I have recently taken to watching the series Parenthood in replays. BTW is a great series about three generations of a family with the Grandparents, their four children, and the children’s children.
Like any great program the characters are well written and when watching there are great lessons to be had if you want them, or it’s simply good entertainment. Some of the stories you can laugh at, because chances are you can recognise your own family members in them.
The current collection of episodes have been going through the journey of the oldest son’s teen daughter having her first boyfriends. Her over-achieving mother, who is super anxious wanting to be “doing parenting right” is trying really hard to protect herself from the pain of her daughter growing up and leaving, and so is placing controls.
The challenge with raising kids is, as they grow, they are meant to have their own thoughts and opinions. We may not like the words or the behaviour at times, but if we want a relationship with them, we must figure out how to communicate in ways that remain connected.
One of the most important pieces of advice my dad gave to me about enabling connection is “pick your battles”. Smart man, and great leader both in the family and at work.
My mum is the more anxious type who has a tendency to need control.
As a leader dad seemed to appreciate that the journey through parenthood is about preparing our child/ren to adult. Meaning that as they get closer to leaving home, we are meant to have less and less authority in their lives.
If we want to be heard, we must listen. If we want respect, we must respect them first. If we want compliance, we must create an environment of trust.
Over-playing our position
What can happen, and did with this mother is, she over played her hand.
What I mean is, she drew a line in the sand, expecting that her child would accept that the parents were the boss and follow their edict. The problem is teenagers are wired to be pushing back. It’s a biological process that they have no control of.
This mother was also forgetting that her mid teenage daughter was raised to be an independent thinker (yay). When the daughter was told “while you are under my roof you live by my rules”, which sounds reasonable. The daughter chose to move out (went to the grandparents).
At face value, the average parent would think the daughter’s behaviour is unreasonable. Without appreciating that our job is not to control our child, it’s to provide a safe haven that enables them to make their own choices, and learn to trust themselves.
The parents had broken trust through failing to listen to their daughter to really hear what she was saying. Their own fears of what hadn’t yet happened (all their own thoughts and worry) to even entertain the idea that they could listen to their child. They were also failing to trust that they’d brought her up to be capable of making good decisions.
It’s super tempting to believe being the parent gives us some sort of control from our position alone, except that we only have as much control as our child allows us to have. Read that again.
We only have as much control as our child allows us to have.
What that means is, that the relationship that we build with our child is actually controlled on their terms.
No matter what we believe, think or feel, our child (and any human) gives us as much influence as they choose.
Building Relationship Foundations
When our children are little, we are building the foundations of the relationship with our future teen and adult child. We must not only be bigger and stronger, we must be wiser and kinder too.
Wiser can be the challenge, because having children who are growing and emotionally retreating from us (as is the case in adolescence) can feel awful, especially for those of us who believe that being connected means keeping them close.
Aligning with their Style
The thing is, if we build the relationship with our children, based on the way they do relationship, we are more likely to remain influential in their lives. We achieve this through leaning into what motivates them. Speaking in the language the aligns with how their brain processes the world.
That doesn’t mean they do what they like nor always comply with what we say. It does mean they are more likely to listen to our input and process based on how much they trust us.
Filling the trust bucket
If we have not filled their trust bucket enough, we don’t get to be an influence in their lives. And quite frankly IMO that’s reasonable.
Our children don’t owe us anything. That can be a tough perspective for some to appreciate, especially those of us whose parents treat us as if we owe them.
We overlook that a child has no say in their arrival, nor who their parents are. It is us that brings them into the world, and while our children are children, it is us who owes them. What I mean by that is, when we bring a child into the world, they are not here to make us feel better, that’s not their job.
If you find yourself battling the inner voices and being triggered by the choices your child is making. Be compassionate with yourself. You are human. Our subconscious is responding based on the meanings we have created, the programming from our own childhood.
If you accept that the programming is not in alignment with your goals for the type of relationship you want to grow with your future adult children and you’re
and lets chat about what you can start doing to create the family and life that you love and that is easy to follow and sustain.
You are enough and Together we ARE Stronger.
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