Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Choose your words wisely! May 3, 2013

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not listeningThis week, I plan on taking my own advice.  I recently had a fantastic argument with one of the men-children, which resulted in me making a serious threat if he went ahead with his plans.  I was then left to find a way to resolve the “threat”, without losing all credibility and also “ruining my son’s life”!!!

The problems with arguing with a 17-year-old (or at least one of mine) are multiple:

  1. They argue back.
  2. They don’t let go (think pit-bull).
  3.  If they don’t get the answer they want, they just keep on at you (AKA they don’t take “no” for an answer).
  4. You can’t physically remove them from the room/argument (which you could a toddler)
  5. You can’t send them to their room/the corner (it no longer works sadly)

And so we end with a Mexican stand-off of epic proportions.  Who will win the battle of wits?  Who gets the last word?  Who is powerless and powerful?

On this particular occasion, the man-child in question decided he wanted to go out on a “school night” to a friend’s place (and not just go out, but have a sleepover – of course!!!).  Regardless of the fact that he had the next day off, both Father of a Man-Child and I had both separately responded to the request with a consistent and definite “NO”!  We just felt that it was completely unnecessary (what’s wrong with a night at home in front of the TV anyway?), and also being a school night not a practice we wanted to encourage every time a day off arrived.

But no, man-child didn’t like the answer, and so ensued a very painful couple of hours that unfolded like this:

  • Constant questioning of Mother of a Man-Child during dinner prep about request to go out.
  • Sit-in with Father of a Man-Child in the lounge after dinner, still bemoaning the decision to now allow him out.
  • Appearance in front of Mother of a Man-Child wearing his back pack advising he is going anyway.
  • Mother of a Man-Child arguing (very futile) and eventually threatening that if he sets foot out the door he will have his course cancelled (yes, as the legal guardian I have the right).
  • Sister of a Man-Child looking for her brother and finding he is not in the house.
  • Mother of a Man-Child realising he has snuck out of the house (yes, via the front door, but he avoided letting us see him leave).
  • Furious exchange of text messages and calls throughout the night (gee he must have had a good time at his friend’s place!).
  • Night spent at friends against parent wishes.
  • Mother of a Man-Child now left to carry out the punishment the following day.

So here’s the thing – I don’t want to carry out the punishment, because I don’t want him to leave his course.  Of course you are thinking “well how stupid can you be for even using that as a threat”!  But what if I told you it worked once before, and he didn’t walk out the door on a school night because I made the same threat a few years ago.  Would that mean that I had my own stupid behaviour reinforced once before and that it was obvious I would try it again?  Or would it mean I was just a desperate mother trying to win the war with a 17-year-old, and using the only leverage I thought I had (and it STILL didn’t work)!

So where did that leave us?  Well as I write this I have the Exit Course form sitting at home awaiting a discussion with our man-child tonight.  The discussion is going to be about his choice to live at home (he is free to leave, really, although has no means to support himself as yet), and the impact of that decision – namely, that if he lives under our roof and we support him then he needs to abide by our rules and respect our decisions.  Quite frankly, if he can’t do that, then he should go, and make his own way in the world (I am deadly serious).

This may seem unfair, but really what is unfair is the complete powerlessness of parents against these teenagers, and the lack of respect that sadly seems to afflict this generation (or is it really just mine?).  So it’s decision time for my man-child.  As he keeps telling me, he’s in an adult learning environment.  Well then it’s time he behaved like one!

And as for me, next time perhaps I should just walk out the door myself, and drive to the nearest bar to count to ten and drown my frustration and anger, rather than making a stupid threat.

Any other suggestions welcome!!! 🙂

Naturally there are previous occasions like this:  I wrote about RESPECT (or their early lack of it a few years ago).  And a similar theme is also found here: The Parent-Child Power Struggle.  It would be funny to read these again if it didn’t reveal that not much has changed. 😦


The Stunted Mullet – A short tale November 2, 2012

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As the men-children get older, it becomes increasingly challenging to have them abide by our rules.  Threats coupled with parental anger are typically the winning combination, and this occasion proved to be no different.

I arrived home the other night and was immediately prompted to notice the new haircut of my son (Man-Child II).  He was sporting a very short haircut, one I call the skin-head/army reserve look, not that concerning really, as he always likes his hair short, and it does grow back pretty quickly. His twin brother (Man-Child I) then prompted me to take a closer look at the back of his head, to see the rest of the haircut.  Yes, causing trouble for his twin brother, naturally.

My first thought was that he had shaved something into his head.  I asked him if it was a swastika – since he didn’t even know what that was, unlikely that’s what I was about to see.  Instead, what I saw is this – which I quickly dubbed the “stunted mullet”.

mullet hairstyleThere is no point asking why they want a haircut like this – they’re teenagers, it’s what they do.  Setting new trends (?), looking like their peers (yes his mate has one too), not looking like their parents – it’s natural.  However, that doesn’t mean that our son should keep it!

