What Bothers You About Me?

Adolescent Boys Desk

Image by trekkyandy

This was the question that I asked my 11 year old a couple of months ago. What bothers you about me? It was a confronting thing to do and it wasn’t a question that I wanted him to answer lightly. I asked him to think hard about this question and write down what are the things that I do that bother him the most. I decided to ask this question as I could sense a level of frustration with me and we had begun bickering more that I would have liked.

Last week I wrote about how I am beginning to change my parenting style with my 11 year old son, as he begins his journey into adolescence and this was one of my first steps to try and change some of my behaviour.

My son did think about this question for a couple of days and then came to me with his written list. I asked to have some time to look at it before we discussed it and he was okay with that. The time to look at it was really important for me, so that the discussion we had could be a positive one. His list had 10 items on it and some of them surprised me. I didn’t want the discussion to be me defending myself and excusing my behaviour, but to be a real discussion where we could find solutions to these issues.

I asked my son’s permission before I wrote this post, to make sure he was okay for me to blog about it. He was fine, but there were some points that he didn’t want me to publish, so we agreed on that I could discuss the one’s below:

Issue Resolution
Taking Sides in Fights.
He felt that too often I was taking in sides in arguments with his brother with out knowing all the facts. I did have to agree with him on this and it also fitted in with something I learnt from Kathy Walker’s new book “Parenting” that I needed to stop making myself the referee.
I agreed that I would within the reasons of safety, I will stay out of these arguments and if the younger children come to me and try to involve me in the incident, that I will encourage them to resolve the problem themselves.
Untidy Bedroom.
He felt that it wasn’t necessary to have to tidy up the room every. single. day.
This was a tough one for me as I like to have the doors of the rooms open and see a tidy room. We agreed that he would give the room a thorough tidy on Sundays before bed and Wednesdays before school and that I would not mention the state of the room in between times. I could however ask him to remove any fruit scraps that he might have left in his room though.
Getting Dressed.
He didn’t understand why I would insist on him getting dressed straight after breakfast on school holidays and weekends.
We agreed that he could stay in his p.j’s until 10.30am unless we had somewhere to go or visitors coming over.
Getting Me To Play Board Games.
I had started a family games night on Friday night, where we would all play a board or card game. While he said he would like to play sometimes, he said he didn’t want to “have” to play.
We discussed the idea of family time and he pointed out, our evening meals, family meetings, walking to school as all points were we do things together. I agreed, that he should only play if he wants to.

These changes along with some others that we made have significantly improved our relationship. I no longer feel that I am asking him to do things all the time and he feels more in control of these areas of his life. This will be a process that I think I will continue to use through out his adolescence. It is important for him to know that I will listen to him and I want him to think not just in terms of issues but solutions.

Have you asked your kids what bothers them about you?


  1. says

    What a great question and I love how you handled this with your son. I have noticed there has been a lot of bickering with my kids too. They are only 7 but I don’t see why this wouldn’t work with young ones as well as preteens/teenagers. I’m going to sit down with them and and try this. I’m so glad you shared this today.

  2. says

    What a brave step to take for both of you! It could have been quite hurtful, the answers that he came up with, and it must have been difficult for him to think about these things with that in mind.

    Obviously you DO have a good and strong relationship to be able to do it, and resolve the issues that he perceives. It was probably interesting seeing what his issues were, and how they fitted within the family values.

    Glad to see that it has helped make things better. I think I will try to remember this for when Princess is a little older and better able to express her own needs (not like she doesn’t try now! Tonight I am cooking a “short” dinner and hoping she will eat it. It will be soup, but my main reason has more to do with my visiting sister who is having issues with her teeth rather than a child who won’t eat dinner!)

  3. Julie says

    What a brave step! It’s very easy for parents to just assume they are doing a good job. Celia Lashlie talks about this in her book “He’ll be OK” and how it comes more and more relevant as boys travelling through adolescence. Keep asking the difficult questions. Jules.

  4. says

    Brilliant! Mine are younger, hopefully you’ll still be blogging and reminding me of these things for many years to come :D I try to make sure I hear my little girl’s complaints (I’m tired of picking up the shoes!) and seeing if it’s legitimate and if there’s a way we can do something about it, this is a great way of getting them to really think about what they’re being asked.

