Tween defiant & refusing to go to school

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by lovemykid, Jan 3, 2011.

  1. lovemykid

    lovemykid Guest

    I am new to this site and am hoping to find some help with my 12 yo son.
    A little background: My son has ADHD. He has been increasingly defiant in his behavior since puberty kicked in BIG TIME about 6-months ago. His father and I are divorced (my son was a baby when we divorced). He has always adored his dad and they have a good relationship, talk a few times a week via phone...yes, I get to be the BAD "every day" parent : )...someone has to be!
    I have tried to keep his Dad out of the day-to-day struggles...trying to keep things less stressful. BUT a few weeks back, my sons defiance was just overwhelming me...he wouldnt do ANYTHING..refusal to go to swim lesson, drum lesson....I called his dad, and he layed into him and was apparently very cruel with his devastated my son. He pretty much stopped going to school. He also was lying to me about doing his homework - some long term projects, never got done. I met with his teachers and they were very understanding and gave him a lot of accomomodations to get his work done...none of which he has done. He lays in bed not wanting to do ANYTHING! I have called in all my resources, child pysch, therapists, pediatricians, school psychologist, teachers...but, still there he lies...I told him I loved him, but this may be a lesson only he can learn for himself.
    I am totally heartbroken over this.
    My long-time boyfriend (10yrs) can't deal with the stress in the house, so he and I aren't talking.
    I was really hopeful for a better 2011... its been a rough start.
  2. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Is your son on medication for the ADHD?

    What do the various health professionals who see him say about this?

    From what you describe, your son sounds depressed to me. In kids it very often comes out as anger, defiance, withdrawal from normal activities, etc.

    Do you have him on homebound/hospital instruction through your school district?
  3. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    Hello and welcome!

    I was thinking the same as GCVMom...he sounds very depressed right now.

    Hopefully, the docs will give you some answers!
  4. tiredmommy

    tiredmommy Site Moderator

    Welcome. I'm sorry you had to find us.

    I agree with-gcvmom... this may be symptomatic of a new (or previously underlying condition) coming to the forefront. School refusal is usually linked to anxiety but depression can play a role too. I'd want any medications re-evaluated for effective doses and a re-evaluation of HIM to ensure you are not looking at a whole new beast here (symptoms popping up at puberty can possibly signal mood disorders). We aren't doctors and can't diagnose, but I think your son's behavior warrants a re-evaluation.

    As for your ex: thank him for his support and let him know that (unfortunately) his words have backfired. Ask him to try to mend the relationship with his son so that your son has a trusted adult to turn to (sorry... I doubt that will be you for a few years). Also, ask the school for a FBA and BIP in writing, send it certified. He needs an IEP (if he doesn't have one) asap to protect his educational rights.

    Your longtime boyfriend? Try to find some time alone and mend that relationship. Support for YOU is of the utmost importance to your family's well-being.
  5. Bunny

    Bunny Guest

    I'm another one who was going to say that every same thing: he sounds depressed. What medications is he taking, if any, for the ADHD? Does he see a psychiatrist? Maybe you should make an appointment to be seen by the psychiatrist as soon as you can get him in. Also, will he go see a therapist? From your post it sounds as if this behavior started after his father layed into him about giving you hassles and refusing to go to school and other activities. Is this the first time his fater has spoken to him like this? The first time he's seen this said of his father's personality? Maybe he needs to talk to someone who can help him work through his feeling about how it made him feel when his father spoke to him. Since you seem to be the parent who handles the day to day struggles it may be that your X was no aware that the srtuggles were occuring. I think that he should be brought it more in connection with your son's behavior. I'm not saying that he needs to rush over to your house every time your son won't do something, but the father should be made aware that your son is being so defiant and what it really occuring in your house. By not telling him what is going on he can't back you up and you will always end up being the bad parent.

