- Family and Parenting»
- Advice & Tips for Parents of Teens
Teenage Girls - Miss Comunication?
Teen Talk - Live
Chris is taking “Teen Talk” on the road. If you are a member of a parent group or responsible for finding engaging speakers for student or youth groups, please contact Chris at www.chrislincoln-speaker.com
There is another lesson to be gleaned from my early days in kindergarten. I was walking home, and found myself a few steps behind one of my students. She was holding her mother’s hand, and animatedly chatting away about her day. I was intrigued and listened in. It was amazing. The little girl was telling her Mom about her day in extraordinary detail, the only problem was, everything she was saying was made up. Her day bore no relation to the one I had shared with her. It was a fantasy, beautifully told, with only the location and characters bearing any semblance to the real world. The lesson is clear; the student’s perspective can be very different from the adult.
Please remember that when your little darling shares their day with you, especially if your initial reaction is to go in and “sort something out”.
There are several phrases that, at some time or another, you will hear.
“The teacher yelled at me.”
Translation: “The teacher told me to do something that I did not particularly want to do.” (Like; sit down, stop talking, or do my work.)
“I hate you!”
Translation: “I hate you right now, but I won’t in a little while and you had still better love me.”
“Leave me alone!”
Translation: “Give me my space, but don’t go too far ‘cause I might need something.”
“Everyone else‘s mother lets them.”
Translation: “Some kid somewhere has probably been allowed to.”
“My teacher hates me.”
Translation: “My teacher said my name, and asked me to do something.”
Or “My teacher never calls on me,”
Or “My teacher might have said something that I missed, because I was talking to Jessica, and then she said I should listen to her.”
Or “I had to turn something in that I forgot and the teacher reminded me.”
Or “My teacher yelled at me.” (See above…)
The art of interpreting the above phrases comes with experience. On the page they look fairly bland, but accompanied by eye rolls, pouts, door slams, foot stomps or damning glares, they become a potent weapon in the teens’ armory. In addition, silence can be deployed as a weapon, sometimes left to stand alone, or combined with a withering comment that cuts to the quick. This is the age where they discover “scarcasm,” sarcastic remarks that leave a mark on your soul, and when they use it well, it can have you doubting everything you thought you knew.
When this happens to you, the old adage “sticks and stones” goes completely out of the window. Words really can wound, leaving scars that never quite heal. But while you shout back, or walk away shaking, the teen has already pressed the reset button and has moved on. I have spoken to many teens about the impact of their words, and it would be fair to say that, in many cases, if not most, they have no idea how hurt we adults can be. In their egocentric world, we have no issues, no history, no past, and no feelings that matter, certainly none as important as their own feelings.
You cannot assume that your shocked response, or tears, or even your angry words, will bridge that particular gap. You will need, at a later time, to patiently express how that made you feel. If you can, slip it in when your child has one of their swings into one of those rare, I-do-love-you-really, moments. Think of it as emotional coaching, rather than anything with a disciplinary component. This is the perfect time to begin with a genuine apology if you responded, shall we say, negatively.
“I wish you had never been born,” is a hard statement to apologize for, but as an example of things that are said, without thought, and in the heat of the moment, it is a good example. You meant to say, “The way you are hurting me, makes me wish…” The emphasis is on the momentary feeling, rather than an expression of negating their very existence.
The teen’s reaction is the epitome of “in the moment”, in exactly the same way. “I hate you,” really means “right now” because of what you are saying or doing. It is important to distinguish between long held feelings and emotional outbursts, because the confusion is fed by the quasi-logic of, “You wouldn’t say it if, deep down, you didn’t really mean it.”
The fact that there could be a kernel of truth, a nagging component that begrudges, is not the most important thing here. It is about finding a level of honesty you can both live with, i.e. adult communication, based on nuances rather than absolutes.
And good luck with that. This is not a science, but resides in the primordial soup of emotional development. We have a tendency in our relationships to talk about honesty, but mask many feelings. Done for the right reasons, it can actually be a key to success in interpersonal relationships. But, it is important to recognize that this is a skill, a determinant of maturity, so to expect the changelings to learn it without some road-bumps on the way is unrealistic.