Ask 1-on-1 Coaching: How to Help an Antisocial Teenager

Posted November 17, 2008 by

Dear 1-on-1 Coaching:

Help! My teenage son is a basement vampire. I have a problem with my 14 year old son and have not read anything similar about this on other blogs. My son doesn’t want to be involved in ANYTHING! We have tried sports, dog training, piano lessons, drums in band, church activities, fencing, 4-H — you name it, we’ve tried it. He only wants to stay at home, play video games and be with his dad and me. I’m not really complaining about that, but he’s in high school now, and I’d really like to see him have some friends, go out to the movies, the football games, something! He has friends at school, but they never do anything together socially. I’m worried about him. Is this normal? He just doesn’t seem like a normal teenager to me. He’s very down on himself because he’s a little chubby, but it’s nothing serious. He’s a good looking kid but doesn’t believe that he is.He says he’s hideous. He’s NOT! I just worry about the anti-social behavior. Is it okay for a kid to just want to hang at home all the time??

–Laura B.

Dear Laura,
Your situation does sound challenging. While it may be typical for some teens to focus solely on video games, it isn’t necessarily healthy. Given the fact that your son has few social connections, is “chubby” and makes disparaging remarks about himself, firstly, I encourage you to talk with a professional clinician, or your family doctor, in order to rule out any underlying issues, whether emotional or medical.

Many kids feel awkward socially, and simply lack the skills to make and keep friends. For many, it just feels easier to hide out in a virtual world, rather than face those feelings of awkwardness. In James Lehman’s Total Transformation program, he explains it this way: feeling socially awkward is a problem, and parents need to teach their children how to effectively solve that problem. Once you’ve addressed possible underlying causes, you might try approaching this issue as a lack of social skills, and implement a system that requires your son to acquire the skills he needs to be successful.

The first step is to let your son know that he is required to be involved in some kind of social activity twice a week. You might make some suggestions that don’t involve too much face-to-face contact or conversation at first. Let him know that he can choose the activity (within reason), and give him a time limit in which to make that decision. State clearly that if he does not choose something within that time period (a week is fine), then you will choose for him. This isn’t meant to be torture for your child, but it will be uncomfortable initially. You can expect that he will resist, as most people do when they are forced outside of their comfort zone.

The next step is to connect privileges and consequences to his attendance at the chosen activity. When he has attended the activity (whether or not he says he enjoyed it), he has access to his privileges that day. If he refuses to go, you might consider taking away his video games for that day. Don’t take them for extended periods of time – just for the day in which he refused to attend the activity. If he decides he wants to try something else, he will need to attend this first activity for a period of time successfully (which means he goes to the event without making a huge issue out of it) before he can change to another activity. Setting it up this way should keep him from changing activities rapidly, simply because he feels uncomfortable or overwhelmed. Be clear with your son that while the specific activity can change, the requirement that he do something active at least twice a week will not change.

Remember, this approach is designed to help your child slowly become more comfortable in social situations and improve his social skills. Some people are naturally introverted, and won’t ever become the “life of the party.” But think of it this way –- everyone needs some level of social skills in order to get a job, have friends, and feel successful in life. No matter what kids say, video games do not help them prepare for a meaningful and satisfying life. As his parent, you can play the role of the coach, encouraging him to grow and stretch into a healthy, successful young man.

Good luck, and please let us know how this works!

–Megan Devine, LCPC and 1-on-1 Coach at Empowering Parents

About

Megan Devine is a licensed clinical therapist, former 1-on-1 Coaching Advisor, speaker and writer. She is also the bonus-parent to a successfully launched young man. You can find more of her work at refugeingrief.com, where she advocates for new ways to live with grief.

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  1. Lesley Report

    Done this hasn’t worked, ended in big fight, now he’s at his dads. We have now decided to take all tech away for a month to see what happens. He won’t participate in any activity. He won’t join clubs. He argues about doing his one weekly chore. He seems addicted to tech. Socially he is mixing online?! I have seen his dr and he told us to come back in six months, this is a problem, as I now work full time and have had to move the appointment forward three times. I work for a dr. He argues about anything we suggest, to the point where I feel like I am an animal being pocked with a stick. His grades are falling, he has too much attitude for a future employer.

    Reply
  2. christinefilippojm Report

    I could have written this word for word. I am so worried about my son. I’m afraid of antisocial issues depression everything …how have things been going lately??

    Reply
  3. D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor Report

    To “mommygolds”: We appreciate you sharing your story with us. It can be disconcerting when your child is successful academically but struggles with some social skills. He is involved in some after school activities which should give him opportunities for practicing his social interactions. You also might consider seeing what other types of extracurricular activities you could get him involved in. Contrary to the popular stereotype of teens, it’s not uncommon for some teens to have only one or a few friends they spend time with. Something to keep in mind is that the teen years can be an awkward time for many kids and some kids may take a little longer to develop and perfect their social skills. As for whether or not you should limit the amount of time he spends playing video games, there is no right or wrong answer. If he is meeting all of his expectations and it’s not having an effect on his behavior or school work, it may not be something that is going to be necessary for your situation. I hope this has been helpful. Take care.

