Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Money – The Great Motivator July 29, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mother of a Man-Child @ 5:00 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

money boxAs the men-children head towards Year 10 (can you believe we’re already talking about subject selection for next year – Gulp!), Father of a Man-Child and I realize we are indeed getting to the pointy end of their school education.  And with that, we are keen to see an overall lift in their performance at school, as we all know that diligence in the early years pays off in the later years.

So with the latest school reports in hand, we discussed how we might incentivize the boys onto greater things during the second half of the year.  One of the men-children is a reasonably diligent student, although we think he does the bare minimum to achieve results, so is capable of a lot more.  And the other is a pretty poor student, in so far as he is not at all engaged by school (academia at least), not motivated (or even propelled by the threat of detentions) to do homework, listen in class, study etc – in short lacking in a basic belief in the importance of school education for his future prospects (sigh from Mother of a Man-Child, the most diligent of students).

On countless occasions the school tells us both are capable of far more – which I suppose is the biggest disappointment, especially with our disengaged man-child.   And so, to motivation – what better solution than MONEY!!!  Every 15-year-old boy who doesn’t have access to an in-built ATM at home, or a paying job, or has tight parents, surely needs money.  Especially with extended summer holidays on the horizon.

So we put a deal on the table for them:  For every B grade or better they achieved in their exams, we would pay them $100 per subject.  So they can both earn themselves $600 if they really want to – not bad for a 15-year-old we thought

In the case of one of the man-children, there was however a catch.  For whatever reason, he is consistently late for school.  No amount of detentions at school for lateness or positive reinforcement from home and school for timeliness seems to impact his behaviour.   His last report had 11 “half day absences” – basically the times he was late and was unaccounted for.  So we added a catch to his reward scheme.  For every late day on his report he would lose $20.  So if he had 10 late days it would cost him $200 offset by the B grades he would hopefully earn.

Do you know what he said?  No deal!!!  Crap – I didn’t see that coming.  He just refused to partake, point-blank, and said he’d rather go without than pay some money back.  I was exasperated.  How hard is it to get up and go to school on time – it’s such a small thing to do isn’t it?  Especially when your mother wakes you up every day!

No amount of reasoning in the next few weeks would convince him to partake in the scheme.  I was pretty pissed off with him especially since we’re even paying for a tutor for one subject, which should guarantee he gets a good grade (yep, double impost for us really).  Not one to be beaten (you know I hate to lose), I came up with an alternative deal that I wouldn’t let him refuse.  I basically flipped the penalty on its head.  So if he got five or less absences we would pay him a bonus $100.  That’s right, not a penalty but a further reward.  It seems weird, but hey if it works it’s worth it.

So time will tell how we go with the carrots for the men-children.  Father of a Man-Child and I are optimistic that it will motivate Man-Child I.  We’re less convinced about Man-Child II, but maybe he’ll surprise us?

Any other thoughts on how to motivate students?  Is the carrot or the stick better?  It’s hard to know sometimes.  Although removing PS3 for the term and taking the plug out of the TV certainly ensures they don’t have much to do except homework whilst they’re sitting upstairs some nights! 🙂

Read about more challenges with educating the men-children: “The Challenge of Educating Boys” 


Living with Man-Child Mess July 22, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mother of a Man-Child @ 5:00 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

dirty bedroomAs you know we have finished the upstairs addition to the house, so the men-children have their own space.  We foresaw the upside of this was that their area would be self-contained, and their mess would be out of sight, out of mind.  I know I said I wouldn’t care, but actually I do.

Both Father of a Man-Child and I are quite neat – it’s pretty effortless for us to keep the place tidy (to the point that he has been known to put the newspaper in the recycle bin before I’ve even had a chance to read it!).  Man-Child I is actually a chip off the old block – he keeps his room quite tidy too, for a boy.  But Man-Child II is in complete contrast.  What we make up for in neatness he makes up for in complete mess, as the pictures reveal.

Man-Child II will literally wait for it to pile up, until such time as the threat of death or no pocket-money finally motivates him.  Yes I know I should just leave it there for him, but quite frankly, I just can’t stand it.  It’s even worse for Man-Child I because he lives with it upstairs.  The constant stream of dirty dishes, clothes and towels on the bathroom floor drives him nuts too!  Although to be fair he does make a good contribution to the growing pile of dishes on occasion.

dirty dishesOne day I counted six coat-hangers on the floor of Man-Child II’s bedroom amongst the flotsam and jetsam of clothing, sports gear, bags etc – I think he was looking to open a dry cleaning shop!  The gear from his recent cadet trip spent the entire school holidays on the floor before I cracked it recently and forced him to put it away.

