How Do I Say No and Mean It?
Cassandra was frustrated. Her son clearly didn’t get it. Every night he would stay up til all hours of the night playing music with his friends. Then around 5 AM, they would eat a meal in the kitchen, making lots of noise and mess, and then the friends would leave and he would stomp up the stairs, enter his bedroom and slam the door. She didn’t need to get up until 7. Yet, day in and day out, Cassandra would drag herself out of bed at 5:15 am, clean the kitchen, turn off all the lights, and go back to bed.
Then, each day, when her son got up, she would nag him about how hard his loud behavior and the mess he and his friends kept making upset her. He would agree that his music was loud, but that was as far as the conversation went.
Recently, Cassandra had noticed a new addition to the mess in the kitchen. In addition to the stacks of empty beer cans, there were roaches all over the floor. No, not the bugs, the marijuana cigarette butts…and even a few drug syringes in the trash cans.
She’d had enough. Not only were her son and his friends being obnoxious, they were also breaking the law in HER home!
So, she decided to get help. She enrolled in the BALM Comprehensive Family Recovery Education Program and began studying ways to get the message across to her son that his behavior was completely unacceptable.
At first, she didn’t get it. Why shouldn’t she yell? Why couldn’t she control him? Why wouldn’t he be more considerate?’
Then, the more she listened to the recordings and attended live classes, the more it hit her: This recovery was really about her. She wasn’t going to help him by ‘making him’ do things her way. But, if she got calm and started taking care of herself, he would have to take responsibility for his life as well.
First, she sat down with her son, calmly and described his behaviors:
- Son, you have been playing music with your friends all night and I have heard it.
- This has been so loud I have not been able to fall asleep.
- Then, you have eaten and left dirty dishes and unfinished food in the kitchen.
- Each morning, I have cleaned it up.
- I have been exhausted and overwhelmed for two years now, losing sleep from all of the noise and time spent cleaning up your messes.
Then, she shut up and watched for his reaction. His eyes grew big as he listened to her share calmly all of the things she had yelled about in the past. Something was different now, but he wasn’t sure what. That night, the behaviors continued unabated.
A few days later, she repeated the facts again. Then, after a few moments of silence, she moved into boundaries:
- Son, this isn’t working for me.
- I have shared my frustration with you many times and you have not responded.
- So, here is the deal: From now on, the house will be quiet after 10 PM.
- If you and your friends want to talk quietly, that is okay.
- But, there will be no drinking, drugging, or smoking in or around this house.
- Everyone needs to be out of the house by 11 and at that point the deadbolt is going on the door.
- If you are here, I will assume you are sleeping at home. If not, I’ll assume you are sleeping elsewhere.
- The kitchen is closed after dinner.
- I need my sleep so I can go to work refreshed, and I am no longer interested in shopping for or cleaning up after a bunch of young men who could be taking care of their own food and messes.
- I will call the police if these rules are broken and I will press charges. This is my home and I no longer choose to live this way.
Then she shut up again.
At first, her son laughed. “You would not call the police,” he said. “No way.”
But something about her tone and demeanor told him she would.
“I’ve already spoken with a lawyer,” she said. “I am allowed to have rules about the home I own, and to expect them to be followed, and I’m certainly entitled to not have illegal activity going on in my home. I have no desire to control you. I simply want a sane and quiet life. Something you and your friends have not allowed me to have for a very long time. You are welcome to test me, ” she said. “But I wouldn’t recommend that you do so.”
Then, the mom stood up and said to her son. “I love you and want you to have a good life. And I love me, too. I want a good life for me too, and this, my dear, is my strong start to do so.”
And with that, she walked out of the room!
Apparently, her son warned his friends. That night, he slept at a friend’s house. The following night, he slept home. Since he was no longer a minor, she knew where he slept was his business. Seeing the success of this initial effort, her next plan was to talk to him about contributing to the household expenses. But that conversation she’d save for another day…
Note to BALMers:
This week’s principle is: “Don’t Set a Boundary Unless You Are Determined to Stick to It” As you listen to the lesson, think about what you want to set boundaries on and how you will get the strength to stick to the boundaries you set. Not everyone faces such blatant inconsideration as the mom in this story faced.
Yet, many of us could take better care of ourselves and in doing so, allow our loved ones to take personal responsibility for their own behavior.
Be A Loving Mirror!
Beverly A. Buncher, MA, PCC, MRLC, CTPC
Family Recovery Coach/CEO
Family Recovery Resources, LLC
786 859 4050