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by Abigail Van Buren

Bumbling Behavior Is a Sore Point Between Mother and Son

DEAR ABBY: My son says I scold him so often it has given him a complex. He constantly loses things -- coats, lunch boxes, expensive toys, games -- and damages property such as computers, my furniture, etc. He doesn't do it on purpose. It "just happens" (I think) because he is clumsy and heavy-handed, sort of a bull in a china shop.

He often bumps into people -- including me -- and never says "Excuse me," or even appears to notice. At first I would speak to him about these incidents and make him apologize, but after a while I lost my patience and started getting angry. His behavior has continued through high school.

My son is now 19 and still living at home, and these things are still happening. What am I supposed to do? Sit back and say nothing? This morning we were getting into the car to go to work, and he swung his lunch bag around and hit me in the head with it. It contained cans of soda, and it hurt. When no reaction or apology was forthcoming, I said, "You hit me in the head with your lunch bag," and he went off again about always being a failure and everyone always finding fault with him. -- FRUSTRATED MOM IN VIRGINIA

DEAR FRUSTRATED MOM: It may seem a little late to suggest this, but have you ever had your son evaluated for a psychological or neurological disorder? There may be a reason for his constantly losing things. As to his clumsiness, has his vision -- specifically his depth perception -- been checked by an eye-care specialist? Yes, accidents happen, but when they happen repeatedly, there may be an explanation for it other than klutziness or forgetfulness.