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Teen says I'm twisting his words--I don't think I am. How to have a conversation?


38carrots
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Lately even if I think a discussion is going well (like no one is upset, just he doesn't agree with what I have to say) he claims that I'm twisting his words and listening "to reply, not to understand." I don't think this is true. I actually make an effort to understand. And I've repeated quite a number of times that understanding only means empathy, not agreement! I do have empahty, have empathized and validated, and yet I don't agree with his stance on the issues we are discussing. When I step back and ask him to repeat himself and explain one more time, in case I truly missed something, he refuses.

 

I'm at a loss, though. How do you have a productive conversation?

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Well...both parties have to truly want to converse and understand. If his purpose is to pursuade, he's not ready to engage in real two-way dialog.

 

You can't do it alone. It sounds like you are making a sincere effort so I don't know what else you can do.

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 Oh sister, :grouphug:  to you. I don't know as I am going through this with my almost 18 yo. It makes me afraid to say anything to him about anything. I hope it is just a phase for both of them.

Edited by saraha
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This could go in so many ways.

 

1: A person I know has a style of speaking where they contradict most of what I say. From yesterday:

 

Me: I wish I could eat anything I wanted to all the time. (Referring to eating lots of greasy, sugary food.)

Person: Well, you could.

Me: No...not really. I would get really fat and have heart disease.

Person: But you *could* eat anything you wanted.

Me: You know what? This conversation is over. I didn't want to debate with you.

 

I find that style of conversation really annoying. It's not a conversation. It's someone being contrary just to do so and it squelches any chance of connection and understanding between people.

 

If you are doing that, then stop it. In improv, when one person starts a skit the other people are not to have the mindset of "Yes, but what about X?" They're to have the mindset of, "Yes, AND ...." You build on what the other person is saying, instead of steering the conversation in a new direction.

 

The person I know who has "conversations" is constantly steering them in another direction than what their conversation partner intended and it clearly is like what your ds said: they're so busy thinking of how clever they will be and what they will say that they are ignoring what their conversation partner is saying.

 

2. You are not like the above. You are not arguing just to argue like the person I know. But you are doing the thing that almost everyone does where you *are* thinking of what point you want to make instead of doing active listening. Most of us talk that way. It's a hard habit to break. Next time, do the same as above. Instead of "Yes, but..." think, "Yes, and..." Let your responses help your son flush out his ideas even further.

 

3. You are being entirely reasonable and your son is at a sensitive age where any opinion not entirely his own threatens him and he shuts down. He gets embarrassed that he didn't think of all the scenarios and when you bring them up, he closes you off.

 

This is tricky.

 

Since he's feeling that way, I would take a long-term approach to this one. I would start with a couple of weeks of "yes, and..." Whatever he says, I'd let him go on and on about it, even if it's outlandish. Let him spout off if he wants to.

 

Then, after a couple of weeks when he knows you hear him and listen, then very, very, very mildly bring up another point of view. He has to feel safe with you for this to work. And you need to be mild.

 

He can't go through his entire life thinking everyone will agree with him. But while he's trying out new ideas and forming opinions he needs a place to go to sound off on them. That's you for now. So, do some active listening without comment, and then after a bit, start giving him some mild feedback.

 

 

 

Without knowing him or you, and looking at this through my own filters, that's what I've got right now. That's how I'd handle something like this. :)

 

My oldest is only 14 and I haven't run into this, so take it with a grain of salt. I would most likely just nod and smile and let him spout. That's what my mom did when I was an opinionated teenager and I loved her for it.

Edited by Garga
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Maybe I should have a habit of literally rephrasing everything and asking for confirmation? But honestly, some things that he says are pretty clear and I'm 100% sure I'm not twisting his words, just putting them in perspective / bigger picture.

 

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You say that you've told him that understanding does not mean agreement. Do you feel the need to express that disagreement every time? If so, I'd suggest stopping for awhile, for everything except immediate danger situations. (If he tells you he's going binge drinking followed by cliff-diving, that would be a time to offer an alternate perspective.)

 

Try for "I understand" rather than "I understand and this is why I disagree." You'll have other chances to offer your opinion. A "productive conversation" doesn't have to mean a debate where each side gets equal time. Learning about your son and how he thinks is productive.

Yup. This is what I would do. I 100% agree with the way you worded this. A productive conversation does not mean a debate and does not mean each side gets equal time. I think the person in my life honestly believes that if a bunch of different sides aren't presented, then it's not a conversation. But a conversation can be about one side only and exploring that side. Two people can converse about one point of view and flush it out. Just because other sides exist doesn't mean they have to be brought up each time.

 

The only time I would worry about this--letting your son have his say and no one else gets to have an opinion--is if you think he will become abusive about it. Without knowing everyone it's hard to say. I have a different friend who says, "Everyone is entitled to MY opinion," and she's very obnoxious about it and will not stand for anyone else to have an opinion that differs from her.

 

You'll have to judge. If you are being reasonable and gentle and listening well, then he'll have to get to the point where he can accept that there are different opinions out there so he doesn't turn into my obnoxious opinionated friend.

 

But if you are coming at it where you expect a rousing debate and want to teach him all the other opinions out there and share them with him, then you might want to back off for a bit. You may be coming on too strong for him and need to give him space.