    Reply
  4. mommygolds Report

    I feel like I should count my blessings because my 15 year old son is SO GOOD. He makes great grades, is going for the highest graduating program in his high school. Very focused on college and scholarships. He is a sophmore and the program he is going through, he should have a year of college under his belt BEFORE he even graduates High School.
    He is involved in the Robotics club and the Chess club at his High School as well.
    He does EVERYTHING we ask. He doesnt complain about chores, babysits his younger sister(6) (and brother who is 13 but has Austism)whenever we ask and actually likes to do it because we pay him a little.
    Seriously, the BEST kid EVER!! But I am also concerned because he is so awkward around people. He has a couple of friends in school, only 1 he hangs out with outside of school. He plays video games ALL day. He doesnt know how to take a compliment, can’t sit in a room and talk to his grandparents. He acts like it KILLS him to answer a question when asked one by an adult. He just doesnt have any social skills which worries me a little because when it is time to get a job, he will need those skills.He will need to know how to shake a hand, talk in a confident and clear voice.He shys away from being touched or hugged by anyone, which KILLS me because Im a hugger! LOL
    We went to a friends house for a BBQ the other night and he stands just slightly away from everyone and just stands there, akwardly. I kept asking him to sit and visit and he just says “Im fine”.
    But one time we had a birthday party with several of our friends for his dad and played poker and had him join us and he was great. He was laughing and talking “smack”. It was great. He is obviously outgoing and comfortable when doing something he likes (which we all are) but how can I make him feel more comfortable with himself in other situations, or teach him to have better social sills even if in a more uncomfortable situation? He comes across as rude sometime in front of his grandparents because he just acts like talking to them is so painful, and they try so hard to get him to talk.
    I worry it is a self esteem thing, and I dont know how to get him to realize what an amazing kid he really is?
    Also, should I limit his video game playing, I really havent much because he makes great grades and does everything I ask when I ask it, so I feel like he deserves to be able to do what he wants on his off time.
    MAN-being a parent is tough!!! LOL

    Reply
  5. Introvert Report

    So the first thing I told my kids about life is that nothing is permanent, everything changes. High school, middle school, whatever school is not something that lasts forever. I have openly discussed topics with them that most parents would never dream of talking about ( but hey parents, your kids are doing it!!). There are kids at school who put on a good act (straight A’s, sports, etc.) who are depressed, drug addicts, party, having unsafe sex, etc. In fact a lot of the super social kids are jerks, they are the bullies. Just because your kid is super social does not mean they are great kids.

    Second, school is an artificially created social environment. We have been watching shows that showcase life in prison and really, with the exception of being able to go home everyday school is not far from emulating the prison system. Plus, your kids are forced to pick friends from a limited pool. If your kid goes to a smaller school, well that could mean a school career with little to no social contact. My kids go to a small charter school, and a lot of the kids social contact at their school is through outside clubs and events (scouts, reading clubs, church groups, etc.). The kids tolerate each other in school, but many of the kids can’t stand each other. That is ok.

    Parents, be respectful to your kids. Just because you wanted to be popular in school doesn’t mean your kids want to be too. Also, look at your kid. Really look at them. Accept them for who they are. If they are super shy and introverted accept it. Part of the problem teens face is that they are being told from so many people to be a certain way. If they want to be weird, let them!! If they don’t like be ultra social, let them.

    Be happy your kid wants to hang with you. One day they won’t. You will just become another person in their life. Your time is limited with them.

    I was never overly social in school. Im still not overly social in my adult life. People just annoy the heck out of me. I can’t stand peoples BS. I have friends, but my contact with them is on a limited basis and as I can stand them. Im introverted so social events drain me. I find energy in myself. I enjoy spending time with MYSELF. There is nothing wrong with that, stop making people feel inadequate if they don’t have a trillion friends. Your self worth should not be determined by what others think of you, the number of facebook friends you have, the type of car or house you own, or that you like to hang solo.

    Reply
  6. stepmom Report

    thank you. I might call the number you provided. I wish I could afford counseling, but at $50/session, it’s simply not going to happen.

    Reply
  7. D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor Report

    To “stepmom”: Thank you for sharing your story with us. I can hear how frustrated you are with your current situation. Blended families can be challenging especially when you disagree with your spouse or think they are being ineffective in their parenting techniques. What might be most effective in this situation is to focus on what you can control. You can’t control your husband’s choices but you can work towards more open communication between the two of you. It sounds like you have been talking with your husband about your concerns but he hasn’t responded in a supportive manner. It might be helpful to talk with a family counselor about ways you and your husband can get on the same page. Even if your husband is reluctant to go, we would encourage you to go for support when things feel unbearable. There is a 2-1-1 National Helpline that can connect you with counselors in your area. You can reach this valuable resource by dialing 1-800-273-6222.
    A couple of articles that might be helpful in your situation are “My Blended Family Won’t Blend—Help!” Part I: How You and Your Spouse Can Get on the Same Page and “My Blended Family Won’t Blend!” Part II: What to Do When Your Stepkids Disrespect You. In the second article, James Lehman discusses ways to address and hold your stepson accountable when he’s rude or disrespectful to you. It’s not ok, however, to feel frightened in your own home and if your stepson’s behavior becomes physically abusive or threatening, we would suggest calling the police. We know this is frustrating and we wish you luck as you work through this. Take care.

    Reply
  8. stepmom Report

    Hoping someone can offer some advice to me. I am the step mom of an almost 17 year old boy, he lives with us full time. He was expelled from school. That was 3 years ago, ever since he’s been home all day, he will sleep until 2-3pm unless his dad is home and makes him get up. He refuses to get a job. Refused to do his online high school courses. His dad doesn’t seem worried, I fear for my future- am I going to be in the SAME situation 5 years from now, living in fear when my husband has to go to work? He has no friends, no social activities. He acts very much like a 10-11 year old- running around the house, refuses to shower/shave/brush teeth unless my husband makes him. My husband says he wants to go to the local community college- I think my step son knows what to say to keep dad from hounding him. He’s not applied for admission, student loans, nothing.He acts like a nice kid when his dad is around, but when dad isn’t home, he absolutely scares me. He will stare at me, refuse to answer me if I speak to him- at one point he used to sneak into my room and walk up behind me to startle me. I threatened to see to it that he moved in with his mom and he stopped. I feel like I will explode if things don’t change- I ADORE my husband, but he totally ignores my concerns regarding his son, and I can’t imagine going on like this forever. I am just so frustrated.

