“You Need To Calm Down” and Other Phrases Your Tween Uses That Piss You Off, But Aren’t Meant To

by Christine Agro

I’m driving in the car with my son Caidin. He’s 15. 

‘You have to make sure you clean up your room,’ I say.

‘You need to calm down,’ he says.

There’s a moment of silence, and then I explode, ‘Don’t tell me to calm down!’ Which only results in a more serious, ‘Mom, seriously, calm down.’ 

I’m stuck in a circle conversation. The more Caidin tells me to calm down, the more agitated I get. 

Once I’ve counted to ten, a few times, I tell him, ‘you know, it’s rude to tell someone to calm down like that when you are in the middle of a conversation. It feels very dismissive.’ 

There’s silence.

And then he says, ‘you know mom, I’m not saying it the way you think I’m saying it.’ 

My head spins as I try to grasp this piece of information. I’m thinking, ‘well, how else are you saying it?’

A few days later, I’m driving, and the radio is on. 

Taylor Swift’s new song is out, and she’s singing to me, ‘You need to calm down. You’re being too loud. You need to just stop. Like can you just not…?’ 

My first thought is, ‘Taylor Swift, this is all on you,’ but the more I think about it, I realize, this is how some tweens and teens talk to each other.

Someone’s bothering them, and they say ‘can you just not…’ 

Someone’s getting agitated, and they say ‘You’re being too loud, Sit down.’ 

It doesn’t mean the person is loud or standing. It’s a metaphor of sorts, an expression that teens use in a variety of situations. 

To me, ‘You need to calm down,’ was rude. To Caidin, it was just part of his daily communication strategy. 

Every generation has its slang words and expressions. 

In the 60s, it was words like righteous and far out. In the 70s it was ‘do me a solid’ and ‘don’t be such a spaz.’ In the 80s, ‘no duh,’ and ‘that’s phat.’ In the 90s, it was ‘talk to the hand,’ and ‘not!’ 

I remember saying ‘no duh’ to my mom and got the same reaction from my mom that Caidin got from me. 

It’s important to remember that these are expressions and try to use these moments as teachable moments. Once you cool your jets (from 1973) find a neutral time to talk about the use of expressions in conversation. Focus on helping your child understand that what they say to their friends doesn’t necessarily translate when speaking with their parents and teachers and may end them in hot water ( from the 1500s.) 

Tweens and teens are testing things out and stretching their wings. They are seeking to individuate from us and to create their own identities by setting themselves apart. I’d say, more so than any other development stage, tween/teendom requires we take deep breaths and sort out our reactions, or if we find ourselves in reaction mode, take a step back and listen. 

Take a break. Think about what it was like when you were a teen. Do some research if you need to or ask them directly, ‘what does it mean to you when you say, “Can’t you just not?” 

Communication is always the key.

As you navigate the world of parenting a teen, use these five strategies to help you.

Breathe. 

Take a moment and pause.  Take a few slow deep breaths to help you reset.

Listen. 

Listen when your child tries to explain something.

Ask. 

Rather than infer, assume or project, ask your child questions to dig deeper into something you are thinking or perceiving. 

Research. 

The internet can be so helpful, especially when we are trying to bridge the generational gaps between ourselves and our kids.

Reflect.

Remember what it was like when you were a teen. But don’t assume it’s the same for yours. (Circle back to ‘ask.’) Reflecting on your teen years helps you to have empathy for this wildly developmental and life-changing time in your child’s life.

And if all else fails, take a chill pill. 

Christine Agro is a Conscious Living & Conscious Parenting Expert, seen on Good Morning Connecticut, Good Day Chicago, Late Night with Seth Meyers, featured in The New York Times and quoted in various outlets. Her life’s mission, aside from raising a Conscious Child, is to offer a perspective on our day-to-day lives that provides clarity, insight, and life changing ‘aha’ moments. Christine can be found at www.awakenandgrow.com and on all social media as @christineagro and she’d love to hear from you!