Frankly, my kids are killing me. I don’t get it. Why do the stories from seasoned parents come with smiles, jokes, and rolled eyes? That’s dishonest. Kid stories should come with rants, cursing, shrieking, sobs, and tears. And what’s up with this?– “Oh, you’re so lucky you’re homeschooling. You’ll avoid so many issues.” Pft. We can compare spec sheets if you want. I think we’d find that despite different outward impressions, we’re working with the same vexatious operating system.
The Tricky Language
I have four daughters, two who are definitely “tweening” it. One darling, “betwixted” daughter declared two days ago that I just have to learn the love language of “I hate you”. (And quickly– before one of us ends up back at Granny’s house seventeen hours away.)
It’s quite a tricky language, fraught with peril. I responded, “Anything for you, girl.” And I got right on that. I typed out a little cheat sheet for myself of what I consider the most common phrases, showed it to my oldest daughter, and said, “Hey! What do you think?”
I earned an A+ in my new language! Now, I just have to practice, but with the ample opportunities, I’m sure I’ll be an expert before the day’s up.
They say that certain languages are better for communicating certain ideas. For example, medical science is usually communicated in English due to the specificity of the English language and its words. I don’t know, but all of my medical doctor friends from abroad tell me they studied medicine in English. Amazing feat, eh?
I propose that tweens are dealing with language confinement. Their language, which my daughter calls the hate language, just doesn’t have enough words and concepts to communicate effectively to us. I can’t tell you how many times my girls have said to me when I ask them to describe how they’re feeling in a tense moment, “But I don’t know what I’m feeling!”
My girls honestly can’t express what they’re feeling. Ugh. Trust me. I’ve tried the active listening technique, and I sat there for over 30 minutes in silence waiting for a response. (You have no idea how hard that was for me.) The girls just don’t know what it is they’re feeling. So what do they do? They resort to their simple language of hate. This hate language is clearly more limited in its abilities to express emotions.
Hate Language Phrases
I’ve translated some hate language phrases I hear in my house. Sometimes a phrase might mean something slightly different, depending on the situation and daughter (see–it’s an inexact language!), but you’ll get the idea. Stop! Don’t bristle! Interpret!
“I hate you.” (Because I love you so much I don’t know how to separate myself from you.)
“It’s your fault.” (I feel bad when I mess up but I’m so glad you try to protect me and help me and do something for me.)
“Katherine’s family is better. (Because I want a cell phone with Snapchat and a Facebook account and to keep my phone in my room at night.)
“I hate my sister.” (Am I okay? I don’t feel special. Does anyone love me for me? I am an individual, not just a piece of this family unit.)
“Why are we always the first ones to have to leave?” (I’m so glad you bring me to fun get-togethers.)
“You always take her side.” (I feel so insecure. Maybe I did pick this fight. But I did it because for some reason I feel yucky inside and I want everyone to feel yucky–yet I want to be loved like a baby. Why does my head feel so crazy inside, Mom? What’s happening to me? I can’t control how I feel anymore.)
“I need clothes. I need camp.” (I’m afraid I don’t fit in. I feel so awkward. I’m afraid I’m being left out.)
“I need you.” (See me as a person, mom. Make me feel special like you used to.)
Will We Laugh Too?
Ah. Sigh. (Big sigh.) From poop to vomit to picking noses to the language of hate. We parents are in it deep. Is it funny? I suppose looking back, when things turn out okay in the end, we’ll be able to laugh like those seasoned parents. But seriously, I’ve seen things not turn out okay before. So although I don’t plan to stew and think I’m the controller of my kids’ destiny—which I do not believe–I’m learning that there are things I can help with as a parent and things I cannot help with. I’m not a psychiatrist, and I’m not trained in psychology. So please don’t use anything I write as professional advice.
