How to deal with the I forgets and the I dunnos?

User - posted on 02/13/2012 ( 6 moms have responded )

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My oldest stepdaughter has a major issue with forgetting and then not taking responsibility for actions or for her role around the house.



She was having trouble following the rules and when asked why she wasn't doing what she was supposed to she claimed it was because she forgot. Finally I got fed up and made like 6 posters explaining what her expectations around the house were and the rules as well. There was also one to remind the kids of everything they needed to have before they left the house for school or for the switch with their mom on Sunday (we do one week on.. one off). Five of the six lists are in their room including one that explains their routine for the whole day and the posters worked for about 2 days then the forgetting started all over again. This time she claimed she forgot to look at the list.. grrr!

When asked why a rule wasn't followed or a job done she maintains that she doesn't know why and the same for how she's forgetting to look at the lists. No matter how much I ask.. the answer is always the same. We've tried so many things to help the situation and always given her the benefit of the doubt trying to figure out if there was some deeper reason for the behaviour.



Here's some background: My hubby and I met 3 years ago.. we dated for a year and then I moved in. The kids have never been anything but accepting of me and my oldest and I tend to share a closer relationship as we like alot of the same things since I'm only 27. We're adopting a little boy and we've been in the process for about 2 years now and the kids have been excited and on board since day one. They also have a little brother at their mom's house who has remarried and there are no issues there either. We meet and talk regularly with her and her husband to ensure we're all on the same page and we get along well. My oldest was having trouble about 3 weeks ago with friends at school. The school that she's in has small classes and there are only about 14 kids in her class and 6 of those are girls. The leader of this group was picking on my daughter and trying to turn the other kids against her. We never ended up speaking to the teacher or the child's mom as our daughter said it would only make things worse for her.. so we just tried to be encouraging and insist she talk to the teacher herself if things didn't improve. About a week ago things did. We let alot of the behaviour go a while back due to the stuff going on at school but even now that things have improved she is still acting out. She lies often to cover her mistakes and while we are tough she is not scared of us. Naturally, we understand that a certain amount of behaviour is attributed to her age and her beginning to push the boundaries.. and the lying is often a natural way for children to try and avoid trouble. She is terrible for losing things and she doesn't seem to understand that you need to take care of your things. After enough of the losing of items we told her she would be responsible for replacing them out of her own money.. this helped a bit for a time. We currently discipline using a jar system. Certain behaviours like outright defiance of rules or lying will warrant picking a consequence from the jar and most other behaviour issues require picking a job in addition to their four jobs a week. The jobs themselves are very simple and age appropriate and take on average about 10-15 mins each. The consequences range from missing their next sleepover or playdate to writing lines. We have always tried to keep an open line of communication with both kids and hold family meetings to discuss things that are going on in the house and/or to refresh everyone on the rules and expectations of the house. The kids are also encouraged to write us notes about issues they have if they don't feel comfortable coming to us to talk face-to-face.

Lately, we even tried spending extra quality time one on one with my oldest in particular to see if this was all just a bid for attention but it didn't help.



We've just given her so many chances and benefit of the doubt so often and we are just at the end of our rope.



Since September she has lost.. 3 pairs of mitts, 2 hats, her house key twice and several other important items.She has in the past 2 school years lied about her homework (whether or not she has any and whether she's already done it at school) and to take care of all the unfinished homework she simply forged her mother's signature on the signing sheet that the teacher gets proving that we have witnessed the homework's completion.



