I don't speak teenager

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thank-you for your response and I too will apologize for my own. I'm sorry.
you do have good advice, all of which I agree with.

Chet - posted on 11/05/2014




I'm very sorry that my response upset you so much. That was absolutely not my intention. My intention was to offer legitimate, practical advice. When I read your post, it honestly sounded like you were looking for insight and advice on how to deal with a common teenage issue - disagreements over nothing that seem to come out of nowhere.

I'm sorry too that you felt my post was judgemental. I was not judging. I was trying to say that there is likely a disconnect between what you intend to communicate, and what your son actually hears or feels. I'm not at all suggesting that you're trying to one up your child with your comments, or trying to verbally back him into a corner. I'm saying that a child who responds defensively probably feels attacked in some way (even if that was the furthest thing from what you meant to do).

People dismiss a lot of teen behaviour as hormones or whatever, but teens feel real emotions even if there are hormonal or brain changes playing a part in them. Even when your son's responses seem silly or unwarranted they can tell you something about how his brain and emotions work right now. They mean something.

Maybe it didn't feel like an argument to you, but you said that it took 30 minutes to "get your son to admit" why the gaming system slipped off the dresser.

When a child is five or seven you might legitimately need to draw attention to the fact that tangled controllers can cause that to happen. When you're 13 though. and your mom tries to take you down a line of questioning that's going to end in you admitting it was all your fault (because at 13 you obviously know why the gaming system fell or will figure it out when you pick it up) you just feel like a crappy thing happened and now your mom is drawing attention to your incompetence.

Parenting teenagers is an interesting challenge because teens rarely feel like they need parents to protect or advise them. Moreover, teens are engaged in the natural process of separating from their parents to become independent. And although you have an adult perspective, and can stand back and see how much a teen has yet to learn, your teen is looking at it from the other side. They feel really grown up compared to when they were 6 or 8 or 10.

It's also really easy for parents to get into a habit of speaking to kids a certain way. They don't necessarily realise that their child has entered a new stage of development, and that a different style of interaction will work better. You don't need a huge amount of diplomacy to talk to a young children, but it can be hugely beneficial when dealing with teens.

Obviously, I don't know you or your son or the intimate details of your home life, but in general, younger children are more willing to take advice or direction from their parents. In contrast, teenagers are primed to feel insulted, undermined, nitpicked or babied.

Kids do need to learn about differences of opinion, but you'll probably have more luck teaching that by discussing a current event from the news, or some complex and interesting ethical issue, with your son. Anything that brings his competence into question (even if it's just with dusting, or assessing the weather, or picking up the gaming console) may hit too close to home to teach the lesson you're hoping to teach.

Another difficult thing about parenting teenagers is that you start running into more and more lessons that you can't actually teach. Either because they are just something that kids have to learn for themselves, or because as the parent, you aren't in the right position to impart that knowledge. It needs to come from someone with more distance, or who is more neutral. Being in the middle of the transition from child to adult can hugely complicates the interaction between teens and parents.

I completely understand wanting to know that your child is able to admit fault, but the best way to teach that is by modelling the behaviour and admitting fault yourself. Often one of our kids does something that causes an issue, but it was just the straw that broke the camel's back. I say that I shouldn't have left the thing there, and then the kid says they're sorry, they shouldn't have touched it, and we both agree to clean up the mess together.

This isn't personal, and I'm sorry you seem to have taken it that way. My advice would be the same to anyone who posted with a chronically disagreeable teen :

1. Agree whenever you can. Find small pieces of common ground. Seize opportunities to say, "yeah, for sure," and "that's true" or "that's a good point". Even if it's just about the weather.

2. Give your teen the opportunity to feel competent and autonomous. Sometimes kids don't need advice from their parents nearly as much as they need to feel like their parents trust them to not need advice. Even if you have thoughts regarding the gaming system ask your yourself how your son is likely to take it.

3. Pick your battles. A lot of stuff doesn't really matter. Many parents have a policy that bedrooms must be clean to the point of not being a health hazard, being a functional space, and not impacting other members of family. Dust doesn't really matter.

4. Model the behaviour you want to see. Admit fault. Accept responsibility. Note how you would do things differently. Laugh at your mistakes. That creates an atmospheres where it's safe to admit fault, and it demonstrates how to do it.

5. De-escalate situations. If an exchange gets tense, if there's a misunderstanding, if someone gets defensive, be the person the wind the tone down.

I didn't say anything about grounding or yelling in my post. I don't know where that came from.

Chet - posted on 11/04/2014




What strikes me about your examples is that these issues are quite small, and that you seem to be requiring your son to admit that he's wrong (or less right) than you. It's takes two people to have an argument.

Son: It's going to be a nice day today.
You: I have more accurate information than you, it's going to be 7 degrees.
** Just agree with your son - "You're right, it really is a nice day."

As for cleaning his room, it's his room. For most people, dust isn't a health hazard. If the room is clean enough that dust is the only issue, congratulate your son on getting the job done. If dusting is very important, maybe ask him later on to dust as a completely separate chore.

Don't spend 30 minutes of your life arguing with a 13 year old about the wires gaming systems. If you hear a loud noise ask your kid if he's okay. Maybe comment that the wires look tangled and ask if he wants help untangled the controllers. The conversation degraded into an argument partly because you were trying to get your son to admit his error when it really didn't matter.

Nobody likes being backed into a corner, or feeling like someone is forcing them to admit fault, or being one upped. Even if this isn't your intention (and I imagine that it's not!), I suspect your son is responding the way that he is because that's how he feels.

I think too, if you have sage advice or want to offer help, it may sometimes need to be more well timed. Sometimes, in the middle of a frustration, people just aren't prepared to talk about a situation rationally. If your son is frustrated that the gaming system just fell off the dresser he may be too agitated to have a sensible conversation about it.

Now, you shouldn't feel like you need to walk on eggshells and constantly bite your tongue around your son. My only point is that people get defensive when they feel attacked to some degree, and what you intend to say doesn't matter as much as what your son actually hears / feels. You need to think about what your son will hear.

I'll add too that kids don't learn to admit fault and own up to mistakes by having parents argue with them until they do. They learn to do it by being around people who model that behaviour, and by being in an environment where they don't feel like minor mistakes and indiscretions draw a lot of attention.

The larger issue that is probably at play here is that as kids turn into teenagers they start trying to establish independence from their parents. They want to feel competent and autonomous, and a line of questioning from your mom intended to lead to your admitting fault is going to undermine that.

You probably see your son as a kid who still has a lot to learn, and somebody who is going to have a hard life ahead of him if he continues to be argumentative and defensive. But your son doesn't likely see himself that way, and if you talk to him that way he's going to get defensive.

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