A letter to my tween: I will be your punching bag, but I will NOT be your doormat

Dear Daughter,

The other day you were in a pissy mood. I get it. It happens to all of us. You were stomping around the house, slamming doors, and no matter how nice I was to you, you were a total crabapple (FYI, I’m not using the word I’m really thinking). I made you dinner, you complained that it wasn’t what you wanted. I offered to help you with your homework, but you blew up at me when I tried to understand what you were working on. And for some reason it was all my fault you couldn’t find your jacket. Anyways, here’s the thing. I get it. 

You are a tween, soon to be a teen. Which means there are all sorts of crazy things happening to your body right now. Nahhh, I don’t mean those exciting/confusing/embarrassing things we see on the outside. I’m talking about what’s going on INSIDE. You’re basically a human pinball machine, only instead of silver balls, it’s a bunch of crazy hormones bouncing around inside your body.

And some days they make you want to slam your bedroom door and sit in there for hours on end and make me worry and call out things like, “You okay in there?!” just to have you grunt back, “I’m fiiine.” And other days they make you mopey and weepy and sleepy and grumpy and lots of other words that sound like the Seven Dwarfs who need therapy.

And all of that is okay. It’s normal. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not happy about it, and I often long for the little girl whose biggest problem was that her sandwich was cut into triangles instead of rectangles. Those were the days. 

But you’re growing up now. And things are changing. And even though you don’t need me in the same ways you used to, you still need me. So I’ll always be there for you. On one condition.

I will be your punching bag, but I will NOT be your doormat. 

Maybe you’re like what’s the difference between a punching bag and a doormat? Don’t they both suck? Yes, but there is a difference.

A punching bag is there to help you get out your emotions. You punch it. You kick it. You let it absorb some of your anger, your frustrations, your pain. And then when you’re done and feeling a little better but tired, what do you do? You hug it. You wrap your arms around that big ole bag and give it a hug.

But a doormat? A doormat is there for one reason only. To be walked all over. To be disrespected. It’s somewhere to wipe off the crap that’s on the bottom of your shoes. And once you’re done, you walk away leaving it covered in dirt. I will not be that. 

I am here to be your punching bag.

When you have a bad day and you want to be in a grumpy mood and complain to me, whether it’s about the mean girls at school or the piles of homework you have, I will be there to listen. If you want to go to school and have a smile on your face the whole time and then break down in tears the second you’re done, that’s what I’m here for. Feel free to bottle up those feelings all day long and then right before you get in the car, shake yourself up like a can of coke and unpop the top as soon as the car door slams shut.

I am literally your shoulder to cry on whenever you need it. I am the person you can be honest with about your emotions. I am your safe place. I am your punching bag. The thing you can throw your feelings at whenever you need to.

But I will NOT be your doormat.

When I pick you up from school and I’m nice enough to bring you a cheese stick, and the first thing out of your mouth is, “Uggh, I didn’t want a cheese stick,” you are treating me like a doormat.

When I can’t help you with your Spanish homework because I don’t know Spanish so you blow up at me like it’s all my fault, you are treating me like a doormat.

When you’re in a grumpy mood and talk to our family with that mean voice that sounds like you don’t respect us at all, you are treating us like doormats.

I get it. I was your age once. It’s confusing/frustrating/overwhelming/heart-wrenching and a lot of other painful I-N-G words. And I’m here to try to help make things better for you. I am here to bear some of that burden you are carrying. But I will not let you walk all over me. If that’s what you want, I will buy you a doormat. 

XOXO,

Your loving, caring, worrying, tissue-carrying, ice cream-buying punching bag, aka Mom

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There are 18 comments for this article
    • BabySideburns at 10:34 am

      I wish I could give advice, but I’m probably as clueless as you are. I’m mostly trying to set boundaries. When she acts like I’m a doormat, I tell her to stop or there will be repercussions. Sometimes she listens, sometimes she gets something taken away. Sometimes I let her cool off and she usually changes her behavior.

      • Jen Mierisch at 10:52 am

        It’s good to know that other moms struggle with this too. I am going through exactly this with my 12yo right now. I am finding it difficult. I get grumped at so often that I find myself enjoying our normal conversations, when they happen, so much more. I just want her to understand that I am always here for her but won’t take excessive amounts of s**t from her.

      • Katie at 10:46 pm

        Today is the day I finally understood the difference. I always thought my sister treated me as a punching bag but really treats me like a doormat ?.

  1. Adina Erridge at 10:41 am

    Thank you for this. I really needed to hear and hopefully be able to recite this to my teenage daughter who treats me as both.

  2. Helen at 10:48 am

    All I can say is to hang in there and have patience. It does get better. My son has ADHD and ODD. He treated us like the ultimate doormats and punching bags at the same time. There were many many blow outs. He’d argue about anything, just to get a reaction from me and my husband.

    My son is 18 now and is looking forward to going to college in September. He is so much more calmer and kinder. He is also much more responsible. I never thought things would get better. We even went to see therapists for his behaviour. But maturity and time are the best solutions. Believe me when I say that it does get better. Also be consistent with routines. That also helped us.

  3. Kerri Strupp at 10:58 am

    I feel your pain. Right now I am my 14 year old daughter’s doormat and I have had it. I scream by myself in my bathroom…I cannot wait until the hormones level out and I have my sweet daughter back. I went through it with my older daughter who is now 17 and the best!

  4. Nicole at 5:02 pm

    I want to send this to my kids but I know my youngest will just throw it back in our faces. They’ll accuse us of not respecting them. They are currently in a spot where they can’t admit that parents have flaws and aren’t perfect too. We should never ever lose our cool. We shouldn’t tell them stories about the fact that we’ve dealt with similar things in the past because it’s guilt-tripping them. DON’T help them brainstorm ideas to handle a bad situation. We don’t know anything. So doormats we remain.

  5. Becky at 10:51 am

    This is the most accurate piece of advice ever. I’m printing it for my 14 and 12 year olds and sharing it with all my mom friends.
    Thank you!

  6. Liz at 4:44 pm

    This is what I have been struggling with, thank you for putting it into words. I wanted to be there to help her to listen to the emotions but couldn’t understand why I felt so rubbish. This is the distinction I need to make, thank you!

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