Last week, I wrote about the things that parents say that turn off communication between them and their teens. Today, I would like to talk about the buttons teens push to set their parents off and “make” them lose their minds.
From their early years, kids have an inherent sense of their parents’ weaknesses. They learn it by themselves – they do not need to go to school to study what works and what does not work. They are so sophisticated, they can tell you what works on Daddy and what works on Mommy, even if they are very different.
It is amazing sometimes to see a young baby, stepping as much as possible on the toes of his parents and making them behave in funny ways. This thing works both ways. Our children know us so well, they can make us do silly things out of joy or out of anger or guilt.
I remember my daughter, when she was young, would get out of bed late at night (after refusing to go to sleep), stand in front of me with a miserable look on her face and say, “I’m hungry”. You see, she would never stand in front of Gal and say that, because he would tell her to get back in bed. However, I was so sensitive to this, I would make her something to eat in the middle of the night. It took me a while to realize she was actually playing on a soft spot of mine towards “hungry kids”. When I did finally realize this, we agreed that only Dad would take care of hunger in the middle of the night and, sure enough, it disappeared.
By the time kids become teens, they know so much about their parents they use all possible tactics to make them do what they want. By that stage, they have tried so many things they know what they need to say to win in a parent–teen battle.
It is not surprising, though, that the better the relationship between parent and teen is, the less likely it is that the teen will use these tactics.
Expressions that set you off
Become familiar with these expressions and before you lose it, focus on the real interpretation of what you hear. You will be surprised when you do so that instead of feeling angry and frustrated, you will feel understanding and supportive and you will smile with love. Remember, when your child is upset and says something, he or she really means to say something else.
- “I am bored” is really “I need your help. I do not know what to do with myself”
- “I hate you” really means “I need you to tell me you love me”
- “I hate school” means “School was hard for me today” or ”Something happened at school. Ask me what happened”
- “I can do whatever I want” means “I feel helpless and out of control”
- “You never give me what I want” means “I need something from you and it is hard for me to convince you”
- “No one loves me in this family” means “I am looking for some attention”
- “I am going to run away” means “I am afraid of running away”
- “You don’t care about me” means “I need you to tell me you care about me”
- “You are not my real Mom” means “I miss my real Mom and I’m having a challenge adjusting to your style” (stepmothers, take note – besides being fact, remember your stepchildren are required to make adjustments they did not choose to make)
- “All the other kids get to go and I don’t” means “It is hard to be different”
- “I don’t have to listen to you” means “I am upset that I need to listen to you”
- “I am going to kill myself” means “Please help me. I do not want to hurt myself”
- “You are cruel” means “Tell me you love me”
- “You never let me do anything I want” means “I am frustrated”
- “Why do I have to be so different?” means “I need the approval of my friends and it is hard for me to be different from them”
- “I don’t need you” means “I need you so much I feel helpless”
- “I wish you would die” means “Say something nice to me, quick!”
- “I am not going to stay in this house” means “I am afraid of leaving this house”
- “This life is not worth living” means “I need your help in finding meaning in life”
- “It is all your fault” means “I feel guilty”
In our house, when one of the kids uses one of the expressions above, we have one answer and one answer only:
I love you too!
By the time they become teenagers, they already know us so well, they know this answer by heart and even say it to each other.
Love and happiness,