My mom and I moved out of our house and into an apartment. I really don't mind it, but my mom hates it she also works from home for costumer support and she hates her job. We also live near my dad and brother, which my mom hates, and again I really don't care. The problem is that she is always taking out on me and I hate it! We are always yelling at each other for stupid petty things! How can I get her to stop yelling at me?
Tuski (age 14)
* * *
What is happening here is what psychologists call “displaced anger.” This means that other things are bothering your mother, and even though they have nothing to do with you and you didn’t do anything wrong, her anger needs an outlet and, unfortunately, you are it. Here’s an article about that.
The thing is, your mother probably doesn’t realize she’s doing it. She gets irritated because of her job and things that are happening in her family, and she probably tries to hold it in, but then the least little thing will set her off.
What you need to do is show your mother that she is exhibiting displaced anger. Tell her that you understand she is going through stuff and she is unhappy, but that you are on her side, so please don’t take it out on the daughter who is routing for you, Mom! This will, hopefully, wake her up to what’s happening. (Oh, and don’t use the argument “I’m okay with where we live and being near Dad, so what’s wrong with it?” because that will just make her defensive and more irritated). If she does wake up to the problem, you should see her attacks on you diminish significantly.
But she’ll still need an outlet of some kind other than you. Start doing some activities with your mother that will help relax her. This will both help with stress and with the mother-daughter bond. If you can afford to, take an exercise, yoga, or tai chi class together. Try to take her mind off things by doing a fun activity together, even if that is shopping, or just going to the park, or a cheap matinee.
Tuski, your mom is going through a rough spot and she needs your support. I know this will be hard, but to end this cycle you need to stop fighting back for a while, even if she yells at you. Just don’t react. Let her yell for a bit, and, when she stops, ask her if she is done yelling (very calmly). Then explain to her what I told you about displaced aggression and how you are trying to help her.
This might take a while and some effort on your part. The less you yell at her and the more you behave supportively, the more likely she will back off of you and see you as an ally and not a punching bag (using a real punching bag, by the way, is a great way to destress).
Hope that helps! Let me know how it goes!
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.