Thursday, March 4, 2010


How do you teach your kids to take responsibilities for their actions? How do you get them to be accountable for the part that they play in an argument? It's a frustrating aspect of parenting. With Henry it is like pulling teeth (as my Mom used to say).

Henry can be a real pill. He has the uncanny ability to be the kind of guy that the outside world sees as a kid who "butter wouldn't melt in his mouth" (another one of my mom's favorite phrases). But here in the comfort of his own home, he can often be found choking on that same big stick of Land'o lakes. Not so much melting going on.

Yesterday morning we had all overslept and needed to be fleet of feet to get out the door for an early morning ortho appointment. We had to be there at 7:30. We ejected out of bed at 7:00 a.m. in that holy-crap-what-happened-to-the-alarm haste. I tried to wake the boys as gently as having only 20 minutes to get ready and get out the door might allow for. And yet, even when he knew we were ALL in a hurry - he dragged, he lollygagged, he dawdled, he made a snail look speedy. It was a train wreck waiting to happen. Me in a hurry. Henry in a hurry to piss me off. Whine. Moan. Repeat. Find Mom's last nerve and yank on it.

Of course, I yelled at him to shake a leg and pick up some speed. He thought the best approach would be to screech back at me. Unwise move. But then he made a more severe tactical error in his next move. Henry roared some sassy back talk at George the Elder after George the Elder chastised him for yelling at me. Dummy dumb dumb. Talk about rapid escalation.

In the end, H finally huffed himself into the car in a sobbing seething angry heap of boy. "IT'S ALL DAD's FAULT", he bellowed over and over. Lucky guy, George the Elder, got to head off to work with the wind in his hair, enjoying the silence of a motorcycle ride.

Not so lucky me got to give the customary lecture about taking responsibility for your actions and the consequences of those actions. You know the one... "You yelled at Dad. You yelled at me. You were punished for it." He doesn't buy any of it. It's always someone else's fault. I fear that I need to tape the damn thing and just play it whenever it's appropriate. And with Henry, it might be played as a daily mantra. Do I need to develop some kind of subliminal message thing that's embedded in to his head like a cochlear implant. IF you do THIS - then THIS is the result.

Thing is - Henry's super smart. Weird smart sometimes. He can figure out complex mathematical equations. Why is this particular nut so hard for him to crack? Geeze frickin Louise.

It would be nice if I could blame yesterday's ordeal on the unexpected fast pace of the morning, but the truth is that even on an ordinary morning something as simple as me asking him to brush his furry teeth could be the catalyst that renders a fairly realistic channeling of the Exorcist (and he's never seen the movie). He would still end up in the car, a frothing blob of a boy, lamenting on how "THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT." In his world, the fact that I reminded him to brush his teeth was the singular reason that he was now late, unhappy and in the dog house. Ei-yi-yi!

You know what? I'm warming to the cochlear implant idea. It would give me a whole lot more time to think up other ways just to piss him off - you know like asking him to take a shower or put his dishes in the sink or pick up his shoes or (horror!!) do his homework. Wait a sec...maybe it really IS all my fault? I have such unreasonable expectations of him.

1 comment:

Chris said...

I have this same type of issue with my kids. One of the things I work on with my son is the need to take responsibility for your actions. What I actually say is something like, "Man up. Commit the crime, do the time." I've been consistent for the past year or 2 with this approach and it seems to be working. He doesn't throw other kids under the bus any more. When I issue punishment, he accepts it. Man up.