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Quick answer: child who enjoys refusing to help

(38 Posts)
StephaniePowers Fri 03-May-13 13:23:43

I have a child who enjoys letting us know that he doesn't want to help.
I suspect it's a power thing but I don't know how to handle it.
Little jobs get allocated and the children are expected to do their bit and they do get thanked.
DS (8) simply hates this. Wall charts, rotas etc: he just refuses.
Being thanked: he says 'I don't care'. I'm sure positive reinforcement is getting through on some level but why say he doesn't care?

This morning he went to pick up the post - I asked him to - and came through to tell me with a look of triumph that he'd got his own letter, and left mine on the mat.

I have no idea how to respond. I want to stop him being unpleasant and I assume telling him that what he did was unpleasant and selfish wasn't the best tactic. blush

Kiwiinkits Thu 09-May-13 22:44:59

Yeah I think more responsibility might be the way to go. Something manly, like mowing the lawns?

Kleinzeit Thu 09-May-13 17:37:25

Just a thought but..... it might also be that he would respond to having more responsibility – so, instead of having a rota of little jobs that everyone does, could he have his own individual responsibility for one big task? Something he could do in his own time in his own way, a task that recognises that now he is old enough or skilled enough to take this responsibility? Maybe he needs to feel more “special” and that could be a more positive way to get that feeling than being a refusenik!

BastardDog Thu 09-May-13 12:31:47

My son resents being asked to do anything to help, however small. He thinks it is my job as a mum to do everything for him and his job is just to have fun. I have no idea where he gets this attitude from, but its been noticeable since he was 7, he's now 13.

My son won't openly defy me by refusing to do as he's asked, but will adopt a passive aggressive stance by only partly doing as he's been asked, endlessly forgetting to do what was asked, doing whatever I've asked but doing it so badly that I have to do it again, pretending to have misunderstood or misheard what i asked, purposefully keeping me waiting if i pick him up from somewhere etc etc.

Over the years I have tried every which way I can to communicate to him that this behaviours is not on. I've punished, ranted, had long chats, reasoned, offered rewards etc etc. All with no or only short term success.

It seems his beliefs that I am the one that is being unjust and therefore I must be punished is quite set.

We are currently seeing a limited improvement by tying in his willingness to comply with our requests to his allowance. I feed, clothe and house him, but refuse to give him money or pay for anything else unless he tows the line and treats me with respect. It's taken a few weeks of him missing out on things for him to start to see that I mean business.

Might this give you some insight into what's going on inside your sons head?

StephaniePowers Thu 09-May-13 12:10:38

Thanks, lots of food for thought. We've been working on really praising him and rewarding him when he does something good (which he does) and for now we have a sort of truce smile

I totally take the point about rewarding him for being an uncooperative wee shite by giving him lots of attention. It's a fine line because I can see that he feels triumphant when we ignore him refusing (this reaction was another reason for posting here, we do ignore bad behaviour as much as possible but felt it wasn't working). I don't want him to think 'all I have to do is say no and then I don't have to do what everyone else does', I mean, surely that will nurture a sociopath? grin

Grammaticus Wed 08-May-13 13:36:04

And stop asking him why- that is the attention he is getting

Grammaticus Wed 08-May-13 13:33:09

It is attention seeking, and it is working because you are concentrating on changing it. Ignore it as much as you can. Praise and reward the others as and when they help. Praise and reward him as and when he does. Ignore him when he doesnt. Where you can find a natural consequence to his actions to impose then do, but where there isn't one I wouldn't sweat it.

Do you have a lot of wall charts and rotas? If you do, maybe there is just too much to rebel against and you need to tone it down. It sounds as though your other kids will comply anyway and as a method to get him to do so, it doesn't work.

lostonline Wed 08-May-13 13:25:55

I think different things motivate different people and some times its hard to find out what. My daughter now 18 is intelligent and generally lovely. As a child she was the same as your son - she only did stuff that she wanted too and was generally too bright to be motivated in the same way as my other kids. They would do anything for a sweet or 5p but she just couldn't be bothered.

I once asked her ( aged 6 ish ) at the shops if she would like some sweets and she replied that she would as long as she didn't have to share them. I replied that it is kind to share and that she should and she said - no thanks then.