    Reply
  9. Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor Report

    To Tina: It sounds like you are in a tough spot with your son. When you try to give him consequences for his behavior, he reacts by putting holes in the walls and doors of the house. It is understandable that you do not want more damage to your house; however, your son is learning that he can get what he wants by intimidating you and destroying property. While I understand your reluctance to get the police involved, it may be appropriate as he is not responding to your authority as a parent. What might be helpful is to call on the non-emergency line, and find out what kind of assistance you could expect if you did call. If you are concerned for your own safety, we also recommend contacting your local domestic violence project to develop a safety plan around responding to your son if he should become violent. You can reach them at 1 (800) 799-SAFE (7233), or through email at National Domestic Violence Hotline. You have the right to feel safe in your home, and to not have your property destroyed. I am including a link to an article you might find helpful: Is It Time to Call the Police on Your Child? Assaultive Behavior, Verbal or Physical Abuse, Drugs and Crime. Good luck to you and your son as you continue to work through this-we know this isn’t easy.

    Reply
  10. tina Report

    my son is also a gamer. he has had bad grades since kindergarten and is now 16. He also stopped going to school, so i got him in EPHS. They are getting ready to drop him because he is not doing the work. I have taken his games several times, but this last time I took the games he made a hole in the bathroom door (he hit it). He also made a hole in the wall another time, and this time he threatened to make holes everywhere, so i didn’t take the games. i told him that either he goes to school or finds a job, or he won’t get any more money from me. No game pass, no x-box online, and no tournaments on ps3. I don’t want my house torn up, but i don’t want to have to call the cops on him either. what else can i do?

    Reply
  11. Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor Report

    Dear “wemake5”:
    It’s always tough to see our kids struggle socially. It sounds like your son has a lot of great qualities, but somehow is not able to connect with his peers. One question I have is, what types of kids does your son gravitate toward? Are they kind and interesting, or are they the “popular” group? It could be that he’s trying to connect with a peer group that really isn’t suited to his personality. I’m also wondering if you’ve considered sending your son to therapy. The reason I suggest this is because there may be something else going on that’s not apparent to you and your son. An objective, professional third party might be the key to helping your son make more lasting friendships. Best of luck to you and your family — please keep in touch and let us know how it goes.

    Reply
  12. wemake5 Report

    I have a 19 year old son who just completed his first year of college. In High school he was a straight A student and a four sport athlete. He has always been a really good kid, kind and loving. But since fifth grade and despite all of our efforts he has never made any good friends. We thought things were getting better after his second semester of college, he seemed to have made some friends went out and had fun. When he first moved home from college his new friends invited him a couple of time to do things and then all of a sudden it was the same old thing. They would not respond to his text messages when he asked what was going on or would they like to do something. Many times they said that they were not going to do anything and then to find out later that they had gotten together and not included him. The kid is at the end of his rope he has not had a friend for 8 years. He does not understand what the problem is and neither do his father and I. He now wants to go to a different college because of what happened but now thinks that things will never change and that he can not go on this way any longer. We are so desperate to help him he is such a great kid. Please let me know anyway we can help him.

    Reply
  13. DannyJayFuller Report

    I am a 19 year old, recently graduated from high school, moving into an over-21-free house with my fiancee today and attending tech school. I can offer a bit of insight into this type of problem because I used to be the same way until I had an epiphany. I thought I was perfectly happy indulging in my video game addiction and having friends who I’d never meet face to face over the internet. Granted, both of these things are nice in moderation, a successful and meaningful life requires much more. In my freshman year of high school, at 14 years old, I got into my first life-or-death fistfight in the boys’ locker room. You know what it was over? The kid who tried to stab me with a pencil through the eyeball thought I had stolen his deodorant. I talked this over with my tiny group of close friends and they all told me he was just a jerk, I was a school hero for standing up to him, etc, etc… After a while, though, I realized something. The human mind can only take so much abuse and nonstimulation. The kid that attacked me was a ‘basement vampire’ with no friends and disengaged from school entirely, and watching his behavior day to day scared me to the point I realized that I was headed down that same road, sooner or later. Within a couple of months, I was one of the most popular people in the school(no, I am not that good looking or athletic), I had curbed my gaming addiction(not because I enjoyed video games less, but because there was no need to fill up my every possible waking moment with them to avoid emotions and real life) and I had bulked up enough to bench about 150, my body weight at the time. My self-confidence, in light of my acheivements and all the people I knew darn well would take a bullet for me, skyrocketed and I’ve been strong, extroverted, esteemed and relatively successful in my life endeavors ever since. I did fall in with the wrong crowd at times, but even druggies, brawlers and the like can offer a measure of human love and kindness. Right now, I’ve got one manager scheduled to call me with a potential job offer, an interview call scheduled today and about 39 applications floating in a 10-mile radius of my home. I keep physically strong(not fit, mind you, I am a tad on the pudgy side) through daily activities and self-taught martial arts practice and I still game, but I make the most of that time by only playing what I enjoy immensely, trying games that are mentally stimulating(Adventures like Monkey Island and Phoenix Wright, puzzle games like bejewled, minesweeper, etc) not letting it interfere with daily life and when possible, getting others involved, like playing bejewled with my fiancee. Overall, I’d say my life is pretty great right now and all it took was a epiphany. Everybody has a different trigger, but I can guarantee you there’s something in this world somewhere that can snap anybody out of that destructive lifestyle. Your child may find theirs on their own, like I did, or they may need some help. Just help them experience new things and focus their energies in a variety of activities. Learning new things and having new experiences could bring about a lightbulb moment like I had, but even if it doesn’t, it’s a good first step toward encouragement to look around at the rest of the world. I hope this helps.