But if something I write or wrote helps you not bristle and to communicate better with your tween, I am happy. (It’s SO easy to retort to their hate language with our own hate language.) And if you know of something that helped YOU to not bristle and helped you communicate better with your tween, it’s NOT nice to NOT share. PLEASE! THROW ME THE ROPE! 🙂
The next post will be 12 tips on raising tweens.
You’re an awesome parent. Don’t bristle, and let it shine. Use your words.
We raised a boy (now 32). He was an “only.” It was hard to be the parent he needed sometimes. Sometimes we fought like brothers. Sometimes we acted like friends. I was “hated” on many times. We spanked very, very rarely if even at all. We probably did not discuss feelings as much as we should. We teased and laughed a lot.
Now he’s a grown man, never been in any legal trouble, has kept the same job, with nice promotions along the way since college. Mom still worries about him, me not so much. It all worked out.
Isn’t that fleek? (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/fleek)
Yes, that is definitely FLEEK! Thanks for coming back “from the other side” to tell your style and outcome. Like your wife, so many of us worry. So success stories are super fun to hear and keep us from taking ourselves too seriously. On the discussing feelings, I feel sorry for my whole family and this is probably a “button” that Christine describes in her comment, discussing feelings in our house is like drinking water. But if my hubby can handle it, then so can my girly-girls! Can’t stand talking about the weather.
Love the hate language phrases! Thing is, we didn’t grow up using them, you know? That’s why they’re so hard to decipher. Me – ah! Boys talk straight. So when they say “I hate you!” (which, I believe, I haven’t heard in years), I hide for awhile because “I hate you” is really “I hate you.”
Athena, I’m curious about when you said you didn’t grow up using them. So are you implying a shift in culture? That these words are starting to seep in now in your culture? In Midwestern farming-land Indiana (USA), as an adolescent in the 80s and early 90s, I remember telling my mom I hated her once. (I could see how sad she was and I knew I really didn’t hate her so I never said it again.)
I don’t have any boys. God knew I couldn’t handle them! LOL! My husband sounds like your straight-shooting sons, when he says it, he means it!!!!! In fact, when he met me, one of the first things he said was, “I don’t play games.” Ha! That took any cattiness and manipulative behavior out of me pretty fast. Teach your boys that line for your future daughters-in-law. So glad your boys have moved on from this stage! You navigated well!—Terri
Terri, I have not navigated well … it’s just that I have learned to be a kinder, gentler person so the next one gets the benefit of my wisdom (acquired from the child before). As to growing up without using such language, well – Asian societies are different from Western ones, there’s just so much emphasis on filial piety …. etc. I kind of identify with Tiger Mom, actually (and the only reason I’m brave enough to say that is because only a few people will read this). Anyway, I think I like your husband. My hubby’s that way, too … Thanks for the tip!
Good Morning, Athena. I had to look up what Tiger Mom was! I went to Amy Chua’s website and decided to cut and paste some of her words that resonated in my heart. (No need for you to comment back—I was just pasting it for me and anyone else who wondered about Tiger Mom’s deeper philosophy.)
“In fact, I believe that my parents having high expectations for me – coupled with love – is the greatest gift anyone has ever given me. That’s why I tried to raise my own two daughters the same way my parents raised me.
With my first daughter, Sophia, things went smoothly. But then my second daughter, Lulu, came along – she’s a real fireball; we have very similar personalities – and I got my come-uppance…
It’s about believing in your child more than anyone else – more than they believe in themselves – and helping them realize their potential, whatever it may be…
If I could push a magic button and choose either happiness or success for my children, I’d choose happiness in a second. But I don’t think it’s as simple as that; it can be a tough world out there, and true self-esteem has to be earned.
I genuinely believe that there are many ways of being a good parent. We all want our kids to grow up happy, strong, and self-reliant. But different cultures have very different ideas about the best way to do that. And we should all be able to learn from each other.”
Learning from each other is the best! 🙂 I hope May brings you soaring joy and free spirits!
