My friend asked for advice because her 11-year-old son likes to throw this phrase at her, and she’s getting tired of hearing it. She knows he doesn’t really think she doesn’t care, but it’s getting on her nerves all the same.
I suggested she explain to him that he’s confusing “caring” with letting him have his own way. For example, he wants it quiet on the way to school so he can finish his homework. When she won’t shush his brothers, she’s accused of not caring. She can encourage him to use an “I” message, as in – “I’m so frustrated by all this noise!” – instead of attacking her. Or he can think of other solutions, such as completing his homework the night before, getting up a little earlier, or wearing headphones in the car. But she should definitely point out that they both know she does care, so it’s an unfair accusation.
I also suggested she could call it like it is and tell him he’s just being manipulative, and she doesn’t like it. She could mention that such comments actually make her less willing to help him. At 11, he will appreciate being involved in an adult-ish conversation (with big words), as well as being involved in the solution.
Parents should keep in mind that such comments are usually strategic tactics designed to deflect attention away from the issue at hand. What parent isn’t sensitive to being accused of not being perfect enough?
Here’s a tip: just put up your “Nice-try-kiddo” deflecting shield and let such remarks bounce right off of you!