    Reply
  14. Sherrie Report

    Wow, this article sounds just like my step son! He’s been this way since he was about 6 and he’s 14 now. I’m glad there’s a topic on this!

    Reply
  15. Elisabeth Wilkins Report

    hockeymom: I’m wondering if your daughter has any interests or hobbies outside of school? Does she like art or music? Sometimes it’s helpful to get outside of your comfort zone and try to meet other people who might have the same interests, even if they are in a different school.

    I also want to recommend some good articles in EP for you to read. One is on bullying. You didn’t say your daughter was being bullied, but just in case, there are some good tips in the article that might prove helpful. Also, please read these two great articles on self-esteem & kids by James Lehman, MSW. Thanks for your comments, and please keep in touch.

    http://www.empoweringparents.com/My-Child-is-Being-Bullied.php

    http://www.empoweringparents.com/Low-Self-Esteem-in-Kids-Forget-What-Youve-Heard-Its-a-Myth.php

    http://www.empoweringparents.com/Low-Self-esteem-in-Kids-Part-II-3-Ways-to-Help-Your-Child-Now.php

    Reply
  16. hockeymom Report

    My 14 yr old daughter has no friends! She has never really had a best friend; over the years, she’s been friendly w/ other kids, but the party invites & play dates never materialized. She’s somewhat immature; and tells me that kids that she called “friends” actually roll their eyes at her when she talks to them. We had her evaluated and she doesn’t qualify for an IEP, although she was on one in elementary school. Now that she’s a freshman in high school, I worry she’ll be alone forever. Just one friend! That’s all I’ve ever wanted for her. How do I help her?

    Reply
  17. Megan Devine, Parental Support Line Advisor Report

    To Nat’s Mom:
    It is a difficult balancing act, isn’t it — trying to allow your child to be true to their nature while also not letting their fears limit their lives. You mention that your son used to smoke pot. Some kids will turn to drugs and alcohol to mask social discomfort, others will choose the “safer” realm of family or fantasy worlds rather than face their anxieties. If you have concerns about drug use, counseling (either privately or through his school) might be helpful. And remember to let your son know that no matter how old he is, drug use is not acceptable in your home.

    You’re right in that it might be awkward to force your son into social activities. However, it also sounds like you have some genuine reasons for concern, given his past difficulties. You might ask if he is interested in seeing a therapist again, especially if it has helped him in the past. While you may not be successful in forcing your child to be social, one thing you can do is to require some kind of activity that is outside of your home. Let your son know that while you love having him around, you and your husband would like to see him involved in something. Give him an opportunity to choose something on his own, letting him know that if he doesn’t choose something within a week or two, you will choose something for him (choose something he might like, for example: a fly fishing club, or a class in tying flies). While you can’t physically force him to participate, you can encourage him to get involved by tying his participation in a new activity with existing privileges in your home. For example, when your son attends one outside activity per day, he earns video game time that night. Choose something he cares about, and it will help motivate him to stretch his comfort zone.

    For more ideas, you might also check out these articles on depression and low self esteem.

    http://www.empoweringparents.com/Low-Self-Esteem-in-Kids-Forget-What-Youve-Heard-Its-a-Myth.php

    http://www.empoweringparents.com/Low-Self-esteem-in-Kids-Part-II-3-Ways-to-Help-Your-Child-Now.php

    http://www.empoweringparents.com/When-Your-Childs-World-Collapses-Kids-and-Depression-Part-I.php

    http://www.empoweringparents.com/Is-Your-Child-Depressed-6-Ways-to-Help-Them-Cope-Kids-and-Depression-Part-II.php

    Good luck, and let us know how it works out.

    Reply
  18. Natsmom Report

    My 19-year-old son is not going out on the weekends at all. He stays at home with my husband and me and says, “I’m doing fine,” when I ask whether everything is OK. Indeed, after a rough start, he is doing well in college. He lasted only one week away at school, and he is now earning good grades at a local college (mostly A’s).
    However, he was previously smoking pot, etc. with a group of friends he does not see anymore. He also knows that he has problems with social anxiety and at one time was seeing a therapist.
    What should I do? I feel a bit odd about trying to make him go out and make friends, but it does not seem normal to me. (He is normally introverted and enjoys spending time trout fishing by himself for example, but he had a severe speech impediment as a young boy and a bit of one now so it is hard to know whether his introversion is truly, truly inherent in his nature.)
    Thanks

    Reply
  19. Karen Report

    My son is 15, has no friends, and plays the infamous video games and computer 24/7 (or as long as we’ll let him). His grades are average, he plays hockey for his school, and he seems to be happy. The problem is that I’m worried sick!! He NEVER hangs out with boys his age. He hangs out with his 9 year old cousin, his 11 year old brother, and his brother’s friends. He seems SO socially awkward. (his little brother and sister even tell me they think he’s weird) Some of the comments he makes while car-pooling with his hockey team mates is so “off in left field.” He is handsome, not overweight, and has beautiful red hair (which he claims he’s never been teased about)(I have my doubts) I worry that he won’t be able to live a productive life without being able to socially interact. I’m also convinced he’s addicted to these on-line games. I’ve spoken to him very gently about my concerns…mostly about the addiction. He’s agreed to a connect group at church, but the mere mention of a large group situation had him in tears! HELP!!!!!! What can I do?? I want to raise a happy, healthy child….but, I’M LOST!

