My 12-year-old son believes that I don't do anything for him - I do everything I possibly can and yes, there are things I forget to do (as I'm only human). He is sly and causes arguments between his father and myself that I am being mean. He tells me I do nothing and that I'm lazy, he lies on the couch and demands I get him this and that (which I don't, of course). He never speaks to me like this when his father is around.

I'm at the point at the moment that I'm going to make him do his own washing, pack his own lunch box etc. (do all my daily jobs), because I think he might learn to appreciate the things I do for him to make his life easier. Yet I feel bad, as he is only a child still.

Am I dealing with it like a parent should or not? Any other advice would be helpful.

  • I have never been confronted with that kind of things, my children are still too young for that. But the things you suggest sound good to me: stop doing what you do for him, then he will see what it is when you really "do nothing for him". That's what I sometimes do for my other half when he starts complaining, it works very well. :)
    – Smurk
    Jun 12, 2014 at 9:53
  • 5
    "as he is only a child still" - not really. I made my own food (because I wanted to help parents out) and did my own cleaning well before 12... and your and my ancestors got married and worked and managed household at 16. That attitude of yours may actually be what is enabling him (not saying it's your fault, just that you should shed the attitude ASAP - he's NOT a baby anymore)
    – user3143
    Jun 12, 2014 at 13:41
  • Question - have you told your husband about this behavior, and, especially the contrast in behavior vs when he is there (i.e. told him that there is manipulation going on), and, if so, does your husband not believe you, feels you might be exaggerating, etc? It would seem that part of this question is linked to what your husband does/does not do, not just what you can do. Also - I'd shy away from adding duties in order to get acknowledgement. Teach life skills, have them take responsibility? Sure. To appreciate what you do? Seems like that is "playing his game," so to speak. May 11, 2018 at 14:05
  • You don't really say anything about this in your question, but to put it delicately, is this behavior being modeled for him by his father? A close friend's family dynamics? It's an odd thing to have just invented out of whole cloth. Sep 18, 2023 at 10:16

2 Answers 2


You have provided a lot of useful information in your question, so I hope I am able to help.

First, he "believes I don't do anything for him" -- I doubt this is what he believes. It is what he says, absolutely, but let's look at what he is saying. He is calling you lazy (and I presume other things). Children do not make such statements unless they have seen that behavior elsewhere and then they mimic it. Now is the time to end it. Yes, in some cultures women are still considered as those who serve the males, but there are various levels of "serving" -- we can provide various services or we can actually be servants who are beholden to those we serve. One is demeaning, while the other is not.

Second, that he "causes arguments" and does these things only when your husband is not around is actually not something I suggest as directly involving your son. Your husband needs to know and act upon his son's behavior. When a man is raising another future man, that man must train him to be a strong, quality man. You will not be able to equally substitute for your husband's influence, nor should you have to. Speak with your husband and decide on how things will be handled. A dual front in working with your son to be a great person will mean all the difference. And in those cases where you and your husband have differing views, they should be settled outside the view of your son at this point because your son is gaining a benefit from seeing the differing views.

Chores as a penalty will not serve the purpose intended. However, at 12yo as the commenter added, chores are a part of most people's lives. Want to watch TV? When your chores are done. End of story. -- etc, etc.

Regardless of your gender, one must be taught proper respect for the other gender. And completely independent of gender, one must be taught proper respect for all others.

My biggest concern is that your question appears to be asking what you can do without the father's input. Raising a child, though, where you are fortunate enough to be a 2-parent family must include both parents to be successful.

  • +1While I agree that making the boy do more chores will only reinforce the message that they are punishment, I can also sympathize with the OP's desire to go on "strike." I would add that an "observational" chore chart would be a great start. Once it is determined who's doing what, then the work can be redistributed if there is an imbalance. This worked for me w/my SO when I was tempted to "strike".
    – Jax
    Dec 13, 2014 at 13:34

Notify your husband. He should not solve the problem for you. But he must know what's going on because you need to act on it. If you fail to notify him, it will come as a surprise to him and you may lose.

Men will naturally try to provide an immediate solution. Tell him that since this behaviour does not happen in front of him, he can't really react or discipline his son for things he's heard from you.

So far for your husband. For you, I single out one line from your question:
"I feel bad, as he is only a child still".

There is your problem. Even this is true (which, at 12 years, is questionable), he certainly does not want to be a child. And he certainly does not want to be treated like one.

Letting him do his own chores is an understandable reaction, but it is also power-play. You are making him do chores, because you are the Boss and he is the Child.

It would be more productive to approach him differently. Approach him like an adult, with rights and responsibilities.
He wants to be an adult. Treat him like one! One of the responsibilities of an adult is: Respect. Failure to show respect is failure to control oneself, so this behaviour is childish. You can make him do chores as well, but not as punishment - but because he's a big boy now. Give him influence, listen to him - but as soon as he wants to behave like a child, tell him you'll treat him like a child.

He is 12. He is starting to grow up - a lot. And your way of interacting with him must grow up as well.

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