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High School Years and Beyond
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Subject Topic: 14-year-old boy has no focus Post ReplyPost New Topic
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Posted: Oct 15 2015 at 3:21pm | IP Logged Quote organiclilac

Ladies, I am desperate here. My son is wonderful, caring, and smart. However, he cannot seem to focus and pay attention.

If I give him a verbal list of things to do, he rarely makes it past the first one or two items, even if he repeats them back to me.

If I give him a task like clearing the table, he always misses things. Most of his chores are half-done because he just doesn't notice everything.

He just failed a math test, partially because he forgot things he seemed to know well last week, and partially because he constantly misses things like negative signs and makes other silly mistakes.

I feel like he's drifting though life in a daydream. He always has a list of art and writing projects he'd rather be working on, and I think he's always thinking about ideas for his next painting or story instead of what he's doing.

We've had lots of discussions - and lots of scolding - about these habits over the years. Nothing has really changed. I once charged him a quarter every time he left his dishes on the table, thinking that we'd just pick one habit at a time, and it worked in the short-term, but once I thought we had that established and I stopped keeping track, he slipped right back. I don't know if I should try again to focus on one habit and keep at it longer, or start giving him consequences for All The Things.

I need a new strategy.

Tracy, wife to Shawn, mama to Samuel (4/01) and Joseph (11/11), and Thomas (2/15)
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Shari in NY
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Posted: Oct 17 2015 at 8:09am | IP Logged Quote Shari in NY

I am coming out of semi-retirement to give you some hope! I also have a son who is "wonderful, caring, and smart" and also a dreamer! You would not believe right now what a difference a few years make. Don't despair but do hold him accountable. If the table isn't clean the first time, do it again. But that's enough! Let him dream while he has the time. After all, that's really the best thing about homeschooling--that kids have time to dream and think and pursue their interests. My young man is now in his sophomore year of college. He made the dean's list last semester! Actually, he has a full scholarship and is studying nursing. I can't take credit for his success. When people praise our homeschooling I always give the credit to the time he had to just be himself! (He still can't spell!)

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Posted: Oct 17 2015 at 10:50am | IP Logged Quote SeaStar

Thank you, Shari! Very encouraging to hear this.

Tracy- I know it is annoying to have half finished chores ( I have this every day with my ds and pretty much never with dd), but I loved to read how your son is planning his next painting or writing project,

He is not without focus- sounds like he is focusing very much on what inspires him. And although I know he needs to learn life skills and how to be responsible, if he has a couple of real passions, he is way ahead of a lot of boys who just drift.

I read recently that George Washington Carver wore the same few clothes every day because he could not be bothered with things like laundry or buying new ones. I found that comforting somehow...

Melinda, mom to ds ('02) and dd ('04)

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Posted: Oct 19 2015 at 9:08am | IP Logged Quote SallyT

I was going to say, "That sounds very 14-year-old boy . . . "

My older son was very focused on biology from the age of about 12, and that was all. he. thought about. ever. Meanwhile, he would drop things without realizing he'd dropped them. His room was a nightmare (he recently went off -- to military college, where he has learned to be the world's tidiest person in a remarkably short time, under pain of I don't even want to think about what -- and I've realized for the first time just how tidy his younger brother is. We've been blaming him for the mess in their room for years . . . ). You could tell when he was the one who'd set the table -- to put it mildly. The orthodontist threatened to take his braces off and leave his teeth the way they were unless he roused himself to brush them better. And so on.

He also always had a project going -- science stuff, but also writing. Even in school our typical MO was that I would assign stuff, and then he would do something else, which I would end up counting for school, because it was always kind of impressive, just not what I had assigned, exactly. We did make this work, but it was always kind of open-ended, to say the least.

All of this did improve with maturity. Sixteen was markedly better than fourteen. And he always managed outside things -- dual-enrollment classes, a job with a veterinarian -- meticulously, so I knew he *could* manage. It was a matter of motivation, and I was like the human safe zone, where he could relax into his questionable habits! I think a lot of teenaged boys have trouble taking Mom seriously as a motivating authority figure -- if I really wanted to get something done, I generally had my husband deal with him.

Our 13-year-old son is very much the same way now. If he cares about something, he'll do it meticulously. Otherwise . . .

I know different families handle these things in different ways, but we do tie our kids' pocket money to chores. Each of the kids left at home has a "chore zone" -- dishes, bathroom, lawn mowing, etc -- and assigned chores must be done to our satisfaction before payment is rendered. In an ideal world, cleaning the bathroom well would be its own reward, but we've decided that "whatever it takes to get it done without our having to do it" is the best policy for family harmony. We pay them well enough that it really matters whether they do the job well or not (like, money you can actually buy things with without having to save for a year -- so we also have them buy things like desired-rather-than-needed clothing items for themselves), and if it's not done to our specifications, then we don't pay.

Again, this may or may not fit with others' chore ethics, but it does take a lot of ineffective nagging out of the equation. And amazingly, our son is really good at keeping the bathroom clean! He grouses when it someone else's turn, and they don't do it the way he would have done it. The pride of the Really Good Bathroom Cleaner . . . :) We did have to teach him, and I still have to point things out sometimes that need doing better, or again, but in the main he does a really good job at his assigned chores.

Anyway, I wouldn't worry too much. I'd figure out a way to get done what you want done in the way of chores, even if it's carrot-and-stick. Otherwise, let him be. He'll grow up!


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