How to Properly Let your Child know that you’re Upset

People argue when it is more important for them to put a point across than to listen to and understand the other person’s point of view. An argument happens when one or all of the participants are more interested in imposing or insisting on their side of things, than in valuing the other person’s viewpoint. In contrast, when two or more people share and listen to each others’ ideas, a discussion takes place and such communication has a far pleasanter and more constructive outcome than a shouting match.

When your teenager does something of which you disapprove or which worries you, you have every right to make your feelings clear. But surely it would make sense to do so in a way that has a constructive result, rather than just another dispute? Rather than a closed question, why not try to open up yourself, the situation and them? You can make your feelings clear without stopping your offspring dead in their tracks. For instance, I’ve been very worried about you. I know you can look after yourself, but you never know who is on the streets these days. Next time you are going to be late, please let me know?’ or ‘I’ve been expecting you. You didn’t say you were going to be late, so I node dinner and I’m upset it was wasted. Next time, please tell me your plans?’


In both these scenarios, you would have let the young person know why you felt angry, let-down or anxious, and explained why you might be standing by the door waiting to jump down their throat. You would also give them leeway to explain whether they had a good reason for irritating you. You ask them to put themselves in your shoes, and open up the way for them to explain their needs to you – such as not to look silly in front of their friends, or to miss out on a group activity. Both of you thus have a chance to adjust and come to an agreement so that in future you know what each other is feeling and wanting to do. You are not showing weakness by admitting to fear, anger or concern. Parents often want to put up a front before their children and be seen as perfect. However, your human lack of perfection will have been detected already by your super critical teenager, and the best way to win back that halo is to appeal to their sense of natural justice by facing up to your ‘imperfections’.

It helps if you can examine your own rules and demands and make up your mind which of them is truly important. It’s really a question of scale. If you make the same fuss over whether your daughter picks up her clothes and whether she walks home in the dark across the common, you may find she ignores a sensible warning because it just sounds like the same old nagging. If the only time you come down hard is when, for instance, you ask them not to get in a car with a driver who is the worse for drink, they are more likely to remember and act on what you have said.

Filed Under: Family & Relationships


About the Author: Roberta Southworth is a psychiatrist by profession. She likes to help out people by writing informative tips on how people can to solve their family and relationship issues. She is currently staying in Ireland. She has 5 years of couple counseling experience.

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