Yesterday she wanted to have a friend over and her father was really wanting to reschedule it as we were cleaning up the house, but I insisted that we could tidy up really quick and she could come over for dinner and stay for a few hours. I figured that since this was a girl she goes to school with, that it would be beneficial for her to nurture this friendship so she has someone to hang out with at school. So he relented and we told her she could have her friend over on the condition that she really help with the cleanup. Both kids had already been asked to do atleast ONE of the four jobs they had been assigned for the week to help out and our youngest got clean the bathroom surfaces and my oldest got dishes. We started cleaning at 1:30 and were finished by 4pm. My youngest got her bathroom job done, tidying in her room and some in the basement and managed to clean the whole hamster cage on her own. By 4pm.. my oldest had completed all the dishes that were in the sink except some cans/jars for recycling but had left all the dishes not in the sink unwashed. She also didn't wipe down the sink or the drying board. I brought this to her attention and specified what needed to get done.. and I come back about 15mins later after declaring she was done and she still had left the recycling, surfaces and sink drain full of food scraps. She then went to her room and proceeded to try on toe socks instead of picking up the items they got back after keeping their room clean the previous week. (We have a rule that their room and closet floor must be clean and desk, dresser and beds be accessible and useable, or at bedtime we collect anything left on the floor etc in a garbage bag and if they can't keep their room clean that week they don't get their stuff. If it continues to be messy for 3 weeks all the stuff collected gets donated to kids who will appreciate it.) Finally, her dad got after her and told her to smarten up as this was her friend coming over and that she took ridiculously long to wash dishes that should have taken 15 minutes. Her friend ended up coming over even though we had a good mind to cancel, but it was too late and they were on their way. After her friend left my oldest took a shower and I told her that she had less than an hour before bed and she had to be IN BED by 9pm.. she agreed and left to shower. She comes out 25 minutes later and sits in her pjs drawing in her room. I remind both kids at 8:45 that they have 15 mins before bed and my youngest acknowledges but my oldest doesn't. I go into their room at 9pm and tell them its now bedtime.. and my oldest walks towards me and laughs and says she hasn't brushed her teeth. This happens almost every night.. rules state they must brush their teeth at 10 mins to 9pm and my oldest rarely has it done. I then look at the state of their room (which was clean at 4pm when her friend came over) and its an absolute disaster! My youngest admits she simply didn't want to clean up and thats why it wasn't done.. but upon asking my oldest I get an "I don't know" and a "I guess I forgot to look at the list..". Meanwhile, she had two prompts and she was sitting amongst the mess for atleast 20mins before bed! Not to mention this is an expectation we've had in place since I moved in!



We are out of ideas as how to deal with this.. any of you ladies deal with a similar situation?

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6 Comments

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User - posted on 02/28/2012

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I respect your choice, however, I would have definitely cancelled on my daughter's friend coming over. If she did not do what she was asked to do, and at that point I feel she should know better, then she just lost the privilage of having her friend over. There wouldnt be any arguing or power struggles. I would have simply said, "sorry, your friend isnt coming over. I will call her mom and explain why." Then I would have called the mother, apologized for her inconvinience and explained why there was no play date. If my kid flipped out, I keep my cool and stand my ground.

I think next time I ask to her to clean and be quick about it, she'll remember. What do you think?

User - posted on 02/28/2012

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Your daughter sounds alot like mine when she was that age! lol Thank goodness it has gotten better or I would have no hair left on my head! lol Although she still forgets her keys or looses them in the blackhole her bedroom has become. I reminded her, since she is 16 and will want to drive soon, "gee honey, what will you do when your house keys are attached to you car keys and you cant find them? mmmm? Guess you'll be taking a bus." She found her keys in no time! hahaha.

I also put up posters and reminders. Sometimes it worked, other times it didnt. I finally realized that she only remembered things that were convenient or important to her. Cleaning after herself wasnt important therefor it was conveniently forgotten. I realized that I had to make it where it was in her BEST INTEREST to remember things otherwise she will either loose a privilage or when she asked for something (kids always ask for something) the answer would be a no.

Here's the difference: Things that are routine (homework, chores, etc) should be remembered. Repetition should help you remember. Things that change often, you might slip and forget one or two things. That's just being human.

Debbie - posted on 02/27/2012

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Hi Jenn,



Wow i have been searching the Internet for blogs like this to see if anyone else is going through the same thing and your step daughter couldn't be anymore the same as my son of 14. I really, really feel for you as I understand the frustration and how you must feel drained from the all the effort you put in. I could tell my son 100 times to bring his washing down but he would still say he forgot and the same applies to other things as well. He too does no homework and punishment doesnt work. He isnt bothered about responsibilities either. His brother is such the opposite and his first words when he wakes up on a weekend is mum i got to do my homework, can you believe it? But my other son lacks concentration in school and doesn't like to have major conversations with you and doesn't give us much eye contact, when you are talking to him, does this ring any bells with you. I mention that as we are getting him tested for ADD..attention deficit disorder. If this has crossed your mind then you should get her tested as then at least it will ease your frustration and can work with it. Go to your doctor and ask for a referral if you feel it could be. Good luck and i like your idea of the job jar, Im going to do that but I don't think my son will do many jobs or finish them as there will always be an excuse as to why he couldn't finish or do them. Take care. Debbie

