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Responsibilty: Personality trait or developmental?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
My ds1, 10, is a super kid in many ways -- but one thing that is concerning me is his resistance to/inability to take responsibility for his choices. Emblematic of this -- last night, kids and dh are playing soccer. Ds1 and one of his siblings get into an argument over where to kick the ball; dh tells them both to sit out of the game, but to come back when they are finished arguing. Ds1 goes inside, slams door, snarls at me when I go in to ask him what's wrong; by contrast, the other sibling sits out a few minutes, then asks if she can come back in to play. With his siblings, things seem in perspective; with him, it's all too often someone else's fault. (About soccer/door slamming -- "she MADE me slam my door!" he says. Well, no. He chose to do that)

There is a long pattern of blaming negatives on others; he lost homework because X distracted him; he forgot to feed the dog because Y was being too loud; his room is a mess because X and Y come in and move his things around (they totally don't). I've had several conversations with him about this -- many of them based on the Siblings Without Rivalry book -- and I do see improvement for a few days; then he goes back to the old ways.

As he gets older, the more it concerns me because A.) I can't help but wonder if he is setting himself up to take on the role of a victim, and B.) his siblings, who are younger, went through that as a stage but have moved on.

I very much want him to feel like he has power over his circumstances and how he chooses to react/act; but he seems pretty committed to his idea that people are somehow out to sabotage him and things are generally not his fault.

He's super-bright, academically; I don't know if this has played into his mentality or not, with this issue. I've tried to appeal to logic, but that doesn't seem to be working.

If anyone has seen this or been through it, what's your take? Do I somehow need to "retrain" him to think of things in a different way??
post #2 of 9
I think that you posted another thread re: your ds and organization/executive function type issues? Maybe you've been down this road, but some of what you describe sounds similar to ADD/ADHD traits. Has that been a concern of yours?

Re: the above--10 can be the cusp of puberty for girls, but I am not sure about boys, so I don't know if emotions/hormones come into play for him? My experience within our family is that some of the "positive" responsibility traits seem particular to a child's personality, but it is possible to work on these issues effectively. But, my experience is that taking responsibility for things has been part of a larger learning curve for one of my kids.
post #3 of 9
I really think a lot of this is inborn. DS1 is very similar, and he's 17. I have found that he's improving gradually as he gets older, but there's definitely an inherent tendency to put everything on someone else (or on the universe as a whole - that life just sort of conspired to make things not work for him).

I have no answers. This has been a source of ongoing frustration for me for a long time. I do think he's going to come out of his teens with at least a basic grasp of the idea of personal responsibility, but it's been a looooonnnng road.
post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks Karne. Hmmm. He doesn't strike me as ADD/ADHD -- although my experience with those dxs comes from teaching kiddos who were dxed. He's a good turn-taker, doesn't blurt out things, can stay focused for a long time on tasks. Then again, he is very easily distracted. I guess I'm a bit reluctant to investigate that whole concept but I've only seen kids put on meds for ADD/ADHD and I would prefer not to do that.

StormBride, at least there may be light at the end of the tunnel! The issue of accountability is a big one for me, it's something I really value and want my children to understand. I do worry about him, as he gets older, feeling like fate is conspiring against him when in fact he has a great deal of control over the outcome of things... part of it is that I really feel like if he felt he had some more control over things, he would put out more effort, right? But that's probably and chicken-an-egg issue. Did you do anything in particular to help your son and did anything work, or not work?
post #5 of 9
LittleBattleAxe, this article might be interesting to you. It's sort of, vaguely related to what you're talking about.

post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
Oh, this is a great article -- just skimmed over it but will sit down to read it later.

I have told my son that as a teacher, I value hard work from my students more than I value intelligence (okay -- I doubt I've ever phrased it so bluntly -- but I do tell him that I'm very impressed with kids who work hard and not so impressed with kids who don't ever put out much effort). I see fear of failure as a huge issue with very bright kids, and it's so disheartening to see it in my own child.

He has been praised for being "smart" forever and I HATE it!! I remember being super resistant to having him undergo IQ testing because I feel like those labels are so heavy for kids to carry. I make a point to tell him "it looks like you put a lot of effort into that project" rather than "wow, you really caught on fast!" because the first one seems (to me) to suggest that he has power of his success and failures, whereas the latter does not.

Anyway. Look forward to reading this later, thanks so much
post #7 of 9
IF he has a subtle case of ADD, then he might respond to dietary measures. Meds are NOT the only way to treat AD/HD.
post #8 of 9
Yeah, that article was epiphany-making for me. A mom here at MDC had linked to it several months ago, though I think it was in Newsweek.

Another vaguely related thought:

Have you ever read Laura Ingalls' Little House books? The book Farmer Boy I think demonstrates simply and starkly how 9 y.o. Almonzo learns a strong sense of responsibility. For one thing, his chores contribute in a real, significant way to the whole family's well being. And he has lots of chores, lots of responsibilities. He's kept busy. Alonzo wants nothing more than his own horse. His father watches him carefully and after Almonzo demonstrates that he can be responsible he's given the priviledge of raising a colt of his own. It's interesting that he was rewarded for being very responsible by being given an even bigger responsibility.

After I finished reading that book I was ready to take my kids out of school and move to a family farm. Seriously. It's probably possible to teach our kids a sense of personal responsibility in the midst of our hot-house middle class lives, though.

Joseph Kennedy supposedly raised his boys to serve. They knew they were blessed with priviledge and smarts, but for that very reason he expected even more of them

Ultimately, though, I think what you describe about your son is also partly personality. In which case he may struggle with this his whole life. That's OK. He's still a wonderful kid.
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
Journeymom, have you read NurtureShock? I was trying to think where i'd seen the author's name, and that's it.

I loved all the LH books when I was young -- haven't read them in years. Isn't it strange how our view of responsibility has evolved over the years? Not that I necessarily think my kids should be up at dawn doing hard labor, but even in the mumblemumblemumble something years since I was a kid, the whole idea of chores/accountability has changed.
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