So what should I do?  Just close the door and let him work it out for himself?  Or let Man-Child I continue putting the dirty dishes in Man-Child II’s bedroom – which means listening to arguments every second day?  Ah the joys of family life!

Read more about dealing with the messy lives of my men-children here: Pocket Money – Blackmail Works!


Do The Men-Children Actually LIKE Each Other? July 15, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mother of a Man-Child @ 5:00 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

yin and yangAs those who know my men-children will tell you, they are extremely different.  Not just in looks but also in personality.  They have different friends, are quite opposite in their natural strengths, have diverse interests (except playing sport), have completely different fashion approaches, and like all siblings they fight a lot.

This year a couple of their individual friends moved to a different school together.  Not surprisingly new allegiances have been formed amongst these boys, thrown together in a new environment, and as a result new relationships have developed with my men-children.  One day I seemed to have one man-child talking about a mate regularly that plays in the same sports team, the next week he’s here with my other man-child and moreover now seems to be a permanent fixture with the latter.

The big surprise came when Man-Child II asked if he could stay over at a friend’s – who just happened to be the BFF (“Best Friends Forever”) of Man-Child I – go figure!  I was so taken aback I said he could stay as long as he told his brother first – I thought that was at least fair.  Man-Child I didn’t seem to mind at all.  And went so far as to lend his twin brother a jumper – yet another first in our household.  Trust me normally there’s a complete shit fight over the Bonds jocks, school shirts, footy shorts, Skins, and socks every morning – they just don’t do the sharing thing well at all.

So whilst my boys show disdain for each other often, at least at home, obviously their friends find them both good guys, and maybe not so different after all?  Or they enjoy their differences and uniqueness, just as they do with all their friends.

So is this a sign of things to come?  A new era of loving, sharing, caring men-children?  Based on the fighting going on upstairs at the moment and the charming language filtering down the stairs whilst I write this post, I very much doubt it.  But hey, mother of a man-child is always open to surprises. 🙂

Read more about the boys “play-fighting” here:  Testosterone Power Surge in Melbourne Suburb



Mother of a Man-Child: Freezing on Cadet camp! July 8, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mother of a Man-Child @ 5:00 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

coldLast week Man-Child II headed off on his Cadet Bivouac, in the midst of a Melbourne winter, with only the bare essentials in his pack, in true army-camp style.  When I say bare essentials, I mean the minimum stuff he needed, compiled at the last-minute by Man-Child II, who resisted taking the recommended clothing allowance for extra warmth (as always).  He’s a man-child after all – bred tough, lacking logic, not open to parental advice – perfectly normal really.

When he arrived home my first question was “So how was it?”  The response:  “Good, but it was FREEZING!”  At this point I resisted the urge to run around the house yelling “I told you so” and simply asked (without a hint of smugness I swear) if in retrospect he thought the beanie and gloves and extra jumper would have been useful after all?  To my surprise he actually admitted that yes, it would have helped.

First up, they slept in Hutchies – quite literally under a light-weight canvas tarp that probably does nothing except reduce the amount of condensation that settles on those beneath it.  As Man-Child II indignantly pointed out to me, it didn’t keep the wind out at all!  Nope, it wouldn’t, and we had told our “seasoned” cadet what his “tent” would resemble on camp and he clearly hadn’t listened.  Otherwise he might have understood why we were encouraging the extra layers for warmth.

As it turns out, our son was not alone.  The entire cadet camp almost froze in the near zero conditions on both nights (at least it didn’t rain).  They all resorted to wearing every piece of clothing they had, including army uniform, Japara, and even wrapped towels around their heads under closed sleeping bag hoods, leaving only a slit for they eyes/nose.  And they STILL froze.   Yep, I guess that beanie and extra jumper and gloves and good Explorer socks (not useless thin sports socks) would have come in handy after all.  In retrospect I admit we actually should have given him a warmer sleeping bag.  The one he has is a good quality one, very warm, but really you need the ones that keep you warm in the snow-line when you’re out in the elements like this.  Isn’t hindsight wonderful!

