One of the things I frequently hear when working with parents is, “If I had talked to my parents the way my kid talks to me, I’d have been grounded for the rest of my life.” Sound familiar? Kids these days are gutsy and say things that most of us would never have dared to say to our parents.
Parents ask, “Why is that? Why do they talk like that? How do they get away with it?” If we realize that any control we have over our child is an illusion, I think it is of more value to ask, “How can we do things differently and get better results?”
When the relationship is contentious, I always recommend that, emotionally, parents step back far enough to not get battered by the things their kids say to and about them. The trick is to find the balance so that you don’t step back so far that you lose connection. So how do you do that?
- Take your sail out of their wind ~Allow them to blow themselves out while you avoid getting battered by their wind. Walk away. Let them know you will be back when things are calmer. Do NOT say, “When YOU are calm.” This just escalates their feelings. No good will come from that.
- Do NOT engage with them if they are being mean or dis-respectful. YOU need to set the precedent. Re-engage as soon as the attitude changes. Do not hold a grudge. Focus on the behavior you want.
- Do not take them places, do things for them, or buy them things when they are being/have been rude and disrespectful. It is important, when you talk to them about what you are not doing, you tell them in a way that is firm but kind. If you threaten them or are mean when you state your limits and boundaries, they just see you as being mean and they get mean back.
- Underneath any misbehavior is an unmet need…usually that need is for connection and relationship. Consider spending one-on-one time with your teen.
By the time kids leave home, most parents I know have some regrets; some “I wish I woulda…when I had the chance.” In the moment, it is hard to know what things will stay with us as the years go by. Two common regrets are:
1. “I always wish that I had spent more time with my kids when they were at home…now I have to travel to be with them.” I’ve never met a parent who has said, “Gosh. I really regret that I spent so much time with my kids when they were younger.”
2. “I wish I would have learned not to take things personally.” Hurt feelings and big emotions really get in the way of communication and relationship.
Thanks for the reminder to remember who the adult is in tense interactions.