No One Is More Vicious than…

Category: Weekly Columns

Angry teenager

Any parent of a teenager(s) knows the rest of this title…Our Kids. If there is karma in the world, I’m getting payback for the jerk I was (I’d use a stronger word if this were not a PG-rated column) to my parents for so many years. And, for all the incredible angst and sleepless nights I likely caused them. They only had me so I’m getting double since I have two boys, now 17 and 20. Payback is a b****.

Comic strip about teenager

Recently, one of my sons and I went to see our family therapist at the request of our family therapist due to some things he felt would be good for both of us. I thought we were going to discuss some future plans for my son, which we did, but it began with some “clearing the air.” That is in quotes because if anything the “air” was pretty dark, dank, and ugly after my son expressed his feelings.

I’ve been to enough therapy to understand the rules that we should be open and honest with our feelings and we need to do our best to hear the other person. And, that most everything should be allowed to be expressed. Nonetheless, the venom coming out of my offspring was pretty hard to hear. I think I’d rather have gone back to the dentist and had another root canal, which I just had a short while ago. The dentist was much gentler, even when he had to more or less re-do the whole thing because of a spot that didn’t show up in the first round of x-ray, post drilling.

Teenage Mouse

The value of our therapist is invaluable because he knows when to let it go and when to stop it — “It” being the ranting/raving or “clearing the air” from either one of us. I was given an opportunity to reply and what followed was a release of emotions for both of us. I did try to temper my comments given the somewhat fragile state my son is in due to circumstances beyond our control, for which he nor I are largely not at fault.

The therapist moderated the hour and when we left both my son and I were silent. But, it was abundantly clear that we’d experienced a watershed moment that I hope lasts. He had to say what he had to say. The vitriolic nature of it was also necessary, I suppose, to help him get over and through his issues.

You're Grounded - Comic

I got something very wonderful from my parents when it came to arguments and fights. We rarely carried a grudge. I also learned this lesson in a pre-marital “training” I attended at a Catholic church once. The lesson they taught was to NEVER go to bed angry. My sons and I don’t carry our anger for long and this son was quiet right after the session, but soon thereafter we made plans to go see a movie together.

Nonetheless, his words and their venom have hung with me and are still in the “air” on my psyche. There was truth in much of what he expressed though the scale and vehemence of his expression could certainly have been more judicious if it were up to me. Yet, I expect that that exact passion and heat was necessary for me to hear him LOUD and CLEAR.

Funny Teen Rant

A stranger can cuss me out, a driver on the road can flip me off, and it’s irritating. But, no one can get to us deeper and stronger than those we love and I assert no one has that power more than our kids.

While I believe that to be undeniable, I also hold that our attitude is about the only thing we control, so we can allow another person to affect us if we allow them to. I try to always gauge how much of anyone’s anger towards me is truly about me or about issues that the other person is struggling with. In my son’s case, it’s obviously both, in my opinion.

Teens and tattoos cartoon

But, no matter how hard I try to adjust my attitude and get over it, those words are staying with me for the time being. My love for my son is undiminished and maybe the lessons I got from that attack will stick and the sting of it will fade, but it’s been a rough day or two.

Heck, I know it will fade. And, I hope the lessons learned will stick. We all hear, read, or know that teens and young adults are still going through brain growth and maturation on all levels. Much of what we “get” from our teens/young adults is part of this process so it’s incumbent upon us to try and be less sensitive. But, it’s not easy.

Teens - Move Out Now

Follow-up note: It’s been a couple of weeks since I wrote this column. My son has displayed more of his “moods.” Patience, patience. Now, it’s a couple more weeks and he actually seems normal. Sigh…

Music from the 60's

  • David Weber

    Wow, this column is forthright and honest. Thank you for being willing to reveal so much.

    The kind of venom/etc. of which you write is the kind of thing that I long ago feared so much that the fear was a major obstacle for me when I considered whether or not I wanted to go the parenthood route. As Shakespeare said, how sharper than a serpent’s tooth is an ungrateful child (or something along those lines).

    The closest I come to this is the student evaluations I (and every other college professor) am required to have students complete for every course every semester. The younger the student, and the larger the class, I have found, the more venomous the most chastisement is. It is as if a student has stored up his or her rage and indignation all semester, and then lets it out in the evaluation.

    Overall, my evaluations tend to be satisfactory — to me and those to whom I report. But I have received more than enough castigation in those evils over the years to feel as though I can rest of my laurels. Many studies over the years have pointed out that student evaluations are in general less than useful tools for evaluating teacher performance. Too much of a student’s “satisfaction” depends on matters that limit or reduce the educational rigor of a course … e.g., the “easier” professor often will get a higher evaluation score than a “harder” professor. Younger and more physically attractive professors get scored more highly than older and less attractive ones.

    Ultimately, the value to a student of a given course may be immanent, not obvious or measurable by the end of the semester. For example, I have received over the years any number of email messages from students who were graduated from my program, and who took such-and-such a course from me (or more than one), and have written, “When I took [course “x”] from you, I hated [a particular assignment, or course policy]…but since I have been in this job, I have used what you taught us in that course again and again and again. Thank you for being so hard on us!”

    As fulfilling as it is to receive such email, though, I can’t help but think that the student busted my chops on the end-of-semester evaluation. But that kind of experience teaches me what I presume parents must learn — and what coincides with something Bruce has written many times: A teacher (or parent) is NOT supposed to be the student’s (or offspring’s) “pal” or “buddy” or “best friend,” but instead must be the “best teacher” (or best parent) he or she can be.

    If we — teachers (or professors) and parents — must spent part of our time teaching our charges the importance of learning delayed gratification, we can do worse than remind ourselves of its importance in our own lives.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I’ve often thought that the evaluations teachers receive directly at the schools or via those websites – ratemyprofessor.com and the like – are complete bull-crappy. Many can be anonymous – or are they all anonymous – and it’s easy to rag on a teacher for inconsequential reasons. I hope universities don’t take them much into account on evaluating their teachers unless it’s an overwhelming and substantiated criticism.

      As far as we parents go, IF we can keep things in perspective we know it’s like the weather in many parts of the world – you don’t like it, wait a minute…

  • Donald S Young

    Thanks for the honesty and openness. My youngest is 19 and the biggest’problem’ of the 4 of them. But for the most part we talk a lot and he is maturing rather nicely. He still won’t talk much about his social issues but seems to be working through them okay. I just wish that he wasn’t so much like my father’s son.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I have the same problem @donaldsyoung:disqus – I see so much of ME in my older son – why didn’t he pick up my good traits? Oh yeah, my wife says she’s still looking for those!

  • http://moondustwriter.com Leslie Moon

    Great article Bruce. I can so relate. Yes the venom does hurt. It seems like we will be pulling out the prickles until we reach the age of Altzheimers

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      @moondustwriter:disqus – it seems this column has clearly touched a nerve! Hope to see you at #DadChat sometime soon!?

  • StressPreventionKit

    Cudos to you for having the conversation and being willing to listen. I am a full grown adult and I have yet to have it. Not that I haven’t been ready, but I know that my parents would not receive it fully or as intended.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      @stresspreventionkit:disqus – more often than not, we fear these things much more than the reality proves to be!