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Can you teach someone to be more responsible?

(22 Posts)
CeliaFate Sun 16-Feb-14 18:16:26

Dd is 13. If left alone she would stay in bed all day on her ipad. She wouldn't wash, clean her teeth, get dressed or go outside if I allowed her to do what she liked. She has no initiative and no drive to achieve anything.

I have to remind her to do things every day or they don't get done.

When I did leave her to it, she forgot her dinner money so the school rang me to take it in! It's an hour round trip so I wasn't happy.

She won't take any advice from me or dh regarding school, homework or revision.

We have to ask her several times to do her chores round the house. She either "forgets" or "will do it in a minute".

It's causing us lots of stress and all we seem to be doing is shouting at her in frustration.

She has no SN, no friendship problems and isn't depressed. Teachers say she's quiet, does well in school and is a pleasure to teach.

At home she's happy to do nothing all day, every day.

Can you teach someone to be more responsible?

Middleagedmotheroftwo Sun 16-Feb-14 18:21:35

She sounds like a normal teenager to me. Being forgetful and spending the day in bed goes with the job.


AphraBane Sun 16-Feb-14 18:23:56

Don't know, but if you ever find out it can be done, please post the secret here. grin

Some teens seem much more prone to it than others. DD1 has always been scatty (also quiet in school and a pleasure to teach, apparently) and she's now 15. Her pièce de resistance this week was leaving three extremely important and difficult to replace library books on the train. Luckily someone found them and phoned the library, who were narked but at least we managed to get them back. Nagging her seems to do no good. I have even wondered whether it is a strange form of dyspraxia (inability to organise and coordinate thoughts), which seems to run in our family.

CeliaFate Sun 16-Feb-14 18:26:47

I was chatting to my friend, who said her dd had just come back from a 30 mile hike with the scouts. My dd wouldn't go to the front door without a fuss.
I know they're all different and I don't expect her to do things she doesn't enjoy as a hobby, but some initiative would be nice. Some notion of purpose and motivation.

wakemeupnow Sun 16-Feb-14 19:31:49

In hindsight I wish I'd let my ds1 take more responsibility by rescuing him less often. I realise now with my ds2 that he will only become more responsible if I make him take responsibility or suffer the consequences.

Refuse to take her forgotten dinner money in. Serve her dinner on a dirty plate if she wont wash up. Set the wifi so it goes off between certain hours of the day. She does sound like a typical teen though !

MothratheMighty Sun 16-Feb-14 19:37:30

Taking responsibility for the choices they make.
Action= consequence
Assessing and managing the risk level so that they do fail, but not disastrously/fatally.
Ask yourself, if they don't do something, or they do something...what are the personal consequences for them. What's the downside?
It would be lovely if 'You have disappointed mummy' was enough to galvanise them into change, but it usually isn't. They need a small personal reward or sanction.
Keep your temper if you can, remember that you are the adult and be clear and consistent. Praise them when they do what you wanted, not OTT but enough so the effort is seen to be recognised.

AMumInScotland Sun 16-Feb-14 20:09:21

Stop bailing her out. So long as you make up the shortfall, remind, nag, etc, she doesn't have to take responsibility - so why should she?

Dinner money - don't take it in. Let her be hungry. She won't come to harm.

Chores - decide on a consequence of her not doing them. Make it something she cares about. Tell her that's now the deal. Don't remind or nag, just do exactly what you warned her you would do, in the timescale you warned about in advance.

Make being responsible less unpleasant / hard work than being irresponsible and lazy. Few people are really self-motivated, we just learn that not washing the dishes is more of a pain in the long run.

LastingLight Mon 17-Feb-14 04:37:42

I wouldn't take my 11 year old's dinner/money to school if she forgot it - she can go hungry, then maybe she will remember next time.

chocoluvva Mon 17-Feb-14 13:59:59

Lots of good advice IMO.

Three thoughts - your DD might not be quite so laid back (literally) if she was left to her own devices for longer than a few days. The novelty of lazing in her bed would probably wear off.

Avoid comparing her with other teenagers (I speak as someone who lives in a very middle-class suburb and has a DD who goes to a specialist school where admission is by audition - many of her friends are exceptionally driven, which gives the impression that my DD, who's probably averagely energetic and organised is quite lazy)

Take heart - who knows how they will turn out - the dynamic ones might burn out/turn out to be difficult-to-live-with perfectionists/smug politicians.... Many older teens get themselves organised when they have to and do well. Some people take longer than other people to find their own thing. Also, remember your DD's good points: which may mean she goes on to have very good relationships and lead a good life as a valued member of her community.

Apologies for sounding patronising. It seems to come naturally to me hmm

CeliaFate Mon 17-Feb-14 16:07:30

Groundhog day again. Dd comes in. Shoes, coat, bag strewn in hall. Remind her (as I have done every day for the past 8 fucking years) put them away. She moans but does it.
She asks for a Coke.
Okay, but hang your uniform up first and get changed.
She comes back in her blouse and pants.
I send her back to get changed.