Edited by Garga
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I have four teenagers living at home right now (13, 15, 16, 17) . I've found two things to be helpful. When in an active discussion , it can be useful to smile and gently say "Thank you for telling me." ALSO....I've found that communicating via writing notes or email is highly effective. When emotions are omitted and tone of voice...it seems to leave more way for reason. Also, it allows both parties to seriously consider AND reconsider their response. Furthermore, I've found it highly effective to be able to point to what I ACTUALLY SAID and avoid the "He said, she said" kind of thing (well..in my house it's "She said, she said"). My oldest daughter has graduated college and preparing for graduate school. Time goes by so quickly. It's just not worth spending those last few years engrossed in tension and debate if you can avoid it. Hugs...It's not always easy when young adults are trying to find their voice. 

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I have four teenagers living at home right now (13, 15, 16, 17) . I've found two things to be helpful. When in an active discussion , it can be useful to smile and gently say "Thank you for telling me." ALSO....I've found that communicating via writing notes or email is highly effective. When emotions are omitted and tone of voice...it seems to leave more way for reason. Also, it allows both parties to seriously consider AND reconsider their response. Furthermore, I've found it highly effective to be able to point to what I ACTUALLY SAID and avoid the "He said, she said" kind of thing (well..in my house it's "She said, she said"). My oldest daughter has graduated college and preparing for graduate school. Time goes by so quickly. It's just not worth spending those last few years engrossed in tension and debate if you can avoid it. Hugs...It's not always easy when young adults are trying to find their voice. 

 

Yes, DS and I do sometimes discuss things via e-mail.  We are both major introverts so that is a particularly good format for us.

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My teenager firmly believes that understanding = agreeing with him. After being "enlightened" by him multiple times on the same point in a conversation (because he believes that I need to hear it again since I clearly don't get it), I finally have to tell him flat out that while I understand his point perfectly--and can reiterate his line of thinking--I simply disagree with his conclusion and that we will need to agree to disagree. Honestly, I find the less said in general these days is best as even the most uncontroversial question or comment gets a borderline rude response. It's the age, I'm convinced.

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This could go in so many ways.

 

1: A person I know has a style of speaking where they contradict most of what I say. From yesterday:

 

Me: I wish I could eat anything I wanted to all the time. (Referring to eating lots of greasy, sugary food.)

Person: Well, you could.

Me: No...not really. I would get really fat and have heart disease.

Person: But you *could* eat anything you wanted.

Me: You know what? This conversation is over. I didn't want to debate with you.

 

I find that style of conversation really annoying. It's not a conversation. It's someone being contrary just to do so and it squelches any chance of connection and understanding between people.

 

If you are doing that, then stop it. In improv, when one person starts a skit the other people are not to have the mindset of "Yes, but what about X?" They're to have the mindset of, "Yes, AND ...." You build on what the other person is saying, instead of steering the conversation in a new direction.

 

The person I know who has "conversations" is constantly steering them in another direction than what their conversation partner intended and it clearly is like what your ds said: they're so busy thinking of how clever they will be and what they will say that they are ignoring what their conversation partner is saying.

 

2. You are not like the above. You are not arguing just to argue like the person I know. But you are doing the thing that almost everyone does where you *are* thinking of what point you want to make instead of doing active listening. Most of us talk that way. It's a hard habit to break. Next time, do the same as above. Instead of "Yes, but..." think, "Yes, and..." Let your responses help your son flush out his ideas even further.

 

3. You are being entirely reasonable and your son is at a sensitive age where any opinion not entirely his own threatens him and he shuts down. He gets embarrassed that he didn't think of all the scenarios and when you bring them up, he closes you off.

 

This is tricky.

 

Since he's feeling that way, I would take a long-term approach to this one. I would start with a couple of weeks of "yes, and..." Whatever he says, I'd let him go on and on about it, even if it's outlandish. Let him spout off if he wants to.

 

Then, after a couple of weeks when he knows you hear him and listen, then very, very, very mildly bring up another point of view. He has to feel safe with you for this to work. And you need to be mild.

 

He can't go through his entire life thinking everyone will agree with him. But while he's trying out new ideas and forming opinions he needs a place to go to sound off on them. That's you for now. So, do some active listening without comment, and then after a bit, start giving him some mild feedback.

 

 

 

Without knowing him or you, and looking at this through my own filters, that's what I've got right now. That's how I'd handle something like this. :)

 

My oldest is only 14 and I haven't run into this, so take it with a grain of salt. I would most likely just nod and smile and let him spout. That's what my mom did when I was an opinionated teenager and I loved her for it.

 

This is great. Let me try to analyze what's happening in our conversations.

 

DS: I think X is taking an advantage of my skills.

Me: Yes, I agree (agreeing for real, cause I do agree). What X said does sound like he's undervaluing the help you are providing. However, X is providing a valuable service to you too. Not as valuable in your eyes, and maybe not as valuable period, but for you to get better at your skills you might need to compromise. Besides, we don't have any other options at this time.

DS: I'm not going to offer any help to X anymore.

Me: Yeah, I know, you feel undervalued. But due to your age and lack of general experience this is really the best option we have.

DS: Yes, we have other options. You can spend $500/mo more on this.

Me: Well, actually, no, as you know, we can't afford this, so X is your only option for now.

(repeated a bunch of times until I actually get annoyed). I'm tired of you sounding entitled to this parental support. We have to budget expenses for your sisters as well, plus I don't think that's a good thing to present yourself as a know-it-all. You seem to think that you have nothing to learn from the experience, but I don't agree. Just having this experience, even if it is not groundbreaking, is very much needed if you want to proceed in this direction.

 

DS: You never listen and you are twisting my words!

 

My perspective: I've been agreeing with everything, validating, supporting, and then conveying my opinion that while I do agree with his assessment that he is possibly taken advantage of (not paid for something that others would be paid), I don't agree that he should be dismissing this experience, especially considering that we don't have other options. I know it is frustrating to him, that there are no options. I've acknowledged this too, for months! It is frustrating to me as well. But my ultimate point is that he has to do what he has to do, which is persevere in the situation and be more humble, and that his attitude is not very mature.

