I heard the outburst and for a second or two I thought someone might be in danger. Was the store being robbed, had someone been hurt? And yet, I realized as I turned around, that, much to my surprise, it was a mother waiting in the check-out line yelling at the top of her voice, with a few expletives flying, directly at her teen daughter, who stood quietly despondent next to her.
The outburst occurred in a retail supply store with limited traffic on a Sunday afternoon. Mega discounts had been advertised for back-to-school supplies. And, of course, parents who are uniquely organized and mindful of these events had come early to get the best deals possible.
I thought why and what would have caused such an outburst? It could have been built-up fatigue or annoyance for any number of reasons. Perhaps it was a realization that the early discounts still far exceeded her back-to-school budget. Perhaps in combination with one or more of those things it was a demanding teen, exhibiting “lack of affect” (non-expressiveness) or even sullenness, discontent, or simple rudeness over a “no” she may have received for the umpteenth time over an unnecessary and unaffordable item. Could this evident absence of appreciation been the final straw to cause this mom’s outburst?
Mere speculation, I know. I saw only the outburst, not the lead-up to it. But at that moment, my immediate thought was, is it really necessary for a mom to yell with this intensity at her daughter in a public venue? What are the benefits?
And, while I do not know what really caused the volatile outburst, I do think that a lack of demonstrated gratitude or financial appreciation on the part of teens can “push a button” or two in a parent. But, I ask, who’s to blame for this lack of awareness?
Most teens will more often than not let you know what matters to them, or what they want but do not necessarily need. While this is a part of being a teen, I believe it’s possible to learn to be thoughtful and not selfish, caring rather than oblivious towards others, and to show consideration rather than rudeness. This can be learned by the examples set by the behavior and the teachings of our parents and it is something that we need to begin at an early age. It is our responsibility as parents to teach respect, sensitivity and concern towards others, including towards ourselves as parents. In the end, we are the role models who lay the foundation of values and expectations of behavior we want demonstrated as a family.
Being civil, kind, respectful, and even appreciative comes from the teaching and modeling of this behavior as parents. We need to remain in control of our own emotions, as hard as it may be at times, if we hope to raise children who will be able to handle their own emotions. I could not help but notice the daughter’s reaction, which was seemingly devoid of any emotion. She appeared to have shut down and wore an “I don’t care” expression.
Perhaps it was the daughter’s natural defensive response when being embarrassed in an open arena—perhaps embarrassed both for herself and for her mother. Yet her detachment told me that perhaps this was not a first-time reaction to her mother or a rare or singular incident. Sad but possibly true.
Regardless, damage is done when something of this nature occurs. The aftermath of emotions, whether humiliation, shame, or anger, are permanent in the memory of a child. Will this behavior become for the teen the standard approach that she will use in the future on her own children? And is there any beneficial outcome to this form of discipline—particularly, in a public setting. What are your thoughts?