Sometimes the way “in” to what is going on for a disgruntled “tween”…or a disgruntled teen..or a disgruntled a partner…or your own gruntley disgruntled self…is to do just that….go inward… into this wild and precious animal body that we all inhabit. This animal body of ours knows intimately what it is feeling and more importantly…where it is feeling it…and the beauty of it, is that this amazing body of ours communicates to us directly and instantaneously…without the need to pass it’s vital information through the conceptual miasma of words and language.
So I invite that perhaps we’ve all become somewhat lost, living our lives as though we exist… a short distance…just outside of ourselves. And in doing so, we so often find ourselves stumbling around in our lives…at a loss for how to describe what is “inwardly” going on for us. And here’s the paradox…here’s the rub. We have spent most of our lives “language-ing” our feelings, interpreting our inner impulses, inclinations and urges through the medium of words and mental concepts, and our attention has been shifted away…from the direct experience…in the body…of the moment we are actually in. And in shifting our attention instead, to what we “think” about the moment we are in, and then to “storying” to ourselves and others, through words and language, about what the details of the moment mean for us, right there…in that very moment of storytelling…thats where we get distracted and lose track of what we’re “feeling” about the moment we are in. And ultimately, that is where we lose contact with our precious animal body’s greatest gift…our ability to be both intimately in contact with the moment we are in…with all of the myriad of details shining brightly before us, as well as intuitively connected with those very details..through our inner resources…which through millions of years of evolution, have beautifully evolved to capacitate us in instantaneously and appropriately responding to this very moment we are in…as well as the next…and the next.
So, perhaps we need to turn to our bodies…return to the capacitation that is already built in to our systems…our nervous system…our respiratory system…our cardiovascular system…all of these systems are constantly in play as we go through our lives, as we live our moments. In those moments that are challenging…in those moments that are sublime… why don’t we just take a breath…take a moment…and ask ourselves…ask our precious animal body…where in my body am I “feeling” this very moment before me, and what is the quality of this feeling. Is it hot, is it cold, is it scary, does it tickle, is it painful??? What does it “feel” like. The body knows so very much more than the mind can ever conceive of, and it knows it instantaneously….wordlessly. So, next time you see your precious daughters stumbling over a moment in their lives, invite them in….in to their bodies. Ask them “where” they are “feeling” something…and where in their bodies are they feeling it. Invite them to bring their attention “there”…and encourage them to explore “there”. And together…see what discoveries you can make together…”there”….in the body…there in the precious moment that you are discovering together and most importantly…sharing together. Ah, those are the moments to savor.
I see what you’re saying. I’ve tried what you so eloquently explain for health–a “mind-body” approach–and have found it quite valuable personally for me and my health. Quite so! I’d like to try now to reflect back and try what you explain out on different times I get routinely frustrated in life. Interesting to “bodify” it again! I will keep reflecting and trying this. It is definitely a deviation from the way we “do things” now in our culture, I think. (Although if I read history correctly, quite a common deviation throughout humanity, so I won’t beat our culture up too much.) I’ve not put much mind into “I’m mad—where do I feel it?” But, yes, I do know that the neuropeptides of emotion are everywhere! It IS truly a BODY (not just mind) response!
I like the idea a lot of not asking them “what” they’re feeling and trying to help them “figure” it out–but asking them, “Okay, where do you feel it?” I still think I’ll get the answer, “I don’t know…” but I’m game to try!
Thanks, Sophia, that’s definitely a unique way of thinking about things!
Oh man this phase TERRIFIES me. You sound like you are doing a great job, mama!
Let’s just say I’m learning a lot! I’m glad the phase kind of comes in slowly, though. My daughters are grand, and I do so enjoy the relationship I have with them. (So it is hurtful when their language doesn’t match my love for them!) You’ll have lots of fun navigating this field! Yay for children! Yay for us!
Aw. I’m so glad I didn’t have girls.
