Q: I went into my 17-year-old’s bedroom to wake him this morning. After some urging, he eventually got up and then told me he hated me. What is the appropriate consequence for this sort of disrespect?
Actually, I don’t consider that a form of disrespect. Strictly speaking, your son simply informed you of how he felt about you at that moment.
It would have been a different story had your son said, “You’re stupid” or “You’re ugly.” Statements of those sorts, because they’d have disparaged you, would be examples of disrespect.
Today’s teens tend, unfortunately, to be emotionally dramatic. Let’s face it, a person who expresses his or her feelings freely is obnoxious, tyrannical, even sociopathic. Since the 1960s, all too many American parents have been intimidated by their children’s emotions. Consequently, they have not disciplined them properly. Therefore, many teens feel they have license to express any emotion they choose, in whatever context. It’s a form of narcissism, and it’s truly unfortunate because in the final analysis, the person most harmed is the teen in question. This unattractive characteristic does not make for successful relationships. Nor does it make for a positive sense of one’s worth. As adults, these teens are likely to be unhappy individuals.
So, what should you have done when your son said he hated you? You should have ignored it or said nothing more than something along the lines of “that’s most unfortunate” and walked away. That sort of nonchalant parental response is an example of what was once called “letting a child stew in his own juices.”
But I have a question for you: Why on earth are you taking responsibility for getting a 17-year-old out of bed? So he won’t be late for school? Then the question becomes, “Why are you taking responsibility for seeing to it that he’s not late for school?” If that sort of enabling is characteristic of your parenting style, then it’s no wonder your son is emotionally immature. A child’s maturity depends to great degree on parents who force him to accept responsibility for his choices.
In this case, your son gets to school late, he misses a class or two, his grades suffer, he has to go to summer school, he can’t see his friends as often, and so on.
Start letting your son “own” his problems. It’s high time.
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