I Put My Son on Restriction

I Learned the Power of Unconditional Love in the Process

Photo Credit: Cindy Chen, Kiva Fellow © 2016

Since I birthed my son, I raised him with plenty of love, affection and firm boundaries. He’s always been a fairly easy going child, very well-behaved and easily corrected on the rare occasion he acted out. Then something happened, he turned 11.

I knew that the occasional attitude was puberty. I had no real problem with the extra morning complaints when he didn’t want to wake up for school. Again, I was able to redirect and give an occasional consequence when I felt necessary.

He’s 12 now and still an awesome child, he’s just developed an attitude that has sometimes made my head almost snap off it’s shoulders. I remember the day he told me his attitude was “Puberty.” I looked at him and after a deep breath explained, “Puberty is a reality, what you’re going through hormonally is real. You’re attitude is a choice.” I then looked at him firmly and told him, “Fix it!” That was a particularly rude day.

A couple weeks ago I decided it was time for me to get more firm. I saw him trying to “get over” by “forgetting” his responsibilities, like taking wrappers out his pockets, clothes off the floor, homework, etc. I felt like he was getting out of hand, especially on days I was more tired.

I took him to a concert for a school project and told him to take notes. Of course he was “too tired,” and told me he’d do them later. He then “forgot.” When I talked to him about it he claimed he didn’t know the concert was for the report. I looked him boldly in the eyes and told him he knew the concert was for the report and it was his responsibility to take down notes. He repeatedly “Forgot.”

He went to his father’s for the weekend and I text him he needed to finish the notes before coming back to me that Monday. I also informed his father. He came home that Monday, no notes. “I forgot,” he exclaimed.

With a deep breath I told him that was unacceptable, that he knew he was supposed to complete the notes. I told him he had consequences and put him on restriction. I took his phone and said “No phone for a week.” He flashed me a look similar to those 80’s demon movies where the child switches personalities and red beams come out their eyes. I turned my back to walk away and had the feeling my beautiful son just gave me the middle finger.

The next morning was rocky. He seemed to be extra tired and cranky. We were running late and I said out loud, “I don’t know how we’re 10 minutes late when I woke up an hour earlier.” My once mild-mannered child now tween turned to me and went on a major attitude snap-fest on how it’s all my fault. We were late, “It’s your fault!” He exclaimed. He’s tired, “It’s your fault I’m tired,” he told me.

Then he did what I hoped he would not, he went into how nothing ever happens at his dad’s house. I said, “Oh, so you’re only tired at our house?” “Yup! Dad wakes me up later.” I got to hear how much he hates everything with me, but loves everything with dad. Which was interesting seeing that he has frequently complained to me about how strict is his father, but this was not the time for me to bring that to his attention.

After his 15 minute cranky tirade, we arrived at his school. Before my son exited the car I made him look at me. I looked at him straight in the eyes with a smile and said, “I love you!” He said, “Later!” and slammed the car door. It was that moment that I got to experience the love/hate relationship between parent and child, from the parent’s perspective. It was also in that moment where I truly felt the depths of unconditional love. I looked at him walk into the school, and my heart completely opened. I felt happy!

I grew up in a very different time where I was not allowed to talk back. We had very different expectations. I raised my son with the expectation of respect, but also allowed him to express his feelings. He’s mostly been respectful, and easily corrected when not. This was the first time I got the full-out attitude with “I-hate-you,” undertones.

When I picked him up later that day, he was a very different child. He was lighthearted as he complained about his day. We went home and he hugged me, talked about Fortnite and wanted to know when he’d get his phone returned. I told him, “Provided you do everything I tell you, next week.” He said, “Okay,” completed his homework and chatted as we cooked dinner.

I talked to him about his morning attitude and he denied his behavior. I laughed and repeated many of his statements. He apologized, said he was tired, hugged me and apologized again. I smiled at him and told him, “Let that be a lesson to you in unconditional love.” He asked what I meant. I told him, “I love you unconditionally, I love you no matter what.” I talked to him about what I expect out of him in terms of his attitude and responsibilities, but that I loved him during “good and not so good times.” He listened, I actually had his full attention.

We talked about what he needed if he felt like he was in a bad mood, and what I needed as a parent. We came up with a family agreement that included his respectful expression, my ability to give him space, and his ability to give me space.

I did return his phone the following week and we’ve gotten along since. He’s had his morning complaints about being tired, but as of today no cranky outbursts. Let’s see how long that lasts.

Thank you for reading!

Biracial Black Woman and Proud Cape Verdean. I love good food, great wine, tea and being a Mom. You can read more at 1TaraChristina.com.