Tween son not ambitious, kind but self absorbed

redellieNovember 25, 2012

Hello!

I just want to see if you, parents out there have better ideas than me as to how to help my 12 yr old boy find himself/ his strengths. He's a younger brother, and never has completely come out of the "shadow"... He always prefers to have things done for him, has no real drive to achieve anything, though he likes to be in a band and plays saxophone - he NEVER plays at home. If you let him he will lay in bed all day, looking at youtube videos. He is a very nice person and caring about other people, but doesn't seem to notice how much his step dad and I have to work, around the house, and is never driven to help. He does his chores ( minimal, clean half the kids bathroom and his room once a week, do his laundry and feed the dogs every afternoon) grudgingly, and not well. At school he does ok, but misses home works often, writes on the wrong side of folded and dirty paper -just messy as anything. Otherwise he is smart and reads a lot, but it doesn't seem to translate into "common sense" - for instance asks me where the cleaning supplies are every week?

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daisyinga

for instance asks me where the cleaning supplies are every week?

For things like that, help him learn to help himself. If he asks you where the cleaning supplies are, ask him to write himself a sticky note telling where the cleaning supplies are and put it on his mirror or dresser. Or, take him with you to buy a second set of cleaning supplies and put them in his room.

At school he does ok, but misses home works often, writes on the wrong side of folded and dirty paper -just messy as anything

Regarding school assignments, I gave my son a choice. He could do the assignment, turn it in on time and get a grade. Or he could do the assignment late, turn it in late and get a zero. But not doing the assignment at all was not a choice. If you choose that route, make sure you let the teacher know privately in advance what you are doing, and that you fully expect him to receive a zero. You don't want her to get frustrated with him or you thinking that you expect her to relax her rules. You want your son to get that zero if he doesn't turn his paper in on time; that prepares him better for life.

Messiness - either make him do it over or let the teacher handle it, whichever you prefer. You might contact his teacher(s) and ask which they prefer. My son was very messy in the 6th grade, and I made him do some of his assignments over as they were illegible. However, he was always somewhat messy, until in college when he was forced to be neat.

He does his chores ( minimal, clean half the kids bathroom and his room once a week, do his laundry and feed the dogs every afternoon) grudgingly, and not well

Be pleasant and matter of fact, but if it bothers you make him do it over until it's done well enough. Don't criticize, be clear about what you want him to do. Make sure you tell him when he's done a good job, or even an acceptable job. You might make a joke of it, if he'd like that.....make a clean bathroom blue ribbon, or write a sticky note and put on the bathroom mirror thanking him for cleaning the bathroom. Be sure to express appreciation for what he does, not gushing but just mention it some time. I personally didn't care if the chores were done grudgingly, as long as my kids weren't disrespectful or rude.

He is a very nice person and caring about other people, but doesn't seem to notice how much his step dad and I have to work, around the house, and is never driven to help.

This is typical of almost all kids I know, and it doesn't bother me, but it might bother you. I didn't expect my kids to notice and pitch in without being asked at that age. If he needs to help more, give him more chores. I think kids who do a reasonable amount of chores have more self confidence. There's a lot more he could be doing at age 12. I'd try to either figure out what he might like to do or get satisfaction in doing, or give him choices. He can make dinner once a night, clean the dinner dishes every night. He can do yard work. If your husband knows how to repair things, he can help your husband do repairs.

I had the same problem it sounds like you do - I was doing way too much and my kids weren't helping enough. I realized I was the problem, and I needed to stop being a martyr. It's my job to assign chores, make sure the kids are taught how to do them, and make sure they get done.

If you let him he will lay in bed all day, looking at youtube videos.

I handled this by not letting my kids have internet access or tv in their rooms. The internet was accessed by a computer in the family room. You can handle this a number of ways, you don't have to use that one. I know families who have restricted tv and internet surfing to weekends only. Those parents channeled their boys into sports or extracurricular activities during the week.

He always prefers to have things done for him,

Lots of kids are like that. Stop doing things for him that he can do for himself. Maybe ease into that rather than start cold turkey. Kids who have a reasonable amount of responsibility for themselves (in my opinion) develop more self-confidence in the long run.

Be pleasant, be matter-of-fact, don't criticize. Just quietly and matter-of-factly slowly give him more responsibility.

I could be wrong, but if he prefers to have things done for him, I think if you pay close attention to your own behavior, you'll find you do a lot of things for him he could be doing himself. Like finding the cleaning supplies for him after he's cleaned the bathroom a few times. I've been there, done that. As much as you can, once you've been clear about what you want him to do, taught him how to do it, made sure he's done it correctly a few times, then put the responsibility back on him. For example, "Mom, I need $50 for the field trip next Friday." Get HIM to write a sticky note and put it on your mirror to remind you. If he needs new underwear, make him go shopping with you - that's better than laying in the bed watching youtube.

Also, when my son was in middle school, the teachers and administrators strongly advised that parents set a (reasonable) homework time every day. Students were expected to spend that entire time doing homework. If they finished early, they could read a book. My kids love to read, so that's like offering them candy for dinner. Instead, I told my kids if they finished early they could clean out their desks and bookbags. Your son might benefit from a set homework/studying time. If he finishes early, is there something educational he would like to do, like have science experiments and supplies on hand for him to do science experiments?

I hope you find what works out for both of you!

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 6:18PM
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redellie

Really great advice, thank you! A lot of my frustration come from the fact that his older brother was a very different child and kind of picked up on everything on his own... I haven't had to teach Step-by step yet, and I was expecting the little one to do that too... But he is a different person... I will schedule him a lot more, assign more chores, give him steps to work towards getting the privilege of getting half an hour to watch his videos at the end of the day... I think the added structure will help a lot! Thank you again!

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 6:49PM
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popi_gw

Its good that he likes reading.

My children are adults now, always loved reading. I think this has helped them in so many ways.

Fantastic advice from Daisy.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 12:38AM
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jeanr

Please do not compare the younger son to the older - tempting as it may be. All kids are different - even raised in same home. His experiences and processing of them will never be the same as older brother. Look for his strengths (which you have identified) and learn to appreciate them for what they are. The advice by daisyinga is spot on for getting you through the daily stuff.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 8:05PM
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