Just trying to have a conversation

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by flutterbee, Aug 12, 2008.

  1. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    I was straightening Wynter's hair with a flat iron today. Something I haven't been able to do lately because I haven't had the strength.

    We were quiet and I was thinking about how when I was her age I wanted to be a paralegal (always liked research, I guess) and my then-aunt convinced me to not do that...to become a lawyer instead because a paralegal does all the leg work without the pay. So, when I was 13, I was on this kick that I wanted to be a lawyer. (I'd rather be a paralegal.) So, I asked Wynter if she had any thoughts on what she wanted to do when she grew up.

    And she responds with that, you know, TONE, "Why does everyone keep asking me that?" :surprise: I responded that I didn't know that anyone else was asking her that and that I was just making conversation. She then goes on about how she doesn't see what the big deal is. I just told her that I was thinking about what I wanted to do when I was her age and I was just interested in what her interests are.

    We get quiet again. But, dummie me doesn't know when to stop. So, I ask her since she's learning a new song on the guitar if she was not going to continue to learn "Psycho" (which they were working on last week or the week before) or if she had already learned it. Here came that TONE again. "Why doesn't anyone listen to me??? I've explained it a dozen times. We have the song written down (meaning the music), but that doesn't mean I know it yet." I just calmly responded that the rest of us haven't taken guitar lessons and we don't know how it works and that I was just interested in what was going on with her. She continues to be snarky, "I've told everyone a dozen times, blah, blah, blah." I said that I was just trying to make conversation, but you know what? I just wasn't going to talk anymore. :whiteflag:

    But, of course, you know, it's not her reaction that causes people to become upset with her. It's just that everyone is MEAN to her. :faint:

  2. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggh! I have SO been there done that!!! I feel for you.

    Now when my son does that, I just tell him he is hurting my feelings and I walk away.

    I'm so sorry she's like that but you did a great job of staying calms.
  3. That age is so difficult! It's hard when you are trying to make conversation like that when everything you say is taken the wrong way!
  4. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    Keep that white flag ready. She is so good at this teenager attitude isn't she?

    Someday she will appreciate what a great mom she has.
  5. mrscatinthehat

    mrscatinthehat Seussical

    So sorry. Gotta love the teenage mind. Oh wait no you don't. Hugs

  6. DazedandConfused

    DazedandConfused Active Member

    Well, she certainly has the teenager attitude down pat.

    Man, oh man, been there done that.

    Just want have a nice give and take conversation, and BAM, they smack back with a

    "Why does everyone ask, tell, or do that to, me?"

    Bah! :faint:
  7. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    Yep. been there done that. Still hearing it. I just remind her, yet again, that "psychic ability is NOT in the job description," and I don't know what others are saying to her unless she tells me.
  8. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Oh my-yuck! I have am so right there with you. Both easy child and difficult child are like this! I think we need to escape!
  9. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    She's a gutsy girl to talk to you like that when you've got a hot straightening iron in your hand...
  10. totoro

    totoro Mom? What's a GFG?

    Witz is so right. "Oops sorry Wynter" as her hair melts off!
    both of the girls have started doing this when we pick them up from school. Hate it! Even N said today, "Can you just be quiet, I can't answer all of these questions! Your making my head hurt"
    Yeah, I'll make something hurt. She is lucky we are not into spankings!
  11. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I had to chuckle about her saying this to you, while YOU are the one holding a hot iron... but seriously, she is like this for a number of reasons. A BIG reason - she has been doing this for some time, it is a habit she has gotten into, to speak to people this way. And it is something she learned, because the adults (? or maybe older kids - role models, anyway) have been responding to HER this way. Think about it - how many times do we either tel our kids this, or hear other adults in our kids lives, tell our kids, "I don't know why I bother to tell you things, I've already answered that so many times, you clearly didn't pay attention, I don't know why I bother."

    I'm not saying she learned this from you. It could be her teachers. It could be anybody. I've done this myself because I learned this from MY mother and from other adults who were my role models.

    easy child 2/difficult child 2 does this to me. So does difficult child 3 although since reading "The Explosive Child" i now feel I have the tools to change this bad pattern. I've been working on it but it takes time. There is a lag between the change in my behaviour, and in when she begins to get the message that communication doesn't have to be like this.

    You are not only helping yourself by trying to change this, you are helping her learn better communication habits for when she has her own kids.

    What you did was good. Don't be critical of your efforts because she got that 'tone'. You did good. It was worth a try.

    here are some things I've tried as well, to begin to change the direction.

    When she says, "I've already told everyone hundreds of times..." you step in and say gently, "I'm sorry, maybe you've told others. I don't remember you telling me. Could you tell me again, as if I didn't get told?"

    If you continue meeting her rudeness with politeness and she continues to be rude, then stop what you're doing. Make eye contact and say (gently), "I'm not sure what is happening here. I'd really like to just chat. Nothing heavy, just small talk. No hidden agenda, just idle chat. You tell me about your world so I can feel a connection because over the years I've told you a lot about mine and will always tell you more. Can we start this over please?"

