Parenting #101: How to keep from killing your teenager

My beautiful, vibrant, kind fourteen-year old son is currently sitting beside me. He is working on missing Spanish assignments to remedy his D- before the end of the 1st Marking Period, which is today. So, no, really. How do I keep from killing my teenage son?

My son Cole has never been particularly jazzed about school. He struggled with reading comprehension at an early age. The reading disability was remediated, but his writing still suffered from his inability to put his thoughts into words. Punctuation was only a fancy accoutrement to his paragraphs. In his world, a period is optional and a comma, well a comma was easily ignored. In the early grades, teachers easily brushed off his terrible handwriting and his lack of adherence to the simple syntax of a sentence as the traits of a boy who rushed through things. Being a teacher and a reading specialist, I knew these were the markings of a child with a disability in written expression and pushed for him to be fully evaluated again. The school psychologist was not happy with my pushing the use of the TOWL (Test of Written Language), but it showed a definite written expression disability. Cole’s high verbal ability and limited attention span often made it difficult to argue with teachers that there was something else going on.

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So how did we get here? How did I get so completely frustrated by my struggling learner son who just keeps dropping the ball? These are not easy answers. Perhaps it’s because I spend my days with struggling fourteen year olds and I just want something to be easy. Perhaps after years of fighting with and for my son I am just plain tired, knowing that there is no room to be tired.

Either way, this is where I am. I am trying so hard to be patient and loving because I know this is the only way people truly learn and grow. I know that by keeping my emotions under control I can keep my relationship with my son intact and makes me remember a time when he was four. This was when Cole took a blue permanent marker to our couch.

I remember the explosive anger that filled me before I stopped myself. First, I thought about how my father would react. I thought about how angry he would be and how he would have screamed at me until I cried. He would have shamed me and my carelessness, and I knew so suddenly this was not the way. Instead I thought, “I love my son so much more than I love this couch. I will never love a thing more than I love my son.”

And now the same thoughts arise as I keep myself from losing my patience with my son. An ideal, like a grade or a score on a test or assignment, is never worth more than my love for my son. I know that children derive their sense of self-worth from their parents, and I plan on only letting my son know that he is worth all of the self-restraint I have. He is worth my always coming back to the table full of hope and strength and love.

It is just not always easy, but it is the “how” of the hyperbole of not hurting my son. Because, let’s be honest, screaming at him and causing him to doubt his own self worth is a death of sorts as well. It doesn’t always feel like the right thing to do. It sometimes feels like I should scare him or shame into acting the way I want. But I know those things never work, not just for Cole, but for anyone.

Love and Light, my Friends.

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