 

I guess our "arguments" are not for the sake of argument, but more like disagreements on rather important issues. I know he resents this because he is not as independent as he'd like to be, and it's hard. But I'm done with the attitude of entitlement. And when I express it, he says that I twist his words (I guess because he doesn't see his attitude as one of entitlement?)

 

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Lately even if I think a discussion is going well (like no one is upset, just he doesn't agree with what I have to say) he claims that I'm twisting his words and listening "to reply, not to understand." I don't think this is true. I actually make an effort to understand. And I've repeated quite a number of times that understanding only means empathy, not agreement! I do have empahty, have empathized and validated, and yet I don't agree with his stance on the issues we are discussing. When I step back and ask him to repeat himself and explain one more time, in case I truly missed something, he refuses.

 

I'm at a loss, though. How do you have a productive conversation?

 

Don't ask him to repeat himself. You could simply ask, "do you think I missed something?" without asking him to repeat. I think just asking him to repeat implies, "I wasn't really listening" even if that is not the case or it just makes him tired of talking because he feels like a broken record.

 

That's my take, anyway.

 

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You say that you've told him that understanding does not mean agreement. Do you feel the need to express that disagreement every time? If so, I'd suggest stopping for awhile, for everything except immediate danger situations. (If he tells you he's going binge drinking followed by cliff-diving, that would be a time to offer an alternate perspective.)

 

Try for "I understand" rather than "I understand and this is why I disagree." You'll have other chances to offer your opinion. A "productive conversation" doesn't have to mean a debate where each side gets equal time. Learning about your son and how he thinks is productive.

 

That's a good point. I think do a lot of understanding, without stating that I disagree. I do try.

 

But then we come to bigger issues, like how much support I can offer for his activities, such as $$ and driving. And if I say that I see him asking for even more support sounds like he is taking me for granted and this attitude is one of entitlement, he says I'm not understanding him due to my failure to listen.

 

So am I accusing too much? Maybe that's the problem.

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It's so difficult to be objective about this on the internet. If repeating and paraphrasing back to him isn't working, you might try a session or two at a therapist.

 

This is the sort of thing that therapists often work wonderfully for - an objective voice to "help you with your listening skills with him" which will, at the very least, signal to him that even if you disagree, you respect him and care about working on your relationship with him.

 

If it turns out that the therapist finds a gentle way to tell him it isn't your listening skills that's the problem, it's his lack of persuasiveness or wisdom that's the problem, so be it.

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This is great. Let me try to analyze what's happening in our conversations.

 

DS: I think X is taking an advantage of my skills.

Me: Yes, I agree (agreeing for real, cause I do agree). What X said does sound like he's undervaluing the help you are providing. However, X is providing a valuable service to you too. Not as valuable in your eyes, and maybe not as valuable period, but for you to get better at your skills you might need to compromise. Besides, we don't have any other options at this time.

DS: I'm not going to offer any help to X anymore.

Me: Yeah, I know, you feel undervalued. But due to your age and lack of general experience this is really the best option we have.

DS: Yes, we have other options. You can spend $500/mo more on this.

Me: Well, actually, no, as you know, we can't afford this, so X is your only option for now.

(repeated a bunch of times until I actually get annoyed). I'm tired of you sounding entitled to this parental support. We have to budget expenses for your sisters as well, plus I don't think that's a good thing to present yourself as a know-it-all. You seem to think that you have nothing to learn from the experience, but I don't agree. Just having this experience, even if it is not groundbreaking, is very much needed if you want to proceed in this direction.

 

DS: You never listen and you are twisting my words!

 

My perspective: I've been agreeing with everything, validating, supporting, and then conveying my opinion that while I do agree with his assessment that he is possibly taken advantage of (not paid for something that others would be paid), I don't agree that he should be dismissing this experience, especially considering that we don't have other options. I know it is frustrating to him, that there are no options. I've acknowledged this too, for months! It is frustrating to me as well. But my ultimate point is that he has to do what he has to do, which is persevere in the situation and be more humble, and that his attitude is not very mature.

 

I guess our "arguments" are not for the sake of argument, but more like disagreements on rather important issues. I know he resents this because he is not as independent as he'd like to be, and it's hard. But I'm done with the attitude of entitlement. And when I express it, he says that I twist his words (I guess because he doesn't see his attitude as one of entitlement?)

I do not think you are twisting his words, but do I think you are arguing with him. What he is hearing is, "You're wrong." I know that isn't your intention but he wants you to agree because he needs to feel like you are on his side. When you defend (for lack of a better word) the other, he won't feel like that. He isn't looking for answers, he just wants someone to listen. I don't know that he's being immature, we all need that sometimes.

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This is great. Let me try to analyze what's happening in our conversations.

 

DS: I think X is taking an advantage of my skills.

Me: Yes, I agree (agreeing for real, cause I do agree). What X said does sound like he's undervaluing the help you are providing. However, X is providing a valuable service to you too. Not as valuable in your eyes, and maybe not as valuable period, but for you to get better at your skills you might need to compromise. Besides, we don't have any other options at this time.

DS: I'm not going to offer any help to X anymore.

Me: Yeah, I know, you feel undervalued. But due to your age and lack of general experience this is really the best option we have.

DS: Yes, we have other options. You can spend $500/mo more on this.

Me: Well, actually, no, as you know, we can't afford this, so X is your only option for now.

