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Learning From My Mother's Mistakes

Updated on March 3, 2012

What Was I Thinking?

During the past few days I have been getting upset with my son after he failed to follow my repeated instructions to clean his room. I would instruct him to pick up his toys and to make his bed and then go about my tasks while he is supposed to be cleaning his room. Several hours later after repeated instructions to clean his room, I find that he has not tried to clean his room at all. I cannot understand why he refuses to clean his room. I tried using rewards, loss of privileges, grounding, and even the threat of taking all of his toys out of his room. Nothing was working.

I recognize some of the behaviors that he is displaying, I did them myself when I was young to my mother. I was ready to blame her for the mistakes I am making as a parent. While I was thinking of how it was my mothers fault that I don't know what to do about this situation, I realized what the problem was. My son is more like me than I want him to be sometimes, but today his uncanny likeness helped me understand what I am doing wrong. I can remember trying to do things to impress my mother when I was his age just to get her attention. I have two younger siblings and after my mother divorced my father, I felt that my mother did not pay attention to me. When doing good things did not work, I found that getting into trouble worked really well. The only problem with getting into trouble with my mother was that she was abusive. She also allowed live in relatives who were also abusive deal with my negative behaviors.

I am asking him to do chores and other tasks by himself that I know that he is capable of performing without constant supervision but he is just not doing them. I spend lots of time with him showing him what to do or scolding him for not doing something or not doing it right. What I did not realize until a few minutes ago was that I was leaving him alone to do assigned tasks so that I could do something else, an habit that is fairly common in most families. What I failed to realize is that while I am doing what I need to do or even when I am just sitting around doing nothing, I take my daughter with me and spend time interacting wih her and involving her in what I am doing while he is upstairs or in another room all by himself.

My son either intentionally does not complete a task or intentionally does the task wrong so that he can get my attention and I spend time with him. I had forgotten that children who are seeking attention will accept any type of attention to include negative attention. I have been giving him a lot of negative attention lately and I feel guilty and that I am a bad parent. I was blaming my son for my inattentiveness by thinking that he just did not feel like following my instructions. To make matters worse, I have made my wife think that it my son's fault he is not following instructions and intentionally trying to defy the both of us which frustrates and angers her as well. My fear is that I will make the same mistakes my mother made and make my son feel that he is not loved and unworthy of my attention by being negative all of the time.

So how do I fix this problem that I have created? I know the first thing that needs to happen is that my wife and I need to discuss the issue to make sure that I am correct in my self assessment of my/our behavior. I am sure that she will agree with me that we are at fault and that more interaction time and positive attention may resolve or reduce our son's perceived negative behaviors. We will then work on changing our behavior instead of trying to fix his. Modifying our behavior and our daily and weekend routines to be more inclusive should also help.

While our son is very independent, we have forgotten that he is only six and that he needs just as much love and attention now as he did when he was younger.


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