  6. Frazzledmom

    Frazzledmom Guest

    Hi and welcome. That was might thought too. If it's possible it sounds like someone needs to help him work through those feelings around his dad. He sounds very sad, it must have been a shock to have his dad speak to him like that. You'll get lots of good advice here.
  7. whatamess

    whatamess New Member

    Yes, depression was what came to my mind too.
  8. SearchingForRainbows

    SearchingForRainbows Active Member

    I agree with the others that he sounds depressed. Hope all the support people you have in place find a way to help him soon. I also agree with TM that you need to take care of yourself and get your relationship with your boyfriend back on track. Trying to raise difficult children without enough support is extremely difficult - been there done that and NEVER want to be in that position again!!! SFR
  9. lovemykid

    lovemykid Guest

    Thank you for your advice...

    My son and I had been seeing a therapist (4 months) to help us deal with his defiance and how we can work together to accomplish both our goals...the therapy initially surrounded my son's long-time addiction to the computer. I had made it clear to my son that he needs to BALANCE his computer-time with other activities...he takes drum lessons and swimming (these are two things I know he likes). He is not allowed on the computer during the week..only for school, which I need to monitor closely, as he does sneak in gaming if I am out of site, too long. I believe he defines his identity with his brilliance on the, when he loses his computer time for misconduct...he loses himself and retreats mentally.

    You are correct, his father's rant scarred him deeply. His dad just drove out from CO to MA this past wkd to talk with him, because my son refused all calls and emails from him. They talked, and We all talked and things seem better.

    His teachers are understanding and have given him extra time to do a 3-wk project that was due before the holiday...My son has still not started, and he won't accept my help. I know he is overwhelmed, but even when the pressure is taken off, he still can't start...he is STUCK.

    Depression...Yes. We met with a child psyciatrist last week and she prescibed Strattera..which he is on day 3 of...refused it yesterday...took it today.

    He has decided this week that he will not continue with his drum and swimming lessons...back to square steps....
  10. lovemykid

    lovemykid Guest

    I may have done this wrong...replied to posts earlier...but don't see my here I go...sorry, if the previous version shows up at some point...

    First off....Thank you all for your support.

    Yes, my son was officially diagnosed with depression, last week. He was prescribed Straterra - and started 4 days ago, hopefully to help with his ADHD and depression.

    My son's dad, drove out from CO to MA to speak with our son after his dad's phone calls and emails were unanswered. We all discussed the situation and I believe things are in a better place for all...time, of course, should help. His dad is playing it real soft on him...which I think will help mend their relationship.

    My son has a lot of anxiety over school and it is the main reason he is not first he said it was to get back at his dad...but, now I'm hearing that it is just too hard....on one hand he really likes school and on the other, is totally overwhelmed with the work load. He attends a charter school and the work is considerable. He is an extremely smart kid. His teachers are very understanding and have given him extra time to finish some long-term projects that he never started...but, still he is not starting... refuses my help...but can't move forward...he is STUCK. Meeting with the teachers tomorrow for an ISIT plan.

    My son says he is going to school tomorrow...fingers crossed.

    I've been through some tough stuff in my life...but, this is by far, the hardest and most heart-wrenching of them all.

    Thanks again.
  11. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Not necessarily. I think this is more complex. Don't just look at the last event, look at what came before.

    You've been in counselling with your son for some months already because of a combination of defiance (please define this, be specific), procrastination/refusal to get his work done. This is the first obvious symptom. So what is the cause? Kids don't choose to be difficult; there is usually a reason for this sort of stuff.
    Next - in frustration, you get his dad to read him the riot act. Result - classic depressive response. This is warning sign no 2, not no 1.
    Third - school refusal/avoidance. Procrastination gets worse, withdrawal gets worse. Whatever the initial problem, depression and anxiety are now working in a negative feedback spiral and greatly accelerating his problems.

    I hope the Strattera works for him. It idd not work for my son, but that doesn't mean it won't work in this case.

    The conversation with his dad was not the cause. However, it did make things worse. Not necessarily because his dad was too harsh, but the timing of criticism from his dad plus from HIS DAD (so it hit him a lot harder than if it had been from you) plus whatever was there to begin with, has led to now.