Over the years I have tried loads of things to motivate her and now just ignore her as its just frustrating. Everyone at school and generally thinks she is a lovely polite girl but at home she can be so stubborn. Maybe is her tiny bit of rebellion

How is he outside the house ? Do school have the same problems ?

I will ask her if she has any tips !!

Kleinzeit Wed 08-May-13 10:43:16

If he’s going to all the trouble of demonstrating his lack of co-operation….. how about ignoring it? No reaction at all. As if you hadn’t even asked him to get the post, or as if you’d forgotten you’d asked. Ask another child to get the post and praise them for doing it. “Thank you – that was very helpful” and a warm smile. Preferably where your DS can see! Then immediately give him another chance to help – ask him to fetch the newspaper, say, so he can earn his own thanks and praise.

I’d ignore your DS’s lack of co-operation totally even (especially!) when he’s showing it off; and whenever he does co-operate with anything at all, thank and praise, even for things you don’t praise in your other kids. And don’t undermine the praise by saying “I wish you were always like that” or anything like that.

That should work after a while, because he seems to be seeking your attention for being unco-operative. So don’t let him have any smile

Hate to say it but…. my son is 14 and hasn’t yet grown out of the need for me to motivate him. Well not for everything but for some things, there are some things he does automatically that other parents envy me, but other things that some kids do readily he has to be carefully primed. Being a parent is tiring!

StephaniePowers Tue 07-May-13 16:58:22

Thanks for all the advice. Attention-seeking: yes, it is attention-seeking behaviour. It's just so wearing. Of course the nice, good parent thing to do is to say 'when you have done X then you can do Y' but actually, finding a Y that totally motivates him is well-nigh impossible, he has a bloody will of bloody steel. And I'm left feeling that I shouldn't be running round trying to find things to threaten/bribe/motivate him with, he is bllody old enough to have learned that a reasonable request is just something you carry out (I would have thought).
He'd better grow out of it, we are so thin on patience at the moment sad

MrsTaraPlumbing Tue 07-May-13 08:15:12

I also have a child like that! He's only 4 so i hoped he would grow out of it - but perhaps not now i've read this.
He is so different to his twin sister and older bother. They they both want to please but not him.
I haven't read that book but I remember hearing others highly recommend it so I might look for it today.

noblegiraffe Mon 06-May-13 17:09:14

I'd have responded 'and now can you go and get the rest of the post please'

And repeated the request (broken record technique) until he'd done it.

Then said thank you, now we can get on with our day.

I'd have not let him get away with not getting all the post. Complying with a reasonable request is non- negotiable.

RandomMess Mon 06-May-13 16:48:15

or is that dessert even?

RandomMess Mon 06-May-13 16:47:21

I find the phrase "when you've ... then you have/do..." It's amazing how quickly they can tidy their rooms if they would like desert grin

DawnOfTheDee Mon 06-May-13 16:43:05

I agree with AnnaClaudia that it sounds attention seeking. have you tried ignoring this sort of thing? how does he respond then?

posadas Mon 06-May-13 16:36:11

Stephanie -- I could have written your post!! In fact, I logged on precisely to see if I could find any help to deal with exactly the same situation. I'm at my wits end -- and also very sad as I DS used to be the most loving, respectful, kind, and (usually) obedient child. Now he is defiant , challenges almost everything I ask, etc. (Not all the time... there are still enough moments of "good" to give me hope!). I have tried everything -- but neither positive reinforcement nor threats (ie withholding treats) seem to work.
Sorry I can't offer suggestions of my own -- but I will read with great interest to try to learn from others!

DeWe Mon 06-May-13 13:28:29

I think with the post, I would have removed his letter off him until he's fetched the rest of the post.

noteventhebestdrummer Mon 06-May-13 07:40:34

Will he help when other people ask?

In the classroom or at cubs etc?

Does he play any team sports or a musical instrument?

I'm thinking you could expose him to more situations where cooperation is expected and lauded.

Kiwiinkits Mon 06-May-13 05:50:05

I also love that book Suede. Love it!

SuedeEffectPochette Sun 05-May-13 22:55:54

I haven't read this in detail but you could try reading my favourite book, How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk. They would say that you should sit down and try and come up with a mutual solution in writing. I see there is another fan of this book further up the thread!

Kiwiinkits Sun 05-May-13 22:48:04

I agree that your DD should get a random treat for helping. You may not like the suggestion but I do think it will work. She may gloat, but let her gloat. A little bit of gloating and show-offing from a little sister might get through to him.

