Sunday, 7 March 2010

The Worst In Them Is Really The Worst In Us

Word To Mother
(Photo courtesy of Paola )

Teenagers, if we let ourselves see it, are the best mirrors into our own personalities. That is not a pleasant thought is it? Especially when your kids are acting like typical sometimes obnoxious teenagers.

Although I have been privy to this little tidbit for quite a while, yesterday it kind of struck me in the face at full force. My second child (out of 5) is 18. He is a great kid with a kind heart, a great work ethic and I love him dearly. His biggest problem, he has a temper. It is a problem that has been an issue for quite a few years. Too often when he is around there is a lot of yelling, ordering around of the younger kids and him just losing it.

It's even gotten to the point that his 11 and 12 year old siblings don't want to stay home alone with him because it is just unpleasant for them. He also sometimes (okay many times) has a less than pleasant manner of talking, asking and replying. The tone of his comments sometimes come out nasty even if they are not nasty comments.

I have been fighting a losing battle with him lately about the manner in which he talks to me. I refuse to be spoken to in a fresh tone of voice or with an attitude. I don't feel I should let him get away with it and I don't feel I deserve it. Again-we don't see eye to eye and not much progress has been made. Yesterday, we had a family day.

We went to visit friends and family. The biggest problem was during the drive. My son is impatient and he feels cramped. We all do, but sometimes you just have to suck it up. Not much you can do about it. By the time we got home things were just worse, and within 5 minutes of getting home he already had the 11 year old in tears. Just to qualify that, it is not really that hard of a thing to do because he does tend to cry quite a bit, but still it was not warranted.

My husband lost it. I don't think I have heard him yell at any of the kids like that in a very very long time. After having had numerous issues on the drive home, this incident was the straw that broke the camel's back. That ended up leading to a disagreement between my husband and myself. I get upset and a few minutes later I am over it. My husband on the other hand has the memory of an elephant and he doesn't let go easily. Even this morning he was still upset and it was clouding his mood.

Last night when I had sat down to talk about the issue with my husband, it just really hit me that the things we are having the most issues about with my son are the things we ourselves need to work on most. It was not a very flattering mirror to be looking into. Both my husband and I have been "blessed" with tempers, but I will make this more about myself than my husband. He will have to come to his own conclusions about himself, because from my experience trying to tell someone something is not as powerful as taking your own look at yourself.

dirty mirror, ceiling fan, driftwood glass wind chime, and me.

(Photo courtesy of Jillallyn)

So what did I see about myself yesterday? Well maybe I don't treat and talk to my kids with enough respect. Yes, that might sound odd, but I do believe in treating people, any person, the way you yourself want to be treated.

Easier said than done of course. I often fail at it. I am after all only human and unlearning a behavior and replacing it with a new one takes a long time. It may be weeks or months until the new behavior actually turns into habit. I also realized that I am impatient and many times I tend to answer my kids impatiently, abruptly or sarcastically. I don't always do that of course, but it tends to slip out of me in that manner more often when I am stressed or tired. So, it happens a lot I guess.

Sadly, I have also at times found myself yelling at my children to stop yelling at each other. Funny eh? Nope, quite pathetic really. That is really not being a good role model! The other thing I realized is that kids know when their parents disagree about something. It seems too often lately that after I say something to one of the kids, my husband will tell me (in a low voice), that I should let it go, or I shouldn't say that or my favorite comment these days (not), that I am piling on.

Our kids have very good hearing. Low voice or not, and even if they didn't hear the words, they know that their father thinks their mother is wrong. Somehow, we are going to have to find a way to stop that. I have no issue being told, not in the presence of the kids that he disagrees with me and to discuss it.

I do have an issue with anything contradictory being said in front of the kids, whether it is done discreetly or not. What is the hardest thing about dealing with your children and especially teenagers? I think that it is the fact that if you are honest with yourself, the behaviors you like the least in them, are really just a reflection of the mistakes you yourself are making in your life.

Not a very flattering mirror to be looking into is it?

by Susie.


  1. This is a very honest piece and I expect there is a lot of truth in it-but don't blame yourself totally. There are very many bad role models for children and they are not all parents. Peer pressure is one-being polite isn't cool I believe. TV has shows like Shameless,Skins, and no end of discontented kids acting up and being 'understood and excused' by libereral do gooders. My generation had a lot to 'suck up' and I'm convinced that we learned the hard way to respect our elders and to be polite. Tempers, when they are a sudden rush to the head when things are not going your way-are scary but can be doused quickly with humour usually...but never tolerated. Sounds to me as if your son is worried-bored-or stressed. Do you have time alone with him? Does he feel 'put upon'? I used to yell a lot when my kids were younger, then I met an American woman who NEVER yelled. She said that the louder the kids got the quieter she spoke, and it worked.

    What do I know. My kids are in their forties and fifties. It was a different world.

  2. A beautifully written post. Very insightful - and very true.

  3. like fhina l am from a family of shouters....but l do feel softly softly approach does get the job done often our kids are only part of the shouters and part of the shut up and suck it up brigade...

    l just wanted to say WELCOME and this is such a powerful and provoking post...

  4. I can completely relate to this post! My 12 yo sometimes replies to people in the family with a very disrespectful, sharp tone and the other day the way she said it, the situation and everything suddenly felt like I was looking in a mirror. I was appalled. I realised that even though in my head I am not meaning to be disrespectful, the way the words come out it completely feels disrespectful to the listener. She is mirroring me of course. So I need to change while guiding her to change.

    And the point you made about how people need to make these realisations on their own (in reference to your husband) is also accurate. I might not have made this observation if I hadn't been told six months ago how she dresses just like me )of her own choice and habit not because I try to influence her). This has made me watch her on several levels to see what else she has picked up from me.

  5. It's very scary...they do pick up a lot from us don't they. You are brave to admit it but he has choices too.....I tell my daughter it's much more pleasant to be nice to someone than not. You get a lot more out of the conversation. She still is very short with people. I expect she will learn when she ends up without friends ( hope it doesn't get that far) I hope you manage to sort it all out.

  6. I admit shamefacedly that the kids have been known to slam their doors almost off the hinges. Wonder where they got that delightful trait from - ('What cha looking at willis?')Nice to have you join us Susie. We're all mad here, all in it together! x

  7. Moannie-I don't really do the blaming, beating myself up thing. I just try to learn, internalize the lesson and move on. And you are right-he like the rest of my kids could probably use more attention. Thanks.


    Fhina-Thanks for the welcome and definitely still have loads to learn.

    Fab, Feisty and Fifty-Thanks for the welcome. I find that what it comes down to is that when I am rested and not stressed I can control myself better and be a lot calmer. So maybe I need to get off the computer now and get into bed-lol!

    Michelloui-That first moment when you realize that OMG you are seeing yourself is quite a shock.

    Chic Mama-Of course they pick up stuff all over the place. For me the point is that he is able to control himself most of the time when he is not home. So on one hand that is good because he does have control and he knows home is "safe". ON the other hand if he can control himself, why does the family have to be the punching bag so to say.

    vegemitevix-Thanks for pointing me in this direction. Hope your doors stay on-lol!

  8. I live in a family of shouters, so I feel very akin to this post, I hate to admit...

    Thank you for joining us Anon - We can all learn from, and support, one another here - No harsh judgements, but nods and advice! xo