I am so fucking sick of this sort of shit. I know it's not massive, but it's debilitating and exhausting and I've had a gutsful.


MothratheMighty Mon 17-Feb-14 16:11:48

Stop buying coke.
Seriously, if there are no consequences other than you whinging at her, why should she do things first time? You are becoming White Noise in her life.

CeliaFate Mon 17-Feb-14 16:17:49

You're right about white noise. That's what I feel like. I'm furious with her all the time because she refuses to listen and thinks she knows everything. Even when she's proved wrong with evidence, she still won't have it and insists that she's right. She's got an answer for everything and quite frankly is getting right on my fucking nerves.

If it's not Coke, it would be juice, or toast, or crisps, or fruit etc. I'm fed up of policing her every move because she takes no responsibility and won't keep her word.
If she promises to just watch one tv show, she won't so I turn the tv off and she moans then that it's not fair.
I really would like a few days away from her.

LastingLight Mon 17-Feb-14 16:36:37

DD 11 has a list for things that must be done in the morning and a list for things that must be done in the afternoon/evening. I no longer nag about every little thing, I just refer her to the list. This has become a routine now so she no longer moans about everything. You could set up consequences if stuff on the list is not done, e.g. if you haven't done x, y and z by 20:00 then no tv the next day. If you whine about that, no tv the day after either. Then stick to your guns. The other thing I did was type up a list of reasons why DD must do chores, which included lists of the things that DH and I do for the good of the family. Any whining and I refer her to that list. Things have improved.

CeliaFate Mon 17-Feb-14 16:47:29

Well she was allowed one tv programme before revising. Programme finished, she was still sitting there, so I said "Tv off now." She sat there studying her split ends. I waited and waited and waited, then very calmly said, "put all your devices on the kitchen table, you've lost them for the night." She didn't ask why, didn't argue back, she just did it!
If I can resist the urge to throttle her, I may win a few battles.

AMumInScotland Mon 17-Feb-14 16:55:53

So, what does she care about? What punishments or rewards would motivate her?

You have to make it unpleasant for her to carry on the way she is. And, frankly, a constant background noise of nagging isn't that big a deal, it's easy to ignore.

Also though, pick your battles. Does it really matter that much if she drinks a Coke in her school uniform before changing? Would it make your life so awful if she didn't change out of it at all? How about telling her to do her own laundry, and not worrying about that specific thing?

And what is the issue with the TV? Is she not doing her homework? I tended to leave that one to the school to punish.

Maybe pick a few of the worst annoyances, focus on rewards/punishments for those, and try to ignore everything else for now. A lot like having a toddler, to be honest!

AMumInScotland Mon 17-Feb-14 16:58:36

Well done, you need to be consistent, and preferably logical about what the punishments are - if you can, make them be an actual consequence of what she's done and not just 'to hurt her'.

But, tbh, I wouldn't keep standing over her to make her do things. Give her a few minutes then come back and say "You agreed you needed to get on with revision. Has something changed?" If it can be agreed/negotiated instead of being something that you are insisting on externally, then she may cooperate a bit more.

chocoluvva Mon 17-Feb-14 17:12:57

Looking at it from her perspective, she probably feels hard done by - she goes to school for most of the day, then she has to follow a routine decided by you.

I'd pick your battles a bit more - you've probably got several more years of teenage 'attitude' - it will grind you down. It's not worth it. If she's happy to have a snack still in her school clothes does it really matter? My DD didn't bother getting changed out of her school clothes until she was about 16 and discovered 'lounge pants'.

Ignore the huffing and puffing if you possibly can. She's a teenager. She's probably tired at the end of the school day- she's taking her Monday blues out on you.

cinnamontoast Thu 20-Feb-14 11:59:40

Celia, the best bit of advice I ever read in a parenting book was! 'Never do anything for them that they can do themselves - and that includes their thinking.'
Surprisingly hard to follow at times, because it's so often quicker/easier/less hassle to do it yourself. But it's the only way they're ever going to learn independence.

mumeeee Thu 20-Feb-14 14:32:21

I have 3 DDs now in their 20s. I learnt to pick my battles. Found they just needed to relax when they got in so didn't insist they changed their uniform before having a snack and watching TV, I'm not saying we never had arguments but picking my battles made it easier

CeliaFate Thu 20-Feb-14 16:47:31

We've had a good chat about it, I let off some steam and said I'm fed up of being a nag when it's about stuff that she knows she should be doing herself.
Since then she's been putting in a lot more effort to do things independently so I hope it will continue without me having to blow my stack again soon!

mathanxiety Thu 20-Feb-14 16:56:47

My youngest is your DD's twin in some respects.

She at least has got much better at remembering lunch, money for pizza days, and bringing back books to the library. Taking a daily shower is still something we fight about, daily. She has trouble transitioning from comfy existence in her room to taking off her clothes and getting in under the water. However, once in, she spends an hour there. From my previous experience of another DD with trouble transitioning, this phase passes, but DD4 is taking more time than the other one did getting over herself.

