This week, I plan on taking my own advice. I recently had a fantastic argument with one of the men-children, which resulted in me making a serious threat if he went ahead with his plans. I was then left to find a way to resolve the “threat”, without losing all credibility and also “ruining my son’s life”!!!
The problems with arguing with a 17-year-old (or at least one of mine) are multiple:
- They argue back.
- They don’t let go (think pit-bull).
- If they don’t get the answer they want, they just keep on at you (AKA they don’t take “no” for an answer).
- You can’t physically remove them from the room/argument (which you could a toddler)
- You can’t send them to their room/the corner (it no longer works sadly)
And so we end with a Mexican stand-off of epic proportions. Who will win the battle of wits? Who gets the last word? Who is powerless and powerful?
On this particular occasion, the man-child in question decided he wanted to go out on a “school night” to a friend’s place (and not just go out, but have a sleepover – of course!!!). Regardless of the fact that he had the next day off, both Father of a Man-Child and I had both separately responded to the request with a consistent and definite “NO”! We just felt that it was completely unnecessary (what’s wrong with a night at home in front of the TV anyway?), and also being a school night not a practice we wanted to encourage every time a day off arrived.
But no, man-child didn’t like the answer, and so ensued a very painful couple of hours that unfolded like this:
- Constant questioning of Mother of a Man-Child during dinner prep about request to go out.
- Sit-in with Father of a Man-Child in the lounge after dinner, still bemoaning the decision to now allow him out.
- Appearance in front of Mother of a Man-Child wearing his back pack advising he is going anyway.
- Mother of a Man-Child arguing (very futile) and eventually threatening that if he sets foot out the door he will have his course cancelled (yes, as the legal guardian I have the right).
- Sister of a Man-Child looking for her brother and finding he is not in the house.
- Mother of a Man-Child realising he has snuck out of the house (yes, via the front door, but he avoided letting us see him leave).
- Furious exchange of text messages and calls throughout the night (gee he must have had a good time at his friend’s place!).
- Night spent at friends against parent wishes.
- Mother of a Man-Child now left to carry out the punishment the following day.
So here’s the thing – I don’t want to carry out the punishment, because I don’t want him to leave his course. Of course you are thinking “well how stupid can you be for even using that as a threat”! But what if I told you it worked once before, and he didn’t walk out the door on a school night because I made the same threat a few years ago. Would that mean that I had my own stupid behaviour reinforced once before and that it was obvious I would try it again? Or would it mean I was just a desperate mother trying to win the war with a 17-year-old, and using the only leverage I thought I had (and it STILL didn’t work)!
So where did that leave us? Well as I write this I have the Exit Course form sitting at home awaiting a discussion with our man-child tonight. The discussion is going to be about his choice to live at home (he is free to leave, really, although has no means to support himself as yet), and the impact of that decision – namely, that if he lives under our roof and we support him then he needs to abide by our rules and respect our decisions. Quite frankly, if he can’t do that, then he should go, and make his own way in the world (I am deadly serious).
This may seem unfair, but really what is unfair is the complete powerlessness of parents against these teenagers, and the lack of respect that sadly seems to afflict this generation (or is it really just mine?). So it’s decision time for my man-child. As he keeps telling me, he’s in an adult learning environment. Well then it’s time he behaved like one!
And as for me, next time perhaps I should just walk out the door myself, and drive to the nearest bar to count to ten and drown my frustration and anger, rather than making a stupid threat.
Any other suggestions welcome!!! 🙂
Naturally there are previous occasions like this: I wrote about RESPECT (or their early lack of it a few years ago). And a similar theme is also found here: The Parent-Child Power Struggle. It would be funny to read these again if it didn’t reveal that not much has changed. 😦
I can’t really comment as parent yet, mine are too young, but I do clearly recall being in the man childs shoes and thinking life was unfair and my parents unreasonable, only to now realize what a good gig I had. The benefit of age and hindsight I guess. Perhaps your answer lies in the name, Man Child. Perhaps rearranging things a little to acknowledge they are almost no longer Child’s?? Perhaps cutting them some slack in return for some other contributions might bring more peaceful moments. Perhaps cutting back on the financial support in terms access to facilities in the home. Do they pay for Internet? So perhaps no Internet until the make some contribution to the family (not necessarily financial). What I’m trying to say is try come up with ways of gently showing them what it means to do things their own way. That might show them just how good the home gig is, or at least sometimes see how good it is. I thought I knew it all at 17. I’m a bit older now and realize I still know jack:) Good luck. I’d be interested to know how the canceling of the course discussion goes…. Oh just to ramble again. Just remembered a story my dad told me. My dad had a similar fight with his dad and my grandad cancelled his course. My dad had to pay his own way and when he graduated my granddad gave him his course fees back … Just a thought.
Love it Fiona. Thanks so much for your thoughts. Especially the extra insight into your Dad’s experience. Agree, we walk a delicate line between adult and child. And yes you are probably right, I am defaulting to child mode more often than adult! Remarkably he has agreed to our “terms”. One small step forward. Let’s hope it pans out for all. Take care.