Jayanthi - posted on 02/19/2012

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Hi Jenn,

I read your reply. Just keep going. Many a time, there is a lot of trial and error to be done while bringing up kids. By the time you realize what is happening, they would have grown up and gone. Also try not to sit them down and give them a talking. When you do talk to them about acceptable behaviour and rules, do it in the normal course of events, maybe when you are driving or simply doing things together. A few random examples of other people and their families can also help. Any article that you read in the papers or the net regarding this can be shared with her and she can be asked for her point of view.

Do be patient.

All the best!!

Jayanthi

User - posted on 02/14/2012

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Thanks for the reply! I appreciate the good advice! :) Just to clarify on the job jar.. its a jar full or random jobs and the kids each pick four for the week. They get written on the board and the kids are able to decide what jobs they want to do during the week and what days, as long as they are completed by Sunday.. which gives them 7 days. The frustrating thing with her sloppy job the day her friend was coming over was just that she agreed to help and she did as little as possible and what little she did wasn't done to the standard she normally does it even. The kids are allowed to decide if they want to complete their jobs by the end of the week, but they know that if they don't they will still have to pick four for the upcoming week and do the ones they didn't finish.

The only other thing I've noticed is that when we've slacked off and left her to things she doesn't do anything and would forget her head if it wasn't attached.

I agree with you for sure about keeping your cool. I always tell my hubby that raising your voice and yelling teaches nothing to children and just scares them.. but I feel like talking hasn't changed anything.

We talked to her yesterday and basically said that the way she acts (like she doesn't care about the rules) and the way she treats us is isn't acceptable but we can't find anything that works to change it so she no longer has to follow the rules. She can go to bed when she wants, she doesn't have to clean her room or unpack her lunch dishes or do her homework if she doesn't feel like it, but as a result we are going to treat her the same way.

Basically, if she asks us to do something special or go somewhere.. we will reply with "I don't know" or pretend like we forgot about it. Other things we do for the both kids we will continue to do for the youngest but will become her responsibility.. like washing and folding her laundry, serving up her own dinner, making her lunch in the mornings etc.

I can't think of anything that will encourage her to talk to us and own up to her mistakes other than giving her a taste of her own medicine. We're gonna give it a go this week and see what happens. We've tried the "not following rules= negative consequences" so I'm hoping this will help her associate following rules with all the perks she would get for listening.

Jayanthi - posted on 02/13/2012

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Hi Jenn,

From what I gather, I feel that your step-daughter is going through the typical teenage syndrome, where many kids of this age do not like to follow rules, posters, deadlines,etc. They typically feel--"who are mom and dad to draw rules for me? I am old enough to take my own decisions." At the same time they are not fully aware of the responsibilities that go hand-in-hand with being grown up. It is a difficult phase for your daughter and she is expressing it in the form of revolting, forgetting things(maybe intentional or unintentional) and not following rules. To some extent you may attribute it to her age and let go, but if her behaviour is something that seems very abnormal( which you can judge as a mom), then you may try to take her for counselling, maybe at school or outside.

In the meantime, try to involve her in decision-making. Give her importance and ask her to chalk up her list of duties rather than you making one. Let her take the responsibility for what she has committed. In the beginning she may not want to take on so many household duties as you have been giving. Fair enough! Let her take as much as she is willing to and let her account for it.

As far as the forgetting part is concerned, maybe a few gentle reminders from your end may help. It requires a lot of patience on the part of the parents to deal with children of this age and that too without losing one's cool.

Sometimes you may find her sloppy, messy, etc. Even if she does a job in a sloppy way but has at least tried to do it, do give her credit for it and genlty point out how it could have been better. It also helps if you personally get into helping her to do a job because sometimes when two people get to doing something together, it is quite motivating.

Do talk a lot and share your feelings with her. And sometimes let things just be. Try not to get worked up.

I hope i have been able to help.

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