When it comes to revealing the smallest piece of information about homework or upcoming tests or how she did in a test she has already taken, forget it. I am used to the occasional rudeness and tetchiness of 11-14 year olds as the older ones all had it to some extent, but not about school performance. The others all wanted to do well in school and felt bad when they saw a B on a paper or test. DD4 thinks avoiding an F is an achievement.

She has been tested along the way for learning difficulties/SNs (blowing off school expectations is nothing new) but as the school specialist said to me when going over her results, 'the little minx scored in the high nineties in every area'. They do not have much to offer for a student who could do the work if she put her mind to it, but just won't.

It's possible she is a 'late bloomer' as some have suggested, and will settle down and take to work once she turns a bit older. Right now, I am inclined to think she is actually just plain lazy and stubborn, and has arrived at a place where she can balance her desire to waste time/be entertained against how bad she feels about the Fs and 'could do better' comments in reports. My mum blames it on her early development and menarche at 11, but mum (bless her heart) tends to see the arrival of periods as a cataclysm in a young woman's life, so I am inclined to take this wisdom with a grain of salt.

As to consequences -- she is currently assigned to 'homework room' twice a week after school to catch up on Spanish she had completely blown off and redo half-assed work she scribbled in class while pretending to be too cool to work, and she will stay there until her grade rises to a C. I am going to ask the teacher to keep her there until she is getting a B, just to show her how little work will get you a B, and that just a little more attention to detail, could get you an A. So far she has been a little ashamed about the homework room, but mostly she has been resentful, and determined to play down the importance of raising her grade. When the homework room experience is over, she will have to do a detention for all the missed work too, plus several instances of eye-rolling and daydreaming in class. TBH I think the teacher should have had her do the detention first but heyho.

I want her to feel the desire to work and to get good grades, not to work because I have taken various items from her or restricted access to them. However, I am coming to the conclusion that the tablet exH got her for Christmas needs to be taken and time on it rationed. Phone use in her room is already forbidden. I am also considering a carrot in the form of weekly payment for improvements such as telling me when she has a test coming up, evidence of studying (including letting me quiz her on the material), evidence of correcting mistakes in maths that will earn her half points for exercises where she had some wrong, and telling me what homework she has plus showing me completed work. I am not interested in her actual grades here, for now. What I want to see is good habits and a willing attitude. I didn't have to do this with anyone else (maybe DS had a touch of it, but he at least took tests seriously because he felt some shame about bumping along with C minuses). It's the attitude, unique to her in the family, that what I am asking is completely 'shocking', 'intrusive', and 'unreasonable' (all words she has used, at 12.5) that gets my goat. I am the one who is paying the fecking school fees.

One thing that worked to some degree with DD4 last summer was paying her weekly for chores I asked her to do on a daily basis while I was out at work. She was to empty the dishwasher, load it up, and set it running when full. The kitchen floor was to be swept, and the bathroom sink swished with window cleaner. On Fridays I had her go through the fridge and pantry and also check the bathroom for supplies, and start a shopping list. If something wasn't done one day I docked her for the day. I gave her a floating list of things that needed to be done that she could get on with any time she chose, with each item worth the daily amount. These chores were a bit more yukky -- cleaning the loo, emptying all the waste paper baskets and the bathroom bin and taking it all out, digging out the litter box, clearing off the coffee table, dusting thoroughly, etc. The hope was that she would develop the skill of managing time. While she did pretty well and seemed to bask in my approval when I praised her for her efforts, she never once maximised her weekly earning potential.

Next summer I am putting her in volleyball camp and also putting her name down for 'volunteer' work in the local library, which should get her up and about, and on top of that I will have the chore regimen in place, going by the motto that the more you expect a teenager to accomplish in a day the more they will get accomplished. She is tall and likes volleyball, and likes the library too (more accurately, she likes the fizzy drink machine in the library and this is where she spends her money). I will dock money for showers not taken, on top of chores not done -- I will not pay extra for showers taken.

When I cut off the supply of sugary snacks, DD4 learned to bake brownies. Sometimes I come home from work to find 3/4 of a pan of 16 eaten. Full marks for initiative I suppose. She also developed a fondness for the library, but that had an upside in the form of a fixation with historical fiction that resulted in an encyclopedic knowledge of the Tudor and Stuart periods.

Items like changing out of uniform I never bothered about. TBH, I didn't care whether any of the older ones lived in their uniforms, or the order in which they got their work done, snacks consumed, or entertainment/relaxation accomplished. They all managed their time whatever way they wanted and I reminded them about chores if they hadn't done something they had agreed to do, like sorting out clothes that needed a wash or stuff they had grown out of. My theory with the others was that they knew what I expected of them and it was up to them to bring their priorities into accord with that, and they did not fight me on the issue of expectations so it worked. It is the shrugging of the shoulders about school and homework that has me so worried about DD4. That plus the very irritated response to reminders.

mathanxiety Thu 20-Feb-14 16:57:09

Sorry for the 'War and Peace' treatment blush

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