    Reply
  20. Carole Banks Report

    Dear Joanne:

    If your child truly is an introvert, as you say, he gets revitalized by being alone and gets exhausted by interacting socially. Some introverted teens prefer to recoup from high school and be alone at home over the weekends. Check with his pediatrician to make sure there is no underlying medical condition, such as depression, causing him to withdrawal. But if he is like about 25% of the population and has the personality type of an introvert, he draws energy from within himself and not from interacting with others. Because this personality type is much less common, they can appear as ‘abnormal’. But they are normal. They’re simply different.

    It’s good to hear he participates in year round sports, is friendly and gets good grades. These are signs that he’s doing pretty well in life. If you feel he needs more balance in his life, that it’s not just that he’s introverted, you can set up some more structure in your home. Decide what’s a reasonable time for him to spend studying, on video games, and participating in family or other social activities. Tell him he needs to choose another after school activity and go out to eat on Friday nights with the family, for example. Academic clubs might be something else he would enjoy, but it’s important to let him choose which one. One way to interact with quiet kids is to join them in what they like to do. Don’t talk a lot or ask a lot of questions but just watch or do along with them. Spend a few minutes watching him play his video games. Kids really enjoy sharing this with you. They like you to witness how good they are at their games. Make a positive comment like “You’re lightening fast” or “Those are good decisions you’re making” (if it’s a role playing game.

    It’s important to keep things in balance and it can be tricky to understand personalities that are different than our own. Remember you can always call the trained specialists on the Support Line to discuss your concerns about your son’s behavior. They will work with you to use the program techniques to create positive changes in your home.

    Reply
  21. Joanne Report

    My son is 16. He goes to school, makes good grades and participates in a year-round sport. He is a nice looking kid and seems friendly enough. However, he never and I mean never goes out. Weekends come and go and it’s the same thing… he stays at home. I will gently ask him to call someone, go to a ballgame, go out to eat, etc. but he never wants to do it. He stays home either watching t.v. or playing video games. I know he is shy and introverted but I can’t help but think that it is not normal for a good-looking 16 year old kid to stay home every weekend. He has had friends in the past, but, just quit doing things with them and now he never gets invited to do anything. I really don’t know what to do. It bothers me as a parent to see him alone all the time. Any suggestions?

    Reply
  22. k.momma Report

    My son is displaying some behavior that is a litte rude to his playmates. Just yesterday he rudely told one of his neighbor friends that he couldn’t go home yet as he had to finish what he started. Now my son is 6 and I pulled him aside and told him if his friend wanted to go home that he was free to go and that he was speaking rudely to him. If this behavior continues should I take further action or is a verbal reminder enough?

    Reply
  23. telee2 Report

    Meagan, I have a 12 yr old son with the same problems. Wanted to check in to see if you have found anything out? Or if things have changed for him? My son has always been introverted. He still runs and hides in the basement when people come over and begs me to homeschool him. This year has been even worse. He started a new school and has been very depressed. He cries every morning not wanting to go and when he gets home he cries off and on about home schooling. He just doesnt like to be around other people. Im am worried about him and not sure what to do next..

    Reply
  24. Shahin Noori Report

    Hi
    Ihave 17 years old son that has the same personality asth= that14 year old childhas shy play vidio game don’t have social life tell me how can I help him. thank you

    Reply
  25. Justin Report

    Ok parents i am a teen, and i myself can understand why you would have concern about your children sitting in their rooms all day playing video games, but instead trying to get them to leave the house…why not try, and focus their attention on something that can be beneficial?

    Reply
  26. sophia Report

    My 16.5 year old son was getting to a point of not wanting to go to school.He would dragg himself out of the house everyday starting a couple weeks ago.I knew he was getting depressed, and others have said here, was doing the “video-games,tv,and computer thing”. Also sleeping until 2pm and going to bed late. We started to block all the TV channels that he liked so he wouldn’t watch Tv at nigh; we also taken away the video game (it’s gone!); I asked him why he does not want to go to school, the answer was ” a bunch of jerks annoy the hell of him…); since he’s been going to a psychologist since 5th grade (I have changed the therapists a couple time too); he loves going there now; he feels understood, respected, and validated. His therapist works with EMDR and ACT (Affect Centered Therapy) and has helped him immensely. He’s been involved in sports (soccer) and now cross country and track since second grade so it helps that he is so attletic. But his key problem is this: he is a smart, intelligent, and independent kid who absolutely hate to have to be labed by others. He likes to have a varied group of friends because he gets along with so many kids;kids who would otherwise not talk to each other; his main thing is :if you’re nice, I can be your friend! Tough social politics at the his high school. Once he told me that he was very much annoyed with the kids who would come to him on Mondays and talk about the “wild parties” that they’d been to on the weekend…but he knew that they’re lying about it. I told him that “of course, they’re lying…just think about how many parties that would have to be taken place in this boring town on the SAME weekend…and happening without the knowledge of the others kids who also said they went to parties….”. He agreed with me that these kids just want to impress one another with the so called “popularity” nosense! The point is kids can feel allienated for many different reasons. I’ve been taking him to therapists since he was 11 because he was always ahead of his peers in terms of interests and “understanding of people”. Most of his friends are juniors and seniors, he’s a great time with girls because he knows how to talk to them. He can’t stand the jerks and jocks. I’ve made a point with him that help is ALWAYS available. I don’t expect perfection but improvement. Therapy has been of great help! Once you’ve taken the time to work with the therapist, things will improve. But act sooner that later…influence them positively in their early teens rather than later! It’s a constant battle but as long he is healthy (physically and mentally),I’ll take that.