    Anxiety and a sense of being overwhelmed can lead to a crippling paralysis when it comes to trying to organise your work schedule. Depression greatly aggravates this paralysis, but the longer the work goes not done, the greater the stress. I would suggest that perhaps what you need to ask the school for, as a top priority, is time with a teacher or an aider, directly working on his overdue work. One-on-one, bit by bit. A tutor if necessary, preferably one who is already part of the boy's schooling system so there is 100% communication between the tutor and the teacher. In our case for difficult child 3, we have been able to use the class teacher as a 1:1 tutor for this sort of emergency. It really can turn around this kind of self-loathing paralysis.

    Once he can see how to break the work down and do it bit by bit, he may begin to make good progress.

    Another trick we use - I reward difficult child 3 for half an hour's solid work. I give him a mini-chocolate bar. It gets him over the "where do I begin?" hump. I also reward each stage of completion. We set out the tasks to be done, it's all mapped out, and he gets rewarded for progress at a certain rate. Generally the rewards are computer time.

    And that is another thing - it's controversial here, but I consider computer gaming to be a coping strategy, to a certain extent. If I refused difficult child 3 all access to gaming, he would not cope. But it does have to be in balance. So the rule is, no gaming during school hours. And outside school hours he has to stop and get his chores done when asked, without argument. We're still working on that one. But he knows we won't take it away from him, which reduces his anxiety to a lesser level, where he doesn't need to be so anxious.

    I hope you and his teachers can get him some good help.

  12. lovemykid

    lovemykid Guest

    Yes... I do agree.

    The first sign was the defiance...I believe it related to the increasing pressure of school work. He started lying to me about getting his homework done. When I asked to see it, he flat-out refused. His dad's response to the building defiance was more agression...which built things up even more. At one point my son, lay sobbing in bed after the "bad" interaction with his dad "I have no where to go", I asked him what he meant. He said " I have no where "mentally" to go" killed me, he is struggling...we have totally backed off and are trying to repair the holes in his safety net.

    When I refer to his "defiance" I am talking about his answering "no" to most all reasonable requests....he appears to be on strike to anything I ask of him. Does he feel powerless? Even though, we have our battles...we are able to have some real heart-to-heart conversations...I think he is so confused, he doesn't know what to think...but, is still adamant in not accepting help....I think he sees this as weakness and embarassing to need help.

    This morning I had an ISIPT (Instructional Support Intervention Process Team) meeting with his teachers and school psychologist. Because of his truancy, they are recommending a pre-CHINS meeting (pre-Child in Need of Support). This will involve all of his teachers, a representative from the state (truancy officer), me & him. The school pyschologist was going to speak with him this morning and explain some of this, along with a plan to make up some of the work he has missed (i.e. after/before school work with his teachers)....really not sure how this is going to land on him....could totally overwhelm him or could give him the push to start a new slate...everyone is holding out there hands, he just needs to grab hold.

    I do understand his NEED for computer-time, but it is my only bargaining chip. The rule is no computer during the school week, he's good with that. The weekends is when it gets tricky...if his behavior is disrespectful, defiant, etc...he loses some of those computer priveleges....but he can be sooooooo stubborn that he is willing to lose that time to get his's very tricky.

    I don't understand some of the acronyms used in the there a reference somewhere on this site? difficult child? FBA? BIP?

    Thanks again!
  13. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Oh, dear, I'm so sorry.
    I agree with-the others--depression and anxiety.
    Get him to the dr, get some new or stronger medications, and put new structures in place. He should never get to the point where he is that far behind. My son is 14, and on bad days, sometimes he does just one thing--one math problem, one thank you note--and then takes a break. It eventually gets done. (And more often than not, once he's involved in it, he keeps going. It's the anxiety that causes the procrastination.)

