Q. I know that it’s normal for adolescents to reject their parents to some degree but my son (11) has been coming out with some very explicit insults about me. After school today, when I only said, “Hello”, he replied “You’re so annoying.” I said that I felt it was an unkind thing to say (he has said it a number of times lately) and he said, “Well it’s true, you do annoy me – a lot.” The previous time I said, “What is it about me that annoys you?” and prior to that had let it pass. I can brush it off and not take it personally a few times but when it’s repeated, it’s hard not to feel angry and hurt. Other times he wants to tell me things and is physically affectionate. I don’t expect a growing young person to hang out with Mum, but I give him the best of my care and kindness and all he feels is “annoyed”? It’s not that he says it that I have a problem with – it’s that he
All posts by Joshua Altman
This summer, especially following this Covid-fraught school year, I want to revisit my Be more, teach less philosophy. Kids love summer. It’s a time to be laid back and let go of all the tension around schoolwork and grades. And this year especially, after the stress of remote learning, very little socializing, everyone home on each other’s back, a good deal of simply being is called for.
Q. I am currently feeling like a failure as a parent. My 12 year old daughter is smart, well behaved, does well in school. However, she sneaks food. In this area, we fight and tempers flare creating a hostile environment at home. She loves junk food like cookies and chips. We have a policy at home where the kids get to choose 2 junk items from the pantry as snacks after school. It works in most part, but she ends up taking 1-2 extra things to her room. I am worried about the impact of constant junking on her teeth & overall health. She just cannot stop herself from eating. I cannot constantly monitor her and increasing the ‘allowed’ unhealthy stuff on a daily basis is not an option.
A. My advice is to focus most on the facts that your daughter is smart, well-behaved, and competent. It’s all-too natural for our fears to get in the way of trusting who our children are. She is not yet thinking about what is good for her health and well-being and what
We get freaked out about how our kids present themselves on social media and what and how they communicate. Much of that freak-out is justified. But remember, for centuries we have been altering our public self-image. Directing portrait artists and photographers to present the best you; attention on clothes and makeup to enhance appearance, wigs to cover unwashed hair. Letter writing has always allowed carefully thought-out words as opposed to spontaneous and possibly awkward conversation. We have always cared about our public image. Nothing new here—except social media presents a constant reminder that one’s “real” self is deficient.
Q. My son is 15 years old, so that means I shouldn’t tell him what to do, right? We have a pool, and I’d rather he swim than play video games. He prefers the latter. He seems to be all done with pool games as are his friends. When they come over, they sit with their feet in the pool and wait for their required outdoor time to end so they can go inside and play video games. Although I’ve adopted a pretty good ability to not be controlling, I’m finding it harder to apply this to my 15 year old than my older son. He wasn’t as much of a video game kid. Neither of them have been outdoor kids and I guess I have to finally get over it. Any thoughts or comments?
A. Letting go of control, what our children do and how they do it, is the greatest challenge for any parent. We have learned from lots of mistakes and want our children to benefit. But did we benefit from what our parents tried to tell
Our second Covid Mother’s Day is upon us. How will you spend it? Will your children bring you breakfast in bed and give you loving cards? Or will you be on duty once again, feeling resentful of the mothers who get breakfast in bed?
Q. I am at a loss for how to parent my 5 yo daughter. She does whatever she wants, including things that are dangerous or destructive, even when she knows and has agreed to the rules. This morning we were all in the living room and she left to go to the bathroom. After a little while I went to see what she was doing and smelled a very strong odor. I asked her what it was, and she said bug spray. She had found a can of bug spray and sprayed the entire thing over every surface of the bathroom. She has also taken pens, etc. and written on anything and everything including walls and furniture. She’s taken scissors and cut things. She’s dumped out entire packages of food to make her own creations. She’s squeezed out entire tubes of toothpaste. She says she knows she shouldn’t do these things but does them because she just wants to. Nothing has ended in a lasting solution. I’m not handling things well. I yelled a lot this morning. Right now she
This year has brought us all to our personal edges. I’m guessing you are exhausted and done with it. You want your kids back in school with a schedule you can count on, and you want your life back to normal. You’re also probably juggling guilt about not being a good enough parent during these times and fear that your children are glued to screens and falling behind in school.
Q. My son will make a negative statement about anything and then immediately follow it by a more extreme version, e.g. “I want to die…I have wanted to die since I was born!” OR “No, I don’t know that you love me…I have NEVER known that you love me.” I don’t know how to react to these statements – they take me by surprise. Is it just his way of expressing the magnitude of his feelings?
A. Yes—and his words are also telling you that you are not listening to him.
The words of a child tend to get louder and more dramatic when certain needs (they have no idea what) are not getting attended to. This is one reason parenting is the hardest job on the planet—we have to interpret words and behaviors of our kids; not take them at face value but dig into the emotional state that prompted them. Your son most likely does not mean he wants to die. But he could mean that he doesn’t feel acceptable or good enough or heard, and so life
Do you yell more often than you like?
Does yelling fall short of getting the result you want?
Do you find yourself yelling when you don’t realize you’re doing it?
Do your kids say you yell all the time?
Is yelling easier than stay calm?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may be addicted to yelling. We can get addicted to patterns of behavior, especially when we experienced those patterns growing up. And what’s scary is that, like addictions, we often don’t realize we’re yelling and will actually deny it when we are. But your kids hear it as yelling.