(repeated a bunch of times until I actually get annoyed). I'm tired of you sounding entitled to this parental support. We have to budget expenses for your sisters as well, plus I don't think that's a good thing to present yourself as a know-it-all. You seem to think that you have nothing to learn from the experience, but I don't agree. Just having this experience, even if it is not groundbreaking, is very much needed if you want to proceed in this direction.

 

DS: You never listen and you are twisting my words!

Well, you are making an awful lot of "you" statements to your son about his motives and inner thoughts.

 

"...the service is not valuable in your eyes..." (Not a direct quote, but you are telling your son what he thinks.)

"You are sounding entitled"

"You are presenting yourself as a know-it-all"

"You think you have nothing to learn from the experience."

 

 

HIm: I think X is taking advantage of my skills.

 

You: Yes, I agree. (No speech about how he is providing value. Just agree with the fact.)

 

Him: I'm not going to offer to help X anymore.

 

You: Oh wow. But what else will you do?

 

Him: You could spend $500 more/mo on this.

 

You: I don't have that money.

 

Him: (some sort of argument that you do..)

 

You: I really don't. We make X amount of money and I only have Y amount for you and your sisters. $500 is a lot of money. Look, people like X can be jerks to young people. He's taking advantage of you, yes. But at the same time, this is the only way I can think of for you to get the skills you need. Just take what you need from him and in (whatever amount of time), you can wash your hands of him and move on.

 

No lectures. Just statements of fact that you don't have money and don't know of another way for him to get his skills. Certainly no assumptions about his motives or thoughts.

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This is great. Let me try to analyze what's happening in our conversations.

 

DS: I think X is taking an advantage of my skills.

Me: Yes, I agree (agreeing for real, cause I do agree). What X said does sound like he's undervaluing the help you are providing. However, X is providing a valuable service to you too. Not as valuable in your eyes, and maybe not as valuable period, but for you to get better at your skills you might need to compromise. Besides, we don't have any other options at this time.

DS: I'm not going to offer any help to X anymore.

Me: Yeah, I know, you feel undervalued. But due to your age and lack of general experience this is really the best option we have.

DS: Yes, we have other options. You can spend $500/mo more on this.

Me: Well, actually, no, as you know, we can't afford this, so X is your only option for now.

(repeated a bunch of times until I actually get annoyed). I'm tired of you sounding entitled to this parental support. We have to budget expenses for your sisters as well, plus I don't think that's a good thing to present yourself as a know-it-all. You seem to think that you have nothing to learn from the experience, but I don't agree. Just having this experience, even if it is not groundbreaking, is very much needed if you want to proceed in this direction.

 

DS: You never listen and you are twisting my words!

 

My perspective: I've been agreeing with everything, validating, supporting, and then conveying my opinion that while I do agree with his assessment that he is possibly taken advantage of (not paid for something that others would be paid), I don't agree that he should be dismissing this experience, especially considering that we don't have other options. I know it is frustrating to him, that there are no options. I've acknowledged this too, for months! It is frustrating to me as well. But my ultimate point is that he has to do what he has to do, which is persevere in the situation and be more humble, and that his attitude is not very mature.

 

I guess our "arguments" are not for the sake of argument, but more like disagreements on rather important issues. I know he resents this because he is not as independent as he'd like to be, and it's hard. But I'm done with the attitude of entitlement. And when I express it, he says that I twist his words (I guess because he doesn't see his attitude as one of entitlement?)

In this scenario I'd just stop with the back and forth.  I would listen, agree that he is being taken advantage of and sympathize then stop. If he asks for money to do something else, be firm but polite and sympathetic.  "This is not an option but I understand why you wish it were.  I'm sorry you've been put in this position and your work is not as valued as it should be."  Then stop.  If he says he is quitting the thing that he feels is unfair to him I don't know what to say about that but maybe the two of you could brainstorm other options?  Talk with the other person and see if they would be willing to offer some small compensation?  Or maybe your teen would feel better if they got a part time job that actually pays?  How critical is this activity?  

 

Telling him he feels entitled isn't furthering the conversation, it is putting him on the defensive.  And he probably can't see at all how he is acting entitled when he feels that his work is not valued, he is not getting paid for it, and yet you are telling him he has to suck it up and help this person anyway, whether it is fair or not.  He may very well be not seeing your side of things and may very well be acting a bit entitled in a way but he is a teenager trying to feel valued and is not feeling valued.  That can really hurt.  Being a teen is hard.  You are expected to act more like an adult in many ways but don't have the same control of your circumstances and are still more like a child in some respects.

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I do not think you are twisting his words, but do I think you are arguing with him. What he is hearing is, "You're wrong." I know that isn't your intention but he wants you to agree because he needs to feel like you are on his side. When you defend (for lack of a better word) the other, he won't feel like that. He isn't looking for answers, he just wants someone to listen. I don't know that he's being immature, we all need that sometimes.

I agree.

 

You're acknowledging his point, then saying "but..."

 

People don't like to be butted.

 

Maybe try acknowledging the point, then either stopping or continuing with something along the lines of "...do you have ideas about how to handle that issue?"

 

If he comes back with an unworkable/unnacceprable proposal (i.e. too expensive) you could respond with something like "yeah, it would be really nice if we had the money to afford that" then let the topic drop.

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Maybe it was the "best" option thing that bothered him. To him it's not the best option. That's probably all a matter of opinion but both of you are maybe hearing it presented as fact. "Very much needed" may be an opinion but could sound like it's stated as fact.

 

Perhaps both of you should work on "I" statements.

 

"I think this is what is needed."

"I don't think that's the best option, Mom."

 

Or whatever.

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Well, you are making an awful lot of "you" statements to your son about his motives and inner thoughts.

