How Do You Teach Someone Who Doesn’t Want To Be Taught?

I think that I’ve figured out one of the main issues with Kaleb and me. 

When you have kids, one of your biggest obligations is to teach them how to effectively live in this world.  How to be a good person.  How to cope with those that aren’t.  From the beginning, we’ve taught Lizzie, Antwan, and William how to consider people’s feelings, respond kindly, and do the right thing.  For the most part, it’s worked. 

When Lizzie tells Antwan something, he will respond with “That’s cool, Lizzie.”  (Instead of ignoring or announcing that he knew the information already.)  When he doesn’t like something that I give him to eat, he will say, “Thank you for making this Mommy, I just don’t really like it.  (Instead of crying and shoving it away.)   I’m most proud of that one because Antwan is like me when hungry.  Awful. 😉  William had lunch with a student with Autism at school, last week, when the other kids shunned him.  (There are no words for how proud this makes me.)

They are not perfect, but they honestly try to be good people.  Most of the time… 😉

Then, there’s Kaleb.  Now, I’m not saying that he’s a bad person.  Far from it.  But, he’s certainly not looking to be taught the ways of the world from his loving mom and dad.  He thinks he knows better than Brian and he thinks that I’m a total idiot.

Why do I think that he thinks that I’m an idiot?  Here’s why.

He was watching Top Gear.  They were pretending to be bank robbers and put panty hose over their heads.  Kaleb asked, “Why did they put panty hose on their heads?”

Now, I was in the middle of something, something stressful, and I took the low road and said, wearily, “I don’t know.”

At this point, Kaleb turned around, looked, and said, “Oh, I thought you were, Daddy.  It’s ok, Mommy, I didn’t expect you to know.”

The worst part was that he wasn’t being rude.  He was just being sincere. 

Of course, I did know and I’m not an idiot.  But, that is what he thinks.

I’m told that this is normal.  But, it kind of sucks.

So, as we try to teach Kaleb how to live in this world, be a good person, and everything else; he just tries to prove us wrong.  Because he knows better.  Sometimes, I continue to argue my point.  And, sometimes, I give up.  But, when I give up, I know that means that I’m doing him a disservice.  He is going to struggle in the world and he’s going to teach the younger three bad habits.

It’s stuff like this.

On the way home from band.

Kaleb -“People shouldn’t ask me questions if they don’t want me to tell them the truth.  A girl sat by me and asked me who was prettier.  Her or another girl.”

Me – “Please tell me that you didn’t say the other girl.”

Kaleb – “Yeah, she’s prettier. I’m not going to lie.”

This led to yet another conversation about the difference between lying and saving people’s feelings.  (We’ve had this conversation, each time that one of his little brothers or sister have asked him a question like “Do you like my new socks?”)  This came with the added topic of how insecure teenage girls are.  Because, they really, really are.  I would know.

He just kept saying, “She shouldn’t have asked me.  She shouldn’t have asked me.”

Sigh.  I sigh as I write, I sighed as I talked.

Then, there’s our conversation, last night, about sharing his items in the video game.  Yes, he got to the special place in the game world, first, and, yes, that means that he got everything for himself; but the right thing to do is share.  Don’t forget that you’re playing with younger kids.  (It’s not fair!  It’s not fair!  I got them first.  I share all the time.)

“Be the bigger person.”

“Ok, so I’m a bad person!”

“I didn’t say that.”

“You said, be a good person!”

“No, I said, be the bigger person.”

I think that’s when he left the room. 


He does do nice things.  He does share.  He, sometimes, goes along with my directions like saying “That’s cool” when Lizzie shows him something that she thinks is cool.  But, I always feel like he’s just appeasing me.  Just trying to keep ticked off Mommy at bay.

How do I teach him to feel it?  How do I teach him to instinctively consider a classmate’s feelings?  To want to share with his siblings, just because he loves them?

I’ve often heard that when kids get to their teenager years, it’s “too late.”  Well, I know that can’t be true.  It just can’t be.  But, I, also, know that if he doesn’t want to be taught, he won’t be.

So, there you go.  I know what the problem is.  And I know what bothers me. I’m just fuzzy on what to do about it.

I guess for now, I’m just going to just stick to that whole keep trying thing.  

I’ll just keep swimming. 🙂



(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});


(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

39 thoughts on “How Do You Teach Someone Who Doesn’t Want To Be Taught?

