My 11-year-old boy seems irresponsible. I understand that he is still young, but I would like to have some advice on how I need to deal with him when he makes a mistake. For example, he damaged his phone, his school tablet, his own tablet and finally he just lost another tablet at school.

Other things I have trouble with are that if I tell him to ask his teacher about grades or something he never does. I have to email the teachers and keep up with his grades, but he never tried. When I ask him if, "Did you tell your teacher?" or "Did you ask your teacher?", he says, "I forgot."

He is doing well at school, but just because I'm looking over his shoulder and tracking his grades. I'm punishing him, like taking his iPad and computer from him, so he will not play games or watch YouTube. It looks like he is only thinking about his games and no interest in anything else.

  • 1
    I am a big believer in computer filters and automatic time limits. These need not be set up in a punitive way. May 19, 2015 at 5:08
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    Also -- if emails to the teachers are needed at this time, that's okay. If they were needed at the age of 18, that would be different! - - Your son is lucky to have such a caring mother who looks over his shoulder, tracks his grades, and makes sure he doesn't overdose on games and Youtube. When he gets his high school diploma, you'll be able to be very proud of him, and of yourself, for the support and dedication (and yes, nagging!) that you put into that high school diploma! May 19, 2015 at 5:13

4 Answers 4


In your question, you say that he's damaged a phone, 2 tablets then lost another tablet. You must have replaced these so he knows that it doesn't matter what happens to his things, he'll get new ones.

Equally, you ask him to find out about his grades, he doesn't and you go ahead and do it for him. Again, he knows he doesn't have to do anything because you're there to do all the work he can't be bothered to do himself.

So how to make him more responsible? Give him more responsibility. Tell him he's at an age now where he can help more around the house (if he's not already) and his reward is being allowed to use his iPad or computer for a set amount of time. If he gets good grades, then maybe you can take him and a friend somewhere he wants to go but he has to tell you those grades.

At 11, he's probably thinking to himself that he do everything on his own and you're not letting him. In fact, you're checking up on him constantly. Back off a bit, let him find out that actions have consequences, explaining to him if necessary.

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    It actually isn't clear whether one or two of the tablets were school-provided — many now assign mobile devices to students at the beginning of the year and require classwork to be done on them; families need to pay if the device is damaged or lost, but the child still needs a new device in order to do work.
    – Acire
    May 13, 2015 at 12:14

You might look into whether he has some ADHD going on.

The complaints you have about him sound a lot like my mother's complaints.

I was always losing things, forgetting things. I would come home from playing all day and my Mom would say "Francine, where are your shoes?" Then it would come back to me that at some point in the day I had been wearing shoes. I lost so many coats and hats I'm sure they wanted to just stop buying them for me.

It drove her crazy. She was always upset at me for being lazy and careless. But I never meant to be those things.

A couple of years ago, I discovered that I had severe ADHD. It had never occurred to me. I took the ADHD test and came in at the 95%. In other words, very severe. I was told that the symptoms of ADHD are directly offset by a high intelligence so if you were highly intelligent your symptoms were likely to be mistaken for carelessness (mine used to test out in the 140-160 range)

If this is the case with your son, no amount of punishment is going to make a difference. Speaking from experience. And getting help sooner may prevent him from developing a lot of the side effects of ADHD (low self esteem, anxiety, procrastination, etc)

Because I had a hard time shutting out multiple stimuli I developed the ability to "hyper focus". When he is playing a video game does he seem to ignore you? Maybe he can't hear you. The same thing used to happen to me when I was reading; I literally could not hear people talking to me when I was lost in a book. People with ADHD often play video games compulsively because it gives them relief from having their brains at the mercy of every passing stimulus.

If he has ADHD, the reason he loses things is that the moment he stops thinking about them they cease to exist, and the normal mechanism that people have for remembering a thing that is important but which they aren't currently thinking about...is gone. I cannot even describe how frustrating it is for me. I have learned never to carry anything that isn't attached. I wear a fanny pack instead of a purse. My keys are attached to my belt loop. I only take things off at night just before I go to bed, and put them on first thing in the morning.

There is no cure for ADHD. You can only treat the symptoms. It may be that I am entirely off base and your son is just careless, but I would rather waste my time writing advice that is unneeded, than see another child go through what I did.

