My wife and I are having a disagreement about our son. He is 11 years old and is starting to misbehave. My wife wants to make him do extra chores around the house when he’s getting out of line, in order to show him that his actions have consequences. I say that unless the chores are directly related to what he did, he won’t associate them together. Like last week – he broke a window in the family room by throwing a ball through it. That’s easy enough; he has to pay for the window replacement. But what about being disobedient, or just lazy? Are there chores we can assign that are punishments for these kind of actions? — FRUSTRATED IN FARGO
I’m sure you don’t want to hear this, but your wife is right. There absolutely are consequences for your actions, and sometimes they aren’t even directly associated with the thing you’ve done, except for a roundabout way. For example: last month I had sex with your mom. She was pretty tight, for an old broad, I’ll give her that. As a result, it now burns when I pee. Goddamn, but I thought I was done with STDs back in college! Anyway, the direct consequence is now I have to go to my doctor. The indirect consequence is I have to deal with a clingy grandma who just won’t go away and keeps texting me like six times a night to come over and give her another good one. It’s almost enough to block her. But it’s not just her. Apparently the whole bridge club is in on the deal. Sheesh, you make one old woman shudder uncontrollably and you never hear the end of it.
So, in your situation, your son has absolutely got to learn that actions have consequences. Break a window? Pay for it out of your allowance. Front a disobedient attitude? Get a dismissive one in return. It looks like this: “Well, since you didn’t hold up your end of the parent-child relationship and disobeyed me, I’m not going to hold up my end either. No dinner for you! Enjoy the soup kitchen.” If you’re feeling generous you can print out a Google Maps set of walking directions.
However, that’s pretty tame by my standards. Just telling you to be a jerk probably isn’t what you’re looking for. That’s just bad advice, and it would probably only solve the surface problem of misbehavior. You want Extremely Bad Advice which will not just deal with the symptoms of the disease infecting your life, it will actually root out the cause and eliminate that forever. Here’s what you need to do.
Next time your son does something wrong, you actually reward that behavior. Go buy him a puppy! Or a new dirt bike, or video game, or something he’s been asking for for a while. This kind of reverse psychology will start to fuck with his head really quickly. He’ll tell his friends what he did and how you reacted. They’ll all start trying it with their parents but getting opposite results, and pretty quickly he’s wondering just what happened with you. He’ll try it a few more times. Double down on the technique. When he back-talks you in front of his teacher, take him out for ice cream. If he comes home late from a friend’s house, supply him with rotten eggs and you both go whip them at the crusty old couple down the street.
In a few months this kind of mental mind-warp (the difference between what you do and what a typical “good parent” does) will break down any remaining sense of logic and rationality the kid has. At that point one of two things will happen, both of which solve your problem pretty quickly. Option one, he dissolves into a quivering, immobile blob on the floor, blathering on and on about “friends say … mom says … friends don’t … dad does …” and your disobedience problem is resolved. Kind of replaced with a permanent diapering problem, but at least he’s compliant. Option two, he finally can’t take it any longer and runs away. Presto! Instant happy house and no more sass from the kid.
Trust me on this one. You can’t do any better for yourself and your own happiness than psychological torture. Good luck!