Our immediate response was that he would have to shave it off that night, before attending school the next day.  Apart from us thinking he looked like a complete “bogan”, we didn’t think it was an appropriate haircut for school.  Naturally, there were two arguments that ran in tandem that night, that went something like this:


  • There are far more outrageous haircuts sported by other boys at school. (I am sure their parents are very proud).
  • What does it matter – it’s not hurting anyone. (Except your parents and twin-brother).
  • It’s better than a tattoo or eyebrow piercing.  (Yes it is for the moment).
  • It will grow back.  (Logic fail, as the mullet will just grow too).


  • It’s disrespectful towards the school.
  • It’s disrespectful towards your parents.
  • It’s disrespectful towards your grandfather who attended the same school and would be mortified to see you with this haircut.
  • Whilst you live in our house, under this roof, you will abide by our rules.
  • You look like a complete Bogan.

In the end, the final threat was that we would contact the school tomorrow and have them march him off the grounds to get a haircut if he didn’t remove it.  Whilst this might sound extreme, the school have been known to do that before with boys who have particularly inappropriate haircuts.  One of them being Man-Child II’s mate sometime last year.  They cut his hair at our home one afternoon, much to the amusement of Sister of a Man-Child and her friends.  It was basically shaved down one side, and left long on the other – NICE!  Clearly his mother had no luck convincing him to cut it, but the school certainly did the next day. 🙂

The last appeal to him was a text message (they can be effective sometimes, as they give them something to think about and don’t involve yelling), which went like this:

“Please remove that mullet tonight.  Don’t make us involve the school.  “What does it matter?” applies equally in reverse BTW.  If it’s such a small think but important to us that it goes, then you will remove it.  If you choose not to then the same lack of respect you choose to extend to us will be returned ten-fold to you.”  Thankfully he agreed to do it, the next day!

So off he went to school, sporting the stunted mullet for the day, returning home that evening to shave it off.  I must ask what his friends thought of it, or if any teachers noticed.

So a minor victory to the parents – this time.  Once he leaves school at the end of the year, we are clearly in trouble.  I fear the stunted mullet will be right at home at TAFE – oh well, I suppose I can live with it, if it means the eyebrow piercing and tattoo are delayed for a while longer.

We have endured the joys of teenage hairstyles before.  They seemed to have a liking for rats tails for a short period!!  Read more here.


Mother of a Man-Child: The Challenge of Educating Boys? August 27, 2010

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Most adults understand the importance of a good education.  With hindsight we can all appreciate the value of learning, and the ability to continually learn throughout our adult working life.  No doubt some of us had better school experiences than others, but I’m sure we’d all agree school should be an enjoyable (or at the very least not un-enjoyable) part of your childhood.

And so it is that we are currently facing challenges with Man-Child II.  On the sporting field both our boys are excelling, both at school and outside school, with opportunities to play their chosen sports at elite levels.  Of course we couldn’t be prouder.

Man-Child I has applied himself increasingly well at school this year, following some pretty average school reports, and the results have reflected his improved application.  We are more than happy with this.

Man-Child II unfortunately has not.  He also had some pretty average school reports last year and earlier this year, and to date no amount of threats or other approaches have changed his attitude to school or his results.  He constantly has notes in his school record book about not completing homework, not handing in homework, not being prepared for a test.  And each evening and weekend we ask about homework in a vain attempt to ensure he is completing the work.  Unfortunately it seems this has not helped.  The reason for his attitude?  In short if he finds something boring, he just doesn’t do the work because he doesn’t see the point.

So now we find ourselves with a rather large dilemma.

Questions we are asking ourselves:

  • Is the current school the right one for him?
  • Would a different school be better for him – which one?
  • Would they teach in a completely different way that might engage a 14-year-old boy?
  • Should he repeat Year 8 due to immaturity and the fact he has obviously missed out on learning most of the basics this year (and which I believe are crucial building blocks for following years)?
  • What logic can we use to make him understand there is value in maths, english, history, geography (eg. you don’t know how these might be relevant in later life, it’s the breadth of knowledge and the ability to learn that benefits you, etc.)?

I tell myself the curriculum can’t vary that much from school to school, so if he hates science, english, history, geography etc then he just has to suck it up, because it’s a little hard to not do the basics in Year 8 isn’t it?

We did recently get him a tutor in maths, a subject he reluctantly admitted he was struggling with and falling behind in.  The good news is we have seen results, and it is the only subject that he has made improvements in – credit to his tutor.  But the reality is we can’t have a tutor in every subject – that to me isn’t treating the cause of the problem at the end of the day.

At this point our plan is to seek the school’s guidance and advice – they see 250 boys each year go through Year 8 – surely they must have experience with similar cases?  How have they handled it previously?

Of course the other issue this raises is a rather more delicate one.  What if the school agreed with us that he should repeat Year 8?  How would that make him feel?  Would you move schools to do this (I think yes)?  What is the impact on a 14-year-old boy with a twin brother (probably pretty rough I suspect)?

Not surprisingly the possibility of this infuriates Man-Child II.  We had the conversation just this week following yet another poor school report.  He is adamant he wouldn’t do it – naturally.  Part of me hopes it will be just the motivator he needs to pull his digit out between now and the end of the year, and to save him and us from some hard decisions.

But in the meantime, I think we have our own homework – to seriously consider some options that might help our son, and ensure his school life is both enjoyable, and fruitful.

Thoughts, advice, similar experiences all welcome from the readers of my blog.  Help!