And, if it's attention he's after, find a way to give him attention (like the lego suggested up thread) that's not got anything to do with helping/not helping.

There you have it. A two pronged attack.

AnnaClaudia Sun 05-May-13 12:59:39

Maybe it's attention seeking? Just an idea, but seems this little boy is getting lots of attention from refusing to do things. I'm wondering if ignoring his behaviour would help, along with giving the other child lots of attention for being helpful? You've probably tried this already but thought I'd mention it incase you hadn't.

Goldmandra Sun 05-May-13 09:18:23

Do you feel it would be helpful to open up the channels of communication a bit?

Someone wise said to me that all behaviour is communication so when you don't understand the behaviour, try to work out what the child is communicating.

Maybe some time to talk would help. Shoulder to shoulder with busy hands is a less threatening approach so perhaps you could do a job together or he could accompany you on a car journey, sitting in the front. Peeling potatoes, making an Airfix kit or even building Lego together might be good.

Start by sharing a personal experience or difficulty so he feels that you're opening up and treating him like an equal. You never know, he might open up himself and share something that explains his behaviour.

StephaniePowers Sun 05-May-13 09:05:01


Yes of course I ask him why (sorry, not being stroppy, just that MN isn't my first port of call for advice, it is the last!). He simply tells me a lie - very creative but very odd. About the post, he told me a long story he'd thought through about one of his friends. Everyone in their family gets a magazine and they all go and fetch their own magazine when it comes in the post, one by one, and he likes that system. It's utter fabrication.

If I ask him to imagine how I feel when he got something for himself and deliberately left mine behind, and then preeningly told me what he'd done - he shrugs. Did you think I'd feel bad? Shrug.

All of you with kids who can or will respond to normal questions with normal answers - great. Happy for you. My whole point in posting here is that I'm getting answers I cannot fathom sad

Andro Fri 03-May-13 18:53:09

However can you see that I'm wary of instigating a family dynamic where I will only do things when something is done for me?

Understandable that you don't want to create that dynamic...and you don't have to. All you have to do is link a small extra treat (one that you know he would really want) to the helpfulness, if you do it within the boundaries of a more general treat you avoid the 'I'll only do X for Y set up.

LondonJax Fri 03-May-13 15:21:44

Have you tried asking him why he doesn't care? Or asking him why he left your post on the doormat? If it were DS I'd sit him down and ask him to think how he'd feel if that happened to him (don't say 'If I did that to you' as he'd just say he didn't care - say 'how would you feel if someone left your post on the doormat). Then how he'd feel if someone had handed him his post instead of leaving it.

I use that technique all the time - DS knows it as 'having a little chat' - I don't tell him off. I ask him to think and come up with his own ideas of making things work better. For example, DS told me a lie last week about a girl at school. He'd had a few little problems with her (nothing much, just being a bit bossy) over the past few months. Last week he came home and left his new birthday watch at school. He said this girl had told him he couldn't wear a watch to school and had taken it off him without his permission. So I said I'd go in to see the teacher to check if he could wear a watch (which I knew he could) and to say could she keep an eye on the girl as it's not her place to make rules in the class. Something about his story didn't ring true so I got to the bottom of it. It turned out that he'd got a bit worried that he couldn't wear the watch and had taken it off, leaving it in his work tray. Then he'd forgotten it at the end of the day. He'd lied to save a telling off (which he wouldn't have got - I just wanted to know where the watch was). So I sat him down and went through what could have happened to this girl if I'd have gone to the teacher and what would have happened if she had started a problem in future and I thought he'd lied again. He genuinely hadn't thought through the consequences - he's only just turned 6 years old. When we'd finished I said 'do you realise why a little lie could have been so bad' and he said something like 'yeah, X could have got in a lot of trouble and her mummy might have had to go up the school and she'd have been told off at home - that's not fair is it Mum?' - job done! I didn't want to tell him off - I knew there was a reason for the lie, he's usually pretty honest and I needed to know why he'd made up a story. Shouting at him wouldn't have got to the bottom of it.

I had the recommendation of a really good book which I got when DS was about 3 years old and tantruming for England. Called something like 'how to talk to your kids so they listen and listen so they talk' or something similar. DH is always amazed how I manage to calm DS down or get him to do something that DH battles with him over - I keep telling him to read the book cos I use it all time!

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