 

"...the service is not valuable in your eyes..." (Not a direct quote, but you are telling your son what he thinks.)

"You are sounding entitled"

"You are presenting yourself as a know-it-all"

"You think you have nothing to learn from the experience."

 

 

HIm: I think X is taking advantage of my skills.

 

You: Yes, I agree. (No speech about how he is providing value. Just agree with the fact.)

 

Him: I'm not going to offer to help X anymore.

 

You: Oh wow. But what else will you do?

 

Him: You could spend $500 more/mo on this.

 

You: I don't have that money.

 

Him: (some sort of argument that you do..)

 

You: I really don't. We make X amount of money and I only have Y amount for you and your sisters. $500 is a lot of money. Look, people like X can be jerks to young people. He's taking advantage of you, yes. But at the same time, this is the only way I can think of for you to get the skills you need. Just take what you need from him and in (whatever amount of time), you can wash your hands of him and move on.

 

No lectures. Just statements of fact that you don't have money and don't know of another way for him to get his skills. Certainly no assumptions about his motives or thoughts.

This conversation exactly. I would also avoid using words like but or however. They pretty much negate anything said before them in conversation.

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Mirroring. After he said something, you would reply with something like: "So, what I am hearing you say is...Is this what you are saying?"

You are just making sure you understood what he said; it's not an agreement. You then can go on and contribute your opinion / side to the discussion.

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Mirroring. After he said something, you would reply with something like: "So, what I am hearing you say is...Is this what you are saying?"

You are just making sure you understood what he said; it's not an agreement. You then can go on and contribute your opinion / side to the discussion.

 

Yes, this.

 

And my chronic arguer got better when I tried to turn the conversation to "So what are you going to do about it?" I didn't offer advice until it was asked for.

 

Also, to contribute, I asked questions instead of offering opinions. "So why do you think that person does that?" "How to you see that working out?" "What would happen if..."

 

This puts the decision making right on my teen. Which is what they want anyway.

 

When they try to convince me to give more than I can, I simply say, "No, That won't work with our budget."

 

And yes, I've gotten all kinds of arguments about why it "should" work, but a simple, "Well, the numbers are what they are, and it won't work. " A sympathetic smile and a shrug and a smile.

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I'd feel defensive if I were in your son's shoes. You have called him names and picked a fight after he simply complained (truthfully) that he was being taken advantage of.

 

Sometimes it is nice to just say that a situaton is lousy and have other people nod and offer you ice cream. He didn't enter the conversation asking for a solution, he was just needing aknowledgement that he is indeed being taken advantage of.

 

PS - very curious what this "valuable" position could be.

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I agree with most of the advice you've already been given, but I wanted to send you a :grouphug: because it sounds like you're worried that if you don't argue with your son, he might give up a valuable opportunity because he's not being paid for it, while you feel like the experience is payment in itself.

 

It's even harder for you because you know he can't get this experience elsewhere right now.

 

You're in a tough spot. :grouphug:

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I agree with most of the advice you've already been given, but I wanted to send you a :grouphug: because it sounds like you're worried that if you don't argue with your son, he might give up a valuable opportunity because he's not being paid for it, while you feel like the experience is payment in itself.

 

It's even harder for you because you know he can't get this experience elsewhere right now.

 

You're in a tough spot. :grouphug:

Agreed.  You have been given a lot of advice that I think much of it may help with the dialogue between the two of you but it does seem like you are in a tough spot, OP.

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Yes, this.

 

And my chronic arguer got better when I tried to turn the conversation to "So what are you going to do about it?" I didn't offer advice until it was asked for.

 

Also, to contribute, I asked questions instead of offering opinions. "So why do you think that person does that?" "How to you see that working out?" "What would happen if..."

 

This puts the decision making right on my teen. Which is what they want anyway.

 

When they try to convince me to give more than I can, I simply say, "No, That won't work with our budget."

 

And yes, I've gotten all kinds of arguments about why it "should" work, but a simple, "Well, the numbers are what they are, and it won't work. " A sympathetic smile and a shrug and a smile.

 

:iagree: I would probably take the conversation somewhere like this: Yes, I can see how you feel taken advantage of. We haven't had much success in the past with this conversation, so let's look at it from a different angle. Do you have any ideas of how to handle it that will not increase our budget? I have been thinking through this, and can't think of anything, but would love to hear any ideas you have. (Said sincerely, then listen.)

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You need to let him think things through.

 

x is taking advantage of me.

Mmmm. Sorry to hear that.

 

 

I am going to quit.

Mmmm. That's nice dear.

 

 

 

I need you to give me $500.

Mmmm, sorry, its not in the budget.

 

I really need you to give me $500.

mmmm, sorry I don't have any jobs I need hired help for.

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He didn't say he doesn't think he can learn anything. He said he feels taken advantage of.

Is this an unofficial interning situation? Maybe you can explain low man on the totem pole to him, and how someday he'll be the one sitting back while a young whippersnapper gets to let his talents shine. And then maybe your son can have a conversation with X about making it an actual internship (even if unpaid) so he's getting something from the deal?

 

ETA: I have no opinion on how best to talk with your teen son. Mine's only 10. ;)

Edited by ikslo
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I agree with most of the advice you've already been given, but I wanted to send you a :grouphug: because it sounds like you're worried that if you don't argue with your son, he might give up a valuable opportunity because he's not being paid for it, while you feel like the experience is payment in itself.

 

It's even harder for you because you know he can't get this experience elsewhere right now.

 

You're in a tough spot. :grouphug:

 

I agree.  You clearly don't want your son to blow this opportunity and it's causing you to feel uneasy with the way he's talking.  You're trying to convince him of how important it is, but you're trying too hard and coming down too hard on him.

