Liam is in a power struggle with his parents over his refusal to communicate. From Liam’s perspective, they interrogate him—questioning where he goes, whom he sees, what he does. It’s stifling, and his response up to now has been to shut down.
However, Liam is a bright and practical lad, and he recognizes that this approach is not working too well for him. With Liam’s every refusal to discuss his life, some new restriction seems to come down on him. In his language, his parents are ‘tightening the screws’: attempting to restrict his choice of friends and trying earlier curfew. There’s even been mention of cutting his spending money!
This article is one in a series on communications. You can find the first article in the series here.
It takes a lot of Liam’s energy to sneak around without getting caught. Life would be simpler if he could be upfront about his friends and activities, but his parents would never approve.
So Liam decides to seek the advice of cousin Larry. Larry goes where he wants without getting the third degree when he gets home. When he’s at the library or the rink, he doesn’t get embarrassing texts from his parents asking where he is and when he’ll be home. Aside from his insufferably dull life, Larry seems to have a pretty sweet deal.
Liam asks Larry how he managed this feat. According to Larry, “Well, one thing I learned is that it doesn’t help if we try to control each other.”
Liam is ecstatic. “Oh, that’d be awesome, if I could make them stop controlling me.”
“Hang on,” says Larry. “You can’t ‘make’ them do anything. Besides, they’re not really controlling you, are they? You’re still sneaking out; you’re still hanging around with people they don’t like. You’re just doing it under their radar, most of the time.”
“And, it sounds like it’s not just your folks who are trying to do the controlling; you’re trying to control them, too. When you walk in without even saying “hi,” ignore their questions, and slam the door, what is it you’re trying to make them do?”
It’s obvious to Liam, “What do you think? I’m trying to make them leave me alone.”
Larry, “Is it working?”
“No, that’s why I’m here. What would you do?”
Larry explains his approach. “I give them all the information they could possibly want before they even ask. I tell them where I’m going and when I plan to be home. If there’s nobody here, I’ll leave a note. Maybe that’s overkill, but it works for me.”
Liam’s less ecstatic now. “Sounds to me like you caved. You just let them control your life.”
That perception presents no problem for Larry. “I’m not telling you what to do. But if you want something different, why not give it a try? Do it for a week. What have you got to lose?”
What do you think will happen when Liam stops trying to control his parents by refusing to communicate?
The next article in this series is here.