Teenager, By Hagit Lifshitz, Israel

(Photography: Yafa Kfir)

“You don’t listen. I have no one to talk to. I’ve told you just a second ago to live me alone. Why can’t you understand my needs? Should I tell you them time and time again?! Are you my mom, or what?! Don’t you have any tact?!”

If any of you have ever raised a teenager, this may sound familiar to you… Or you may be such a trained Giraffe by now, that this is no longer heard in your home…
Well, ten years of NVC practice and I still need to remind myself from time to time: “listen to his feelings and needs”...

If you haven’t realized that by now - I’ll tell you: this is my son, A. 17 years old, at the Saturday night’s dinner table. This was his reaction to me asking him: “would you care for a desert now?”

Wow… After some “Jackal” statements by both of us (I: “you say things that I cannot accept, like you don’t want any contact with me, but I do!” and him: “you should know that when I say leave me alone it has to do with the specific context, not literally!”…), he gets up and leaves the table, slamming his chair.

I feel frustrated, embarrassed, and painful. I walk out to get some fresh air and reflect. I tell myself: “listen to your own feelings and needs now. Take care of yourself, before you get back to him. Remember the ‘Dance of life’. Stay connected to yourself first, then you’ll know what’s next and how to return to compassion and joyful mutual understanding. Trust the process…”

Fifteen minutes later I come back home. My son is out with his friends. We meet again the morning later in the kitchen.

“May I say something following yesterday?” I ask and add: “I’ve realized something and I wish to share it with you…”

“OK”.

“First, I’d like to tell you what I understand from what you’ve said to me yesterday, OK? Then please tell me if I missed anything or misunderstood, agreed?”

“It’s about time!”

“OK, I get that when you say that you want me to leave you alone, you also want me to be aware and sensitive to the over-all situation and realize in what way you need some space and in what way you want me to stay connected with you. Is that correct?”

“Yeh. You finally get it”

“And you want me to respect your need for space and quiet?”

“Yes”

“OK, do you also want me to understand your needs even in times when you don’t say them literally? You want me to make an effort and realize them by myself?”

“Exactly!”

“So, do you also wish that I knew and remembered your need for connection with me, even in moments of anger, and you want me to look for concrete ways to keep this contact with you in such moments?”

“Yes, mom”

“Anything else you wanted me to understand?”

“No. This is it”

“So, may I say my needs now? Are you willing to listen to them?”

‘Yes, sure!”

“I’m glad. The first thing I want to share with you is my need for connection with you. I wish we had a certain level of communication and connection that will be convenient for both of us, as I want to respect your need for privacy too”…

“Yes, but you know, every time we quarrel, you think I don’t want connection with you and you start being such a nag! It’s not true”

‘I feel fear, because I need to stay connected with you…”

“You feel panicked!”

“True. And you want me to feel certain that you too still need connection and communication with me even when we quarrel?”

“Especially then!!! Please remember that it may also happen that I’d want to communicate with you and you may not be available for me for some reason at that particular moment…”

“So, you also want both of us to respect each other’s time, space and other things we are occupied with?”

“Yes, of course!”

“Wow! I love it! I now want to make a request, if I may…”

“Go ahead”

“Would you be willing to let me know, every time you want to speak to me, even when you think that I’m busy with something else?”

“OK”

“You realize that I may sometimes say that I’d rather talk some other time or I may make myself available to you…?”

“Sure. Fine. I feel OK about this.”

“I am happy again, sweetie… It’s a deal, Hah?”

“Oh, yeh! Would you help me with the crossword now, mom?...”