  5. says

    What a brilliant question to ask! It must have been hard to refrain from “defending” your actions – so good on you! This is a behaviour that I’m trying to work on – listen more without being so defensive! It’s a tough one but I’m getting there!

    I will ask this question to my 7 year old too. It will be interesting to hear his thoughts!

  6. says

    I like it. It’s a positive thing to do on so many levels and one that I can try with my son. He brings things up every now and then but a list is a great thing to work from.

  7. Karan Jorgensen says

    Thanks for a great idea! I will use it with my 9 year old daughter as we are also having some issues. Love your site.

  8. says

    Amazing Nicole. Thanks for sharing this personal insights. So much to take from this. And can I also say, your son comes across as one smart little cookie. Kudos to him too for his mature approach to your question.

  9. says

    I agree with everyone. Very brave thing for you to do and great way to handle things, rather than letting that level of frustration escalate. It must be hard as your children get older to relinquish some of the control you have when they are youger (particularly when it comes to how they keep their rooms, involvement in family time etc), but I think it is a necessary step. I’m just glad I can learn from other people like you before my time comes…

  10. says

    Wow. This is a great post Nic.

    I think that you even asking the question just shows how much of a spectacular parent that you are. I know that my mum and little sister {she is 12} have huge disagreements and I don’t think it helps that me and my sister are completely different!

    Great post! xx

  11. says

    This is a great honest heartfelt post and definitely a great idea to have this kind of conversation with our kids. After all, if they can’t talk to us who can they talk to. Kudos to your for leaving the conversational door open and for making sure it was a positive based discussion.

  12. says

    It’s a very brave question, and I think if there is tension building up, one that needs to be asked. We, like you, are having to change the way we relate to our nine year old daughter, as she is just on the cusp of preteen mood swings.

    I find often, my kids tell me if I’m bothering them anyway, most recently was that Missy 9 was mortified that I was singing Black Eyed Peas’ ‘Imma Be’ , but giving the kids directions to that tune. So of course, now, I’m a complete embarrassment to her LOL.

    I think it must have been valuable to your son to know that you are willing to negotiate and compromise, too, and he was quite reasonable in the end

  13. says

    Wow, so brave!!

    What a great strategy for helping your son feel confortable in your family as he grows though, and give him an opportunity to see things from your presepctive (and vice versa)!

  14. says

    I would say so brave too. I am glad it worked positively for your relationship.
    I can only imagine my teen’s list would be a mile long & the discussion to owrk agreeable solutions till he turned 18 (almost 17).
    I will definitely do things differently with my younger sons.

  15. Liz says

    I’ve done this sort of thing with my daughter in previous years. Am due to do it again soon I think. I know that she will add one about me siding with her brother, she won’t be right but I know she won’t understand that at 5 he is not able to deal with her (as a 12yo) on an equal footing or anywhere close to it. I would love to step outside of their arguments and not be a referee but with such a big age gap it’s just not feasible. The other points your son raised are ones we’ve already dealt with and came to very similar agreements.
    .-= Liz´s last blog ..Starting again =-.

  16. says

    Thanks so much to everyone for taking the time to comment. Although it was confronting to have to read the list, I really believe that is has helped our relationship. I think starting when he is 11, will mean that we can revisit this as he grows older and hopefully it will be a way to help maintain a healthy relationship. (Fingers crossed!!!)

  17. says

    I think the great thing about what you did was add the “time factor in”. You allowed him to go away and think about it, and you allowed yourself to do the same when you received list. I have done something similar in the past, but I guess I expected them to come up with something then and there.

    Thanks for this….I’ve been thinking about ways to improve my relationship with each of my children, and this will be a useful tool.
    .-= Meeks´s last blog ..My 5 links for the week =-.

  18. says

    What a brilliant and brave thing to do Nicole. I love how your posts make me think more about my own parenting style. Thank you.

  19. says

    Hi Nicole,
    I know adults who have difficulty discussing & negotiating issues the way you are teaching your 11 year old son to do. Really impressive parenting, really impressive kid. :)
    I wish my parents had done this with me! It’s certainly something I’d like to do with my kids if and when I have them. :)