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Productive Conflict With A Teen

I freaked out about black bean burgers. 

It really wasn’t the burgers.

It was the Wednesdays.

Mr. 16 had been MIA as all newly licensed teens should be during the summer. He was either hanging out with friends, or driving to get himself a snack from the store because he could. He might have gone to the mall but I can neither confirm nor deny this.

I finally said, “How about black bean burgers for dinner tomorrow?”

“Sounds great!”

Tomorrow morning, I reiterated the offer, “Still good with burgers tonight?”


5:00pm. I open the can of black beans and I’m not sure what possessed him or what brain cell left his body, but he said to me, “I’m going to meet my friends. Don’t worry about dinner.”

I’m not very clear exactly what I said at that point, nor what my facial expression showed, but let’s just say here’s what I can admit to saying, as incoherently as possible, holding back my yelling voice:

“This is rude and disrespectful. I’m making this for you and you need to change your plans so you can be here and eat the burgers. No. You know what? Forget it. You go. I’ll make burgers and freeze them and you just do whatever you want when you want. No. You need to be here.” The look on his face was more confused than I’d seen in a long time and then I said the most brilliant thing I could say.

I said what I’ve been making a practice for years.

I said the truth: “You know what? This is about me. Don’t go anywhere, we need to talk through this, but I need to deal with my own yard first.” (this is a concept I’m covering in my upcoming book..)

And I walked outside and took a breath that apparently my body had not taken in 3 minutes.

I realized a not so pretty truth.

I used black bean burgers to get him to stay home for the first time in 5 days because I only have  (LESS THAN) 115 Wednesdays left.

OMG. I reduced myself to using food to lure him home.

The LAST thing I need is to drive him away because of my insanity.  In fact, it’s a core value to stay connected on terms that are respectful, empowering for him, and built on trust. So, I blew that out of the water in my 15 second tirade.

More breaths. More realizations. I went back in with a clear path to connect.

Here are the highlights:

I apologized for being incoherent, blaming, and freaking out over food.

I explained that if I plan on a meal and he agrees that he is expected to be there.

I offered to have dinners in the freezer so he could come and go otherwise.

I requested that we set aside ONE night that we were SURE to eat together.

He apologized for not realizing that he was rude to me.

While I was outside sorting myself, he told his friends he couldn’t meet them and that he needed to be home.

He agreed to one night to hang out with me.

We were both heard, both respected, and connected.

FYI – when I get down to 50 Wednesdays I’m probably going to need meds. This letting go is really really hard.

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