C.H. asks from Missouri City, TX on July 29, 2007
How to Deal with a Preteen's Lack of Accountability
Okay...here's the deal. I've been struggling with getting my 12 1/2 year old son to accept responsiblity for his actions. He knows the rules but continues to push the envelope on a weekly basis. If he wasn't 12 I would swear he was a lawyer. He's constantly blaming everyone else for his actions and will not accept any kind of accountability for them. I'm at the end of my rope and if he finds another "loophole" or "excuse" or "reason" to explain away his troubles, I don't know what I'm going to do. All in all, he is a really good kid. It's when he doesn't do what he's supposed to do that gets him in trouble. I get the fact that he's hormonal and wants to test certain boundaries but I just don't want to see him going through life blaming others for his actions (good or bad). I've lectured, punished, grounded...you name it I've done it. I'm obviously missing something. How do I get him to take responsiblity for his actions and get him to acknowledge that he is accountable for them and to stop blaming his brother, dad, friends, heck he's even blamed inanimate objects at times. Any feedback would be appreciated.
P.M. answers from McAllen on September 10, 2007
I agree with alot of what has been said already.
I too have a 14 yr old daughter who tends to think I owe her everything she wants in life. I try to make her accountable for her actions, and also make decisions for herself. I step in when I see that some of those decisions might be harmful to her in some way. She of course thinks I am just a nosey mom and being too overly protective. I told her that I am her mom now and always so get used to it.
My problem is more on the side of my hubby and her. He is not her father. Her father passed away when she was 7 and we were seperated at the time. It was in 2001. Well I remarried and she refuses to even be nice to him at times. She does only if she wants something. I am the one who disciplines in the family as she tells him often.. your not my father. He tells her your right I am your stepfather though and you need to respect me. Well that last about a day. I just don't know what to do. He is a good guy and I will say in the beginning he would make a comment or something that maybe didn't need to be said. He has also apologized too. She thinks everything that happens against her is my doing or his. It's so confusing at times. It's hard raising a teenager these days.
N.S. answers from College Station on July 30, 2007
I have a 7 year old daughter who started exhibiting some of the same symptoms and also lacked motivation to do anything. Someone recommended the book, "The Five Love Languages of Children." I reading the chapter on each of the love languages and started experimenting and looking to find out what my daughter's love language was. To my surprise it was: Words of Affirmation. This seemed just the opposite of what I thought she needed and the ways I was trying to handle the problem. Like the book said, I started trying to compliment her on anything and everything she did right. Watching her when I was around to give her more spoken attention. I'm a single working mom and this is hard because I'm always doing something. I was really surprised to see the smiles on her face and how she began to respond in a very short amount of time of my doing this. The book also explained that as parents we should watch to see how your children show that they love you. This will give you a hint on what their love language is. She was always givening me notes saying, "I love you." Finding a person's love language works on husbands and other adults too. You just need watched and listen to find out what their love languge is. I have an older daughter who is now married and I wished I'd read this book earlier for her sake. Fortunately, I can still begin to use words of affirmation on her as well. She is a new mom and I told her what a wonderful mom she was the other day and she lit up and told me later how much that meant to her! How rewarding that was for me. Hope this helps! NS
A.P. answers from Houston on August 03, 2007
I have two boys, one will be 12 this month and the other will be 10 next month. I was having similar issues with them about a year ago.
My oldest decided he was going to scream at me for not having dinner ready. We had just opened the door and walked inside, we hadn't even set down our things yet. I calmly put my things away, told him I wouldn't allow him to treat me like that and as a result I would not be making dinner. As I went upstairs I recommended they find something to microwave. I stayed in my room and had a very pleasant and quiet evening watching reruns of my favorite programs. I had my boyfriend bring me take-out on his way home. The boys haven't had that conversation with me ever again.
