How I Used Compassion to Turn My Teen Son’s Mood Around and Strengthen Our Relationship

Two of my sons were mad at me.

“Why did you do it for him? That’s so not fair!” One of my sons said for me.

Another son chimed right on in, clearly thrilled that his brother paved the way.
“Seriously mom. You don’t do that for us! We have to do it? This is ridiculous!”

The Orange Rhino Overflowing Laundry Basket

My sons laundry basket is overflowing…my heart overflowed with compassion and understanding of his struggle and saw an opportunity to help.

The charge against me? I washed and put away one of their brother’s clothes while he as out at practice. Yep. Guilty as charged. On all accounts.

Do I normally have each child wash and put away their own laundry? Yep. They are capable of it and I believe if they can, they should.

But there is something else I also normally do that these two very upset brothers were missing. I help when needed. And that day, this one son needed my help.

“Guys. I actually would do the same for you, and I have. If you see someone struggling…maybe they fell off a bike, or are in the deep end of a pool and are showing distress, what do you do? What do I do? I jump in the pool and or I run over to the kid and I help. I get that kid to safety.

Your brother is overwhelmed and struggling.

When we are in that place, a messy room with overflowing laundry, it just adds to the struggle and makes it harder to get out of the bad mood. I know. I’ve been there. Some day your brother will realize that on his own, same with you. Until then, one way to learn, is for me to show him how much better it feels to have a clean room and clean clothes.

So yes, I did his laundry and picked up his room. I’d do it for you too. And notice, I didn’t do it right away. I gave a him a chance for a while. I waited. But there comes a point, when people need a little help and in this family, we help.

Okay so obviously I didn’t say those exact words because if I remembered all of that, that would be impressive. But it was close. But these, I did say for verbatim,

“And again, I would do the same for you. K? And please, please be kind to him. Someday when you are struggling, he will be kind to you. We all struggle. We will all need help someday. Remember that.”

A couple of years ago, this would not have been how the story went. Why not?

Because I would have been too stuck on the “principle” of teaching my son the importance of doing his chores and learning the hard way about how dirty laundry stinks, no pun intended.

Because I would have been too stuck on parenting the “right way” instead of being a loving human person “the right way.”

Because I would have been too stuck on listening to all the voices of society and social media telling me how to raise a good kid and likewise how to screw up. I would have been too stuck to listen to the most important voice, the voice inside of me, yelling loudly, begging to be heard, that screamed:

LEAD BY EXAMPLE that is how you truly teach and what you believe!

Show him love. Show him grace. Show him support. This is what you believe!

Show your son how to take care of mental health because that – that is the base for getting all chores done, for getting life done for that matter.

Show him how laundry isn’t just a chore, but how good clean clothes and a clean room feels. How good not having chores hanging over our heads feel.

Show him how loving acts of kindness help others and ourselves.

Now, I know some people say, “but wait a second, can’t he learn how good all of the above things are by doing it himself?” YES, yes he can. But again, sometimes, sometimes we all get stuck and need help. Sometimes, we can’t see for ourselves what we need.
I know that is true for me. Our teens, our kids are humans too. I treat them as I would want to be treated. If I was overwhelmed (oh…wait lol) I would want help to help get me through the rough patch.

* * * *

The morning after my infamous cleaning job…my son came downstairs in a PLEASANT mood for the first time in weeks. Oh my gosh, I just got all choked up.

“Mom, did you do that?”

“Yes, sweetie, I did.”

He walked over and gave me a hug.

“Thank you. It was really nice to come home to last night.”

Doing the laundry for him on occasion isn’t the end of the world…it was showing him a world of kindness. Parenting and Life aren’t always easy, but with love and support, we get through the rough patches.

Sending warmth and strength as always,
The Orange Rhino

Another popular Teen Post? 
How to Not Yell at Teenagers, According to My Teen!

Get *almost* daily stories at The Orange Rhino Facebook page about my life with my four teenagers and my journey to discover what keeps me in a goodish place, even when life is challenging and charging at me, so that I can love my life and time with my kids as much as possible.

Letting Go as Teenagers Become Independent is Hard

I told myself I wouldn’t cry.

