Recently, I received an email with the subject line, “I hate you”. Hmmm, I wonder who this could be from? Surprise! It was from my teenager.
Actually, I wasn’t surprised when I saw that email. Thirty minutes before, I told my son that we were considering getting him a tutor for his spelling. The tutoring was going to take place at school, meaning his friends would know he was getting help. He instantly freaked out already imagining all the harassment he was going to get from his buddies. I knew then it was time to stop talking since he was now operating from his reptilian brain and let him get out all that he wanted to say about how I was ruining his life. I listened for about 15 minutes, then I’d had enough. He had been heard. He was now on repeat. I let him know that I was going inside. He sat in the backyard with his computer and crafted the email I referenced above that I have since printed and will show him when he is a father so we can have a laugh.
When I told one of my closest friends that I received this email from him telling me how much he hated me, she was appalled. I could hear in her voice the disapproval that a child would talk to his mother that way. She asked how I felt about this and how I was going to handle it (said with an air that this kid needed to be put in his place). Well, I certainly don’t champion running around telling people that you hate them and don’t relish being told that from my kid. However, as I explained to my friend, if I looked past the words, I understood where he was coming from. He had anger toward me. I was putting him in a situation that could cause him great embarrassment, upset his reputation with his friends and stir up feelings of inadequacy. I understood his response and felt compassion for him. If I were in his shoes, I wouldn’t like it one bit either.
Here’s the thing…I know he doesn’t hate me. He loves me but he was super mad at me. And I am strong enough in who I am as a mother and a person to hold the space for his anger. He wasn’t hurling cuss words at me or throwing things. He was letting me know in his 13-year-old way that he was very upset and had big feelings. I can handle his anger because I know that anger is a human emotion and his anger didn’t have a lot to do with me or our relationship, so I didn’t need to take it personally.
I share this in the hopes that it will help you find your compassion for your girls when their upset and anger are launched at you. Remember, take big deep breaths (it works faster than Xanax!), remove yourself if you need to and remind her when you both are calm, "You can be angry at me. Show me your anger in a way that is respectful to both of us. I will hold the space for your feelings. I can handle it."
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