  1. Oh, this sounds hard. I wish I had easy words but I think the Dori approach may be the right thing. Does he see a counselor or therapist? Maybe they could also help with empathy. Or you could have him start doing some volunteer work for less privileged people of some sort


  2. You say \”how do I teach him to instinctively consider a classmates' feelings\”. But you can't teach an instinct. You can identify the skills he needs to build and find a good counselor that can help him build them. But right now, you're asking him to do something he doesn't have the skills to do (which makes sense, given his background), and both of you are getting frustrated, which isn't fun for anyone. He sounds very concrete too. Are there any social skills groups around you that he could join? They'd cover empathy and that kind of stuff. Also the fact that he immediately jumps to \”I'm a bad person\” when you said something different is something that's worth exploring with a professional too… because it sounds like these instances confirm some sort of belief he has that he's \”bad\”. I think it's hard. He has years of \”survival\” skills built up that were probably adaptive defense mechanisms, but it's hard to turn those things off, even if you're with a family now. Human beings.. we're complex, aren't we? Keep swimming for sure. Dory is a wise little fishy.


  3. I don't know why it's not showing up with my name like it normally does above. Sorry! This computer is not my friend. It's definitely not too late though. I would do some research on how empathy develops in littler kids, then realize that when it comes to empathic development, he IS younger than his teens and go from there, maybe. I will keep you posted if I come across anything.


  4. It sounds like you're so stuck in teaching him things that you don't congratulate his successes. Personally, who cares if one girl is prettier than the other – you son told the truth – told the truth!!!!!!! He didn't put one girl down by saying that she was ugly, or offered that observation on his own, she asked and he gave his opinion – that's all. Remember the shit sandwich approach 'I'm glad that you didn't lie, remember though that when it comes to answering honestly, you may be shutting someone down. Personally I appreciate the fact that you've always told me what you actually think instead of hiding it.' – Don't shut him down, making him wrong is the best way to alienate a teenager from you. Make it okay to talk about things, ask him what he likes about the other girl who isn't as pretty. Not everyone is the same, but that doesn't mean they aren't as special or as amazing as everyone else. Anyways, if we were all the same, and all had the same opinions, that would be boring. Be excited about the immense gift that your son is to your family. Later on when they are all teenagers and off doing things, he will never lie to you just to appease you – will always tell you the truth – now THAT is a huge strength, a huge gift to have in your life!


  5. So I was a lot like Kaleb when I was his age. I know I was smarter then everyone around me, and I was painfully honest with people because I felt that the truth was what mattered, even when I wasn't good at telling it when it wasn't in my best interest. Likely this is just Kaleb attempting to stand out from other people, who say nice things they don't mean, in his mind those things are unnecessary lies. I remember being that guy, and it took a while for me to get better about it, however when people stop asking his views on things because he lacks tack, he will come to you concerned, and then hopefully you will have a teachable moment. As always never lose sight that you and Brian are great parents, and remember teens aren't easy and no one thinks otherwise.


  6. I love how honest you are about your struggles. I have to second what Marcus said above. It is easy to think it is better to be honest and some of us take a long time to recognize how brutal honesty can be. I certainly did. I seriously can't stand a fake attitude (still) but am trying to even out a bit. I am sure Kaleb will listen in time and eventually appreciate your efforts to help him.


  7. Please don't think he isn't hearing you. As a teacher of young teens, I can tell you, I often overhear them complaining about things their parents have told them. They hear you. They complain about it to save face and commiserate with each other, but they hear you. And it will eventually sink in! Hang in there!


  8. Unfortunately, he is very ant-counselor. I think that he could benefit from it, but if he's not open to it, it's pointless. I can understand, though, he spent years being forced into counseling sessions and one of them, at one point, evidently, told him that he didn't have a conscience. 😦 I think volunteer work is a great idea and I have tried the volunteer angle and have looked for opportunities to get him involved. Thanks for the support! 🙂


  9. Thank you. It's just so hard for me to relate to because I go to the other extreme, I worry/obsess about accidentally hurting people. It's probably not good, either. haha. But, I'm sure you're right, it will eventually work out. 🙂


  10. Thanks for all of your thoughts. It makes a lot of sense. And, yes, he definitely has those defense mechanisms, in place. Unfortunately, he wants nothing to do with counselors and, apparently, a counselor once told him that he had no conscience. 😦 Yeah, that will stick with you. Thanks for your support!


  11. Thank you for your advice, I definitely need it. 🙂 I do agree that it's important to congratulate his successes and I do try to make a point of doing that. Although, I don't really think there's much to praise in being honest at the expense of someone else's feelings when it could have been avoided. Or more specifically, being so cavalier about it when it's pointed out. But, I definitely don't want to shut him down or make him feel like he can't talk about things! I like the shit sandwich approach, thanks for that. I will definitely try that.


  12. That makes me livid that a counselor would tell him that. At the same time, that may not have been exactly what they said, but rather how he interpreted it…. (just going off of how he says he's 'bad' when you say he needs to be the bigger person) but regardless, it seems like his experience was negative. Would he consider going to see someone? I get that they may have a long road to earn his trust, and he can be honest with them about that and how much the last counselor sucked, but someone who is competent and has a good understanding of trauma's impact on development could be a good source of info for you and him!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s