February 21, 2023
Having arguments with your kids takes work. These disagreements are often disruptive and hurtful to everybody, leaving painful memories marked by regret. Everybody gets carried away and suddenly an escalating dynamic turns into a raging bonfire. I’ve certainly lost it with my kids and, over the years, I wish I had better tools to make different choices. Instead, I found myself being surprised every time tempers flared in yet another new way and floundering to respond effectively instead of overreacting. Let me share a situation that, frankly, still haunts me today.
Several years ago, on a bitterly cold New Year’s Eve, I had an epic meltdown. It was very cold that night, bitter—15 degrees Fahrenheit cold. My ninth-grade daughter bounced downstairs in a short-sleeved cropped tee shirt and jeans to wander around town with friends for the First Night festivities. She grabbed a thin, faux leather jacket as she headed towards the door. I stepped into her path: “Sweetie, I don’t think your outfit is quite warm enough.” “Why? I have a jacket” she sneered with a smile. “Because it’s 15 degrees and you are just getting over a cold?” We went back and forth until my husband chimed in that I was right and she stomped back upstairs. When she returned wearing a long sleeve crop top and reached for the same thin jacket, my frustration from weeks of constant, unpleasant negotiations and the absurdity of this situation, I went over the cliff of sanity into the land of crazy parents. I rushed lickety-split to the door and blocked it with my body, shouting: “NO! YOU ARE NOT LEAVING THIS HOUSE until you get another coat. You are just getting over a cold and you CANNOT go out for HOURS dressed in NO WARM COAT! NO WAY!” My daughter stared hatefully at me, gritted her teeth, and grabbed a down jacket with red gloves shoved in the pockets. “You can forget about a hat!” she yelled as I stepped aside and she slammed the door on her way out. My heart pounding, I realized immediately how much I blew that and felt terribly ashamed. I may have won that battle but with my dysregulation and the unpleasantness of it all, there was no satisfaction in it.
Does this situation or a similar one sound familiar to you? Many families whose kids may be neurotypical or neurodivergent,…