3 Most Important Steps To Communicate With Your Teen
I almost decided not to post this. I thought to myself, after it was resolved…phew. That’s over with. Now, it’s history. No sense dredging up bad memories. No sense reliving it. Just move on.
But, if I do that, you won’t learn from it. All of you, my Freaky Mom friends, will have to go it alone, and that’s against my mission.
I want you to know you’re not alone.
So, although, now that it’s resolved and it seems rather insignificant, it will only seem like that until the next incident, and that’s exactly when I’ll wish I would have written it down so I could look back and learn from it and so that you could look back and learn from it, too.
This is what happened.
My heart broke. Into a hundred mashed up pieces.
Because of my 14 year old.
He went on the band trip. You read about that already. Remember, I was SOOOOOOOO proud of him for earning $300 of the $400 to pay for the trip?
Well, on the day he left, we also gave him $100 food money, Herbert gave him $40 extra spending money, Gramp and Grammy gave him $100 birthday money.
And he went on the 5 day trip…
1. Without hugging me goodbye.
2. Without responding to my texts quickly like he usually does.
Then he got home and…
3. Didn’t thank me for supporting him to go on the trip or for financing the trip (yes…he earned $300…but it was our $300 he earned from jobs we created for him and we paid him for).
4. Didn’t thank his grandparents for their generous birthday spending money gift.
5. Told me that his 15th birthday, which was the day after he returned home from his 5 day band trip, after I took him at 8 am to take his driver’s permit test, then to his grandparent’s mountain townhouse for a 4 day family ski trip…where he had been begging to go for the past 2 months…and finally to a birthday dinner, was the most boring birthday he had ever had.
Yes. I have high expectations.
I expect my sons to thank people for giving them gifts. For making them dinner. For taking them skiing. For coaching them on their teams. For holding the door for them. For handing them a glass of water.
I expect them to follow the rules.
I expect them to love their mother.
So, for the five days he was gone and I went through my semi-empty nest syndrome…and survived…I was mostly mad at him.
And when he got home, I was still mad at him. And he was mad at me. He literally acted like a different kid than I had sent on the band trip.
5 days was:
The longest I have ever been away from either of my boys and they from me.
A taste of freedom he had never had.
A taste of freedom I began debating if I would ever give him again (I may have just decided that I would not let him go to college).
OK. That’s not a healthy approach. Part of the problem was definitely me.
“Mom keeps her son from going to college because she can’t stand to part with him.”
I know…Not healthy.
But, part of the problem was him. He came home acting entitled. Acting like the Big Man On Campus. He was acting ungrateful and I was mad at him.
Here’s How I Handled It
At my wit’s end, on day 3 of the ski trip, I read a blog post by a Mom who described her daughter’s entitlement and the drastic steps she took to stop it…was this where we were headed??
I nearly bit my tongue in half to keep from crying on the way to the ski mountain.
Andre: “Mom, why are you crying?”
Me: “I’m not, my eyes are watering.”
Both boys: “Ya, right.”
Although different from my son’s situation (he doesn’t get everything he wants), her daughter had everything she could ever want and acted…entitled. I always related entitlement to that. To kids who expect to and who get everything they want.
Herbert and I purposely have our kids work for what they want. We purposely don’t spoil them. So, how could my son be acting this way? Acting entitled? Acting spoiled? Acting resentful? Acting unappreciative?
And my burning question…How could I get him back?
That ski day that started with broken hearted Mom tears ended up filled with answers.
On a ride up the ski lift, my Mom, in her wisdom, counseled me to talk to him use “I” messages.
(I temporarily thought she meant iMessages and couldn’t figure out why a 72 year old would be coaching me to text my son to resolve the problem, but then realized she meant messages starting with “I”.)
“I need you to know that I didn’t feel appreciated that I supported you and paid for your band trip.”
“I need you to know that I need a hug before you leave.” (P.S. anywhere you go. ever.)
“I want to move forward from this and in order to do that, I need you to know how I’ve been feeling.”
And, that’s how it went down.
I rode the next 5 lifts with Diego and attacked him with iMessages.
I mean “I” messages.
And then, per Mom’s advice, I ended with a question… “What do you think about all of this?”
And I listened until he was finished.
