I Don’t Care and You Can’t Make Me

We hear from many parents that have "lazy" kids. Not bad kids, just lazy as they see it. We have one of those ourselves. Cannot/will not pick up after himself, bathe, brush teeth, change underwear just to name a few (he is almost 19).  It is so easy to forget that our son, abandoned at 1 year old, in and out of foster homes till he came to us at 5, is not typical - because he is not a bad kid and does not have big problems-just a lot of little ones. It was interesting to note that at a party we gave him for his 6th birthday, when he was given gifts he remarked that he didn't know people got gifts for birthdays. It broke my heart to hear that. So lets not talk normal, lets talk what is, without judgement and preconceived notions of what should be.

It is so easy to look at our special kids,  and because they are not really bad kids, to think of them as normal and typical. My worst days were always those when my child was behaving typically and I forgot that much of his neural network functioned so differently when pushed beyond his window of tolerance. When I forgot who he was deep inside and looked at who he was on the outside, all heck would break loose and I would react "normally/typically" with unreasonable expectations and reach in my parenting toolbag for my dominance and control tools. Not a healthy thing really - especially our special kids.

Bryan, in his answer to this parent, as always brings to our awareness some of the many, many considerations that we need to be aware of when parenting our special kids. Remember, if we loose the relationship, we have no influence. If we've lost that— we've lost everything.

Dear Bryan— What to do with an almost 15 year old son who is not doing his school work. Rude. Lies. He is a smart kid, no BIG trouble.....yet about to repeat 9th grade on pure laziness. His "I don't care" attitude is THE WORST! — Mom

Dear Mom— One of the challenges for us as parents is to see no BIG problem as justification for not understanding why our children do what they do. We should consider for example...how many adults seemingly have no BIG problems yet are homeless, depressed, drug addicted, etc? The truth is that pain is pain as Byron Katie says. We judge the degree and intensity of every other persons process based on our own experiences. "No BIG problem" is one of the first breakdowns in your relationship with your son. It is filled with anger, judgement, resentment, frustration, being fed up, rejecting, threatening, sadness, remorse, guilt, shame and blame. All of that just from the perception of "he has no BIG problems".

What exactly is a BIG problem? I, personally, seem to have no BIG problems. I have money, a house, bills paid, friends, food, drink, motorcycle, healthy, good looking if I must say so myself, have all my teeth, and a healthy beautiful family...no BIG problems right? Wrong. My biggest problem is that I live with a core of insecurity, terror, shock, and overwhelm. I was born with it. And it directs every relationship in my life. It has led me to have failed marriages, addictions, loss of friends, personal emotional turmoil, great sadness, depression, and anger. Someone might be able to look at me and say well Bryan is a good guy and has a great family, he doesn't really have any BIG problems, why can't he maintain relationships, have a great marriage, be a really present father? He has no BIG problems. The reality is that I have huge problems, problems that seemingly make me feel as though they are insurmountable, you just can't see them. When you can't see them then you judge me based on my behaviors, not an understanding for where I am within myself, what my struggles are or if I really do have BIG problems that you just don't know about. And finally, when I am in survival, or your son is in survival just trying to cope day to day with breathing and living, that is all that we can do. He CANNOT care about anything or anyone else. He is trying to survive. Everyday that you come at him with "you have no BIG problems" so why aren't you doing better, then you are only fostering his hurt and pain. The reason we do that is because we are taking personally the behavior of the other person and it makes us feel inadequate and insecure. Their behavior, your son's behavior, makes you feel like you are not good enough as a parent. That's a very painful place to reside. Rather than thinking and acting towards him like he has no BIG problems start working on your relationship with him in a way that will encourage him to share what problems he really does have and honor those problems as BIG problems even though they may be small to you, they are enormous for him. Once you do that then he will feel less stress and overwhelm, will feel like he's not all alone, and then he might actually be able to care a little bit more.

Not sure if you were asking for all of that or not, but this is the way of behaviors. No one is lazy, we only act that way and there is always a reason.


"Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering."
-- Master Yoda- Star Wars Episode I

Have a Calm and Peaceful Day.


Have you read Bryan Post's FREE e-Book How to End Lying Now: Why Kids Lie and What You Can Do to Stop It? Post offers a radical new understanding of difficult children - adopted, foster, diagnosed, biological, or grandchild. The Post Institute has helped families and professionals move from fear to love in their struggles with challenging behaviors such as defiance, disrespect, self-mutilation, cutting, hoarding or gorging food, stealing lying and more! This free book can get you started - see your child's behaviors in an entirely different light and learn how to apply this approach. A truly love based family-centered model for many behaviors and diagnoses.

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  1. Kelleen says:

    Thank you. My son is using “I don’t care” and “You can’t make me” a lot this week. The dark side, how do you help them get away from the dark influences, like depressing music?

    • Thank you Kelleen for stopping by. Dark influences, well there are many (other kids, movies, TV, music) and parents do what they can do. You limit what you can without turning it into a constant battle, and sometimes you end up saying, I love you but that is just the way it is. The underlying foundation is always the RELATIONSHIP. If you loose that you loose everything. When you have that, you can at least influence. For older teens this is critical since they have more “walk away” power and parents options are limited. So I love you no matter what, even if you don’t what I don’t want you do, is always the goal. Yes, I know all parents love their children. But that is not the love we talk about. Have you seen our free Fear To Love 30 min. video on our website? If not, check it out. http://www.postinstitute.com/feartolove/FTL30.php

      • Kelleen says:

        Thanks 🙂 He definitely has fear of love, he has been abandoned too many times. That is what I try to tell/show him, that I will always love him and that he is not going anywhere. When he can tell I am upset or disappointed he will ask me over and over “do you hate me” and I will tell him No!, I love you, and please don’t ever forget that.
        The good days he will ask me the opposite question “Do you Love me?” over and over, I will tell him, “I love you” or “you know I love you” 🙂 those are the best days.

  2. Read this post at the perfect moment! Thank you. I am having trouble getting my husband and friends to remember that the children I am adopting, although they have been in my home 2 years now, still face issues due to the abuse they suffered. They are forever wired differently, and even I must be mindful of that!

  3. Just a small point from a film geek 🙂

    Episode 1 was “The Phantom Menace”

    The Yoda quote was from “The Empire Strikes Back: Episode V”

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