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I am going to start this question by stating that I am the child (17) in this situation and not the parent.

In September, my mum starting working at the school where I am studying, as my maths teacher. This was fine initially, until I realised I would be spending roughly 10 hours a week of lesson time together (as I take maths and further maths). On top of that, we commute together most days of the week for approximately 40 minutes each way. Also, we spend time together in the evenings as my father goes to bed early so I have to leave my room and go be around my mum.

Furthermore, when I make a mistake, or don't understand something, I know I'm being treated differently to other students and have different expectations. When I don't understand something, or don't remember covering a topic (my memory is akin to a sieve being filled with water in terms of retention) I get a different attitude to other students, a more accusationary one.

As it's exam season, these issues have come to ahead in my mind a lot more, especially as I don't do well with pressure on a short term basis. I'm wishing my mum had never come to teach at my school and that I had a different teacher - even though the other two maths teachers are useless - but I don't want to switch and have to repeat a year as a result.

How do I limit the effects of this constant contact upon my relationship with my mum, my work ethic and my quality of work as I feel as though all three of these things are sliding out of my control at the minute.

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    have you tried discussing this with your mother? That would be the first step in trying to do anything here! – Rory Alsop Jun 24 '17 at 23:26
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    We recently had a huge row precisely because we suck at communication where me wanting to leave was part of the problem, so saying "I'm sick of being around you" would probably just be insult to injury – Gladiator Kittens Jun 24 '17 at 23:28
  • Saying that would not be discussion - it would be a very bad choice of words almost guaranteed to cause conflict – Rory Alsop Jun 24 '17 at 23:29
  • I know, I was just trying to make a point with that phrasing. This topic is something which I have discussed with my head of year after a breakdown several months ago, but I haven't dealt with the issue since. I went away for two weeks immediately after, and I didn't start to feel the strain again until recently. – Gladiator Kittens Jun 24 '17 at 23:32
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I'm sorry that you are experiencing this tough situation.

I will give some examples of things that you can try saying, but it is important to remember these things:

  • we can't change other people (I have tried a few times!)

  • we can't "make" someone feel a certain way (younger children are much more vulnerable, so they are an exception to this... And violent crimes)

  • Your mother's reactions to external events/words/actions remain solely in her brain and were learned from past experiences.

  • Your reactions to external events/words/actions remain solely in your brain and were learned from past experiences.

  • Both of your reactions to each other's behavior is valid. (valid is not necessarily healthy or constructive)

Knowing this, we must be careful to not point fingers when working through problems.

Let's look at an example conversation:

You: Mum, you're treating me unfairly and it's stressing me out. Don't you care about me?
Mother: I don't know how you could feel that way. I only want what's best for you.

Notice, both of these statements seem reasonable, and both could be argued to infinity. The problem is, they are both conflicting statements and cannot possibly both be true. If your mother wants what's best for you, she won't treat you unfairly. If she doesn't care about you, then she can't possibly want what's best for you.

Let's simplify what is being said to the most basic level.

You: You're being a bully and it's hurting me.
Mother: I'm not being a bully; I'm a nice person

In this example: After two sentences, notice how both of you are already locked in disagreement. Lose-lose

Briefly from another angle:
You accused your mother of something.
Your mother ignored the accusation and even gave herself a moral pat on the back.

Notice how this conversation is skewed in favor of your mother. If you accuse her of something, the outcome of the conversation is completely dependent on whether she accepts or rejects the accusation. In other words, she holds all the power in this exchange.

How can we try to avoid this accusative and stressful rabbit hole of a "conversation"? Let's level the playing field.

Try this:

You: Mum, I'm not sure why, but after I get an answer wrong, and after you correct me, I feel upset. I don't think it's your fault. Its really important to me because I think my being upset is affecting my classwork and motivation.

...and wait. What will she say?

This will remove all requirements of your mother accepting an accusation. This shifts the power from your mother to a much more neutral position. If both of you can practice doing this and be truly curious about each other in the process, it will lead you to learn a lot more about each other's preferences, past experiences, and fears. win-win

Unfortunately, based on my personal experience, the likelihood of your mother adapting this equal, negotiation-based communication strategy is slim.

I recommend giving this book a read if any of this makes sense to you. It will have many more examples and branch into other family situations. And it will help you build a good foundation.

