What Drives Arguments with Your Teen?
- Friday, March 09, 2007
"Why won't this boat work!" echoed across the lake as I (Gary) yelled and stomped my foot. Now it was official, I was completely frustrated and totally embarrassed. I had bragged about my new boat, how wonderful it was, what a great time we'd have on the lake, and now the only thing that came to my mind was the proverb: "Pride cometh before a fall."
There was a missionary family who was staying with us—seven of them altogether. In addition to room and board, I'd promised them an enjoyable adventure out on the lake aboard my brand new boat.
The next day, we packed a picnic lunch, loaded fishing gear, water skis, and anything else that could be used for water fun. Greg and I herded the entire family onto the boat. The best part was this was to be the missionary family's first time on a lake boat. It was going to be the perfect day. I should have known better!
With everyone aboard, anticipation brewing, excitement in the air, Greg pushed away from the dock and then took his seat behind me.
"Let's go have some fun!" I yelled. The entire boat erupted in screams and whistles of joy and happiness.
Trying to ham it up even more, I told the young kids to give me an official count down. Five…Four…Three…Two…One…Blastoff!
We flew away from the dock like a rocket ship. The best part was hearing the five-year old boy say to his father, "This is the coolest boat on the lake!" I was in heaven. But then something happened.
"Why are we losing speed?" I thought to myself. Worse yet, "Why has the engine stopped?"
"Daddy," cried the young boy, "What's wrong, why are we slowing down? I want to go faster!"
"Don't worry everyone; I'll have this fixed in a second."
After turning on the ignition key several times the engine roared back to life. And once again we were off.
And then it happened again. The engine died.
This pattern of the engine starting and the engine stopping went on for the next 15 minutes. I checked the engine, gas level, oil, and any other thing I could possibly think of. As soon as I'd get the engine running, it would die. Finally I screamed out off total frustration. I wanted to sink this stupid boat right where we it sat floating, but with the missionary family aboard, I figured my salvation was at sake if something happened to one of them.
And that's when Greg said, "Hey Dad, what is this cord for? Because any time the motor is running and I pull it, the engine stops." And then he started laughing.
I know understand how Abraham could have possibly placed his son Isaac on the sacrificial alter. Like my son, I'm sure Isaac had done something to completely irritate his father. The cord that Greg was pulling on every time I'd get the boat running was the emergency engine kill. I had been ready to blow up my boat, while all along, it had been Greg playing a practical joke on me.
I smiled at the missionary family, and leaned over to Greg and whispered in his ear, "You're in big trouble!"
"Lighten up, dad!" snapped Greg, "It was just a joke!"
Still smiling, I gave Greg the look that says, "Wait until we get home!"
"How was I to know that you can't take a joke?" asked Greg.
"Just admit that you made a mistake, Greg," I said, "and besides, you do stupid things like this all the time. And now you've wrecked their fun as well."
"Why are you making such a big deal, I fixed the problem," He screamed.
"I didn't do anything wrong!" yelled Greg, "If anyone should admit anything it should be you for not being able to take a joke."
"Typical," I thought to myself. And then I shut down and stopped talking to Greg altogether.
My interaction with Greg lasted only several seconds, but our dance was in full swing. Did you see it?
Let's do like they do during a football game and use "super slow motion." Here is what was really going on for both of us. My (Gary's) button, my greatest fear, is the fear of being controlled or feeling helpless and powerless. If I feel as though I'm being controlled—or even if I believe that I'm at risk for being controlled—I instantly will react. When my boat didn't work, I felt totally helpless. When I realized that Greg was playing the joke on me, I felt controlled—he was doing something that was causing me embarrassment and I had no control over. The reality was that buttons had already been pushed. When I couldn't get the boat to work properly in the presence of the missionary family, I felt embarrassed and humiliated. So a bunch of buttons had been pushed in that moment (e.g., humiliated, helpless, controlled). The problem was that I never knew this. No one had ever said, "Gary, the real issue isn't the joke Greg played on you, it's that your buttons got pushed."
Recently on Parenting
Have something to say about this article? Leave your comment via Facebook below!
Listen to Your Favorite Pastors
Add Crosswalk.com content to your siteBrowse available content