And then I used more “I” messages.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
And, it worked.
I started out the conversation on the “T” bar at Copper Mountain saying….”I need to spill some things….”
Me: “I need you to know that I love you and I know that we love each other.”
Him: “Ugh. Come on Mom.”
Me: “No, just listen. I know we love each other, but right now, we don’t like each other. I don’t like you and you don’t like me. And I want to start liking each other again and for me to forgive myself and for me to forgive you (Mom told me to say that), I need to get some things off my chest.”
I told him about my hurt feelings that he didn’t hug me goodbye and that in the future, I need a hug and an “I love you Mom” before he goes….anywhere.
I told him that we need a plan for texting or calling…because if he doesn’t respond, I’ll keep texting (“I didn’t text back because you were getting annoying, Mom”…and I kept texting because he wasn’t responding…vicious cycle).
I suggested…for example…“we’ll agree that you’ll send me at least 6 pictures a day (because I want to be a fly on the wall and see the fun he’s having!) and we’ll agree that you’ll text me with a little info about your trip and how you’re doing once a day….or call me once a day. But, for both of our sanity (so he doesn’t feel like I’m “annoying” him and I don’t feel like he’s ignoring me), we’ll have a communication plan.”
I told him that people went out of their way to make amazing things happen for him…the band trip, the driver’s permit, the ski trip, the birthday dinner…and that he needs to appreciate everyone that does things for him….ever.
I told him he is plowing the way as my first born. I have never done this before (being a Mom) and I am having to let go and I will get better at it with time. And his brother is sure lucky, because he’ll have it pretty easy.
I gave him time to talk.
Here’s what I learned:
The 3 Most Important Steps to
Talking With Your Teen Using “I” Messages:
1. Talk to him in sentences that start with “I”. “I need you to know,” “I need to tell you”, “I want to get past this…”.
2. Ask him, “What do you think about all of this?”
3. Let him talk.
4. Repeat steps 1-3.
You, my Freaky Mom friend, know that being a Mom is heartbreaking sometimes.
We put so much love, energy, planning, attention, affection into our kids.
I am really good at toddlers, elementary school kids and middle schoolers. High schoolers are a new subject for me. There are the possibilities of serious girlfriends. There is independence. Driving. Leaving home.
There are new behaviors.
There is also the fact that I’m thankful I wrote a free worksheet called “How To Plan Ahead For The Next Time Your Child Drives You Up The Wall”, because I need it.
I need to download my own worksheet and fill it out.
I need to plan ahead for the next time (because it will happen again) my child feels and acts entitled and unappreciative.
How this babe, born 15 years ago, so sweet and innocent and peeing on Grammy in her rhinestone studded blouse when he was 3 days old…became ungrateful, entitled and unresponsive? Only behaving well and seeking my attention when he needs something?
It’s nature. It’s hormones. It’s growing up. It sucks.
And, we don’t have to accept it. We don’t have to sweep the disrespect, ungratefulness and entitled behavior under the rug.
Now…we can’t stop it all. You and I have no power against raging teenage hormones.
But we do have power.
I do have power.
Because I’m the Mom.
I’m the one who birthed this child. I’m the one he relies on to model good communication. I’m still in charge…despite the fact he thinks he is.
So, I’m going to fill out my worksheet and let you know my plan because my son will most definitely drive me up the wall again.
And, I’m going to be ready. With a consequence that works to support him (despite all of his raging testosterone) to be the person he is capable of becoming. To be the young man I adore. (here it is if you want to fill it out too.)
To my Mom…thank you for your sage advice.
To my Sister…thank you for listening.
To my Brother-In-Law…son of a Mom who raised two boys…thank you for telling me it was just his hormones.
To my Dad…thank you for being his grandfather, for teaching him to respect his mother.
To my Husband…thank you for telling me this will pass.
To my Older Son…thank you for giving me material to write about so that I can help other Moms know they aren’t alone.
To my Younger Son…thank you for telling me you love me.
To YOU…Freaky Mom friend who just read this whole thing in tears or in understanding or in apprehension or with gratefulness...you are not alone.
Submit a comment below and let me know what you’re going through because by doing that, you’ll let other Moms know they’re not alone either.
Thanks and Good Job Mom.