My son wants me to apologize for ruining his day

Can anyone sullenly mope the way a 14-year-old boy can?

He tells me I ruined his day by “picking a fight” with him this morning as I drove him to school. What I did was print out a list of his missing assignments from “Progress Book” and ask him to follow up on these. He insisted he’d turned some of them in. I said, “Then check with your teachers.” (He spent yesterday in a major snit, too, so I was intentionally keeping it light and neutral.)

“So you think I’m lying?” he said. “Not at all,” I said. “What I said was, ‘Check with your teachers.’ If you turned assignments in and they haven’t accounted for them, you need to ask them about it.”

He said, “Oh, so the teacher loses my work and I’m the one who bears the pain?” And I said, “Unfortunately, yes. If they are insisting they don’t have it, that’s a battle you’re not going to win.”

Fast forward to this evening. The bad morning turned into a bad day for my son – and it was all my fault, because I put him in a bad mood to begin with. (He got a good grade on a class presentation, but that doesn’t count, in his logic.)

He told me he was waiting for an apology from me for ruining his day. I said I’d apologize for breaking “the rules” about when I’m “allowed” to talk to him about school matters, but I wasn’t going to apologize for ruining his day. “If you expect to have a bad day because you’re in a bad mood, it’s going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

He’s usually really good about deciding it’s time to get over it and move on. I’d like to help him do that, but I don’t want to validate this “Woe is me! It’s all your fault!” thinking.

I’m trying to figure out a way to apologize to him that will assuage his wounded ego and let him know that I love him beyond all measure but doesn’t reinforce the teenage persecution complex.

Any suggestions? Or should I just apologize for ruining his day, knowing that this, too, shall pass?

Screw apologizing for anything. Tell him he’s responsible for his own moods and how his own day goes - tell him life is 10% what happens to us and 90% what we make of it. You have my sympathies for living with a 14 year old - I recall being a crabby, sullen teen, too. I snapped out of it when I realized that no one was trying to make my life miserable.

I think Heinlein had it right - what was that he said, put teenage boys in a barrel and drive the bung in when they turn 18?

Uh, is there a chance he went right to lying because he IS lying?

Your son is coming across as a manipulative spoiled brat to me. What do you have to apologize for? And having rules to get permission to speak about school matters, that’s just wack. I’m not buying the lost assignments excuse either, but I wouldn’t force the issue without evidence.

You shouldn’t apologize for anything. What did you do wrong here? What were these supposed “rules” that you broke. Geez, just reading about that behaviour makes me want to lean through the computer screen and smack him one. And I’m the lenient parent in my household!

Ok, he’s 14, he’s going to behave like a drama-queen (-king?). That’s what 14 year olds do. You don’t need to enable that behaviour. Just tell him “oh, it’s a shame you feel like that” and get on with your life.

Can you elaborate more about the rules for when you’re allowed to speak to him?

Could you maybe say something like “I’m sorry that you felt like I was trying to ruin your day, but that just isn’t the case.”

I think talking to him about self-fulfilling prophecies is a good approach and maybe I’d run with that again along with a good attitude-is-everything speech.

This would be a good time for him to learn that there are a lot of people out there who will do anything to rain on your parade and that he has the ability to change his attitude and no one else.

(not that you were trying to rain on his parade)

What to say exactly, I don’t know. I do recommend working in there somewhere that no one is responsible for how he feels except himself. No one can “make” him feel any way he does not want to feel.

I am a little old school on this but hell no, don’t apologize. That would be ridiculous. You are his parent, not a classmate or friend and teenagers get all pissy for stupid reasons. I will bet you 100 to 1 that he was lying about all or part of it anyway and just using psychological tricks to win the battle and ended up in a snit because you asked for independent confirmation and he can’t do it because it doesn’t exist. I tried to trick as many people as possible when I was his age too. I know very few former teenagers that didn’t. My 7 year old daughter is already going on 14 and she plays people off one another like old ladies play the slots in Vegas. Kids and teenagers are not adults and don’t think like them (many adults don’t think like adults for that matter either). I am not sure why you are asking about a giving an apology for his lying as opposed to some type of reprimand.

New-age influenced parenting is a failed concept.

Teach him never to allow others to “spoil” his day. Explain it from a personal power perspective. Talk about allowing himself choices about how he wants to think and feel.

That will appeal to a young man. Most everyone wants to feel in control and those who can master their own feelings are powerful people.

“It is your day and your feelings and nobody else’s. You want to get strong enough that you don’t allow others to ruin either of them.”

You might even ask him if he wants to feel crummy all day, and if his answer is, “Yes,” ask him what’s in it for him? Does it get him what he wants?" If not, what does he get instead?

LOL…tell him to MAN-UP!

seen it…heard it…done it 35+ years ago…

My youngest (19) used to try this shit until he figured out i was watching via the teacher(s) web site…

Ach, how soon we all forget what it’s like to be a teenager! Moralizing about controlling one’s moods is NOT helpful. This is definitely not a lesson that one learns from their mother when one is 14.

