Q: I am totally struggling with my oldest… One thing that I’m having trouble with is knowing how to discuss things with him. He still struggles with basic obedience, so that is an issue. Also, he tends to argue with me while we are talking.
For example, this morning I told him that something he said to his brother was rude, and he argued that it wasn’t rude and made a lot of excuses about how his brother “always” and “never” does such-and-such. Trying to deflect his own guilt to someone else.
Any thoughts for how to communicate better? It was easier at earlier stages – you touched this and I said not to touch it, etc. I know that it’s not my job to convict him of sin or even convince him that I am right. But he does need to be respectful. It’s hard to know where to draw the line of what’s respectful. If I’m saying “this was rude” and he’s saying “that’s not what I did” or “no it’s not” should I shut that down? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated…
A: With the oldest.
What I’m learning about the older kids is this:
- show them respect as a person, which means, I need to work not to talk over them, dismiss their ideas, belittle (even when what they are saying is clearly irrational/emotionally-driven/illogical), or assume I understand their motives.
- Shut down disrespect the minute it happens… but NOT in the same way I do with a preschooler/elementary age. In younger years, it’s immediate. Pointed out, corrected, disciplined, rephrased. But with older kids, I pose it like a question, “can you see how the way you just said that sounds like you think my idea is dumb?” “did you hear the way your tone went up at the end? That makes it sound like you ‘already know’ this stuff and think me telling you to do it is stupid and unnecessary. If that were true, you would have already done XYZ.” Etc.
LOTS more questions, rather than corrections/instructions.
- Also… a lot more coming-back-to-talk-it-through AFTER the fact. Talking things through in the heat of the moment is almost pointless, most of the time. It just gets more heated, more misunderstood, more spun out of control. But when we sit down together a few minutes, or an hour or two, after the fact, it’s better.
OK, those are some overarching principles I’m currently finding helpful. Now, as to the specific you shared, this is roughly how that might sound here:
Mom: “Saying X was rude to your brother”
Teen/Preteen: “No it wasn’t… bc of blah blah blah”
Mom: “You don’t argue with your mama. It WAS rude. Anyone sitting here looking at this would think it was rude. You have a perspective problem and you are only seeing things your way. God has put you in our home so that you can learn from us, and right now, your pride is getting in the way.
Proverbs 18:2 says “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Anyone is a fool when we think that our opinion is the only right one, but it is especially foolish to think that you know better than your mama.
Look in my eyes. You are 12. (or whatever age he is) One of the reasons God has let you be in our family is so that you can learn from your daddy & me. We have lived 3x as long as you. It was 25 (or however many) years ago that I was your age. There is so much you could learn during this time in your life, but if you keep having this attitude — the attitude that says “my way of seeing things is the only way of seeing things,” what does Proverbs say you will be?”
(hopefully, he’ll say “a fool”… if not, ask him to read the verse, etc., until he gets it.)
AFTER this first time of a lengthier instruction, you just need to refer back to it in far less words.
The next time it would be, “SonName, don’t argue with me. It WAS rude.”
- One other thought: sometimes it helps to put it in the context of friendships… I’ll say the name of a buddy, “if Ben was here, you wouldn’t treat him that way, would you?” — which of course they’ll often reply by saying, “but BEN wouldn’t do DUMB stuff with my Legos either…” You can stay on track by saying, “but if you’re around him long enough, Ben WILL do things you don’t like… things that annoy you or hurt your feelings. Things you would think ARE dumb. Even then, you would control yourself and wouldn’t be rude to him. You would find a kinder, straightforward way to say what you want/need. THAT’S how you should be treating YoungerBrother.”
And then give some POSITIVE examples of how he could still express the same feeling/desire WITHOUT being rude.
- “Please don’t toss my Lego set like that ever again.”
- “I don’t like it when you move my books and I can’t find them.”
- “It’s frustrating when you don’t rinse out your bowl cause then the oatmeal gets hard and it takes longer for me to wash.”
- “Please don’t kick me as you walk past.” Etc.
It’s funny because, when they are young, we can think, “We’ve been at this for FOUR DAYS, when is he gonna get it?”
And by the time you get to the teen years, it’s, “I’ve been at this for ten YEARS…” and there’s still more to go.
This season of parenting is a LOT LOT LOT of patient, gentle, repetitious teaching… a lot of questions to draw out the heart and really understand/expose his thinking patterns (to him and to you)… a lot of TIME… a lot of examples… and a lot of PRAYER on my side of things.
My prayers have sounded more desperate in this last year… and I think that’s a good thing. God is spurring me on to a deeper awareness of our need for HIM to do the saving, HIM to do the changing, HIM to expose the sin in our hearts… for all of us.
It is a much deeper, more dependent season of parenting… for me, at least. NOT so easy to discern on the surface… much more a watching of and discerning of heart things.
IN THE COMMENTS, SHARE: Any tips you have to share this with mom? What have YOU learned about the season of parenting preteens & teens?