    Or sometimes you just stop and say, "Hang on. I'm not after anything compromising. I just want the sort of chat people have with their hairdressers. So can we start over? Now, how have you been since you last popped in for your hair straightening? Read any good books lately?"

    Make light of it, make a joke of it. She's reacting also because she thinks you're using the opportunity to pry and investigate, that you will put all sorts of deep meaning into the slightest innocent remark. As a result, she's over-sensitive, over-critical and very defensive.

    Light conversation is actually the best way to give her the chance to talk if she needs to. But it is also an art in itself, one you both need to practice with each other.

    I remember my mother & I used to sing rounds when she did my hair. We were a family that sang a lot, especially while washing up in the kitchen.

    What is an important facet to polite, casual conversation is being non-judgemental. She needs to be able to talk to you about the various spats and tiffs in her circle of friends so if she tells you and also mentions something she may have said or done that was unsavoury, try to not respond with a judgement. Instead, you could quietly ask, "So how did that work?" or "What happened next?" You could even tell her a similar story from your past and mention something which you now realise you got wrong. You finish with some resolution along the lines of, "these things happen, none of us are perfect."

    Sometimes our kids see us as too perfect, too hard to live up to. While we try to set standards they need to also see our humanity. A tightrope.

    Heather, you are right in that she needs to lose this attitude if she is to not antagonise people all her life. But you can begin to teach her the art of light banter, it could be a start. If a more conventional topic is too likely to produce the reaction you got, then plan a question she won't expect, something light but original. Try to remember the sort of questions you dreaded when you were her age - and avoid them. How often did we get fed up with being asked what we wanted to do wen we grew up? I got fed up with answering, and then being challenged to justify my answer (which is how it seemed to me). Or after husband & I married, I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, "So how is married life treating you?" I very quickly began to answer, "It's fine, except for the many times people keep asking me exactly that question." Then people got snippy with me. But if only they had known how fed up I was, always being asked the same question! And often by the same people, every time I saw them! They didn't really want to know, the question was simply an open admission that they felt awkward and didn't know how to begin a conversation.

    Heather, if you had begun your conversation with your daughter by reminiscing out loud just as you did with us, it might have gone better. I could be wrong - she might have been suspicious of your motives even so.

    She needs to learn that not all communication has strings attached, not all answers need to be weighed carefully and not all questions need to be carefully analysed for hidden traps.

    I still get this with easy child 2/difficult child 2 (or did before she moved out a few weeks ago). She would come home from her college class in a temper, I would say, "Want to talk about it?"
    She would flounce over to me. "I can't STAND my lecturer! She just doesn't understand - I get told one thing by one teacher then another thing by another teacher until I don't know what is the right thing to do. Then I ask for clarification, and all I get is, 'work it out for yourself.' Honestly, I get so cranky! It's just no good! NOBODY understands, not even you, so stop pretending you care because I know you don't, all you ever do is pick on me, it's not fair, I can't believe you asked me that!" and she flounces out of the room, when I've said nothing more than my initial question, "Want to talk about it?"

    I had to recognise that this was NOT the time to call her on her unreasonableness or to make her come back and apologise. She needed to calm down. When she HAD calmed down enough(I hoped) I would usually begin with, "I gather you're stressed because of college. I'm here to help, but you need to keep in touch with who you're angry with, and why. If I ask you to talk about it, please don't attack me as if I'm the problem. You can always choose to not talk if it's upsetting you. However, if you CAN talk to me, then I'm better equipped to help you."

    If I can, I take it further and remind her that she did include me in her general fury, but generally she either won't remember or refuses to remember. I've had to learn to just leave it, and try to prevent in future and I will walk out of the room if she starts to get too upset towards me, instead of the real cause.

    I've also had to remember that she gets angry with me because she can; she has to hold that anger in rather than attack the people she is really angry with.

    The ultimate aim is to get her to manage her own emotions without taking them out on anybody; to resolve the anger and frustration more appropriately. But that's a really long-term goal, we're not there yet.

  12. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    Well, my girl IS gutsy. Makes a mother's heart just sing. Uh-huh. While wanting to bop her over the head with the hot iron. Actually, it would have been worse if I had just stopped straightening her hair....half straight, other half curly. :devil:

    But, when I said that I just wouldn't talk anymore I swear I became my mother. :surprise: So, does that mean Wynter is just like I was? :916blusher: I had to take a nap after that little revelation...walking back to my room repeating in my head, I sounded just like Mom. :rofl: All those things we tell our parents about how we'll NEVER treat our kids like that. Anyone have any crow?

    Marg, she has done this for a long time. What has changed (most of the time - I'm not perfect, either) is my reaction to it. I may be annoyed, but I stay calm and don't let it rile me outwardly. I talk to her the way I expect her to talk to me.
  13. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    There was one rule that was pretty sacrosanct in my home -- if you are asked something civilly, a civil response is expected. (Anything said while upset didn't count.) You can't be polite, I have no reason to do somethng for you. Sorry, but I would have put the flat iron down and walked off.