BUT when my first born son turned 12, a friend of mine told me “You are no longer entitled to have any buttons. Remove them all from your psyche. If you have any buttons HE WILL FIND THEM. You are then to say “oh, why thank you, son, for pointing out that I have a button there, I will remove it forthwith!”
I’m sorry to say that I am one of those parents who laughs because it’s OVER and I CAN. And believe me, some of it was not funny at all. Like the time they sent my kid home from ‘away camp’ for .. wait, no, that one still isn’t funny. He didn’t do anything life threatening, but he had to go to Gramma’s for a while til I cooled down ..
I look forward to the tween tips, I have a grandgirl coming up on that.
My sympathies. It IS hard.
I knew there was a reason we connected! Love this! NO BUTTONS!!!! That is SPOT on! I wish I had heard that two or three years ago. Because it is true! I will remember this when I start to bristle–it’s my button, I will remove it forthwith! Wonderful thought!
I’m trying to imagine what your son did at camp. I know what my husband did at camp, and so my girls don’t get to go. LOL!
Love. Living it. Thank goodness for moms/ families who are going through it with us.
Amen. Their support is invaluable.
Oh my. I am dreading this stage. And that’s why all the cute and funny parenting stuff you see applies to children under the age of eight. I guess it stops being cute and funny after that. The idea of my kids saying these things breaks my heart. I’m going to have to find a stronger and calmer disposition before it all starts! I remember saying awful stuff to my Dad and it makes me feel dreadful to remember it. It sounds like you are doing a great job!
Ha! Right! Cute and funny under eight! Well, then I have that to be thankful for— that it didn’t start until age ten here…
And you’ll be great, I sure do bet! No fear. No fear. 🙂
My kids seem to have sweet inner cores, so when they do this, I just know I have to do some searching and stepping back to look in. I suppose I could just let it roll off of me, and it’d probably subside. I think that’s how my mom handled it. But I’m not good at that. I’m a conflict resolver, 110%! I guess I’ll know better what I think about how I handled it in about 16 years. Oh, my. That’s a long time.
Curious, did you get back on your Dad’s side eventually!?
It took a long time to repair but yes :-). We get along brilliantly now!
That is harsh; I’m glad you get along brilliantly now!!!! Hope my girls and I can navigate the stormy waters.
ha…I love this post! I have raised 12 tweens, and am in the middle of three more…yeah, crazy I know…but here is what I found worked SOMETIMES! never try to talk deeply unless it is late at night…you are exhausted…finally ready to call it a day…the PERFECT time to go find your tween,if they haven’t found you yet, and just talk about nothing til it turns into something! also, talking goes SO much better if you are working on something side-by-side…physical work like cleaning, or outdoors, whatever. then they open up,but only after the first stage of complaingin bitterely that they are worked too hard. lastly, talking in the car, while they ride shot-gun..never looking them in the
eye..it is surprising what comes out! and don’t forget to make them laugh at least once a day with some goofy thing you do, some silly joke or riddle you found, or get them to sing at the top of there lungs with you some great song…..it IS fun..it IS memorable….it is PAY-BACK from your own tween years!!!!!
Thank you for typing that comment. It pulled together some nebulous “somethings” that had been floating around in my head the last few weeks! The idea that they talk best when alone with you, but not for the sole purpose of being alone for you. And the idea that they love to see me laugh and how they roll their eyes when I’m silly but seem to like it?! Perfect advice tucked into my heart now. Thank you!
You are awesome and this post is awesome. I think your calm and loving attitude is going to really help you and your daughters get through adolescence well.
Fingers crossed! I hope so. As I explained to someone, this time has been harder for me than others because I am a natural “ombudsman” person–let’s hear all sides, talk it out, compromise, regroup, get along, and move forward. This works great for my husband, sisters, mom, dad, friends, group project work, homeschool group president—but NOT so well for a tweenage/teenage mom! It took me some time to figure out that this wasn’t personal! Isn’t Z so much fun! So many changes! Such unique people.
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