    Welcome to the board.
  14. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    With the defiance during computer game play, I think you still need to analyse further exactly why it is happening. See if you can discuss with him (after the event) what is happening in his head at that point. We get this with difficult child 3 and it generally is because the game is at a point where he is concentrating utterly on it, and our asking him to do something can sometimes lead to a snapped response because he doesn't want to lose his concentration. It's a facet of game design, that the player is encouraged to keep playing, to not walk away. This is where more vulnerable kids (or more determined kids) find it very hard to disengage. Rather than punishing this, show him that he needs help to learn to disengage. Ask him what he needs. Think about your situation in a similar place - let's say you are changing the battery in your watch. You have the back off the watch, you have the new (tiny) battery balanced on the tip of your finger while you carefully remove the old battery, not letting the spring clip snap back too far. Just at that instant, difficult child (which means Gift From God, the child that brought you here) rushes in and says, "You've got to come now!" How do you react? Especially if he tries to grab your arm...

    That is how our kids often feel, when we interrupt their gaming with a request to do chores. Now, it is our right to speak to our kids and ask them to do their chores. But if we can learn to respect their space and need for timing, they will learn to respect our space and the need for timing. They also will be more willing to meet their obligations, if they know we are trying to work with them.

    A point to raise with your son, something I see as a concern - his game-playing seems very intense (OK, we live with that too). But coupled with his school avoidance and the increasing backlog of incompleted work, this is not healthy, it is turning into denial. He is trying to lose himself in his gaming so the pile of incomplete work screaming at him to be done, can't be heard while he is playing. The trouble is, you can't permanently shut off your conscience. And after a while it takes more and more gaming to shut it up too. Soon it won't work. The churning in his stomach must be something ferocious by now, and he's trying to use gaming to reduce it. The trouble is, tis does work, a little. But not enough, and not permanently.
    Try and talk to him about this, and ask him if this is how gaming feels to him, that it helps him not feel so bad inside especially about the pile of work he feels he can't manage. Ask him where he feels this is going, try to work with him to explore the eventual outcome. He will try to walk away from such a conversation - if he is about to melt down, let him (for now). But this is an important conversation, you need to have it. He needs to see that you are trying to help (as are others) and that it's normal and OK to get help. No man is an island - that means we live in society, and in society we use a lot of help. Look at your house - where does the electricity come from? The phone lines? What connects your house to the outside world? Include the road in tis. Where do the wires lead? The roads? Why are they there? Now where are his wires and his roads? Why does he try to manage without using them, when everyone else and everything is designed to work with these connections to others? Basically - it's OK, normal, acceptable and in this case desirable, to use help.

    Somewhere in there you need to come to some sort of agreement about the things you ask him to do. You need to give him back some 'wiggle room' even if you don't fully agree with it - let it work the way he says and see how it goes. If it doesn't work (as you expected it wouldn't?) then you revisit this with another meeting with him and discuss this. Ask to tweak your agreement again. For example, I mentioned our use of Post-It notes on Happy's thread. They may work for you.

    Something for you to consider - when he is gaming, he may have much greater problems with transitioning from one task to another. For example, if I tell difficult child 3 to go have a bath wile he is playing. Or come eat dinner. Both bath & dinner would go cold and he would swear blind he was never told. He really did not remember, even though he may have answered (on automatic pilot). So the post-It note stuck to the corner of the computer screen with the task needing to be done plus the time he was told, means he can't say he didn't know.
    With difficult children in our house, we agreed to wait (in most cases) for fifteen minutes or the first save/pause point, whichever came first. It depends on the game, but some games should not be started at a time of day when the child is likely to be called to do chores. For those sort of longer-session games - you get your chores done first before you begin them.

    Rather than use withdrawal of game as punishment, instead focus on reward. Use game time as a reward - game time with you playing alongside him. Let him earn time with you playing (because these games are often more fun with someone sitting beside you) for good behaviour/compliance. Make sure he can 'cash in' his reward as soon as possible after it's earned. This also increases your understanding of his games. Especially if he's depressed, positive motivation may work a lot better. It greatly reduces stress and anxiety, where punishment ramps it up. So o=if the anxiety is what is slowing him down, anything that increases the anxiety will slow him down more.

    For acronyms see what you can find under FAQ. it's on the bar up the top of the page, the dark bar that begins with "new posts private messages FAQ..." Maybe someone could post the link - I'm useless at finding it. If I succeed, I'll come back and post the link. if someone else can beat me to it, that would be good.

    OK, found it -