My worried mama heart had other plans. I quickly looked away so my son wouldn’t see me as I wiped away my tears. He needed to feel my confidence, not my concerns. He needed to feel that I believed in him, that I believed that everything was going to work out okay.”

Don’t let him see your tears this time. You’re gonna be okay. He’s gonna be okay. It’s gonna be okay. Think of a happy thought.” Okay. Back to slightly more grounded. Moving forward.

I told myself I wouldn’t cry again…
but my now weary, tired mama heart had other plans. We had worked through as many scenarios as possible, but no one thought of this one.

Panic started to come in and pushed the tears out. I stayed calm. I turned my back to my son once more and called to him to keep walking with me, forward, together, as I discreetly wiped away my tears.

“He needs your strength and problem solving.” I said to myself.

“He needs your determination and calm. You got this. You’re going to be okay. He is going to be okay. It will be okay.”

“Mom, it’s okay. I’ll be okay” He said to me in a shaky, nervous voice as he walked next to me. I am sure he was also saying to himself, “You got this. You will be okay. It will be okay. Be strong. Be calm. Keep it together.” Maybe he wasn’t. But I bet he was.

“We will find a way, I promise. Not giving up yet, k? And we aren’t going to worry until we need to and I know you’ll be fine if we don’t get the answer we want.” I said to him.

I scanned the area for a loving, helpful, friendly face. Spotted! She had the coolest glasses. The warmest smile. And a mom vibe. “Come on,” I said to my son. “I see someone who looks like a loving mom who will understand. Let’s see if she’ll help.”

“Hi…” I started to talk, my voice trembling, tears forming. I explained the situation and somehow through my mumbling she understood. She didn’t hesitate. She reached out her hand, and gestured,

“Don’t worry, I got you. Come on.” And she did. She had us both.

I told myself I wouldn’t cry but here I am in Newark Airport crying again…this time not out of worry but joy and pure gratitude. I would have hugged this TSA agent if I could have.

You see this was the first time any of my kids is flying solo to visit go somewhere. I’ve been a mess. It’s a milestone. An important one on so many levels. One of growth, one of letting go literally and figuratively…for me and for my son.

We both have anxiety (I share that with permission.) He was totally ready to do this but he still wanted me to go to the gate with him. I was obviously happy to oblige He had TSA pre-check and I didn’t. He doesn’t like crowded lines (me neither buddy, me neither) or running late and the regular line was loooong. Standing in that line was just gonna add to the unspoken building anxiety that morning. This was the third unexpected mishap in fifteen minutes. Thank goodness for this wonderful TSA agent that took care of us. And here I am crying again as I sit here, on the other side of security, waiting for him to board.

I’ve been holding in my emotions for weeks and still haven’t fully exhaled. Waiting to. I’ll exhale a little at 11:00 when he lands and fully when he lands back in Newark.

Until then, I sit here with my son answering his questions and what if’s, that are helping to soothe his anxiety (and consequently, mine.) In between the questions I remind myself how proud I am of him, how far he has come and how he WILL be okay. How, lol, I can finally relax a bit after he lands successfully later today!

* * * * *

He has boarded the plane. I knew I wouldn’t get a hug goodbye – that would be too hard. He was focused on staying calm and not showing his nerves. I get it. Been there done that couple hours earlier. He walked on the jetway and the tears started. Didn’t want to be a bawling mess so I quickly turned to find a place to be in private while I waited for his flight to take off.

The Orange Rhino SunriseAs I turned I noticed the most beautiful, perfectly timed sight. The sunrise. How appropriate.

A NEW DAY, a new phase of my son’s life has begun. It too is beautiful.

I walked over to the other side of the terminal and watched the sun slowly rise. Hesitant, but strong. Like my son. I soaked in the beauty, the glow, the energy, the peace. The promise of a new day and good things to come.

* * * * *

I wrote this yesterday. He has landed. And today is another new day with good things to come.

Sending warmth and strength to you all today and always,

The Orange Rhino®


Another popular Teen Post? 
How to Not Yell at Teenagers, According to My Teen!

Get *almost* daily stories at The Orange Rhino Facebook page about my life with my four teenagers and my journey to discover what keeps me in a goodish place, even when life is challenging and charging at me, so that I can love my life and time with my kids as much as possible.


How to Not Yell At Teenagers – According to My Teen

“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.
More responsibility.

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