“Mom, why do you look like you are about to scream and lose your…?” my teen lovingly and genuinely asked.
“Do you really want to know?” I asked back.
“Not really, no, but…ok, fine. Go ahead. What’s up.”
“Well…I was just googling some stuff for The Orange Rhino. And stumbled upon an article from that person that copied a lot of what I did…and then publicly bashed me. And I am just fuming. Absolutely fuming. I am frustrated that I can’t let it go. It bothers me that all these years later and I still let this get to me. Harumph.”
He sighed with me. He’s a great kid – love him to pieces. Are you ready for this wisdom? This is my silver lining kiddo.
“Mom, the past is the past. She copied The Orange Rhino ideas because she liked them. Compliment to you. And besides the past doesn’t matter now because you are focusing on not yelling at teens and that’s new stuff!”
(Yes, yes it is my dear. A whole lot of new stuff and a whole new level of patience!)
“Okay, but I haven’t totally figured it out yet. The whole not yelling at you teens.” I stated.
“No, no you haven’t! But you are improving. You are way better than last year. Look, I am sitting in the front seat actually talking to you now. See, progress! AND I am not wearing my headphones, I actually listened to you when you said it was rude to do so during a conversation.” He shared proudly, loving having an “adult” like conversation with me.
“Okay then Mr. Teenager. What is the secret to not yelling at teens? What did I do right? Enlighten me so I can share?”
“Oh, it is simple. Really simple. Leave us alone. Give us more space. Let us try things. Don’t lecture so much. Don’t nag. It’s okay if we screw up. Only start lecturing and reeling us back in when we are doing really stupid things. Like really stupid.” He stated matter of factly. Like it was that simple.
“Okay, makes sense. Gotcha. But what happens when you are, I don’t know, doing a lot of really stupid things, a lot of the time? Then what? Then I will need to step in more and that is certain to piss you off. Which will probably make things tough between us and I will probably feel like yelling again out of frustration. So, how do I handle that situation?” I asked, kinda afraid (in a good way) of the answer because of his silver linings and insights.
“Well, yes, yep that will definitely annoy the heck out of me. I will probably be rude. Nope. Definitely will be rude. But that’s on me I guess. Just don’t yell. It won’t help. And I will just put my headphones on and not listen anyways. So I guess, the answer to all of this mom? The best way to not yell at teens? Just don’t do it. It’s useless.” Again, stated as if it is that simple.
But maybe it was that simple?
There is a whole lot of truth in his statements.
I trusted him more.
Gave him more space.
I removed some rules and put in some boundaries and said when the boundaries are broken, the rules and my being more present return.
Do we both still yell? Yes – we both still get moody and we are both still human!
But the interactions are way less intense, shorter and he genuinely apologizes after. It is progress as he says, and progress is the goal. I mean look where progress got us – to a conversation in the front seats of my uber cool minivan!
And, he is right. Yelling doesn’t work – kids literally don’t hear us when we yell.
It achieves nothing.
They tune us out and teens – they especially tune it out.
And not only do they tune us out, they then get more pissed at us and put up a wall to tune us out even more the next time we yell or even talk. There isn’t much upside to yelling. It kind of is that simple. That easy to just not yell? No. But remembering that it doesn’t work is a simple, helpful tool.
There are a few other things I did that he doesn’t see…
When he really gets going and rudely starts up, I walk away and dis-engage after I state calmly and without emotion, “I want to talk to you and hear what you have to say, but I will not be spoken to that way.” (His feelings do matter, I don’t want to shut them out. I am not walking away from him or his feelings, just the disrespectful behavior. Which we always address later when we are both calm.)
When he is frustrated with me for whatever I did, even if that is just breathing, I state, “I am here if you want” and again, walk away and don’t wait for a reaction.
I do random acts of kindness for him to remind him I love him and positively build our connection during good times (like make him hot chocolate for when he is studying.)
I joke around with him and get him to laugh with me and even at me. These moments are some of the best and have really strengthened our relationship. When he rolls his eyes at my intentionally bad jokes or bad dancing or bad singing, they are his silent way of admitting he loves me.Eye rolls aren’t always bad!
I stopped focusing on the bad behaviors he was demonstrating and focus more on the good kiddo I know he is.
And, I remind myself that this is a hard time for both of us and that in a couple of years he is off to college and I want these years to be more positive than negative – and that means (amongst a lot of things) working hard to not yell, even when frustrated.
(c) The Orange Rhino 2023
*Creator, The Orange Rhino Challenge® to Stop Yelling at My Kids