Apart from the cold, he survived leeches (yuk), night-time forest challenges, rifle training and army ration food.  I asked how the food was, he said you would probably get used to powdered milk on your cereal and mushy stew for dinner – everything tastes OK when you’re hungry.  But a few days later when I offered him some tasty curry for dinner he said he’d had enough of “stews” for a little while yet.  At least he’d had access to a stove on camp (having forgotten to collect one in advance) so he hadn’t had to eat cold stew and uncooked noodles – LOL.

So the moral to the story – men-children don’t listen.  Like countless adolescents before them, including yours truly, they learn best through experience, certainly not by being told by an adult what is good for them.  That’s part of the fun of growing up I suppose, and part of the fun of being an adult and watching them work it all out for themselves. 🙂

Here’s the lead up to camp:  Camping Man-Child Style!



Mother of a Man-Child: Camping Man-Child Style! July 1, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mother of a Man-Child @ 5:00 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

hutchieOne of my men-children is off to school Cadet camp this week for two nights roughing it in the cold winter of Melbourne.  If he comes home with frostbite it’s not my fault!  All my best nagging and attempts to organize him failed dismally – clearly he doesn’t take after me – the most organized person my friends know!

The camp is a Bivouac – so called because it refers to a military encampment made with tents or improvised shelters.  That means Man-Child II is sleeping in a Hutchie (see pic) – which is very, very basic accommodation and clearly doesn’t lend itself to warmth, and also cooking his own meals from specially prepared cadet ration packs (yum?).

Naturally the Cadets (who are officially a part of the Australian Army) are a well oiled machine – we’ve had instructions sitting at home for at least a month outlining all the details of the camp and what was required of the attending boys.  Naturally Man-Child II, aka Mr Last Minute, did absolutely nothing about the camp until the day before.  I must admit I didn’t come across the notes until the end of the weekend, and then went into a state of mild panic since he only had three days to get organized.

And so Mr Last Minute went to the “cadet store” at school the day before camp to pick up what he needed (apparently).  That of course was exactly one week after the deadline for them to pick up their equipment – he assures me the place was full of boys on the day he went – I shouldn’t be surprised.

That night, after much hyperventilation by Mother of a Man-Child, we finally went through the list and the questions started……”What’s a C-H-U-X, I need one of them” (yep, a dish-cloth, clearly far too foreign to Man-Child).  “And what about a S-C-O-U-R-E-R?”  See first point!   I felt panic coming on when he asked me if we had a Hexamine Stove!  What??!!  Oh yes, of course, let me just pull that out of the cupboard that contains all the camping equipment this non-camping family have!  He was supposed to get it from the cadet store – whoops.  Guess he’ll be enjoying uncooked two-minute noodles for lunch and cold beef & vegie stew for dinner.  Unless he can borrow someone else’s stove.  Really I could have clocked him one.

They sleep in a Hutchie on the Bivouac – yep, under a canvas tent sheet basically.  At camp they are given the hutchie, sleeping mat and cords.  It was only through us cross-checking the list we discovered he hadn’t collected the tent pegs – a vital component if the picture is accurate.   Luckily I found some tent pegs in the kids play tents that will probably do the trick.  Either that or he’ll be sleeping cloaked in a canvas sheet.

And then we came to the clothing to pack.  For good reason they don’t take much as they have to carry everything in their pack.  But they were given a list of essential clothing to take with them, including beanies and gloves because it’s going to be sub four degrees overnight – especially with these beautiful blue-sky days.  So we tried to explain the need for a beanied head to retain heat, a track suit to provide extra layers, and thick Explorer socks for your feet, even in the worlds warmest sleeping bag, because it will be DAMN cold.  But no, our very own Solo man wouldn’t take a jumper to sleep in – a t-shirt will be fine.  I guess if he’s desperate he’ll just have to sleep in his army uniform!!

I am sure Man-Child II will thoroughly enjoy the camp.  Who wouldn’t relish some time in the great outdoors, hiking, training, bonding, whilst soaking up the cool, crisp, warmish winter days.  If per chance he does freeze his arse off, I’m sure he’ll never admit it to me.  Maybe Father of a Man-Child will have to do the scouting on this one.  And let’s just hope it doesn’t end the same way as the last school camp he attended (see the post below for more about that).