    Reply
  27. Carole Banks, LCSW Report

    Dear Dstaat:

    The best way to make progress in this area is to make yourself available to meet people by going to activities you’re interested in. If the focus is on the activity, it’s less awkward to socialize. Have your son choose an afterschool club or sport that he likes. Even if his only interest is video gaming at this point, he might be able to find a club that plays interactive games. It’s a socializing start. Be sure to let him pick it, but require him to join one group activity. Have the main purpose be just to start to socialize while doing something he likes to do. That way, he’ll always have a good time at the activity he likes, and if a friendship comes out of it, that’s an added bonus.

    Reply
  28. dstaat Report

    Okay then how do you teach these social skills??? Every suggestion I make is shot down because I’m told by my son “you just don’t know how kids are these days” “you can’t just walk up to guys and try to make friends, they call you a nerd, tease you, and stick to they’re own clicks”. Please don’t tell me that he needs to find others that won’t make him feel this way, or say those things to him. He’s been at this “new” school since the middle of last year and things are just not changing. Anybody with any help is greatly appreciated.

    Reply
  29. marty247 Report

    I have a 13 i/2 yr old bot who has comletely changed within the last year. Up unitl last summer, he loved playing sports, is an exceptionally good athlete. He just wants to wuit everything, says he hates school. Does get up and go, but drags himself everday. Worries all the time. I recently had him to the dr’s for palpitaions. He had an EKG, and bloodwork. Thank god, to this point everything is fine. Told the doctor about his mood changes and he spent much time talking to him and feels he is not depressed but just going through normal teen “angst”. What do I do?

    Reply
  30. mom lost Report

    My 19 year old son moved out shortly after graduation. He was getting increasingly aggressive. The last time he shoved me and I fell. he left without checking to see if I was ok, after returning he did apologize. up until the middle of 12 grade his grades were ok. He wanted to go to a 4 yr collage. already had 1 year of collage before graduation. shortly before graduation he admitted he intentionally got a low score on the ACT so I would not expect him to go to school. He told me he wanted to go to community collage. His girlfriend told him his school of choice was a party school and he shouldn’t go. she did not qualify to get in. This year now that he wasted his scholarship she Is now planning to go to that school.They now live together with a friend. our family is a very close one, and he has always been close until now.He becomes agitated when he comes over to visit with me and with his younger brother and sister.It seems we are always walking on eggshells so as not to anger him. he has asmtha and allergies. he’s smoking and living with 4 inside cats and a dog. I went over to see his place after waiting 2 months. it smelled very strong of cats, enough that my clothes smelled after I left it was bad enough I cleaned my feet on the grass outside before getting into my car,also molding dishes in the sink and trash and junk every where. his girlfriend was raised in this kind of environment her father and mother have drugs and alcohol problems I recently learned He getting drunk. through all of this he has kept this job until to day. I don’t understand why he is living in this kind of life. he is showing lots of risky behavior. I’m lost I don’t know how to help him.

    Reply
  31. E Report

    This is E talking to wv mama—i know just what you are going through since my son is also up all night playing video games, sleeping in the day, and rarely leaving the house at all. Since your son is still a minor, can you contact a mental health or psychiatric hotline and talk to one of the counselors? I know exactly what you mean when you say he will not talk to you at all, because my son will not talk seriously with me either, but perhaps your son will talk to someone else who is willing to come to your house to initiate contact. There is probably a lot of fear and depression inside him and he is avoiding it all by dropping out of society. Maybe the guidance counselors at his high school can help you get in touch with mental health agencies. As for you, stay calm, maybe get some counseling for yourself while you are helping your son get through this–don’t let your own mental health suffer–stay strong–best wishes

    Reply
  32. wv mama Report

    my son is 16 almost 17 and this has been the worst 1 1/2 of our lives. My son sounds much like E’s. Last year 2008 in September he started with not getting up for school. I was late for work every day because I would try to get him up, but usually could not, if he did go to school he was at least an hour late. It progressed to beeing late for the first class until he just wouldn’t get up at all. By the time I would give up and go to work I felt like I was going to have a stroke. Finally the school was going to send him to court and put him in a group home. I just couldn’t let them do that so they let me sign him up for home school. I soent $2000 on an online HS and 1 year later he still hasn’t completed one class. His problem I feel is that he is addicted to thise video games—up all night sleeps all day. sleeps eats and plays gasmes in his room on his bed. with the occcasional trip to the bathroom or kitchen, he rarely takesa abath and his room is a pigpen. I have tried to get him to a therapist, would not go, won’t go to the doctors, won’t go to church–won’t do anything. He has no friends anymore and I juat don’t know what to do. I am a single mom with no real family support. When I try to talk to him he won’t. If he feels like he is pushed at all he geets very agressive. I hate to say it but I am afraid of my own child sometimes. I need to do omething, but I just do not know ;what to do. I feel like I have let him down and I have failed. Anyone have any ideas?

