A Mother Setting Boundaries with her Sons

Recently, a woman/mother who has been coming in for therapy came in rather upset.  She described that last evening, she had yelled at her sons and felt very guilty about this.  She explained the situation.

She had been at work all day and the boys were home alone…snow day.  The boys are 12 and 14. These are what I would call typical boys, capable of both, being incredibly sweet, loving and thoughtful and also smelly, dirty and selfish.  From the looks of the house, apparently, the boys had had a food-fight in the kitchen, ate in the living room, had invited other boys/friends over, they had a snowball fight in the front yard and had run in/out of the house (This was on one of the below-zero days.). They had taken baths and had left their dirty clothes in the bathroom, on the floor and had knocked over some boxes/papers which fell close to a space-heater and at one point at least they (the boxes) had begun smothering.

Upon arriving home and observing the state of the house, she was ANGRY…to say the least.  She yelled at them…”What were you thinking!”, “Look at this mess!”, etc.  She said/yelled she was going into her room and they had better clean the house up….that what they had done was disrespectful to her and showed a lack of respect they had for themselves, that over the weekend, they would be staying with their grandparents because she was sick of them and their disgusting ways, that they would be loosing all electronics until further notice and that presently, she didn’t care if they EVER got their phones/other electronics back, that they had better leave her alone because she would slap them and if they ever did such again, she would make they move out and in with their father, that she deserved better treatment from them at their age and that from hence forth, they would each be responsible for a variety of chores every week and that their electronics depended on how well they did such.

She said she went to her room and slammed to door.  She said she watched TV the rest of the evening and heard muffled conversations and noises that she assumed were her boys cleaning the house.  They went to bed on time that night and after such, she emerged from her room to find a well cleaned house. Their phones and electronics were on the kitchen table.  She said nothing to them the next morning and they, nothing to her. After work, back at home, she arranged their visits to their grandparents that weekend.  At supper, she complimented them on their work, informed them of their future weekly chores and affirmed they were staying with their grandparents over the weekend.  Nothing more was said about it.

And in my office she sat, feeling guilty.

My response…”You’re a good mom!”

She didn’t belittle, criticize or endlessly shame them of what they had done.  She affirmed such behavior disrespected her and themselves. She set clear and effective consequences; she followed through with them; she made sure they had to correct/clean up their mess; she clearly identified how disgusting they had been and how conscientious they were and she clearly identified future consequences she would impose if they did such again.  Yes, she did yell at them but honestly, as a member of their group, the group of men, I believe we need that, especially from women, at times, to get our attention or emphasize an important point (I worked with a woman once that said, when her husband was being selfish and inconsiderate, she would say to him, “I don’t want to be around you.” and walk away.  This was quite effective on the husband…because he wanted her to be with him and didn’t want to be a selfish/inconsiderate man.  And, the large majority of the time, he would immediately change his behavior.).

You’re a good mom….even if, ON OCCASION, you yell at your sons.

More later….