"F#*% YOU!" She bellowed from the other side of the rack in the Juniors section at Target. Brief pause before, "Goddamn it Mom, you ALWAYS ruin things for me, I can't stand you!"
I looked at Mia with wide eyes and mouthed, "Did we just hear what I think we just heard?!"
In my mind I was thinking, what in gods name could this kid be so angry about that she's compelled to drop the f-bomb and yell at her mom (loudly, in public, I might add) with such intensity?
Yet I know this kind conversation goes on between moms and their kids all the time. Many a mother has shared with me their experience of feeling angry, resentful, and sometimes overwhelmed by her child's disrespectful words and actions.
And I wonder...what allows kids today to go where we never would have dared? To actually say such horrible things to their mothers that likely only lived in our deepest, darkest thoughts.
We've obviously contributed to this in some way...
Much as we might like them to, our kids don't look at authority the same way we did. There is an increasing lack of respect for life in general due, in part, because kids have access to much more information than we did, which has had an influence on how they are responding to life.
Moms tend to experience disrespectful behavior more often from their kids than dads do because moms are [generally] the more nurturing parent, the softer place to fall. Moms usually forgive easier than dads do, they consistently share a wider range of emotions, their voices aren't as harsh nor their looks as menacing.
When I was growing up, my Mom would often have to ask me repeatedly (kindly at first, then with increasing volume and attitude) to do basic stuff like load the dishwasher or make my bed. On the other hand, if my Dad even looked at me the wrong way and I'd be in tears. My response was based on the fact that on some level I knew my Mom (exasperated or not) would love and accept me no matter what...my Dad, well, he had a more conditional vibe. I felt I had to perform to his satisfaction in order to gain his love and approval. My Dad was someone to be cautious around.
I think kids just "know" what they can get away with and what they can't with their parents.
Which begs the question: Why do moms allow themselves to be disrespected by their kids?
Parents who place an emphasis on getting specific behavior from their kids will be on the receiving end of their child's disrespect more often than those who emphasize connection in their relationship.
If you are driven by your child's behavior being the compass for your success as a parent your child will sense it and will push you away because what they really crave (yes, even during their teenage years) is a connection with you that doesn't rest completely on who you need them to be.
Ask yourself: What is more important to me...the way my child behaves, or the connection I have with my child?
If you cultivate a relationship where your child's behavior is the priority and is a direct reflection of your ability to parent, when your kid acts up or talks back to you in a way that hurts your feelings, then you will be fueling a connection that will incite arguments, power struggles, and confrontation. Especially during adolescence when our kids naturally begin to pull away from us.
What worked when your child was young no longer holds water during their emerging independence.
because the way our parents raised us isn't working with this generation.
Have you noticed?
Everything else in the world is changing and evolving, why should parenting be any different?
Mom, when your kid drops the f-bomb or slams the door, when she take three hours to do one simple household task you go crazy because you feel unheard and disrespected, right?
And kids aren't allowed to do that to their parents, right?
I promise you, when you shift from defining the relationship with your son or daughter from their behavior being acceptable to you to building a connection with them you will have less struggle.
Write out a to-do list, tell them they've got the weekend to get it done, if it's not done set the consequence ahead of time so they know what will come, then close your mouth.
You want your teenager to be invested in your relationship, so you can continue to impart some wisdom on them as they make bigger life decisions. If your child feels controlled by you, or that they have to perform to your expectation to receive your love and acceptance that's where the rebellion comes in.
All behavior (yours, mine, our kids) is an attempt to satisfy one of six basic human needs: acceptance, affection, appreciation, attention, autonomy, and connection. We are built and wired to connect with one another.
Every time you engage with your son/daughter from a place where their behavior is more important than the connection in your relationship, you create disconnection.
The next time you begin to feel the tension rise with your son or daughter take a moment to figure out what's going on below the surface for you. On the surface you may feel frustrated, angry, even disappointed...but there's always something else going on below the surface (often motivated by your fear or anxiety) that threatens the connection you have with your child.
The older your child gets the less control you have and the more you will be needed to support and encourage them in whatever decisions they are making for themselves. You shift from being their teacher into being their guide who will allow them to have as many choices as possible (even if they might fail) so they can learn what works for them and what doesn't.
You got this Mom!