Coaching 0, Teenager 1 – How the Drama Triangle plays out in parenting!

It’s New Year’s Eve. I’m sitting with my head in my hands, feeling utter despair. The argument with my teenager has been ongoing now for nearly 16 hours. I’d be lying if I tell you my skills of coaching, dealing with conflict and complex problem solving rise to the fore and as a family we do an Action Learning session to resolve the problem. What I do know, is if I even dare try any coaching, it’ll make things a 1000 times worse! There’s no magic list on how I use coaching strategies to cope with teenage drama. Instead, the drama triangle starts to play out…

My husband has sought oblivion in his noise cancelling headphones and what seems to be a very interesting programme on his iPad – he’s avoiding making eye contact with either of us. I’m feeling at a loss on what to do and intrusive thoughts of being an utter failure as a parent are circling my mind. I resort to curling up into the foetal position and I pull a blanket over my head.

Thinking back to the good ole days

In the comfort of my curled up position, I start to reminisce. I recall memories of when my teenager was a toddler jumping in muddy puddles, playing at the play park and going to baby club. Then it hits me – baby club! I admit that I don’t overly love baby/toddler groups, for some reason I never really fit in at them. But it was useful to have a place to go to, to ask advice and share stories on the trials and tribulations of having a baby.

It’s then I realise I don’t have the same level of support for these teenage years. I decide my New Year’s Resolution is to find a ‘teenage club’ for parents with teenagers (if you know any let me know). In the meantime, I need help now as I’m not sure how long I can hide under this blanket!

Asking for help

I decide to reach out to two people. One is a parent whose teenager is friends with mine. The other is a seasoned parent who has successfully raised four children into adults. We exchange a few messages and conversations. It soon becomes apparent I’m in the wrong. I’ve made the wrong call in respect to the stance I’ve taken in the argument with my teenager. I pull the blanket around me tighter and further retreat into the protective den I’ve made myself.

Reactions to being wrong

Despite the warmth of the blanket cocoon, my immediate reaction to discovering I’m in the wrong, is to spiral into the drama triangle. I go straight to victim. So what does victim Kathryn say – she says “why does everyone else know how to parent and I don’t?”, “why don’t I have the rule book everyone else seems to have?”, “I thought I would be good at this but I’m not, I’m so terrible”. I recognise I’m being a victim and with that self awareness it triggers my persecutor.

My persecutor pushes victim Kathryn aside and goes into full activation mode. I launch my blanket and forcibly remove my husband’s headphones. I rant at him for… ooh I would say a good 5 minutes (maybe a tad more). Blame is the focus of my persecution. Blaming anyone I can think of that’s not me, him, other people and society for not training me to cope with a teenager. The look on my bewildered husband’s face says it all and I recognise my behaviour is not serving me well.

Salvaging the situation

I’ve wasted a good 30 minutes or so in the drama triangle – I’ve managed to really upset myself and now my husband isn’t in the best of moods. My attention refocusses to my teenager whose sat upstairs feeling miserable too. I steel myself to going upstairs and talking to her. My mind starts to cook up ideas on how I can back peddle from the situation to try to save the day for all. Politely, I tell my rescuer Kathryn these ideas are not helpful. I go with straight forward honesty. Admitting I got it wrong, explain my intention is keeping her safe and most importantly I apologise. I vaguely recall a quote from someone (not sure who), that said being a good parent is being willing to admit mistakes and apologise. I wonder to myself whether I’ve possibly made that up to make me feel better.

How the story ends…

To be fair my teenager doesn’t take this as a opportunity to gloat that she was right and I was wrong. She spares me and gracefully welcomes the change in decision. Then as teenagers do, jumps straight on her phone to let her friends know.

However, there’s a twist. No more than 5 minutes later, she happily skips down stairs and informs me she’s changed her mind and will, after all, be staying at home. I don’t psychoanalyse it. I make the most of her company and in the end we enjoy a really lovely evening.

Reflections on dealing with Teenage drama

After promising I didn’t have a magic list of coaching strategies to help with teenage arguments, I couldn’t resist sharing my reflections:

  • Asking for help was a plus not a minus
  • Like anyone else I’m human and just as susceptible to being sucked into the drama triangle as anyone else
  • This experience has shown me that situations where I’m wrong it triggers a drama triangle reaction in me
  • Apologising and admitting I was wrong worked well, I think it actually really helped
  • I hope being vulnerable and sharing my story on dealing with teenage woes helps others…
  • Noise cancelling headphones are not a wise purchase for husbands (although I’m sure he’d argue otherwise)