A mom took to Quora to ask for help, and one mother's advice really hit the nail on the head. These golden words of advice are a must-read for every parent!
A simple, sincere question from the mother of an 11-year-old son on Quora has been doing the rounds on social media since it's something everyone can relate to.
The question, posted anonymously by the mother was: How do I tell my wonderful 11 year old son, (in a way that won’t tear him down), that the way he has started talking to me (disrespectfully) makes me not want to be around him (I’ve already told him the bad attitude is unacceptable)? A mother-of-two came into the picture as an angel in disguise to offer some golden words of advice. Honestly, it's something that all parents need to read.
Jo Eberhardt, a fantasy writer and mother of two from Australia, gave a reply that really hit the nail on the head. Ah, puberty. It changes our sweet, wonderful little boys into sweet, eye-rolling, angsty, accidentally disrespectful, but still wonderful young proto-men, she wrote.
Eberhardt goes ahead and describes a discussion she had with her 11 1/2 -year-old son when he started going through this stage. She wrote that she waited until they were in the car to have this conversation because it meant they had a confined space with no interruptions.
“We’ve talked a lot about puberty over the last couple of years, haven’t we? I just wanted to check in and find out if you’ve got any new questions.” “No,” he said. But not in as surly a tone as I’d grown used to hearing. “Okay. Well, let me know if you do. But I was thinking about things over the last few days, and I know I’ve been pulling you up a lot more on your tone of voice and the way you’ve been speaking to people. Yeah?”
She added that her son seemed visibly confused because he had no idea where this was headed. The last thing he expected for his mom to do was to apologize. “Well,” I said with a deep breath. “I’ve spent all this time talking to you about the way puberty changes your body, and what to expect as you go through the changes, but I completely forgot to talk to you about what’s going on in your brain right now. Puberty is the time when your brain grows and changes more than at any other time in your life — well, except for when you’re a baby, perhaps. So I really let you down by not preparing you for that. I’m so sorry.”
My son reached out a hand and gently touched my arm. “I accept your apology, but it’s okay. We can just talk about it now.” “Is that okay?” I asked. He nodded, and then asked, “Why is my brain changing?” “Ah,” I said. “That’s the amazing thing. Did you know that your brain grew and developed so quickly when you were little that by the time you were about five or six, your brain was almost as big and powerful as an adult’s brain?”
He said no, in amazement. “Well, it’s true. But here’s the thing. Even though your brain was super powerful, the instructions were for a child’s brain. And all the information about building an adult’s brain was a bit… let’s say fuzzy. So your brain did the best it could, but it didn’t really know what kind of person you were going to be back then, or what shape brain you were going to need.” She then paused to give him a minute, but he was waiting for her to continue.
“Now we come to puberty. See, puberty is amazing. Not only is your body being transformed from a child’s body to an adult’s body, your brain has to be completely rewritten from a child's brain to an adult’s brain.” He said, “That sounds hard.” Jo replied, “Yeah, it is. That’s why I wish I’d warned you first. See, it takes a lot of energy to completely rewrite a brain. That’s one of the reasons you get tired quicker at the moment — and that, of course, manifests in you being crankier and less patient than normal.”
She paused again, but since he did not say anything, she added how frustrating it must be for him. He looked over at me and wiped his hands over his eyes. “It is. Sometimes I just feel really angry and I don’t know why.” I nodded. “The other thing is that one of the first parts of your brain that gets super-sized to be like an adult is the amygdala. That’s the part that controls your emotions and your survival instincts. You know how we’ve talked about fight/flight/freeze before, and how sometimes our brains think that being asked to speak in public is the same level of threat as being attacked by a saber tooth tiger?”
He looked over at me, and wiped his hands over his eyes. “It is. Sometimes I just feel really angry and I don’t know why.” I nodded. “The other thing is that one of the first part of your brain that gets super-sized to be like an adult is the amygdala. That’s the part that controls your emotions and your survival instincts. You know how we’ve talked about fight/flight/freeze before, and how sometimes our brains think that being asked to speak in public is the same level of threat as being attacked by a sabre tooth tiger?”
He then said that he doesn't really know why he sometimes says the things he does, adding that they just come out and then he feels bad. She explained why. “See, the last part of your brain that gets rewritten is right at the front of your head. It’s called the frontal cortex. And that’s the part of your brain that’s good at decision making and understanding consequences. So you’ve got this powerful adult amygdala hitting you with massive emotions, but you’ve still got a fuzzy child frontal cortex that can’t make decisions or understand consequences as quickly as the amygdala wants you to. It pretty much sucks.”
He asked her if it's not his fault, and she said no. “No, it’s puberty’s fault your brain works the way it does. But that doesn’t mean it’s not your responsibility to recognize what’s going on and change your actions. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible, either. Your feelings are your feelings, and they’re always okay. But you get to choose your actions. You get to choose what you do with your feelings. And, when you make a mistake, you get to choose to apologize for that mistake and make amends.”
“That’s how you prove that you’re becoming an adult," she said, to which her son said that it pretty much sucks. “Puberty absolutely sucks,” I returned. “I’m not in your head, but I can only imagine that it’s a mess of confusion and chaos, and you don’t know from one minute to the next how you feel about things.” Surprised, her son agreed! I nodded. “If it’s confusing for you living inside there, imagine how confusing it is for me when I only see your actions.”
“That must be really confusing.” I nodded. “Do you know what that means?” “What?” “It means sometimes I’m going to make mistakes. Sometimes I’m going to get upset at things you do because I don’t understand what’s going on in your head. Sometimes I’m going to forget that you’re halfway to being a man, and accidentally treat you like a child. Sometimes I’m going to expect more from you than you’re able to give. This is my first time parenting someone through puberty, and I’m going to make mistakes. So can I ask you a favor?”
Jo asked her son to just keep talking to her about whatever was in his head. "The more we talk, the easier it will be for both of us to get through this puberty thing unscathed. Yeah?” He agreed and the two of them had a sweet cuddle before the got out of the car. It didn’t completely stop him speaking disrespectfully to me. It didn’t completely stop me forgetting that he’s not my little boy anymore. But it opened the lines of communication."
"It gave us a language to use. He knows what I mean when I say, “Sweetheart, I’m not a saber tooth tiger.” And, together, we’re muddling through this crazy puberty thing, and I’m completely confident that he’ll come out the other end a sweet, wonderful young man.