Although 18 is the legal age for adulthood in the United States, growing up is a process. All the secrets of life and human relationships don’t suddenly unlock before you on your 18th birthday. If you and your mom have a conflicted relationship, it will continue until you both learn to stop the fighting. It is not easy to break a long-standing pattern, but making the commitment to new ways of communicating will eventually pay off.
The Endless Cycle
FamilyEducation.com breaks down the anatomy of a typical mother-daughter fight. Although boys have different core issues at play, most of the information applies to mother-son relationships as well. In essence, the argument begins with a relatively simple provocation. Your mom doesn’t like your new haircut or you want to negotiate a house rule. The current issue taps into a lot of unresolved feelings between you, causing both of you to turn to unhealthy coping skills, such as blaming or overreacting. This drives a bigger wedge between you, escalating the argument into a full-blown fight. The emotions eventually subside, but the next time you disagree you bring all of this time’s baggage into the mix, as well as your previous pattern of fighting, making it even more difficult to resolve the next conflict. Thus, the cycle continues.
Breaking the cycle of arguments requires a conscious choice, a strong will and a great deal of patience. Ideally, both you and your mother are ready to put changes in place. If not, you are old enough and experienced enough to make the changes yourself. Next time you get into an argument that begins to escalate, simply stop fighting. It is easy to say but hard to do. Force yourself to remain calm and even-tempered. Let your anger, sadness and other negative emotions wash over you, but don’t let them control your actions or statements. Take a time-out from the discussion, but extend a verbal invitation to continue the conversation later. Say something along the lines of “I’m too angry to talk right now. How about we pick this up after I calm down?” Avoid commenting on how upset your mother is or what she might be thinking. Take responsibility for your own feelings while leaving her to manage hers.
Rules of Fair Fighting
During the next several arguments, you might only get as far as the breakthrough phase. Celebrate these small successes and continue to nip escalation in the bud. Over time, you and your mom will adapt to the new normal -- fights that don’t escalate -- and will become ready to move on. At this point, start to implement the rules of fair fighting. According to the University of Texas Counseling and Mental Health Center, fair fighting begins with identifying the problem and the goal you hope to achieve. Set a time to discuss the situation with your mother, and get right to the point. Use self-focused words, such as “I feel,” to avoid placing blame. Remembering that you and your mother are on the same team, look for solutions that are mutually beneficial. Avoid personal attacks, clamming up and using generalizations. Keep the focus on one issue at a time, and take a time-out if needed.
At times, you and your mother simply will not see eye to eye. Part of becoming an adult is learning how to agree to disagree with someone you love and respect. If the issue does not greatly impact your relationship, it does not necessarily require a resolution. Some parent-child duos spend their entire lives revisiting circular arguments on topics that are no longer relevant to either person. As a legal adult, you have the right to make decisions about your own life. As the parent and breadwinner, your mother has the right to decide what is acceptable in her home. If your differences are vast and irreconcilable, consider making alternate living arrangements. Otherwise, accept your mother for who she is and work on identifying your similarities rather than getting lost in your differences.
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