    It took mine a little while and few times of me quitting whatever I was doing but she did learn that a simple, "I'm sorry but I'm not much in a mood to talk right now. Can we discuss this later?" worked wonders. She could get snarky with her friends and teachers, but I could think of no reason why she needed to be rude to maintain her privacy.

    You're much too kind to your princess. Hope she learns to truly appreciate you.
  14. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Your post reminded me of the wonders of pre-adolescent and my own daughter. I don't know how we got on the subject, but I also asked her what she'd like to be when she grew up. She is twelve years old.

    N: A WNBA player

    Me: That's great, but just in case you need a back up plan have you thought of anything else?

    N: What? You don't think I"m good enough to make it?

    Me: Well, no, it's not THAT, it's just that it's just very hard to do it, even if you are VERY good, like you are.

    N: Then I'll be a Professional Soccer Player.

    I think I'll wait for a more realistic answer from her in a few years :)
  15. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member

    You did nothing wrong, but maybe try to talk to a teenager with an attitude (is that an oxymoron?).

    I will tell you this. It DOES get better. My difficult child is 17 now and after about 7 years of telling her I was just 'trying to have a conversation' she is JUST NOW starting to calm down when I say this. She views all of my tones as offensive. So, basically every time I open my mouth it is to do some motherly picking on difficult child. In her opinion, of course.

    So, keep up with the 'I was just trying to have a conversation' theme. It eventually will sink in. Every now and then I would point out others having a conversation - even if their voices were up and down in volume. It was a conversation, not a confrontation.

    You did good!!
  16. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    "teenager with an attitude (is that an oxymoron?)" - no, it's tortology. That's when you say the same thing over and over repeatedly. If you get my point.

    An oxymoron is a contradiction in terms. Like "army intelligence". Or the best one of all - "Microsoft Works".

    I always used to say that a person who deliberately put leaded fuel in his unleaded-only engine, purely to permanently damage the catalytic converter - was a carboxymoron.

    Heather, if your reaction to your daughter has changed then maybe with time (after all, it HAS been years, you said) she might begin to treat you with some civility. But it's not easy, walking on eggshells. easy child 2/difficult child 2 can really drive me crazy in similar ways sometimes, because sometimes I just can't do or say anything right, including if I say nothing.

  17. So Tired

    So Tired Member

    I can't tell you how many times my difficult child has hurt my feelings in this way. I'd think I'm just making conversation but he saw it as an invasion of privacy. I found two things that helped.

    #1 Non-verbal communication. When he was in high school I would write messages on the steamed up bathroom mirror. Just simple things like "I love you" or "Good luck today". Then when he took his shower the messages would come out like magic as the mirror steamed up and he would write a reply. It provided us with a safe way to keep some communication open and gave me the "connection" with him that I so missed as he became a distant typical teen. Now-a-days we text each other. He will text me all sorts of things that he would never talk to me about. Problems with his girlfriend, little things that happened in his day, etc. When we text each other, it's like we are not in this big advisarial tug of war -- just chatting like we actually like each other. It is actually when I feel closest to him.

    #2 Backing off and giving him space. Even though I really, really want to ask "What happened with girlfriend? Did you get to work on time? Have you registered for school?" I have found that if I back off and difficult child comes to me with what's going on he is much more open to conversation. Part of it is wariness on my part. So many times I have been hurt by difficult child that I am sort of cautious now. Like on a high school trip to Disneyworld. Everytime I tried to talk to difficult child he was obnoxious and downright rude. Really humiliated me in front of the other partents and his friends. So I just stopped trying to talk to him. I wasn't mean to him, or angry, just didn't seek to make conversation with him. I might even walk right by him when I saw him in the park with a group of his friends. I would nod and say "hi" but nothing further. After a few days of this, he started coming up to me. "Hey, want to see the cool pin I bought at Epcot?" and such. I think that as typical teen they just have a hard time -- they want the safety of their parents love and support but at the same time they resent it.

    People tell me all the time "oh, you'll get through this and everything will work out" but sometimes it's hard for me to believe that we will ever be able to have a "normal" conversation, let alone any kind of relationship. The little text relationship we have is what keeps my hope alive....
  18. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    I have found that the more I react to it, the more things escalate so I just don't react other than to say what I did. This is one of those things that I think maturity will take care of most of.

    It doesn't hurt my feelings. It's just exasperating. And it sets things off between her and my mom when she does it with my mom because my mom takes it personally. I don't. I used to try to play mediator, but I've been telling Wynter lately that her relationship with Nana is just that: her relationship. And that both she and Nana are old enough to work it out on their own. :D

    When she wants to talk, she comes to me. I'll just have to settle for that for now.

    easy child didn't do this. Wonder if it's more of a girl thing....