When I think of annoying, I imagine a tiny mosquito hovering around my head in the dark, as I’m trying to sleep. Apparently, the drone of a mosquito doesn’t even come close to how annoying I was to my then fourteen year old.
I know that I am not alone. Clients and friends with children around this age, give or take a few years, are clumped in the same category by their children too. Apparently it doesn’t take much to be annoying. Some of us are annoying by just being parents. This means that any time we ask our kids to make their beds, what time they are getting together with their friends, enquire if they have homework or move the hair out of their eyes, we are downright annoying! Just like the pesky mosquito, our kids want us away from their space. They just want to be left alone.
Bottom line is that our kids are very comfortable at criticizing and expressing their displeasure to us. They’re not afraid to let it all hang out, even though they’d be offended if we did the same.
Some might believe that a comment such as “you’re so annoying” shows a lack of respect but I’m more concerned about helping children understand the impact of their words and being sensitive to our feelings rather than demanding respect. So, here are some ideas to turn your exchange into a learning opportunity about better communication:
- Tell your child how you feel by using an “I message.” This is constructed by using the words, “when you…”. “I feel…..” and “because.” For example, “when you tell me I am annoying, I feel hurt because I am trying to communicate with you about something I feel is important.” An I message doesn’t necessarily change anything in the short term, but it may in the long run.
- If the time is right and the situation calm, you can (at the risk of being even more annoying), ask what it is that annoys your child so much. For example, if he says that you are annoying when you come to wake him in the morning, discuss options such as an alarm clock waking him instead or your coming in only once and then letting the logical consequences kick in (such as a late slip at school).
- If your child says that she is annoyed when you ask her so many questions, for example, enquire how else you can find out about her day (genuinely, not sarcastically). Maybe she doesn’t want to share the details of her day the minute she gets into the car after school but is more open to sharing in bed at night (when she will likely do anything to delay bedtime). There’s no need to bend over backwards to accommodate your child’s every wish, but be open to hearing what is irritating her so much and then think about whether and how you are willing to change.
- Suggest that instead of pointing a finger at you, that he take responsibility for his feelings. Perhaps he can say “I feel annoyed when you ask me if I’m hungry all the time. I’d prefer to let you know when I need something to eat” rather than “you’re so annoying.”
- Humour is a great way of diffusing tension. When I do something that I know my daughter has found annoying, I look right at her, smile and say “I know, you’re so annoying! Right?”. She smiles back, nods her head and we move on.
There’s no harm in sharing how you feel, hearing how your child feels, and trying to make changes. However, keep in mind that no matter how much you change, some of your behaviour may still be seen as annoying because in order not to be annoying at all, you’d never be able to do or say anything parental. As parents we have the right and responsibility to keep informed as to our children’s whereabouts and what’s going on in their lives, even if that’s horribly annoying to them. So keep talking, validating and considering changes, when appropriate, and don’t give up hope that this phase too shall pass.