I asked my emerging teenager why he had an attitude one morning– was there possibly something I had done to him in my sleep?– and his very deliberate reply was, “I don’t have an attitude, I’m just aggravated.”
This quickly became a teachable moment because his behavior was making me feel a certain kind of way. So I shared with him that whether aggravated or attitudinal, he was demonstrating behavior that was not effectively resolving the issue he may have been having. It was also borderline and unacceptably disrespectful. You see, he had just given me an excuse for an incomplete assignment. No excuses, I had told him. I reminded him that he has the resources to do his work, his attendance at school is nearly perfect, his health (thank God) is good, and that I greet him ready to hear about his day and with a snack in his very own study area. School work neglect was simply unacceptable.
I got the stare-down.
What was that for? I asked.
IDK, he answered. (Yes, the letters)
Well, that doesn’t scare me, I told him.
I’m not trying to scare you, he told me.
Well, once again, what are you trying to accomplish with your facial expression? I asked.
I could see the narrative bubble over his head: Enough already. I agree, I told him telepathically. I could see the morning going to hell-in-a-handbasket. After all, I had made my point; he had made his.
I changed the subject. Are you making your lunch today? Because now I was aggravated. But I wasn’t going to tell him.