 

You're in a tough place.  I agree with the other people's ideas of asking him how to handle it.  Offer lots of sympathy and at most ask him if he has any better ideas.

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That's teen talk for "I'm loosing this argument, I don't have a more convincing one, and I'm unhappy about this." For him the evidence of you "listening to understand" can only be him getting what he wants. This was a two year phase for my teens. They were human again at the end of that tunnel.

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I don't think you would have responded that way to anyone other than your child. It's clear that a disagreeing child pulls your strings, makes you antsy, and is deeply involved in your life -- because he actually is your responsibility. This makes you try to modify his thinking in your conversations. Sometimes that's fine, but it clearly isn't working.

 

You haven't actually forgotten how to talk to regular people in an ordinary way... try doing that instead. Just pretend he's one of your female friends and give the kind of 'helpful but not really involved' responses that would feel normal with 'her'.

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I don't think you would have responded that way to anyone other than your child. It's clear that a disagreeing child pulls your strings, makes you antsy, and is deeply involved in your life -- because he actually is your responsibility. This makes you try to modify his thinking in your conversations. Sometimes that's fine, but it clearly isn't working.

 

You haven't actually forgotten how to talk to regular people in an ordinary way... try doing that instead. Just pretend he's one of your female friends and give the kind of 'helpful but not really involved' responses that would feel normal with 'her'.

I agree with this in concept, but it's not an easy thing to do because it's not just a casual friend -- it's her son whom she loves and worries about, and also because the solution 38carrots' son wants will cost her $500.00, which isn't reasonable to her.

 

This is her own child and it sounds like she's trying to convince him not to make a poor decision. It's a lot easier to step back and let a friend make a bad choice than it is to do the same thing with your own son, especially when he's still just a teenager and may not be seeing the big picture.

 

I may be in the minority here, but based on 38carrots' posts, I don't view her teen as being ready to be an autonomous adult. I think it's great to give him responsibility and some freedom of choice, but if 38carrots sees her son about to make a big mistake, I don't think she needs to sit back and watch it happen without first making every effort to talk it through with him and trying to come up with an alternative solution.

 

I think many of the suggestions here have been excellent because they discuss alternative ways of phrasing her feelings and ways to try to help her son reach a sensible conclusion without blatantly arguing with him. But I don't think she needs to act "helpful but not really involved" because she is involved, and her son's decision will directly impact her. I feel like it's more a matter of her working on the phrasing she uses to get her points across to him so she encourages calm discussion and avoids arguments, rather than asking her to behave as though she's not really involved.

 

Of course, I may have completely misinterpreted your post. I'm having one of those busy days where I should probably stay off the computer and do the things I know I ought to be doing! :)

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I agree with this in concept, but it's not an easy thing to do because it's not just a casual friend -- it's her son whom she loves and worries about, and also because the solution 38carrots' son wants will cost her $500.00, which isn't reasonable to her.

 

This is her own child and it sounds like she's trying to convince him not to make a poor decision. It's a lot easier to step back and let a friend make a bad choice than it is to do the same thing with your own son, especially when he's still just a teenager and may not be seeing the big picture.

 

I may be in the minority here, but based on 38carrots' posts, I don't view her teen as being ready to be an autonomous adult. I think it's great to give him responsibility and some freedom of choice, but if 38carrots sees her son about to make a big mistake, I don't think she needs to sit back and watch it happen without first making every effort to talk it through with him and trying to come up with an alternative solution.

 

I think many of the suggestions here have been excellent because they discuss alternative ways of phrasing her feelings and ways to try to help her son reach a sensible conclusion without blatantly arguing with him. But I don't think she needs to act "helpful but not really involved" because she is involved, and her son's decision will directly impact her. I feel like it's more a matter of her working on the phrasing she uses to get her points across to him so she encourages calm discussion and avoids arguments, rather than asking her to behave as though she's not really involved.

 

Of course, I may have completely misinterpreted your post. I'm having one of those busy days where I should probably stay off the computer and do the things I know I ought to be doing! :)

I did *try* to open the post by clearly stating that I know the relationship is closer than friendship, and that she actually (rightly) feels responsible for him.

 

I'm only suggesting this as a model for conversational style -- not an ubrupt change in parenting.

 

As far as friendship as the 'model for conversational style' -- if the "solution my friend wants" is going to cost "me" $500, I certainly wouldn't be the one to suggest such a solution was open for conversation! If "she" blundered around towards asking me for a gift of money, I'd be kind of shocked. It's not a bad 'conversational model' to use on a teen:

 

You: "Do you have enough money to support making that change?"

Him: "No, but you do."

You: "I do?!? Well, I guess I do -- but you can't really be asking me to loan you that much money! There must be another solution."

Him: "I just thought you could help."

You: "Well, I'd like to help -- but not by footing the bill. Do you have any other ideas?"

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This is great. You guys gave me a bit of a perspective. I need to tone it down a bit. It wasn't a verbatim conversation, but an accumulations of a dozen of similar conversations, both on this very particular topic and on similar topic. It is also a bit condensed. But I guess it is telling how I wrote it down. I do try to use I statements, but maybe not enough.

 

What gets to me is that I do understand him, and then he shuts me down claiming that I don't. I have to express myself more clearly, I guess.

 

CatWoman, yes, very hard to distance myself, especially as he depends so much on me driving him, and this just makes me feel more involved--huge chunk of my life is in transit because of this. Thank you for understanding this.

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I did *try* to open the post by clearly stating that I know the relationship is closer than friendship, and that she actually (rightly) feels responsible for him.

