Disrespectful, entitled 10-year old

Kathleen - posted on 07/08/2014 ( 6 moms have responded )

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My 10-year old son is really struggling right now. He is becoming increasingly disrespectful to the people who take care of him and insistent that, in his words, "everyone treats him like a pile of poo," so we don't deserve his respect. When he lashes out, he gets punished (chores usually), and says "See, that just proves my point. You're treating me like a slave." I think one of the issues is that he's being asked to take on more responsibilities around the house, consistent with his age, and he has actually said that those things are my job, as his mom, and I'm being a bad mom by, for example, not folding his laundry anymore now that he can do it himself. He gets allowance for the chores that help everyone (cleaning off the table), and is expected to keep his own room clean, but he has PLENTY of free time and freedom to play how and when he wants. The sense of entitlement, disrespect, and "poor me" act are throwing off the whole family's happiness. Any ideas how to handle this?

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Chet - posted on 07/08/2014

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He's ten. Try to remember that his future is a long way away. Kids live in the present. It's not realistic to expect a ten year old to consider anything that extends beyond a couple of days, or a week if you're lucky.

"Clean" is pretty subjective and abstract when it comes to kids and their bedrooms. You could try more specific instructions - take the sheets off your bed and put them in the washing machine because they are visibly dirty, put all of the books on the bookshelves so they don't get stepped on, put all of the dirty clothes in the laundry so you have clean clothes for school on Monday, put all of the old papers in the recycling because tomorrow is pick-up day, etc.

There is also an element of "choosing your battles" here. You will have a difficult time justifying chores that you want done just because you like to have them done.

Consider that a certain amount of clutter and disorder is reasonable for a ten year old. Establish ground rules that have obvious logic. Food can't be left in your room to rot and attract bugs. Towels have to be hung to dry so they don't get smelly and mildewed. You can't have a giant mess that swallows up library books and things you borrow from other family members, and that causes you to be late for school because you can't find the items you need.

But really. wrinkled clothes on a ten year old isn't the end of the world. If there are special clothes that need to nice for special occasions don't leave those in the care of your son. Our ten year old is responsible for day to day stuff, not important stuff. She's ten. I'm choosing to enjoy this stage. The stage where she cares way too much about how she looks is not far away.

What worked for you as a child won't necessarily work with your son. He's an individual. You need to try and understand what makes your HIM tick so you can figure out what will work for him. Some kids grow up in messy houses and are neat freaks, others grow up in neat houses and are complete slobs as adults. There's no single solution. You need to get inside how your kid feels and thinks about the situation. Understand that your kid isn't you.

It's very possible that a reward/punishment system produced his attitude and that it will take some time to undo it. This is why I think that doing chores together for awhile, or asking him to select the chores he can take responsibility for, might help to reset the negative dynamic you have going.

Really though, try to remind yourself how your son is a great kid. You used a lot of negative language in your posts to describe him - lazy, disrespectful, entitled. You admitted to being defensive. You dismissed his feelings as crap. I'm not criticizing you. Please don't take it that way. I'm only trying to point out that he's feeling very negative and you're feeling very negative, and as the adult, you need to find a way to break that cycle and really work together.

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Guest - posted on 07/08/2014

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Your son doesn't have the same values you do because he is not you. As a child, you mentioned that you did have a messy room, but eventually, you figured out that a clean room is better. Your son will have to go through the same journey before he gets to that point where his values coincide with yours.
Making him do it now so that he will learn to appreciate it in the future will never work, it will just postpone the learning process. If you make him do it now "because you said so" without teaching him the reasoning behind why a clean room is better for him, as soon as he moves out and punishment is no longer a threat, his home will go to seed immediately until he ends up with a bug infested cesspool of a loft. Instead, when he asks why he must clean his room, tell him why: Because if he doesn't he will get bugs in the house. If he responds that he doesn't care about bugs, you can reply, "That may be so, but *I* do care about bugs and *I* provide your room for you, and that room is in MY house where I also live, so if you wish to keep things in your room in MY house, you will keep them ordered and respect my wishes." If he refuses, just pack everything up and ship it to Goodwill. They will pick up for free if you call them. I did this once with my kid.

