The other day when preparing to let a teen go someplace, I laughingly said, “You’ll behave, right?” totally expecting a quick reassurance.
“Nope!” was the quick reply. Laughing too, but the tone was sassy.
Since a friend was there, I let the kid save face and laughed along, thinking we’d talk later about that tone.
Later, thinking through my irritation, I realized that I really had wanted verbal confirmation. Instead, the snide sass triggered anxiety in me, more than I even knew I had over the outing.
OK, so that bit was my junk, but why had my kid responded that way? Just to irritate me? That has sometimes been my knee-jerk assumption.
But I realized after thinking, that wasn’t it at all. It was probably because my question had triggered frustration in my teen– the ‘why doesn’t she trust me?’ variety.
Thus, the sass.
So instead of a lecture, the way I decided to address the little snafu was with an apology. I told the kid I’d asked the question just wanting to hear a reassurance, but realized afterward that the question had felt insulting, and I was sorry.
If I’d gone into that talk, all guns firing, lecturing about rudeness, we’d have had WW3 in an instant. Instead at my apology, my teen’s face went completely contrite, and he/she instantly apologized as well. Just because I’d actually managed to ‘read’ the situation correctly, and then apologized for my part in it. The interaction ended with a warmth and connection and a lightness that was truly wonderful.
Sometimes I make such wrong assumptions in the midst of conflict. But, wow, it is worth it to puzzle through challenging moments and figure out what might be distressing both me AND the other person.
If you want to read more about triggers and how to recognize them in yourself and others, I highly recommend two very insightful books: How We Love by Milan & Kay Yerkovich, and Parenting From the Inside Out by Daniel Seigel. My daughter Erika has a great series of mothering posts going right now talking about some of her revelations from the Seigel book. And seriously, I’ve found both books incredibly helpful as I work hard to connect with loved ones, especially the ones who (like me) sometimes tend to bristle at small offenses.Pin It