 

I'm only suggesting this as a model for conversational style -- not an ubrupt change in parenting.

 

As far as friendship as the 'model for conversational style' -- if the "solution my friend wants" is going to cost "me" $500, I certainly wouldn't be the one to suggest such a solution was open for conversation! If "she" blundered around towards asking me for a gift of money, I'd be kind of shocked. It's not a bad 'conversational model' to use on a teen:

 

You: "Do you have enough money to support making that change?"

Him: "No, but you do."

You: "I do?!? Well, I guess I do -- but you can't really be asking me to loan you that much money! There must be another solution."

Him: "I just thought you could help."

You: "Well, I'd like to help -- but not by footing the bill. Do you have any other ideas?"

The problem as I'm interpreting it is that he does want her to spend the $500, and when she refuses, he views that refusal as not understanding him and he tells her that she's twisting his words because he doesn't like it that she won't agree with him.

 

So basically, it sounds like even when she's not arguing with him, he's going to try to argue with her until she agrees to do what he wants.

 

She is stuck between a rock and a hard place. She wants to convince him to do what she knows is best, while still making it appear to be his own decision.

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This is great. You guys gave me a bit of a perspective. I need to tone it down a bit. It wasn't a verbatim conversation, but an accumulations of a dozen of similar conversations, both on this very particular topic and on similar topic. It is also a bit condensed. But I guess it is telling how I wrote it down. I do try to use I statements, but maybe not enough.

 

What gets to me is that I do understand him, and then he shuts me down claiming that I don't. I have to express myself more clearly, I guess.

 

CatWoman, yes, very hard to distance myself, especially as he depends so much on me driving him, and this just makes me feel more involved--huge chunk of my life is in transit because of this. Thank you for understanding this.

I'm sure your son is a very good kid and it's hard to sit back and watch a good kid make an immature decision. It's even harder when you are directly involved because you're doing all of the driving and may also end up with a big, unnecessary expense you weren't anticipating. It's not like he can learn a valuable lesson from making a bad decision and that's where it would end.

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I have similar chats with a certain someone in my household. I've learned not to turn everything into a teaching moment. Here's an example.

 

X: I hate mowing the lawn.

Me: I know. I'd hate it too.

X: So-and-so's family hires a landscaping crew to do their lawn.

Me: Ooh. That'd be nice, wouldn't it?

X: It's just that I have to do it every week. And it's hot out there. And sometimes my allergies act up.

Me: Yeah, that sucks.

 

Basically I just agree with what make sense and avoid the mom lecture traps. So I think--but I don't say out loud--things like, "Tough cookies, kid. We all have chores that we don't particularly enjoy. You should be grateful  that mowing is the only thing you have to do today. Do you think I like grocery shopping and bathroom cleaning? I don't. And as an able-bodied young man you can offer this bit of contribution to the family as a sign of gratitude for all we do for you, can't you? And as for so-and-so's family hiring a landscaping crew, let's talk about the family budget one. more. time. because apparently you're not getting the concept of limited disposable income." 

 

It sounds like your son is dealing with a more substantial issue than lawn mowing, but maybe this kind of conversation will help de-escalate the argument and turn his thought patterns into something more constructive?

Edited by Hyacinth
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I used to be a therapist.  I agree with the mirroring and active listening and empathy.  "So I hear you saying X (a non threatening rephrasing of what he said).  Is that correct?"  Then he has an opportunity to correct your information.  "I can see that you are really frustrated with this situation."  (Don't say I see you are upset because then he'll say I'M NOT UPSET!) but somehow frustration is a socially acceptable emotion.  Also, after you have exhausted the conversation, and you start to feel like a broken record, explain, nicely but firmly, that you have already talked about this situation and unless he has some new information, you are done talking (I didn't really do that last one with my clients as a therapist, but I had an ending point to the sessions....clients didn't follow me around the house all night and argue!!! :)  My daughter, today, had the same illogical argument with me about why on earth her 5th grade math takes so much longer than her second grade sister's math.  I gave her all the logical answers, and what she wanted was permission to either be done with math at the same time her sister was done every day (did I mention that sister is much more diligent with math and these problems have been going on since 5th grader was in K???) or for me to be at her beck and call through the entire assignment.  After I began to feel like I was repeating myself, and that we were having a pointless discussion, I told her I was finished with the conversation, and if she had any new information to please let me know.  

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"I hear you. You are in a challenging position. I know you heard me when I said I cannot do X. If you have any options we haven't already discussed, I will be happy to listen."

 

:iagree: I don't let conversations along these lines go on and on.  It sounds like it was over long before you get upset and call him entitled.  I don't think that is productive.  When he says "you can spend the extra $500" I would say something like "Actually, I wish it were that simple and I was made of money, but we do not have the budget to do that.  I feel the options now are option A or option B.   If you have other ideas let me know.  I have to go move the laundry (or change subject, move on here)"  

 

I don't think back and forth bickering with teens ever pays off. 

 

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Someone once taught me to say "So, what I hear you saying is-" and then repeat back exact words. It assures the other person you truly were listening to them. Then you can say something like "That makes me think/feel/wonder..." and you say your piece. Does that make sense? Whenever I do that I find I truly am listening and the other party feels heard. Hope that helps.

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That's a good point. I think do a lot of understanding, without stating that I disagree. I do try.

 

But then we come to bigger issues, like how much support I can offer for his activities, such as $$ and driving. And if I say that I see him asking for even more support sounds like he is taking me for granted and this attitude is one of entitlement, he says I'm not understanding him due to my failure to listen.

 

So am I accusing too much? Maybe that's the problem.