    Reply
  33. E Report

    Hello again, this is E talking to Sillygirl. I went through exactly the same thing when my son was a senior in in high school—he told me he wanted to drop out, and refused go to go to school for weeks. Some one gave
    me the advice DO NOT sign the papers to allow him to
    quit school, because then he can always blame you later
    for that decision, instead of taking responsibility
    himself. See if you can hold on and continue to make
    the effort to keep him in school—maybe there are some
    alternatives like a work-study program, or even a
    different high school, i would investigate that (if you haven’t already). In any case, keep a dialogue going
    with the school—maybe they can help.
    But whatever you do, the bottom line is, you must not
    allow this to upset you day in and day out, try to
    stay calm and optimistic, because WHATEVER happens with high school right now—-even if he drops out—your
    attitude can make a difference now and in his future
    development. And believe it or not, there are parents
    and kids out there who say that quitting school (and
    maybe getting that GED) was better for them. Keep in
    touch, good luck

    Reply
  34. roger Report

    I have not had to deal with this problem but it seems to me there are some excellent suggestions here by Megan, Joanne, Carole and kiwikrs.

    What a great blog this is…I learn a lot every time I visit it.

    Reply
  35. Sillygirl Report

    Wow, my son sounds almost exactly like E’s son sounds except that he does not take anti-depressants or
    anything like that. My problem is that he is 17,
    a Sr. in H.S. and just does not want to continue to
    finish h.s.

    HE is locked up al day and does not want to go out.
    He has friends but only see’s them if they come over
    to our house.

    I struggle with him every morning to get him up and
    the truth is that I have had enough, I go to work upset EVERYDAY!

    What should I do, should I just let him drop-out and
    he can get his GED later? I have struggled to keep
    him in school all this time but I am at my wits-end!

    Reply
  36. AnneM Report

    M son had antisocial behaviors when he was younger and rarely made eye contact…his father and I went through a bad divorce and he was only seven at the time…I have always known that he needed help and had tried for years to get it from professionals…they gave him anitdepressants, and then ADD medication, counselling…..the anti depressants made him defiant and the ADD medication made him shake I then decided that I would look for my own alternatives…I put him throught the Landmark Forum for teens and this really helped..his High School had something called Kairos and this really made a difference…it was a three day camp with his peers, and they got to share with each other..I think he felt accepted for how he is there……which was huge as peer pressure is sometimes why I beleive kids become introverted. I also made dietary changed and added supplements. He is now in College, and he still plays video games occasionally but is usuualy out and about with is friends.

    Reply
  37. kiwikrs Report

    This is easier said than done I know, but you are going to have to make it difficult for them to just stay in their rooms playing video games. You will have to “wean” them from their games. There is software out there that can assist you with this. You start out limiting the amount of time they are allowed to play games and watch tv. Yes, you will get temper tantrums, but you will have to stay tough. Keep shortening the amount of time they are allowed doing these activities. Offer them other options, which they will decline at first. When they get bored enough, they will start accepting these offers. It will take time and it will be painful for both of you. But if you don’t do something now, they will never outgrow it. Once they are over 18 your legal rights are gone. You should even tell them they have until a certain date to get a job and start paying rent if they aren’t going to go to college and they have graduated from High School. You have to start pushing them from their cozy nest or you may be stuck with a non-funtioning adult the rest of your life. I know it is hard, you fight your own desire to have them still at home and their need to become a functioning adult in the world. But you have no choice if you are going to be a good parent.

    Reply
  38. Carole Banks, LCSW and Parental Support Line Advisor for The Total Transformation Program Report

    Dear KLynn: Wanting your child to have different friends, or a different girlfriend or boyfriend, is a common wish we hear over the Support Line. Parents sometimes ask if they should move to a different area so that their child won’t hang around with the wrong crowd anymore. The fact of the matter is that your child won’t change their friends until your child changes. What I mean by that is, these are the friends your child is choosing to be with. Wherever you move, your child will chose the same type of friends until your child’s preferences change. So since you can’t choose your child’s friends for him, what control do you have over what he does? You have a lot, actually. What you can and should do is clearly state the behaviors that are acceptable to you. For example, “You have to be home during school nights, your curfew on weekends is 9:00 PM.” “You may not date yet but can go out with mixed groups of people as long as we know where you are and you have prior approval,” etc. Setting these limits on your child’s behaviors can actually affect who will want to hang out with your child. For example, if you say, “You cannot go out on school nights” but your child’s friends can, these kids will be doing something else that does not include your child and their relationships may drift apart. So instead of trying to limit who your child chooses as friends, limit his activities and the time he spends in recreation. You can establish a rule that homework is done first, everyday, and then you have free time. The Total Transformation Program advises that it’s not a good use of your energy to try and change your child’s attitude so that they understand that getting good grades and having good friends is important. It’s much more important that they behave responsibly — whether they feel like it or not. As James Lehman says, “You can’t feel your way to better behavior, but you can behave your way to better feelings.” Eventually, their attitude will come around after experiencing approval and success.
    KLynn, I hope this is helpful. Please let us know how it goes with your son.