Good luck

Source: Real Time Relationships

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    This is a great suggestion for anyone having relationship arguments. If you begin with the assume that everyone has each others' interests at heart, and focus on 'how you are feeling' (statement) rather than 'what they did' (accusation) it keeps people from getting defensive, and keeps the dialog going. – Rob Elliott Jun 28 '17 at 20:08
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Is the problem more that you are seeing too much of your mother? Or that she is your math teacher?

If the first, I would say to her, "mom, I love you, and I think you're a great mom. But because I see you at school all day now, I'm feeling like I might need some space. Would it be ok if we just did our own thing in the evenings after Dad goes to bed for a while? I think I need some "me" time."

If the second, I would say, "mom, you're a really great teacher, and I'm glad I get to share part of my learning experience with you. But I also sometimes feel like I'm being treated differently than other students, and it's starting to make me feel anxious about going to class. I don't know if you really ARE treating me differently, it might just be an expectation that I have, but it does often seem that way. Do you think that's something we can both watch out for going forward?"

As mentioned above, it is important not to accuse your mother when approaching this subject, and I would add that it is also extremely helpful to acknowledge what you appreciate from her so that she knows you aren't focusing only on the annoyances and deficiencies - after all she is a person in addition to being your mom, and you should treat her with the same compassion that you would offer anyone else with whom you have an important relationship. I do think, though, that you can be direct about the specific quality of the bad feelings you're having, as long as you are clear that you are not blaming her, and it's a situation you want to work on together.

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When my kids did sports or physical activities, I made it a point to almost never try to help, even if I knew more than the coaches or had pointers, because there's no way for a child to look at a parent as not being a parent. So, for the most part, it's difficult for correction to not be taken as criticism, for coaching to not be taken as "control," even if I perfectly was able to put aside my own parental instincts when doing so.

I wouldn't go so far as to drop the class, but maybe tell your mom that you feel like she treats you a little differently than other students, which equates to her treating you differently than your other teachers do, as well. Tell her that it's possible this "feeling" might be at least partially rooted in the kind of sensitivity to parental correction that kids develop during a lifetime of trying to please their parents.

Avoid trying to assign blame, or worrying about who is right. That is what leads you down the rabbit-hole that degenerates into a fight. Point out that the unique relationship of her being both teacher and parent means there's more opportunity for you to take teaching correction as something personal, and there's also more danger with her allowing her natural parental instincts to alter how she would normally react, as a teacher. Discuss it from the viewpoint of coming up with a plan, together, to minimize that. Maybe even stop the discussion at that point - "I wanted you to know what's bothering me. Instead of arguing about it or trying for an instant fix, why don't we both think about it for a day, and let's talk tomorrow about developing a plan to help us deal with this."

I'd also discuss the fact that the teenage years are years of change, frustration and new emotions. Teenagers normally get a bit of their break from emotional interactions with parents because they go to school for a big part of their day, and then they don't get overloaded with the teachers' interactions because they also spend a big chunk of their day not in school. Point out that you hardly get any of that separation. "I love you mom, but we should figure out a way so we can both get a break from each other for part of the day."

If you can approach it from the win-win perspective that others have pointed out, and look at it from the mature perspective of wanting to solve a problem, not put the blame for your frustration onto her, necessarily, you are not only going to have a better chance at actually helping to alleviate this problem, but your mom will look at you quite differently, going forward, as someone who is developing into a functional adult, and not just her kid who is getting bigger and is going through the stereotypical "issues."

As you think through what you want to say, and how to say it in a way that fosters cooperation between you two, it will also help you to identify any areas or language that is possibly driven more by an emotional reaction or over-reaction on your side, so the assessment will be helpful for you in that way.

This will possibly also be a big help to your mom, because it becomes an opportunity to help with a problem, a problem you came to her about, and asked for her help. This is a very big deal for parents as they watch their kids grow, get more independent, make their own mistakes, after the parent has a lifetime of stepping in a shielding the kid from their mistakes. It's very emotional for parents as this is a transition period to you leaving the nest. They've always been the parent. Soon they will still be parents, but you will me more of a nearly-equal adult peer. It's an emotional eventuality that represents both a huge change for the parents and how they view the relationship, but it's also a reminder of our own impending mortality, as well. Being able to be the helpful parent, and not just feeling like you think of her as the defensive "nag" who is holding you back, might be a welcome opportunity for your mom, as well.

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