“F-You,” came the shocking words flung in anger from her 12 year old son. It was the first time his mom had heard words like that come out of his mouth.
“I was dumbfounded. He knows we don’t talk like that in our house,” his Mom uttered as we sat enjoying our bagels.
The longer we continued the conversation I was in awe of this mom’s resilience and quick-on-her-feet response.
“Wow, I hope that made you feel better,” she had responded to him with a slight grin. “Where did that come from? (She had then paused for an exceptionally long silence). You know you can’t talk to me that way don’t you?”
Her response wasn’t angry. Her response wasn’t condemning. Her response was even-toned, with a hint of sadness, especially the–‘you know you can’t talk to me that way don’t you’.
Seth’s response was priceless. “I’m not in trouble?” He almost seemed shocked that he got away with something.
If your tween or teen came into your home and hurled those words, how would you have responded?
If you are like most of us, you would have come unglued. I know that some of you are already in shock that I would even mention this in a post.
But the truth of the matter is that words like this do come out of our kids’ mouths–at least once that is. Even in Christian families.
Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa A. Rice give us a clue in how to respond based on research as to what is going on with our kids as they step over the threshold into the tween and teen years in their book For Parents Only. This is the time kids are searching for their identity. They are trying on new behaviors and trying to decide which ones to keep and which ones to reject. But here is the clincher: (page 49 of Shaunti’s book)
“Kids decide which identity points to keep based on their RESPECT for primary influencers.”
I want to shout and applaud this mom for how she responded to her son.
She garnered lots of respect in her son’s life that day.
And as parents, don’t we want to be a primary influencer?
Think through what would have happened if she had responded out of fear or anger. Her voice would have gone up a notch or two. Her face would have shown an angry scowl. Words from her lips might have been something like, “You don’t talk to me that way young man.” He would have been sent to his room or punishment might have been dished out. His door would have possibly slammed as mom chased him up the stairs upset.
He launched the grenade and she would have retaliated with an intent of WAR.
Instead, Mom spoke truth into her son without uttering the words, “I understand that sometimes you will get upset. I understand you are trying new behaviors. I love you anyway and here’s who we are as a family.”
Think about that. Rather than the bomb exploding — igniting destruction to the relationship — this mom accepted his behavior as a blip on the radar that her son was growing up, and offered acceptance and validations of his feelings with a boundary of future expectations.
Luke 10:30, 33-34