    Reply
  39. Mona Report

    I have a 13 yr old son with the same habits. 5 years ago, we had a neuro-psych evaluation done on him becasue he was just difficult to handle. Although we were not having issues in school (still aren’t), at the time, we were worried about possible learning disabillities. Well, the results were far from being the classic learning disability – he was found to have near-genius level IQs in almost all areas. In some areas, he was even off the chart! We were so pleased to hear that news that we missed the part about some of his social interactions skills. CUrrently, he is still exibiting what we feel are very non-social behaviors. He has even gone through long periods of time without talking to family members. I believe we have some family dynamics issues as well and we are currently seeking help from a LCSW now for the last 4 months. Things are very slowly improving, but we are in for the long road ahead. But there are still days where he does absolutely nothing but move from the video game to the computer game to the TV and back again. We do have him involved in outside activities such as soccer, football and basketball.

    Reply
  40. KLynn Report

    My teenager 15 has attracted the wrong kids from middle school and is carrying on with the same crowd in high school . How can i get his attention getting that grades and making new friends is a good thing? He is shy a little but very easy going.

    Reply
  41. Joanne Report

    Some kids are really shy, and then get into a spot that’s hard to get out of. It can be really hard for certain kids to go up to another kid and invite them over, or suggest hanging out. They might see other kids as being part of the ‘in group’ and they feel left out. I’m sure you don’t have to be extremely introverted to see how that wall that separates ‘in’ from ‘out’ seems unsurmountable when you are in high school. Some people are really resilient and create their own ‘in’ crowd of fellow ‘out-casts’ and make the best of it, but it doesn’t sound like your son (as of yet) has even that group of fellow shy kids to fit in with. It would be easier if he has an interest that he really gets into, even if it’s not one of the ‘popular’ activities like baseball and football, or even chess (most schools have a chess team), but if he just is not interested in any of those things, lots of other boys are interested in playing video games. Maybe he has one particular game that he’s really into, you could find out if the library or teen center ever has a night that features that game. It sounds easy to us, as parents, to tell a teenager “invite a kid over from your class” but I can totally empathize with that fear of rejection he may be building up in his mind that is just as bad as asking out a girl to the Prom. You may have to give him specific suggestions on how to word the invitation. Brainstorm and let him pick from more than one suggestion that he feels comfortable with. “Hey, my mom’s testing out cookie recipe’s and I can’t eat them all by myself. You wanna come over? We can play _________ video game while she’s in the kitchen.” – “Have you gotten to Level ____ on _________ video game? I have been playing it for a week and can’t get past it, wanna come over and try if you can? – “Do you have the new __________ video game? I was thinking about getting it, but I’m not sure if I want to buy it without checking it out. Yeah, if you come over Saturday we can play that one, and you can check out some of mine” If he seems completely resistant to trying out any new activities or completely freaked out by inviting someone over, my last ditch suggestion would be that he volunteer somewhere. Sometimes, having a larger purpose and a specific job to do helps you to get over being shy. For instance, if I were to attend a church breakfast, and I didn’t know anyone, I would wind up sitting by myself wondering why did I come? I have learned to go up to who-ever is in charge and tell them to give me something to do…. serve coffee, pick up plates, bring around a tray of cookies, all turn me into the friendly hostess and I talk to everyone, even if I help in the kitchen, I can at least talk to the other volunteers. It changes everything.

    Reply
  42. Mamasue Report

    How about a 19 yr old who graduated with a 3.9, got a 32 on his ACT, and a scholarship that paid his first year of college? He did attend that first year and did quite well and made lots of good friends in the dorm. Now he says he doesn’t know what he wants to do and so feels like he is wasting time and money and got a deferral for this present school track–so here he is at home, playing his computer games into the wee hours then sleeping late and doing it all over again–no interest in looking for a job (his brother who manages a local fast food even offered him a job). He doesn’t need money since he doesn’t do anything. His college town is only about 30 minutes away so he has gone back several times to do things with his friends there, but even that has been awhile–all his friends from home are gone to college themselves or are away on church missions so he really has no one right here to pal around with. He gets angry when anyone says anything about a job or going on a mission himself and if I try to talk serious he leaves the room or puts on his head phones. His father died when he was 7 and I did remarry but that did not work out; but he has 3 older brothers who are very responsible and hard-working and 1 younger brother who is very active in high school and also a good worker—what gives with this kid? How can I help him?

    Reply
  43. E Report

    My 18-year old son is also a “vampire”. He graduated from a special needs high school—just barely, since he was absent so much it became a problem. He is very bright, good-looking and he used to be popular, but now is losing friends because he refuses to go out, get a job. or go to college or trade school. He sleeps and plays video games in his room with occasional trips to the bathroom and the kitchen. That’s it. He was on anti-depressants, and anti-anxiety medication for almost two years, but honestly his behavior then was not different than his behavior now with no meds. My strategy (if you can call it that) has been to let him play this out until he has reached his limit with it. He is extremely stubborn and continually pushes the limits—-I was relieved that he even graduated high school because he refused to go at all for about 5 weeks during the last semester. Then something shifted in his mind and he negotiated with the school and resumed attendance. Anyone have any insight on stubborn/manipulative older teens who claim that they “just don’t care about anything”. He even refuses to see his therapist anymore, although she has called him and asked him to visit her.

    Reply
  44. Grammy Too Report

    I would not be so worried about a 4 year old. At that age, they still need a lot of parental involvement. Maybe he would enjoy playing on a soccor team when he gets a little older. A kid who doesn’t like McDonalds sounds like a plus to me!

    Reply
  45. Grammy Report

    My 4-year old grandson exhibits these same tendencies. He prefers home to going anywhere. He functions quite well at a McDonald’s playground, a public playground or just about any place after he gets there. But given the choice of Donald’s playground or home, he will choose home. He expresses that he is scared. I am concerned that there is something else going on-like autism (high functioning), ADD or something. Any ideas?

    Reply

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