Acceptable Punishment for 15 year old who has no motivation

ANN BRANT - posted on 12/17/2013 ( 1 mom has responded )

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I have a 15 year old son who lacks motivation. He has late homework. His father and I feel like we are constantly babysitting him and e-mailing teachers to keep on top of his actions. When we punish him by taking away his phone or all electronics, he does not care. He acts like nothing we do bothers him. He does not hang with friends or go anywhere. His father and I are at the end of our rope and would love to hear suggestions. We also have two girls: 1st and 4th grade.

Thank you.

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Chet - posted on 12/18/2013

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Generally, I don't believe in using praise and punishment to manipulate kids into doing what you want. My feeling is that parents must help children to develop an internal sense of morality, motivation that responsibility.

My sense on this is that you can't punish a 15 year old into being truly motivated and engaged. Rather, you need to help your son find meaning, inspiration and challenge for himself so he will want to do things. It's the internal motivation that really matters in life.

At 15, you can't do school for your son. The babysitting and the emailing of teachers can't continue. That's a short term band-aid approach that is most likely making the situation worse. I wonder if your son has become disengaged partly because he feels like he has very little control, responsibility, space, freedom, etc, in his life. That's one possibility to consider at least.

In any case, the best solution is to really dig down and try to figure out why your son is like this and what will inspire him. It might not be what you want him to choose, but if he can find something to work hard at the skills and emotional maturity he gains will eventually translate into other parts of his life.

Some books that you might find helpful:

Why Boys Fail: Saving Our Sons from an Educational System That's Leaving Them Behind by Richard Whitmire

Too Safe for Their Own Good: How Risk and Responsibility Help Teens Thrive by Michael Ungar

Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men by Leonard Sax

The Trouble with Boys: A Surprising Report Card on Our Sons, Their Problems at School, and What Parents and Educators... by Peg Tyre

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