Saturday, October 06, 2012

"It's an Upper Middle Class Problem." said the counselor. Yes, we visited a counselor. I still can't believe it.

The decision was made easier by the fact that we know the professional already as he was the neurofeedback therapy provider for our older son last year. He formerly was a school counselor then went into family counseling and now works doing both neurofeedback therapy and psychotherapy. Through casual short conversations in the months I took my older son to neurofeedback therapy for learning challenges diagnosed as brain injury from Lyme Disease (and ADD/ADHD and Dyslexia were ruled out), I got to know this man. I felt we were on the same page. He is also pro-homeschooling.

Later when we began to have a problem with slacking I was sick of being accused of being Overachieving Homeschool Mom and tired of my son thinking my husband was being Unreasonable Dad. I decided it would be worth it to fork over $150 for a family therapy visit so my son could hear about real life from someone who is not his parent.

My son had already been enrolled in some outside classes so he was getting a clue that indeed he was wrong that courses designed by me to do for homeschooling were not unreasonable due to my high expectations, in fact, my expectations were less than the outside classes. Yet he still resisted me on doing a typical school load. My son felt that 2.5 hours of academics a day was sufficient for him.

In a nutshell the challenges were: procrastination, fear of failure, dissassociation by escaping to video games, Facebook, YouTube and any other Internet distraction and the associated cover-ups by deception, sneaking, and lying. There were other distractors too: music on the iPod and email and texting and begging to go out for a random bike ride in addition to the already heavy workout with the varsity sport team. Learning and studying were made difficult by constant distraction and seemingly no attention span.

My son stated to the counselor things such as: the textbook is boring, this subject is stupid, I will never use this stuff in my real life, who cares if the state law says high school kids have to learn this, who is the government to tell me what I have to learn in what grade, so forth and so on. This logic loving kid said he had a certain goal and knew the facts about what it takes for college admissions for that major but then said he was unwilling to do that work. Can you say disconnect?

The reply was this is a typical upper middle class problem. Poverty level kids and other kids with less fortunate circumstances than my son(s) have real life issues they are struggling with. I knew what he meant when he said that. Those kids are trying to survive and they have a hunger to work hard and to claw their way out of their situation into something better. In contrast these upper middle class kids don't really have a sense that what they are doing is linked to their survival. They have a pretty darned good life to the point where to do the hard academic work has no appeal to them. They are used to a life of entertainment and fun but learning hard material is not fun and it is not easy. When given a choice to do this fun thing or that borning thing which would you choose? Even most adults choose the fun stuff. It takes serious internal drive to stick to the hard work or the unpleasant tasks.

High school is a time of a person's life when doors start to close and when pathways become shut off. The choice of paths that lead to different types of careers and future lifestyles gets smaller and smaller if the student does not do the right thing to keep the more doors open. My husband and I are trying to get through to our son that this is Go Time. It's time to buckle down and get serious.

No matter how much I want my son to fulfill his goals and to achieve his dreams I cannot do the learning for him and I won't help him cheat the system to portray his homeschooling achievements as something they are not. I want both of my kids to go off to college ready to succeed which includes having an internal desire to learn, an ability to do college level work, and a grasp of how to handle time management. If my son wants to transition from a young man to a man he has to grow up by choosing to the right thing, the mature thing, by doing what society expects from him, and that includes taking courses he thinks are stupid, reading textbooks he things are boring, and studying to memorize facts he thinks he will never use again. These things are things that my husband and I agree on and I'm happy to have a counselor that is of the same mindset so my son can hear it from someone else. That may have been the best $150 I have ever spent.


dstb said...


We're not exactly in the same situation because my oldest decided to go back to public school last year for his freshman year. However, the whole getting into college thing is there whether we homeschool our kids or not. (Believe me, we have our frustrations!)

One thing that struck me was when you said that high school was a time when doors start to close and the paths get smaller. You know what? Then he will be in a similar boat to the kids who have to struggle and claw their way to a better life (not exactly, but he will have made things harder for himself). If that is what happens and he still wants to be an engineer, then he will find the motivation to get himself there. It may be that reaching his goal is delayed and not on the path that you, as parents, would have chosen, but if he really wants it, he'll do it.

I'm not sure I am explaining myself quite right, but I hope you understand what I mean.


sunniemomsblog said...

This is a truly great post. We have the same problem at times, even though we are lower middle class (and below the poverty line according to the US gov't!) we live very comfortably, and the kids have few worries. We have to find way for them to understand how important hard work is to the growth of their character as well as their survival.