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    Why go straight to medication? Hes 11 - of course hes forgetful. Medication is often used as a substitute for parenting.
    – user7678
    May 16, 2015 at 13:50
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    @RachelD that's a gross oversimplification of medication; also, there is no mention of medication (or any treatment protocols) in this answer at all.
    – Acire
    May 18, 2015 at 16:27
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    Perhaps "you can only treat the symptoms" was inferred to mean medication. May 19, 2015 at 5:07
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    I'm not a big fan of medication, having thus far resisted it myself, but I do think if someone has ADHD they ought to at least be given an understanding of what is going on, and that they aren't choosing to forget things and shouldn't be blamed or punished. Treatment means diagnosis, education and therapy first, with medication only if it is determined by a professional to be necessary. May 21, 2015 at 21:21

Okay, you say you're punishing him, but what exactly for, and why?

Psychologically a reward system would be better than a punishment system - say for every day he looks after his next tablet he gets +1 point, and 10 minutes of games. Every week if he asks his teacher about his grades (not sure why this should be his focus at 11 years old), he gets +2 points, and 15 minutes of games. Points can translate into things like 'time with mum/dad on my own', 'watch a game of football/soccer/ice hockey', 'have dessert while out for dinner' etc. Having a chart on the wall would provide positive feedback. You could give him negatives for not looking after stuff (eg. putting clothes away is points, doing dishes is points) and give him big bonuses for doing things without being asked, but not directly correlating to points (so not everything has a 'reward cost').

At 11 years old, he has a boy's brain. He's so far off having a man's brain that he may not be 'fully mature' for another 14 years or so (boys mature later than girls)

There's a difference between inattention and irresponsibility. Using tracking tabs like Trackr Bravo (not recommending this, it's just one I'm aware of) to GPS locate his important stuff might be financially benefical. How is he damaging stuff? Does he understand the correlation between item and cost? For instance, my one-year-old understands that when he broke daddy's phone screen, mummy had to go away and work so it could be fixed. He understands that he loses when he messes up - now he tells himself off when he wants to be naughty in any way, which is sweet and hilarious at the same time.

He is doing well at school, but just because I'm...

concerns me a lot. Maybe he's doing well despite feeling like he's not supported? I'd love more expansiveness on how you feel punishment is achieving your aims, and this aspect is something that might need re-working. He might actually like parts of school, but just find he's overwhelmed with the responsibility of having to look after stuff that actually has a value, something that is new to him. Have you asked him if his perception of the situation is the same as yours?

Also, what's the time frame? A month? A year? Since he was 4? Why is he keeping on being given new stuff if he can't look after it?

Also, Otter Boxes are awesome cases a lot of tradespeople use to protect their phones. I'd put his in one, and superglue it shut if he shows any signs of wanting to remove it. It might also be worth buying ruggedised devices.

  • 2
    Be careful with asking questions in an Answer. If you need clarification on the OP's Question, ask in a comment. If you're asking a lot of rhetorical questions, that comes across as more judgmental than helpful :)
    – Acire
    May 13, 2015 at 12:12
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    @aparente001 - I will state it again - comments are not for discussion on Stack Exchange. While your description of the socratic method may be perfectly correct - we don't do that in Questions, Answers or comments. Take it to chat
    – Rory Alsop
    Jun 1, 2015 at 11:59

I am not well experienced, but I would like share my thoughts.

  1. Don't try to give advice. Be simple. Kids are not like computer chips came along with pre-defined programs. They observe from their surroundings.

  2. So, try to analyze yourself whether you are responsible; if yes, look at your son's neighbors and friends. Somewhere something is going wrong.

  3. Since you are saying that you are sitting on his shoulder I guess you are dominating him. Kids are very innocent and they can't react immediately when you ride them. Instead this will create depression.

  4. Forgetting to ask may come from other reasons also; he may dislike his master for some reason. Approach him in a friendly manner and try to know his mind.

  5. Rewind your life. How many things did you forgot in your life? I think forgetting to ask something is a normal kind of behavior. When he forgot the first time, or second or third, you might have behaved very harshly with him. This might have created negative thoughts.

  6. Moreover, don't expect perfection and maturity from an 11 year old son.

Love your Son, he will give you back, This love will bring the intention to fulfill your needs.

Don't sit on his shoulder. Hold his hand and walk together.


Sorry if anything hurts you

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