleges or plans for the future. At one point he thought he might want to be an auto mechanic, which was OK with us if he was serious about it.
    A very average student, he wasn't sure what he wanted to do, so basically avoided talking/thinking about it.

    We were very clear with him that he had to do something after graduation and gave him a choice of 4 yr. college, Community college (for transfer or trade education whichever he wanted) or the military. The idea was that he HAD to make a decison and do something. If it turned out to be the wrong one then he could always make changes but floating along aimlessly was not an option.

    I had him apply to two state u's (easy online apps.)where he would be accepted. He also took two classes at the Comm.College during senior year. He did it mostly so he could leave high sch. early each day but I think it did benefit him in that he got to see what attending the CC was like. He took one college class and one trade class so got a good idea of each.

    By Christmas of senior yr., he was accepted and decided that he wanted to go to one of the state u's.
    He is there now and happy. We haven't seen any grades yet (he tells me grades ore "Ok") but have told him that he is expected to make satisfactory (Dean's List not expected,lol) grades in order to continue on. We have made our expectations known and it is up to him to hold up his end of the bargain.

    My best advice is to do whatever you can to get him to at least apply to schools so that in the end he will have choices.
  • VeryHappyVeryHappy Registered User Posts: 16,754 Senior Member
    I agree with what the other posters have said.

    I have a friend who has five children. The first went to a top university, graduated, is working and doing well. The second went to a huge out-of-state university, dropped out quickly, got a job as a telemarketer and is doing very very well -- learning life's lessons and supporting himself.

    Anticipating problems, what my friend did with the second was tell him that they would pay 100% of tuition for any As and Bs, but the kid would owe them 25% of tuition for every C, 50% of tuition for every D, and 100% of tuition for every F. (They prorated based on number of courses taken.) Since the kid had only a finite amount of money, it was his running out of money that convinced him to drop out of school. At the time I thought she was being too restrictive and punitive, but it seems to have worked for him.

    He will go back to college eventually, when he's more mature and has a plan.
  • NorthstarmomNorthstarmom Registered User Posts: 24,853 Senior Member
    Both sons were similar to your S. You can check CC's archive to find details as I've posted them before.

    To make a short story long, I stood over older S (who said he wanted to go to college), now 24, to make sure he got apps into college. He got in -- with merit aid-- to a college that he loved, and flunked out with an average below 1.0. He never returned to school, but does live away from home and supports himself by doing office work.

    I did not help younger S (now 20) with his apps. Although he said he wanted to go straight to college, he didn't manage to submit any apps as a h.s. senior. He also almost didn't graduate because he was so behind on handing in homework.

    Both sons have always known that our house rules are that they can live at home without paying rent if they are in h.s. or college fulltime. Otherwise, they are expected to get a job and pay rent.

    After missing the deadlines for the colleges that interested him, younger S -- a longtime volunteer -- got an Americorps job created for him. He lived at home (paid rent) as an Americorps volunteer for a year after h.s.

    He also on his own applied to college (and paid for those apps).

    His Americorps experience, plus good scores, rigorous curriculum helped him get some merit aid to the expensive private college of his choice. He also had to take out hefty loans (We co-signed) because H and I had warned him as a h.s. senior that if he got bad grades senior year, we wouldn't pay toward his college until he had proven his commitment to college by getting a year of good college grades.

    S is now a soph in college, is on Dean's List, and is active -- including as a leader -- in several college organizations. He really appreciates being in college, and is taking full advantage of the opportunity.
  • anxiousmomanxiousmom Registered User Posts: 5,729 Senior Member
    Has he been evaluated for depression and anxiety disorders?
  • TimeCruncherTimeCruncher Registered User Posts: 243 Junior Member
    I am one of the few parents on this board who is loathe to push extracurriculars (many of which, in my opinion, are a "resume-building" waste of time), but in your son's case, a paying job or a volunteer job at a local hospital, clinic, or doctor's office might be a good thing. Real-world exposure to the medical environment, and the opportunity to observe and rub elbows with medical professionals, might be just what your son needs to help him decide whether or not he really wants to become a doctor (or other medical professional), and if so, to decide for himself whether or not he is willing to do the academic work required to achieve that goal. On the other hand, your son might discover that he hates the medical environment, and does not want to become a doctor (or other medical professional). If that's the case, then it's better your son finds out now rather than later, so that he can take time to consider more appropriate and appealing potential careers before he applies to prospective colleges and/or vocational schools.
  • arabrabarabrab Registered User Posts: 5,946 Senior Member
    I'd be careful about trying to push a rope uphill. If he's not interested in applying to college, it would be a huge waste of time and money to force the issue.

    I come from a large family, and two of the younger boys sounded pretty much just like your son. They both went to work instead of college. Once decided in his mid-20's that working in a grocery store wasn't his life ambition, and he went to CC and then state U., and now has a managerial job with a high tech firm, a nice home, and a great family. The other still wanders the world.

    Parenting is frustrating, but sometimes you just need to realize that if the motivation doesn't come from within that it isn't likely to have a good result.

    (On the other hand, I do second the question about whether you've had him evaluated for depression and/or drug issues. That could be a very different issue than amotivation.)
  • ConsolationConsolation Registered User Posts: 21,620 Senior Member
    It sounds to me as if he is suffering from depression or something else. Underachieving, avoidance behaviors, distancing himself from others...not good. Sounds as if he's in a lot of pain. A lot of psychiatric issues manifest themselves in adolescence. If there's any way you can get him to see a professional, do it.
  • sarahdisk123sarahdisk123 Registered User Posts: 133 Junior Member
    I agree with Consolation. Has he always been like this or has it just manifested itself in his senior year?
This discussion has been closed.