If you want to push my buttons, you can sass me, ignore me, or turn your back on me while I’m talking. My kids have learned this well and respond accordingly (depending on whether they feel like pushing my buttons or not).
Lately, one of my loving offspring has invoked a new move that completely unnerves me –
The Silent Staredown. It’s sort of a cross between this:
I wish I could eloquently describe this to you. It’s not a deer-in-the-headlights look, and it’s not an “I hate you right now” look, it’s more like, “I know you’ll get mad if I don’t pay attention, so I’m going to pay attention in the most unnerving way possible by looking at you with zero expression and refusing to blink, speak or react in any way for what will feel like hours.” It’s used quite masterfully when I’m trying to impart very important information and hoping for a two-way conversation. When deployed skillfully, my brain turns to mush, I completely forget the very important information that I’m trying to communicate, and any hope for a two-way conversation is out the window.
The trouble is that I think I’ve actually created this monster move. How many times have I said, “Please look at me when I’m talking to you?” or “Wait until I’m finished before you interrupt?” It probably frustrates me because I absolutely cannot return the favor. I’m so transparent that you’d have to inject me with gallons of Botox to keep my face neutral throughout the staredown. And yes, it would probably be somewhat immature to engage in a staredown with my son. Oh, how children (especially adolescents) bring out the best in us!
So what’s a mother to do? Ask him to avert his eyes? That’s not my style. I want to disengage this power play dynamic within my family.
So far, my best response has been to stop talking, try to stare back and then crack up laughing. It breaks the tension and we can start over again.
Do your kids use the staredown tactic? What do you do?