Kathleen - posted on 07/08/2014

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Thanks AGAIN for your input. You are right on about a lot of things. The problem I have is that he doesn't have those adult values and I keep coming to the end of the "but why?" questions, with no further answer. He is rather apathetic about his future. So for example, "Clean your room," is answered with "Why?" and my responses are all answered with his "Well, I don't care." So I substitute more immediate punishments/rewards so that he does it FIRST, then can learn to appreciate and value it. I used to have an awfully messy room when I was a kid, but as an adult, I have a standard of care that is more consistent with what my mom's was, because I got used to that being all around me, whether I wanted it or not at the time. If she had let me live in filth, I may have become accustomed to it, which is not healthy. She set the standard and I followed. My son just doesn't have the same values as I do, as expected of a child. So establishing that baseline is still in the process of occurring, while he is in process of declaring his independent ideals. So how to encourage him in the meantime to get on board with my standards? Let him have a filthy room and wrinkly clothes? And yes, he is a very decent kid! I just don't want this to degrade, as you said, even further.

Chet - posted on 07/08/2014

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I don't really believe in punishment. Kids should learn to do the right things for the right reasons - not because they're afraid of being punished, not because they're seeking validation or approval, not to earn rewards.

When you punish a child to produce the desired behaviour you risk failing to teach the logic behind what makes something right or wrong. It's that deep understanding that guides kids when they are in difficult situations, and when they grow up and are on their own.

That's not to say our kids run the show and do whatever they want, but I try to draw a clear line between what needs to happen and why. We focus on the goals, and work backwards to show that a clean room, or homework done, or toys put away achieve those goals. You don't want your son to clean his room because you said so, or because he'll be punished. You want to teach your child to value a certain degree of cleanliness and order. You want him to understand that a hugely messy room can cause certain problems for everyone.

Also, you need to remember that you're the parent and he's the kid. You can't expect an adult level of gratitude and appreciation from a child. You need to teach kids about gratitude and appreciation, and to a certain extent, it just comes gradually with age and maturity. Often kids don't fully appreciate parents until they are grown and have kids of their own.

Honestly, it sounds like you have a chip on your shoulder as much as your son. But as the adult, you need to get past it if you really want to solve this You need to diffuse the situation, and get to the real issues... not get emotionally wound up by him.

I strongly suspect that this has degraded into a power struggle and a battle of wills. I don't think it's about laundry and a kid with some bad habits that just need to be replaced with some better ones. I think you son probably does have some negative feelings that need to be addressed.

You may get better results if you let him have input into what chores he contributes to the household. You may have better results if you do some chores together. It's possible that a lot of this comes down to timing and he's just tired after school and in the evening and that chores he does on the weekends will work better.

If you really want to fix this you need to understand your son though - how he works, how he thinks, how he feels, when he's at his best or worst. Even if it's frustrating talking to him and figuring him out is what's going to get results.

When your son claims that you don't care, and you don't do things for him ask for specific times that he felt that way. If you feel like he's expressing his opinion in an aggressive or rude way tell him that and insist that he do it civilly. He has the right to feel how he feels, but not to be nasty about it.

He must be a generally decent kid. Most people would love to have a kid who'd be happy to spend an afternoon reading!

Kathleen - posted on 07/08/2014

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Thanks Chet MC. I appreciate your input! I agree about the chores as punishment association. It's really the only thing I've found that works and isn't just a waste of time. Do you have any creative punishment ideas? I think they need to be active, because he's kind of lazy. Grounding doesn't work, for example, because he's perfectly happy to just sit in his room and read.

The talks don't go so well. I have a hard time listening to how I don't care about him or don't do anything for him, all the superlatives and ingratitude. I don't do well just sitting and listening. I get defensive because it's total CRAP! I don't act like his slave or spoil him, but I'm a good provider and loving mother. I'm worried that he's getting this chip on his shoulder like the world (ME?) owes him something, and I've seen first-borns carry this attitude around for the rest of their life.

Chet - posted on 07/08/2014

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I would talk with your son at a time when he is calm. Find out if he really feels like a slave and how he feels disrespected. Really listen to what he says. You need to separate out what he is saying in the heat of the moment, and what are the real issues.

You could explain that everybody needs to contribute to a household, and let him decide how he can contribute his share. Me and my husband divide jobs partly based on what are good at, what chores we enjoy more than others, and what chores we personally value. Having a say in what he does will hopefully give your son a sense of power and control so he doesn't feel like he's a slave. Also, it will hopefully make the work more pleasant for him.

Using chores as punishment has likely contributed to your problem. You're creating a very negative association with work. I would stop using chores as punishment and admit to your son that was a mistake. Tell him that chores aren't punishment they are jobs that need to be done. Explain that he has to learn to do things around the house so he can grow up and be able to take care of himself and his own home.

In general, you want to create an atmosphere that chores are valuable and they are jobs that need to be... not that chores are about power, punishment, being bossed around, etc.

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