Understand that the drive into school on a day he has a presentation may not be the best time to remind him of a mass of uncompleted assignments he possibly has to do over. That’s really stressful, especially if he’s not a morning person.

I have friends who can only tackle stressful things after they’ve been up for a couple of hours. They need an hour or so in the AM to putter and put things in perspective before people begin talking to them and asking for things. Maybe this is what your son means by you “ruining his day”. Is he generally more receptive to things in the evening?

Oh, this made me cringe!

I don’t doubt your side of the story (I don’t know you, don’t know your son, don’t know how you interact with each other and other people, etc), and you probably were being totally reasonable and please don’t think I’m accusing you of anything, but my mom says things like this and I’ve always hated it.

What she believes is “light and neutral” and “not getting upset, just keeping an even tone” actually comes across as condescending and aggressive to a lot of people. She hates being wrong, but claims she’s willing to discuss something even though she’s already made up her mind. At 14 I was at loggerheads with both my parents, and they, to this day, believe they were always calm and reasonable.

I’ve been known to do it too - my husband points out that I’m acting like my mom, and I try and hear not only what I’m saying, but how. We really don’t hear ourselves talk most of the time, and I wonder if, like me, your son hears his mom accusing him of something while you believe you’re really just having a conversation? I remember always feeling like I could never do anything right unless it was 100% what my parents wanted/expected, and “conversations” about my choices or actions always felt like an inquisition.

I don’t really have any suggestions, but I had such a gut reaction to your statement that I thought I’d throw that out there. Your son might not be hearing things in the same way you intend to say them in, and that can lead to more problems in the long run.

I really hope I’ve been able to express myself well here and not insult you somehow; I’m sorry if I’ve accidentally offended you!

Sometimes I think I want kids. Then I remember they turn into teenagers!

So let’s think about this, you the adult, acted 100% reasonable and correct and you’re 14 year old son thinks everything in the world is your fault. :slight_smile:

Thinking back to when I was a 14 year old boy, yes it is your fault. Thinking as a 45 year old man, no it’s not your fault.

If you really did exactly what you said, in the OP you have nothing to apologize for, but let’s face it, life isn’t that easy, especially with teen agers.

You have to know when and what battles to fight and when to “wear it” and write off your losses.

And you’re the only one that can decide if this is worth it.

I would have laughed at him. Maybe even played violin to underscore his tragedy.

Probably good that I have no kids.

Heh. “The rules” amount to “Don’t talk to me about school when I’m tired [at the end of the day] or distracted [in the morning when I’m getting ready for school.]”

I violate “the rules” all the time with no problem, but if he happens to be in a pissy mood about who-knows-what, then he brings up “the rules.” That’s the “drama king” aspect.

If he’s tired or distracted, I know that’s not a good time to talk to him, if I expect my message to sink in. So when he’s in a receptive mood, even if it’s during the times that, according to “the rules,” are off limits, we talk.

I haven’t forgotten what it means to be a teenager, Chickie, but I was a teenage girl! That’s a whole different kettle of fish.

Good point. And I believe studies have shown that teenagers are even less morning-friendly than other people.

Smack him upside the head and tell him to grow the hell up.

How would you feel if your SO had to have an unpleasant discussion and chose to initiate it while you were cornered in the car on the way to work? How would affect your day?

I remember my mom was a fan of bringing up difficult stuff in the car, and it really made me nuts. First, there is just that feeling of being trapped. There is no escape. It could make even fairly neutral conversations feel threatening, since in a very literal way you have no control and no out. The one thing a teenager is terrified of is that loss of control that comes with being cornered and trapped.

More importantly, driving somewhere takes a fixed amount of time. This means you just know you are going to be nagged until you can finally escape. It becomes pretty clear that you can’t negotiate (since there would be no time to reach a resolution), and this can make you feel desperate and out of control. Just trapped in a car and nagged with no recourse.

And then you get the joy of starting your day.

I think it might be better to bring up this stuff in the evening, when he can feel like a parter in the conversation and when there is time to bring stuff to resolution. Yes, from your side you don’t see yourself as attacking. But if you back him into a corner on stuff, he is gonna feel attacked and respond poorly.

OK, you certainly don’t need to apologize for ruining his day! As someone upthread said, if you feel the need to apologize, you can apologize for the fact that he feels you have ruined his day.

But what I quoted jumps out at me.

As an example, my husband and I run a business together; we have rental properties here in WV. He works as a computer engineer for the federal gov’t, and I manage the properties. Saturdays are a “no work-day” day. We don’t discuss the business on Saturdays. Period. End of story.
If one of us brings it up, the other will say “It’s Saturday; we don’t discuss business”. That’s fine. Other days, in person, or on the phone or by email, we’ll discuss the properties. But Saturdays? Nope. Not in a box, not with a fox. So if you have an agreement with your son that certain times/places, you will not discuss school, you must honor that. If you don’t honor your end of the equation, how can you demand that he honor his?