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How to make my son more responsible?

(12 Posts)
GeraldineGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 14-Jun-11 18:44:22

(This is another Ask a gran question sent in by readers of the Radio Times.)

My son constantly loses things – his door keys, his bus card, schoolwork. He’s 13 now and I end up running around, sorting stuff outfor him, because when I refused to help he just got into trouble at school. How can I get him to be more responsible?

absentgrana Wed 15-Jun-11 10:37:42

You could stop running around sorting stuff out for him because while you're continuing to do that he has no need to be more responsible. Maybe it would help if you suggest a place – drawer, cardboard box by the bed, whatever – where he should put the stuff he needs for the next day. If he still loses things, a bit of getting into trouble at school might make him think again. Is he, in fact losing things or is he just not bothering about them because he knows you will sort them out? Does he lose things that matter to him rather than the boring old bus pass and dreary old homework?

gillybob Wed 15-Jun-11 15:07:24

I have to agree with absentgrana. My son is now "grown up" and a very responsible father of 3 but it took me a long time to realise that he was only so irresponsible,because he could rely on me to be responsible for him. Well into his late teens and early twenties, I was the one who made sure he had everything sorted. I found (or replaced) things that he had carelessly lost, wrote letters and made phone calls to get him out of tricky siuations and got him up for work religiously as he couldn't even be bothered to set the alarm for himself.

The worm turned however when he met his partner and now it is he, that does all of the running around. Just goes to show what he was capable of all of those years but was happy to let me do it for him. We mothers of sons often make rods for our own backs.

gurugranny Thu 16-Jun-11 18:45:13

-NOW- you want him to be more responsible, when he is already 13? As soon as you ask your baby to hold his nappy while you change his bum, you are giving him responsibility. It's a lesson like any other - how to eat properly, how to be polite etc. The more responsibility you can give him or her, suitable to his age, the more responsibilty he will accept and feel good about. Now your son is 13 you are making a late start, but just go for it. Tell him to get his stuff ready for school and then just continue to let him do it, whatever the outcome. He can do it and he will do eventually.

jackyann Thu 16-Jun-11 18:50:23

Sit with him one weekend / holiday day and toss a few ideas around, so he can come up with a solution.
Give him warning that you are going to do this and some time will be set aside to tackle it.

A good idea (but let him think he thought of it) is a whiteboard with space to pin or magnet information. Some kids design a computer calendar.
Suggested columns are:
what I need everyday
what I need on certain days
things I need to prepare for
always have an extra column for notes.

Lynette Thu 16-Jun-11 19:13:51

'Fraid he needs to get into trouble. It is a bit late at 13 to do this but let him forget stuff. It is no reflection on you and you can let them know at school what you are doing. Work together with school. He will remember the stuff he wants to remember I bet. If you keep one place in the house for his stuff - a big box in the hall say, he can dump everything there and then pick it up from there.

willosal Thu 16-Jun-11 20:02:24

Ah well, its you he has trained well,you do the rushing around the worrying etc etc, while he just lets you!!STOP, he only has to get in trouble at school once or twice, have to walk insteat of taking the bus, have to wait outside until some comes to let him in, he will get it,at this age you arnt doing him any favors by "helping " out,he has to be responsible for his things,starting today.
My 30yr old still tries this on me,dont work no more,and he has had to sleep over at a freinds house,on the floor,because he lost his house keys and go to work the next morning in the same cloths!!He soon "found "his keys!!

GadaboutGran Fri 22-Jul-11 20:48:55

Just a thought in case the problem is more than a normal teenage phase. If he has had tendencies in this direction before & the usual strategies don't help then you might check out if he has anything like dyslexia or ADHD where loss of memory and poor organisation are key symptoms. Look on the various websites for lists of symptoms and you'll soon see if he fits. If so, badgering and endless lists don't help much as the brain is just wired up differently & the child can end up feeling more frustrated and nagged. Getting professional help sooner rather than later is crucial before other problems arise from feeling he is different or a failure. I speak from seeing how lack of diagnosis until adulthood has made difficult conditions ten times worse for my son in law. Undiagnosed people often self-treat with drugs and drink or adrenalin inducing activites in order to cope with a world they don't seem to fit into.

glammanana Fri 22-Jul-11 21:44:12

gillybob,reading your discription of your son is like reading about my son's
double until he met his partner he was so laid back,when he was 12/13 he
was for ever forgetting thing's and I remember telling his form teacher
he never seems to worry about anything,his teacher's response was that
why should he have to worry about anything at that age he had plenty
to worry about in later life,he proved me right and my son soon became more
responsible and mature,he grew up so quickly he joined the Army as a Junior
Leader at 15and 3/4yrs and went on to become one of the best recruits of
the year,going on to become a section leader by the time he was 18yrs,so
it all comes to those who wait.

HildaW Sat 23-Jul-11 21:08:55

I can remember begining to 'train' my girls when they were in the last couple of years of junior school. Without any real sense of planning I started answering some 'Wheres my such and such Mum? with 'Where you left it' and of course would help after they had had a stab at finding it . As they got older it was increasingly up to them to look after their own things. They had their own rooms and we helped them choose how to organise their stuff by suggesting furniture, book cases, storage boxes etc. There is nothing like a scare over lost homework to motivate them!

Just a thought however, I think I have read somewhere that there are some kinds of dysphraxia that can cause some children to have real problems with organising themselves.

pompa Sat 23-Jul-11 21:52:04

Your son is obviously very advanced for his age. If you read some of the treads in here you will see that is Hubbies that normally display these traits. Seriously, don't worry, our son was exactly the same, drove us mad, but he survived looking after himself at University.

FlicketyB Sat 23-Jul-11 22:26:05

HildaW you are right about dyspraxia, my son was/is dyspraxic and his life has been a litany of lost and found. At his primary school I was told it was routine when anything was found to start by asking my son whether it was his. At his (single-sex) secondary school his teacher said even though with boys he was used to dealing with forgetfulness and untidiness, some boys stood head and shoulders above the others and, yes, you've guessed it, my son was one of those. He is now 40, a university lecturer with a string of degrees, happliy married with children and DIL says she has a mantra she says every morning when he leaves the house "wallet, keys, mobile phone" and most days he turns back because he has forgotten one or the other.