15 year old son won't do anything for mom's birthday

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-27-2012
15 year old son won't do anything for mom's birthday
13
Thu, 09-27-2012 - 6:49pm

Hello:

I'm so at a loss.  My fifteen year old son, who can be very loving and sweet, but also surly and distant, refuses to do anything to recognize his mom's 50th birthday.  He says "she won't care" which I am hearing as "it sounds like a lot of effort."  I've told him that I am having a hard time understanding why he does not think his mom will care - her two stepdaughters (my daughters, who she has been around for over 20 years and with whom she has relatively close relationships) aren't able to make her party - one just moved to Seattle (we are in Sacramento) and the other made plans before we knew there was going to be a party.  I know my wife understands but she also feels a bit hurt.  Now, our son (Max) has a conflict because his very best friend is going camping for his birthday with their group of friends.  He was ok with staying home when we first discusssed it - but when I brought it up to his mom, she insisted that he go with his friends - it is not the kind of opportunity that arises often and her party is being put on by work friends (and me) and she - without a hint of martyrdom - really thought he should go with his friends.

So - I've been asking him to come up with something he can do or make for her and he has now made it clear that he does not plan on doing anything.  I'm angry and dissapointed.  We have bred such a sense of entitlement into him.

And now he is asking me to take him to a store and pay for a present for his friend.  We've always done that in the past but I really don't feel like helping him out with a present for his friend if he is not willing to put any effort into recognizing his mom's birthday.

But, I also feel strongly that if I MAKE him do something - either using consequences/incentives or guilt - it would be for all the wrong reasons.

I'm completely at a loss (I guess I already said that).  He has a somewhat rocky relationship with his mom, but it still has plenty of good moments.  I love him to death, but feel like we have created a sense of entitlement that is not serving him- or us - well.

Phillip

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Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998

My kids both live far from me and don't mail me cards or gifts for my bday but they do call with time for a long chat. 

I think you have some unresolved divorce and remarriage-related issues with your dd's? That may have something to do with why they act the way they do.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999

I also have the benefit of both kids having worked in retail so I would get something from whatever store DD worked in in the past (Marshalls, Pier One) or where DS works now (Old Navy).  DD is good at picking out gifts since we have the same taste.

Avatar for suzyk2118
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-1997
Ok, I'd never go through with it either, but it sure would be tempting to say, 'Hey, ds, yanno, I don't think we'll bother with gifts this holiday season - maybe we've all outgrown the tradition' And just see what happens.
Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999

Well, I don't think it's luck, or magic.  My kids are 28 & 31, and they give me, dh, and each other, gifts and cards for every special day.  Even when YDD was 900 miles away, we sent each other cards & gifts.  They're not always expensive, and sometimes they're handmade, but they are from the heart.  But this is our family dynamic.  We do the same for them, and for each other, and have from the start.  We did the same for our parents and siblings.  And it's not just holidays and birthdays either.  We talk to each other, and do small kindnesses for each other, and our extended families, all the time.

If your kids grow up seeing that Mom and Dad love and remember the Grandmas & Grandpas, their aunties and uncles, as well as each other, and they are taught to do the same from the first finger-painted card, by the time they are on their own, it will just come naturally. 

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-13-2010

Wow, Music...you're really lucky and obviously (and I've said it before) did something right in parenting that I did not.  On my last birthday, I got Happy Birthday texts from all 4 of my DDs (that's all they said..."Happy Birthday"). Phone calls or Skyping would have been nice, but no. 

 DD28 DID once send me a gift and I was shocked but that was a one time only deal.  Don't know what I got into her. 

Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998

<they won't be bothered getting him Christmas gifts>

We seriously considered doing that one year when my kids were being really awful. But I realized that it would likely spoil MY Christmas as well, I decided that Chrsitmas and birthday gifts shouldn't be tied in to behavior, and I knew that I would probably cave in on Dec 23 then have a heck of a time trying to shop!

There are so many things that we do for our kids on a regular basis that they take for granted. Its partly our fault---we do them selflessly because we love the kid and we feel like its what a "good" parent is supposed to do. The things like taxi-ing them around or coughing up $$ for driver's training or making a point to buy their favorite snack foods are, as Sabr suggested, good places to start demonstrating to the kid how much we do that they don't notice but will certainly miss when we stop doing it.

 

Avatar for suzyk2118
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-1997
(actually I was also thinking the parents could say they won't be bothered getting him Christmas gifts...see if that helps the situation...somewhat stooping to his level, but...)
Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999

<<<Honestly, though, if mom is ok with him not being at the company party, let it go>>>  I'd let that part go, too.  Plus, if he's that big a PITA, chances are he would sulk and ruin the atmosphere for everyone else.  However, his mom's birthday is 24 hours long.  Lots of time to show her he loves her, and CAN be bothered to do something to celebrate her special day.

However, if he can't be bothered, then if *I* were these parents, I would similiarly not be bothered.  I would not bother to do his laundry, or clean his room.  He is certainly old enough to do that for himself.  I would not bother to pay for his cell phone service, or tablet data plan.  I would not bother to give him pocket money.  I would not bother to drive him to see his friends.  I would not bother to get him drivers ed.  I would not bother to take him for his license.  And I would TELL HIM UP FRONT, that I am not going to go out of my way for him.  At all, anymore, unless he makes a SUSTAINED 360 in his attitude. 

Avatar for suzyk2118
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-1997
This was what I was thinking too, as I read the responses - I'd have him write a list of things (or little cards) that he could do to help mom around the house as his 'gift'. And he'd have to recognize that it would be at her convenience, not necessarily at his, as it's a 'gift'.

And definitely have him do some work (raking, garage cleanup, window washing, window sill cleaning, etc., not normal chores) to earn the money for his friend's gift; don't just get it for him - he's old enough to earn that.

Honestly, though, if mom is ok with him not being at the company party, let it go - I know I wouldn't expect my ds to show to something like that, esp if he had a more fun alternative, as there likely won't be other kids there. But maybe you as a family could do something separately with both mom and ds, not necessarily on that date, as just a nice dinner for her or something, so you'd all be together. in honor of her birthday.

Sue
Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
He doesn't have to "buy" her anything. He can make a card, with a promise in it to do the dishes for a week. Or cut her a CD. Or any of a host of things that are free, but show thoughtfullness. And YES, MAKE him do it. Since he has not learned lessons generally learned MUCH younger, that we are kind to those who care about us, then he has to be treated like a child. You MUST apologize to those you've wronged. You MUST be kind to people. You MUST respect your parents. You MUST put yourself second. If you don't MAKE him do it now, he will NEVER learn the lesson, and his Mom will not be the LAST person he treats like dirt.
Do NOT buy a gift for the friend. Your son is beyond old enough to get a gift for his own friend. The birthday was not a surprise. Your son has known for a YEAR, what day it would be on. If your son shows up and expects to be taken on a trip WITHOUT a gift or card in his hand, then it is HIS embarrassment, not yours. This is just the first in a long list of natural consequences that your son needs to experience, to grow into a decent adult.

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