I wouldn't say anything about entitlement. I'd just say I don't have money/ time for that activity right now. Your options are don't participate, participate in the way you already are or find a way to finance/navigate the alternative option you want yourself.

 

I think with these conversations it's best not to engage or make it about character. Simply know what you can and are willing to provide and state that.

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Basically I just agree with what make sense and avoid the mom lecture traps. So I think--but I don't say out loud--things like, "Tough cookies, kid. We all have chores that we don't particularly enjoy. You should be grateful  that mowing is the only thing you have to do today. Do you think I like grocery shopping and bathroom cleaning? I don't. And as an able-bodied young man you can offer this bit of contribution to the family as a sign of gratitude for all we do for you, can't you? And as for so-and-so's family hiring a landscaping crew, let's talk about the family budget one. more. time. because apparently you're not getting the concept of limited disposable income." 

 

It sounds like your son is dealing with a more substantial issue than lawn mowing, but maybe this kind of conversation will help de-escalate the argument and turn his thought patterns into something more constructive?

 

Yes! I rarely lecture the boys like that anymore. Agree and sympathize. Turning the conversation into what rotten kids they are or turning the conversation into being all about me and all the struggles in my life doesn't work. Kids will tune all that out and they will feel unheard. And they're right. They're not being heard. They're being dismissed and shamed.

 

I just got back from a dinner out with a bunch of friends who lecture at their kids this way and then they wonder why the have bad relationships with their kids. One daughter told so many lies about her parents at school so that CPS had to come investigate, and the other's daughter basically ran away from home. So. Yeah. Just listen and ask questions and give a bit of advice without the commentary on the child's character.

 

All I know is that's what my mom did with me and I considered her my best friend growing up, though I respected her and took her advice on the important life issues, and it's what I'm trying to do with my sons and so far they haven't called CPS on me or run away. :)

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To me, understanding about a debate issue is being able to explain his point of view, not about kind feelings. Maybe that's what's frustrating him.

 

Maybe you should sign him up for debate team?

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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In my home "I statements" are the best way to talk to my teens "I hear you saying...", "I am feeling..." Everything focused on the I, reason being as soon as a conversation turns to a you statement "you need to..." people get defensive and shut down.

When I read the example of the conversation I can see why your teen is not feeling heard.  So you agreed that X is undervaluing him, why carry on from there?  Is it not enough to say "That sounds really frustrating when someone undervalues you." period.  When someone is feeling frustrated with a situation they are looking to feel heard and validated not told how the other person is important too and to basically suck it up. Those might be the truths of the situation but in that moment not at all what your teen needs.  You could expand and say "would you like some help brainstorming ideas of how to fix that?", "How can I help?" etc.  Most likely your teen already knows the other truths you mentioned but in that moment just needs to vent, decompress, whatever and be truly heard.

Another bit, about the labelling things as being entitled etc.  Would it be okay for him to name call you or others for that matter? I doubt it. So why is it okay to name call him? How does that add to the conversation?  Instead of saying he is sounding entitled, why not stick with "I can not make that work in my budget/time whatever right now, if that is important to you why don't we figure out how you can make it happen" and then make some suggestions of ways he can earn the money needed, or carve out time needed if that was the case etc.  He may very well be behaving in an entitled way BUT what purpose does it serve to label it/him in that moment? I know my mother labelled me that way a few times as a teen because I asked for something over and above what she had intended. I labelled her right back in my head as a b*tch. It is so much easier and more conducive to keeping dialogue open to offer to be a sounding board for their ideas than to shut them down and label things and then get mad when they shut down and get defensive.

 

If the issue comes of of rude tone from teen then I simply tell them it is not okay to speak to me in that way, and when they are ready to try again with an appropriate tone I would be here.  The same as I would hope any person out there would do if someone was speaking rudely to them.

At any rate, I feel your teen has a valid point about how he is feeling the conversations are going and while his perceptions of your motives are not correct, his reasoning behind feeling that way has merit.

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Yes! I rarely lecture the boys like that anymore. Agree and sympathize. Turning the conversation into what rotten kids they are or turning the conversation into being all about me and all the struggles in my life doesn't work. Kids will tune all that out and they will feel unheard. And they're right. They're not being heard. They're being dismissed and shamed.

 

I just got back from a dinner out with a bunch of friends who lecture at their kids this way and then they wonder why the have bad relationships with their kids. One daughter told so many lies about her parents at school so that CPS had to come investigate, and the other's daughter basically ran away from home. So. Yeah. Just listen and ask questions and give a bit of advice without the commentary on the child's character.

 

All I know is that's what my mom did with me and I considered her my best friend growing up, though I respected her and took her advice on the important life issues, and it's what I'm trying to do with my sons and so far they haven't called CPS on me or run away. :)

 

Okay totally an aside but I use mom lectures (and teacher lectures at work) as a "threat". So at work for example today I had a couple young girls breaking the rules, I looked at them and told them they needed to make an immediate decision. They could follow the rules and show me they do in fact know them or I could break out one of my handy-dandy lectures and talk nonstop until I felt they knew the rules.  They both broke out into giggles and chose to the follow the rules minus the lecture.  With my own kids if I see a conversation heading towards disaster due to the actions of one, so lets say son is wanting to blame everyone around him for why his life is apparently in shambles rather than correcting his own actions and part of the problem, I will give him the option to either stop speaking, take the time to think and come back when ready for a civil conversation or I can break out into a lecture about being in charge of your own actions, they tend to choose option 1 lol  So mom lectures do in fact work....without having to actually state them (though I have in fact given my fair share of them over the years for the kids to know exactly how long I can beat a dead horse lol)

 

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