The back door slammed loudly as, once again, her teenage son stormed out of the house toward his car, backpack slung carelessly over his shoulder. She could hear him shouting something about her not being worth respecting. She plunked down into the kitchen chair and thought for the millionth time, "why can't I get this right?!"
As she shared the encounter with me during our session, I began to see the pattern of what's been happening between Beth* and her son.
I asked Beth to tell me what she was feeling when Scott* literally shut her out.
"Frustrated", she responded. Then, a moment or two later...
"And angry, and sad, and disappointed in him, and in myself. I don't understand what's happened to what was once a close, trusting relationship. I know kids go through a lot when they are teenagers, but we just seem totally disconnected from each other now. There was a time when he could, and would talk with me about anything. Now we barely talk at all." Tears began to flow and she reached for a Kleenex.
Angst between parents and their teenagers is not an uncommon issue. However, it can be exacerbated when mom or dad doesn't recognize an underlying issue to be worked through in order to create a healthier relationship. These two steps can give parents a wonderful opportunity to learn about themselves and what makes their parenting tick. I run into so many parents who believe the strife at home is part of this stage of their family's lives and further they don't have a choice but to white-knuckle through it until their kid grows up and becomes (fingers-crossed) mature enough to see the parent was right all along.
While moms and dads may connect to the knowledge they didn't always get along with their parents during the teen years and this comes with the territory, they fail to realize frustration and disconnect isn't how it has to be and they do have some control over the outcome.
With a few concentrated steps you can gain insight, and control your part in the quality of the relationship you have with your adolescent.
For parents willing to look a little deeper and to set aside the widely held cultural opinion that teenagers are just going to be insufferable, eye-rolling, disrespectful creatures, there is an opportunity to make monumental personal gains and to redirect the relationship if it's gone off the rails. A clearer understanding about what's going on beneath surface friction involving you and your teen can change not only the current relationship, but the parent they will become one day to your grandchildren.
Let's go back to Beth and her son Scott for a minute...
Scott stormed out of the house, which he has done in the past, because he felt his mom wasn't listening to what he was saying. He wasn't feeling respected while trying to explain to Beth what had happened between he and his girlfriend the night before. Beth appeared to be listening initially, but when Scott's voice began to rise in response to a question she had asked him about his girlfriend, things began to tumble causing Beth to retort even louder than Scott before she questioned his judgment. This set him off, shut him down, and literally sent him out the door.
Much of the discord and miscommunication between parents and adolescents (or with your spouse) involves reoccurring unresolved personal beliefs you have yet to recognize, work through, and come to peace with. Our kids have the ability to mirror to us the areas where we need to see and to grow ourselves. If we don't catch and redirect the underlying issue by working through it and moving on, these challenges will get played out again and again through the course of our relationships. Not only that, they often get passed down from one generation to the next! Why do you think you've thought on more than one occasion you've married your dad (or mom)?
This isn't "you didn't parent the right way because you weren't given a good example," it's essentially about your kids bringing to the surface what you [often unconsciously] believe about yourself (or the story you tell yourself about who you are) and consequently buying into the automatic tapes playing over and over inside of your head that aren't true.
Let me continue with the example above to illustrate what I mean.
Scott storms out, feeling unheard by his mom, as he leaves he loudly proclaims she is not worthy of being respected. This cuts Beth to the core because while she'd never say so, she's long held a belief about being less than worthy of being heard and respected. After some discussion between the two of us, Beth recalls when she first began to feel this way about herself. Turns out this belief about herself was created when she was in elementary school and her dad would come home from work at night, you see she was often excited about her school day and wanted to tell her dad about what she'd learned and all her dad seemed to want to do was have a beer in front of the evening news. Beth's dad words and actions made her feel totally brushed her off when all she really wanted was to be heard. Now, as an adult, upon hearing her son literally say she isn't worth respecting in response to the way she was handling their conversation, the message is driven home yet again.
We aren't here to throw Beth's dad under the bus. As adults we know work days can be stressful and many of us have our rituals we like to go through when we get home. But as a kid Beth didn't know this, she felt her dad ignoring her was a reflection of her stories not being interesting enough for her dad to care about listening to.
As the process of coaching through limiting beliefs goes, Beth and I deconstruct this belief Beth has been unconsciously living out (that she is not worthy of being heard or respected) after which we were able to put in place a new belief that better serves Beth, and one that is the building block to a healthier relationship with Scott.
This is what it means to become a more conscious parent. To make the effort to look within to see where the beliefs we took on as children are no longer serving us and (often times) inhibiting and burdening the relationship we have with our kids today.
With some additional insight and practice, and some new skills that honor Beth and Scott, over time they have butted heads less often and have been able to redevelop the kind of relationship the two of them had when Scott was younger. One where Scott feels able to come to his mom and talk about his challenges, feeling heard and supported, and they both got what they really wanted...a mutually respectful, loving relationship! Beth has even learned how to take the occasional slights Scott slips in much less personally.
Would you like to know what's really going on beneath the surface of the arguments and strife you have with your teenager? Would you like to learn how to detach yourself from the occasional barbs that come out of your child's mouth?
Shoot me an email, let's talk FREE of charge about what I do and how I may be able to help you have the kind of relationship you've always wanted with your teenager.
What do you have to lose?
*based on a true story, names have been changed