I’m embarrassed to even be writing this but I’m not sure where else to turn. The other day my 16-year-old son, Craig and I were having an argument. I wasn’t going to let him hang out with his friends because he’s been struggling in school. Well, he was yelling and I was yelling back and when he turned to storm out, I grabbed his arm. Craig wheeled around and though not completely intentional, hit me across my cheek!
I was stunned! But the physical pain wasn’t even close to the pain in my soul. I couldn’t believe my own child whether unintentional or not, would hit me.
He apologized right away and I could tell he felt awful but now there’s like a distance between us now and I don’t know how to make it better.
I know you’re going to ask so I’ll volunteer; Craig’s dad and I divorced years ago and Carl only sees his son a few times a year.
Will, can you help?
Bruised in Baltimore
This is a tricky one. The information you gave me raises a lot of questions. When I read lines like, “…he was yelling at me and I was yelling back…” and “…not completely intentional…” it tells me that this isn’t the beginning of your problems with your son; it’s just the next loop of a downward spiral that probably started some time ago. It’s also tricky because, as a man, what I would have done is something I wouldn’t tell you to try. As a matter of fact, this one sent ME looking for answers. I talked to men, women, friends, family, and even a couple of people I didn’t know who just ended up in the conversation. Honestly, I’m not even sure I found the right answer, but here’s the best that I could come up with.
WHY YOU’RE SO UPSET: When we smack our children on their hands (or bottom), we teach them that being hit, hurts and that if they don’t want it to happen again, they should do as they’re told. After a spanking, a child feels hurt, upset, and angry, but they probably will not repeat the offense that got them the spanking anytime soon out of fear of it happening again.
Well, that’s what just happened to YOU. You were hit. It hurt. You were angry, upset, confused and had no idea what to do next, so you did nothing. Now the wedge you feel is a big ball of pent up emotion; you feel hurt because your child hit you, you feel anxiety because you aren’t sure if it was an accident, you feel anger that he could have done this after all you’ve done for him, and probably a little fear as to what might happen the next time you two argue. You may even feel like you’ve lost the upper hand and that Craig may have gained it.
HERE ARE SOME OF THE ANSWERS I HEARD:
…From my best friend– “If the father isn’t around, doesn’t he have a brother, or an uncle, or some other male role model? That boy needs a man in his life to teach him to respect women.”
…From a friend (male)– “She should have called the police on him. Let him spend a day or to in a juvenile home. And when he gets out, if he still didn’t have it together, off to a military academy.”
…From a friend (female) “If my child would have hit me, hopefully, I would have caught myself before I put my hands on him. We could have talked it out… but… no… I’m pretty sure I would have had to put my hands on him.”
…Stranger (female) “She never taught him to respect her or he wouldn’t have been screaming and he wouldn’t have hit her. It’s too late now. Put him out.”
…From my own dad “Son, when you were sixteen, if you would have hit your mother, even by accident, I would have snatched a knot in your ass!” (Man, did that one take me back.)
…From me “If my son had screamed in my wife’s face and then slapped her, I probably would have torn the fur off of him.” (That doesn’t make it the right thing to do; it’s just me being honest.)
BUT THE BEST ANSWER I GOT WAS THIS ONE: “Her son sounds like he’s scared. He’s a kid, and he made a mistake. If he apologized, he probably didn’t mean to do it. Now he feels awkward and embarrassed. He doesn’t know what to say to her so he probably won’t say anything. She probably feels embarrassed too, but she’s the mother so she has to be the adult. After he’s had some time to cool off and think about what happened, she should sit him down and talk to him. I can’t tell her what to say, but she needs to make him understand how he made her feel so that this won’t happen again. Then they go from there.”
I know it’s not perfect, but it made more sense than anything I, or any of others I asked, could come up with. This answer isn’t about blaming the mom or punishing the child: It’s about trying to save their relationship, which, in this instance, is probably the best place to start. By the way, this one came from my own 16-year-old son, Malcolm, who never ceases to amaze me. I want to be just like him when I grow up.
Good luck, mom!
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William Jones is originally from the tiny town of Alton, Illinois, and now lives in the tinier town of Reisterstown, Maryland. He is a happy husband and a proud father of three, and writes as a hobby, in those few moments he finds between husbanding and daddy-ing.