by Matthew Powell
“How was school honey?”
Those four words, repeated daily by countless parents across the country, usually begin the first parent-teen interaction after any school day. And though those simple four words may get a typical, “Good,” or a nonchalant, “Fine,” they can also awaken a beast or, worse, aggravate it.
For the most part, if there is any pressing issue or meaningful event that I want to share, I will take the initiative to bring it up when I feel comfortable. I get that sometimes it’s obvious to my mom that I’ve had a bad day and she wants to know what’s going on. But now, after raising two teenage boys, she realizes that giving me space often
makes it much more likely that I will tell her what’s going on with me.
School and work are a roller coaster of ups and downs that can wind me up so that even the smallest imbalance can set me off—especially when I have a terrible day. Recently, after a long day of school, I found out that the girl I liked was interested in my best friend, I got a D on my physics test and, on top of it all, I had a parking ticket waiting for me when school was over. My mom’s routine “after-school check-in” was so irritating that instead of answering her with my usual, “I’m good,” I went off about how she suffocates me and wastes my time asking questions to which neither of us really want to hear the answer.
Most of the time, when I am unexpectedly aggressive towards my parents, my behavior really has nothing to do with them, as was the case here. My mom didn’t have much to say after I blew up, which in hindsight was the best thing she could have done. When I’m that angry, it’s almost like I’m fishing for something to get angrier about, which is just about anything that comes out of my parents’ mouths.
After I decompressed, we talked about how I needed time to be by myself or in silence after school. I know she is trying to help or connect with me, but there are much better approaches, especially after I slam the door and throw my backpack onto our bench (right outside the front door). Now, my mom respects and acknowledges that my privacy is valuable and understands that I just want to be left alone sometimes. As a result, I feel more inclined to share my day with her and am more comfortable in general because it’s on my own terms. Ultimately, the day can corner me into a hole of aggression and lack of common sense, and the best way my parents can respond is to respect my privacy and my space.
Matthew Powell, a high school student in Boulder, CO, is an intern for Rosalind Wiseman, author of Masterminds & Wingmen. The companion book for boys, The Guide: Managing Douchbags, Recruiting Wingmen and Attracting Who You Want, is available for free download.