It never fails. Every time the elder boy comes to visit for the Summer, we get into at least one huge blow-out argument. It always starts out as something relatively small, but the boy is always trying to test me and see how far I’ll let him push. That is, after all, part of being an adolescent.
We were doing so well this year. I had been cross with him a few times, but he seemed to mature and understand that I wasn’t tolerating any BS. That and my younger brother has been here to help keep the boy in check.
One thing that I’ve been being very patient about was the teasing. It seems like that’s what kids do; they tease each other. I suppose us grown-ups do it too, but at least among my friends, the ribbing never seemed so harsh. I mean…I can’t remember every being called ugly by anyone I considered a friend, let along a sibling or family member. And after I had a conversation with the boys about it, they seemed to tone it down.
Then the younger and elder boy were playing a game on the Wii and the younger boy did something good and decided to do a victory dance.
“You can’t dance,” elder boy snapped.
“Don’t say mean things for the sake of being mean,” I interjected. I mean, the younger boy stood there looking hurt and I simply don’t like the idea of them tearing each other down.
“Whatever mom. It was just a joke.”
“Don’t joke like that. I told you before that those kinds of jokes aren’t funny. There’s no reason to say something like that.”
“Why are you yelling?” A common question he asks when I get on his case about something. I might have taken a harsh tone, but I certainly wasn’t yelling.
We went back and forth a few times before he snapped at me not to yell at him at which point I explained that I wasn’t and demonstrated what yelling sounded like by telling him to turn off the video game.
And he went OFF. Shut the game down and started snatching the cords from here and there. Gathering his things and stomping around. He was in full-on brat mode and I was in full-on ready to kill his ass mode.
I stopped him at the door. “Put that suitcase down.”
I also went on yelling at him about why he can’t just be mean for the sake of being mean and I was tired of him saying mean things to his brother and…he yelled back and I grabbed him by the collar and told him he’d better get it together. I sent him to the bedroom with instructions to calm himself down.
When he continued to stomp around making loud closed mouth screaming sounds, I went into the bedroom and yelled at him to stop. He ignored me. He said he just wanted to put his stuff away. I yelled that he needed to calm down first.
Of course, all of my yelling and being out of control did nothing to help him calm down. Sure, he as being bratty, but it was my job as the adult to maintain control of situation because as a 12-year-old, he was just going to respond to me with the same energy I was giving him.
It was when I realized this that I stopped yelling and arguing. He had to sit in the room for 10 minutes and calm down. We didn’t need to talk about it, I had already said my piece. I’d be back to check on him and once his 10 minutes was up, we’d be done with the whole thing.
When I returned in 10 minutes, he was calm. I briefly explained why he had been placed on time out (yes, time out for a 12-year-old, and it worked) and told him I was sorry for yelling. He apologized and told me what he had learned. We hugged and kissed and let it all go. Five minutes later we were laughing together and the previous drama was nearly forgotten.
What did I learn? I’m the grown-up, he’s the child. There’s no need to argue and yell. No need to be mean and aggressive. When I calmed down, so did he. We didn’t have to argue and keep going over and over why what he did was wrong. When I stopped yelling and instead controlled myself and the situation, the resolution became much easier.
And in the end, it was my responsibility to be the adult in the room.