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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:

and 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?

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6 comments to nonplussed

  • My kids aren’t quite old enough to think up such a creative way to rattle me as the stare down. But I’m thinking your method (cracking up, starting over) is just about as good as it gets.
    My 2yo often tries the preemptive “I wuv you mommy” when I pick her up and tell her to look at my face and.. (insert scolding here). I can only imagine the trouble that awaits me when she’s 13!!

    Jo@Mylestones’s last blog post..Prodigal June

  • Mama Lacy

    Sometimes it pays to record such moments. Keep a camera handy and grab it when the staredown begins. Say that you want to record such a masterful talent. I almost guarantee that it will be hard to hold in front of a camera. Try this a few times and you will probably both laugh. In less stressful times ask him to recreate the stare for perpetuity. It’ll probably loose its effectiveness.

  • Miles already does this…I’m in so much trouble.

    As I was reading, I considered suggesting that you make a crazy face to break the tension…but then you said you bust out laughing and I smiled. Perfect :)

    Heather of the EO’s last blog post..On wanting and birthdays

  • pam

    Love the camera idea, mom! And Jo and Heather, just you wait. . .
    although I can honestly say these tween/teen years have been my favorites so far. As long as you keep laughing.
    Thanks for stopping by!

  • I only wished for the silent treatment, or staredown. My son was the king of snark. During his teen years, I was always battling sarcasm!

    Cindy L’s last blog post..Guest on “Answers for the Family”

  • I have to confess that this took me straight back to my early teenage years (which is a hellish long time ago!) when I perfected exactly the look you describe. My dad was the main recipient because he took the bait more satisfactorily than my mum…

    Tess’s last blog post..Are we too polite?

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