Let’s face it, there are always times when we will struggle with our relationship with our tweens and teens. Attitudes of defiance or simply overlooking our simple requests can drive us up a wall.
Add to that scenario two or more kids and as parents our world can feel overwhelming–especially when they hit puberty. Activities to get to, dinner to fix, housework, homework, hurt feelings, and the other stresses of life keep us on the move with little to no time to actually be able to take inventory or understand what our kids might be thinking or feeling.
Words are lashed out in frustration before we’ve had time to engage our brain.
That’s the real world of any parent with kids. We have it in our head how something should play out and we expect them to comply with what we think are obvious.
Now, add to that a kid who you think has ADHD or perhaps has been diagnosed. Not only are they distracted a great deal of the time having a difficult time focusing, but they tend to be more emotional pushing everyone’s hot buttons in the home.
Can you say mayhem?
Can you say constant conflict?
If you would, keep that scenario in the back of your mind as I share an a-ha! moment that seemed like a divine interaction. Whether you have an ADHD kid or just a normal typical teen who is frustrating you, know that what you most likely need in those moments of dissension are skills to calm yourself and your child so that once you are ready to resolve the conflict you can speak your teen’s coping language.
That coping language can either be logical or emotional.
As I was talking with two girlfriends this week, the a-ha! light bulb went on. We were actually talking about conflict with our spouses. One woman was sharing about how when she and her husband have conflict and then try to reconcile, he wants to tell her why he did what he did. (Think logical). This husband chooses to use his coping language. If he can explain it logically he thinks his wife should get it and forgive him.
As we talked further, she continued, “All I want him to do is acknowledge my hurt feelings. I want him to apologize for causing me emotional pain. I don’t need to know why he did what he did. I just want him to understand how he made me feel. If he gives me logic I can’t listen because I’m still emotional.”
Chances are that when this girlfriend tries to reconcile with her husband she is using emotional language assuming that is what he needs to hear. Most likely, he can’t hear her because he doesn’t understand her language of emotion.
Depending on where our kids are in the logic vs. emotional pendulum, we as parents need to be able to figure out after the heat of the moment has passed if we are speaking the child’s coping language as we try to resolve the conflict. This is especially true for those kids with ADHD who tend to operate in a world where they have difficulty focusing long enough to follow the logical progression and are typically the kids being blamed for the conflict in the first place.
This coping language is extremely important for kids who are angry or defiant. They feel unheard and misunderstood. Even though it may seem like the conflict is resolved, deep down they don’t feel connected because they haven’t heard the words they need.
Tammy (name has been changed) decided to run her own experiment after I shared this information with her. She had been struggling with a son for a couple of years and their relationship was rocky at best. She decided to write him a letter using emotional language. Her letter was graced with words that she thought might resonate with him. Here’s an excerpt of what she wrote with slight modifications.
Seth, I know that your dad and I have hurt you over the years and I’m so sorry. You’ve mentioned many times how you felt abandoned that week we sent you to summer camp and you didn’t want to go. Why we sent you doesn’t really matter. All that matters is how you felt. I’m guessing that in that moment you felt like we didn’t hear you. Am I right? It must have been miserable to be there when you didn’t want to be. I’m guessing you felt lonely since Ben had to cancel out at the last minute. I can imagine how sad you must have been when our car pulled out of the parking lot leaving you standing all alone. Neither Dad nor I came to get you even when you called begging us to come after only two days. If I had been in your shoes, I would have been angry and miserable. I probably would have felt unloved by the two people who were supposed to love me most. Is that how you felt?
The letter continued–but do you see the words of emotion? Do you see how Tammy tried to connect without explaining why she and her husband made the decision they did?
The best part was that Tammy got a phone call from her son. “Mom, this is the first time I’ve ever felt like maybe you do understand.”
Now that is a beautiful beginning for conflict resolution. I can’t wait to see how God weaves together the rest of the story.
Dare you to think about your coping language with your kids and your spouse. A switch to logic or emotion could make a difference.
More on this subject next week.
“Let go…and let God”,