Thank you so much for this refreshingly honest post. Too many homeschoolers, I fear, are 'puttin it on' because they are afraid that admitting problems will make 'homeschooling' look bad.

My name is Tiffany said...

Hhm very profound. I had never thought about it that way. But this is so true. That attitude is so prevalent these days. I don't want my boys to fall into that mindset but I can see it coming. How can we prevent the onset?

ChristineMM said...

For people who don't know me or who have not been reading my blog since day one, we did things that are counter-culture but it did not stop the shall I say overindulgence issue from developing.

My kids were not allowed to use computer with Internet for games until 2011.

My older son's first video console game was at age 10 (younger was 7).

My older son got his first mobile phone (crappy one) at 13th birthday, still has the crappiest one sold on the market.

My kids have had just a very old Game Boy from about age 10 with older son but it was so decrepit (a hand me down we did not ask for) that they only used it on 300+ mile road trips.

The car TV came standard in 2008 (age 11 older son) but we have a family rule only for trips over 200 miles one way. It has DVD only after the first year of free children's TV ran out. We barely own any movies (about 20) so they don't use it much as they are sick of watching the same movies over and over.

My kids did not get an MP3 player until ages 13 & 10 and barely used it. At age 15 my older son uses his daily now. The younger at age 11 & 12 lost his, rebought with own money, lost again, rebought with own money again, and right now for about 6 months, has misplaced it again.

Our focus was on educational toys and imaginative toys and on not much TV and on books and reading aloud.

Despite all this my kids seem to have the entertainment mindset.

I cannot imagine what my kids would be like if we did the mainstream thing of giving MP3 players at age 2 and 3 and giving handheld video games before they could read and also giving them smart phones.

ChristineMM said...

Maybe the therapist thinks it is ONLY an upper middle class problem because those are the only people going to see him and paying for counseling?

Just a thought.

Apathy about education and the over-focus on being entertained seems to cut across wealth levels. Maybe that's one of the big problems also with inner city poverty level kids, maybe it's the general culture today not their parent's education level, not their race, not their wealth level, not their school, or anything else?

As I write this comment it bothers me that I have tried so hard to raise kids to love learning and to enjoy good books and to not be grade strivers but they somehow are more into entertainment and slacking off anyway. If they were in school I may be like other parents and blame the schools. But I can't.

Marianne said...

Christine, I admire you so much. I've been reading your blog for several years, and am following this latest issue with particular interest. I am in a similar situation, and you are able to express the feelings surrounding it so well. I have a 16yo son, and I'm struggling with the shock, guilt, shame, frustration, anger, self-doubt, and sadness of realizing that he doesn't have the drive to "do the hard work" at this stage, and there doesn't seem to be anything I can do to force this internal change. I feel like my drive for him to succeed, as demonstrated by my countless hours spent searching for resources online, cheerleading, and providing materials as needed, should have been transferred into him (magically!), but I'm sadly realizing that this is not the case. The "wanting to be entertained" mentality persists. He seems genuinely frustrated by the problem though (little boy part of brain vs young adult part of brain), so maybe there is hope that the big boy part will win out... soon. Sorry I don't have anything constructive to add - I just wanted to you to know that your thoughts are so valued and helpful, and you are not alone!

Cori said...

I don't know what happened to my other post, but I do think this is an important enough subject to try again.

The one great thing about having kids who have and like stuff (entertainment-wise, especially) is that it immediately becomes leverage for getting what you want out of them.

It's a jailhouse mentality, but frankly, it works. And what we are trying to do is build character in kids. If they don't know how to work for what they want, they will never go beyond that and do things that they don't want to do for other people's for their spouse and children.

So, whatever it takes...these kids have to know the value of work. If we don't teach it to them, they will learn it the hard way.

My oldest is only 14, but I have spent plenty of time (22 years sober) with immature adults in AA to know that you can't motivate someone else. You have to give them something to work for. It's human nature. We all have to participate in the struggle of this life or we get to be alone.

Ahermitt said...

Wow. My brain doesn't know what to do with this. We totter between middle and upper middle class, and I think we don't have this issue because we have family that are not. They visit these people, and they plainly see the difference between motivation, and lack of motivation, ambition, and lack of ambition, self respect, and lack of self respect. I hated exposing my kids to family who I thought were toxic and such, but looking back and remembering the conversations that followed, I can see where it may have motivated the kids to work harder. Maybe that is why people have their kids feed the homeless and such.

~these are just my random thoughts.