Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax: Mom keeps telling me what to do

 

Dear Carolyn: I am a generally happy, young teenage boy. I have recently been upset with my mother, because I feel she has been unfriendly. Whenever I ask her if I can do something, she replies that I have to mow the lawn first, or pull weeds out of the garden. I make simple requests, but it seems that I can’t have any fun unless she gets some benefit out of it.

I have a good relationship with the rest of my family, and I get good grades. My mother doesn’t give me any allowance, and I have to do the dishes twice a week.

I am fine with this arrangement, but she seems to want much more out of me. I am willing to change my actions, and I think she is too, but neither of us will budge until it seems logical to.

Right now I am not doing what she wants, and I am sitting around the house watching television (which isn’t normally my favorite thing to do). I don’t want to keep this up longer, but I am not sure if I am being too demanding of her, or if she is being too demanding of me.

Wondering Teen

Watching TV in protest! You’ve really shown her.

Your mother wants your contribution to the household to grow as you do. At birth, you relied on your parents to do everything for you. As soon as possible after you complete your formal education, you want to rely on your parents to do nothing for you — besides root for you, be happy to see you and offer occasional, asked-for advice.

To get there, I suppose in theory you can stretch the infancy arrangement (minus diaper changes, please) to your graduation day and then take over your own housing, food, laundry and bills from there. But launches into adulthood go a lot better if you start the independence process at toddlerhood, and build your skills from there: for example, from putting your own clothes in the hamper to putting clean ones away to folding them to washing them to handling the whole family’s laundry when it’s your turn to.

As in, grasping on your own that family dynamics are … dynamic. The top-down, parents-help-kids structure goes through a roughly two-decade evolution into a vehicle for all members to support each other. Your mom’s message, whether you like its tone or not, is a great one: Your give-to-take ratio is too heavy on the take, so don’t expect much taking until you fix that.

You’re quite capable, I imagine, not just of mowing lawns, but also of noticing leggy grass and mowing it before you can be asked to. Or doing dishes one night beyond your contractually dictated two, just because. Or just saying thanks, and meaning it, for something Mom does that you’ve come to take for granted. If you’ve been conditioned not to notice, then train yourself to notice. When you see chores in progress, start asking, “Can I help?”

And if you’re not so inclined, why not? Mom didn’t ask you nicely enough?

I obviously don’t know her, but I suspect that if you take some initiative instead of fuming at the flat-screen, then she’ll stop forcing you to jump through chore hoops whenever you want something. Another great, incremental step toward maturity: Learn that if you don’t like being bossed around, then you can either pout, or take step by possible step toward independence. I recommend Door No. 2.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.

Read more Lifestyle stories from the Miami Herald

  • Fit Tip

    Fit tip: Eat more mangoes

    Q: I love mangoes but they are so sweet they must be bad for me. Is this true?

  • Carolyn Hax

    Carolyn Hax: Am I single and loving it or just scared?

    Adapted from a recent online discussion.

  • Dear Abby

    Dear Abby: Younger couples weigh in on how they handle money

    Dear Readers: On April 11, I printed a letter from “Wondering in Washington,” a man asking why young men in general today have the attitude that “any money I earn is mine” in a marriage or live-in situation. He said when he married, he and his wife considered what they earned to be “theirs” — not his or hers. When I asked my “younger readers” to chime in, I was inundated. Some excerpts:

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category