About 2 weeks after the dinner incident my oldest boy yelled at me because he didn't have any clean socks to wear to school. I told him he didn't pick up his dirty clothes and take them to the laundry room so they didn't get washed. He continued yelling, so I calmly informed him that I would no longer wash any of his clothes again and if he wanted clean clothes he would not only have to pick them up and take them to the laundry room he would have to wash them himself, fold and hang them and put them all away. I then suggested on my way downstairs that he borrow clean socks from his brother or put on some dirty ones.
My youngest jumped on the band wagon and yelled at me one evening, the boys were having a dispute and the youngest wanted me to take his side. I refused to take sides or be drawn into their dispute. Yelling and crying continued each of them talking louder and louder telling their side of the story and saying things like "you always blame me" etc.
I sat both of them down, gave them the example of the clothes and dinner and told them that emotionally they are responsible for their own feelings. Just like the choice they made to yell at me for dinner and for washing clothes there are consequences. People are NOT REQUIRED to treat them nicely and do things for them, its earned by mutal respect. If they misbehave, yell and scream they not only temporarily lose privledges they also lose my respect and trust and diminish their overall impression with other people as well.
We talked about people they didn't like at school and what behaviors made them "not like" that person. This was a good way to illustrate the consequences of their own behavior. I asked them how they would feel if their friends at school could see them yelling and crying like they just were... you can imagine their response.
I haven't had any issues with my boys being irresponsible or disrespectful since then really. They both continue to wash their own clothes. I suggest that they remember to wash them on Saturday and Sunday but they do all the work from beginning to end. I also started teaching them to cook and have them take turns planning and cooking simple meals. The appreciate chores alot more now and don't complain too much. =)
R.C. answers from Houston on July 30, 2007
You might look into an approach called Love and Logic. It is all about logical consequences for actions and assuming responsibility decisions. It's helped me a lot with the students I've taught. You can look up their website and see if it's for you.
T.S. answers from Longview on July 30, 2007
I have dealt with this in 2 kids.
What we did was
1. Tell them you alone are responsible for your actions and therefore the consequences of your actions.
2. Don't argue with them. Just state that fact every time they start in on 'blaming' and walk away. They can't argue with a wall, but they will hear that comment every time and start absorbing even if they don't want to. ;-)
3. Set it up for them. Ex: ds runs with a metal bucket, I say don't run. He falls and cuts his leg on it. Then blames me for buying a metal one instead of a plastic one. I fix his wound and say well you ran with the bucket. I guess now you can't go do xx because it would bother your wounded leg. It is something he wanted to do, but he ruined that because he chose to run and the result was a cut leg.
Everytime they choose to do something and blame someone you find something they can't do or enjoy as a direct result and say, "Well you CHOSE to disobey and now sadly you have to miss x because you are too tired/wounded/sick/upset to enjoy it".
Make sure you always say 'YOU CHOSE' to do this and now x must happen. And make sure you don't argue, lecture, or act like it is an offense against you. It is not against you personally!
You just sadly say, "I am so sorry you made that choice but I know that you will choose better next time," and leave things at that.
It is them trying to refuse responsiblity and manipulate the world around them. If they can make everyone else feel guilty then they can manipulate them to take the blame and in the end the kid gets what they want anyway, having never learned a lesson from the mistake.
They key is not to get offended, but sad at their mistake. To state it like a fact and not argue. I know it is hard, but hang in there! You can do it! ;-)
B.C. answers from Houston on August 18, 2007
CH - I have a 13 year old, 17 year old and 2 year old - all boys. I commend you for trying to teach accountability because that is a key value that will help him make good choices in the future. Some great advice I have been given: each child's consequences need to be different because some don't respond to grounding, yelling, talking, etc. the same. What is important to him? What can you take away that would really affect him? Even if it is his sports or activities... it is worth taking it away for a few weeks - a season - or a year, in order to show him true consequences in life. We have taken away guitar lessons from my older son, which was very hard for us to do since we want him to be successful with his music. But, it got to the point that he wasn't behaving as expected - we had to take drastic measures.
I hope this helps.... keep trying and you will see that it will be successful sometime in his future life!!