We hear a lot about our children being part of the ‘me’ generation. And to an extent that’s true. “Give me, buy me, get me, you know nothing, the world revolves around me and my needs and feelings.” In their eyes, it’s all about them. We expect it, and know that it’s part of adolescence. But… how you deal with it is all about YOU. Getting your message across and making a lasting, positive impact on them is about you. What you feel and how you respond is up to you.
You know how your kid always knows what to say or do to aggravate you? How she has an unproductive (read ‘negative’) attitude, pushes all kinds of boundaries, and drives you crazy? You may yell or bite your tongue, punish or ignore, but every action elicits a reaction. It’s actually a law of physics.
Guess what? It starts out being about her, but ends up being about you. Yes, you are always the center of the universe, even when it feels like it’s about someone else. That’s true for me and my family as well. When I am reactive, I come from a place of victimhood and powerlessness. Nothing good comes of it, and sends a bad message about personal responsibility.
I know you’d like it to be all about your child, or your spouse, or your co-worker. Then you can say that ‘they’ need to change, nudge them to do so, and be annoyed when they don’t. It takes the focus off you. The fact is that the only one you can change is you. The only actions and reactions you can control are yours. And remember, if you let your emotions rule your reactions, you’re definitely not in control of anything.
Our deepest desire as parents is to be a positive influence on our children, showing them how to be productive, to respond to stress in healthy ways, and be in loving, respectful relationships. That doesn’t happen when we are sidetracked and lose our cool. It doesn’t happen with nagging, lecturing and punishing.
When you work on you, you can have a positive impact on them. How do we describe the parent who is doing this work?
- Is aware of strong emotions as they arise (instead of reacting emotionally).
- Waits to respond in stressful situations (instead of saying something she’ll regret or not enforce).
- Stays focused and on topic (instead of letting a child distract her from the issue at hand).
- Keeps the bigger picture in mind (because often the issue is more fundamental than whatever the child just said or did).
- Understands that her child is watching and learning from what she does (even when her child protests that she couldn’t care less).
- Holds herself to a high standard (at least as high as the one she sets for her child, in all things).
- Examines her own attitudes and actions (instead of placing blame elsewhere).
This list creates high expectations for parenting. In your hectic life, filled with non-stop demands and responsibilities, it feels daunting, undoable. It is doable, though, and by you. As with all big projects (and this is a big one!), you have to start small. Read through these points again and find one that you’re willing to try.
Being a parent can be more satisfying and rewarding when you’re the healthy center of your universe. Now is a good time to start.
Fern Weis is a Parent Coach and Family Recovery Life Coach. She works with parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations, from the homework wars to addiction recovery, and all points in between. Fern helps parents release guilt, end enabling, and confidently prepare their children to thrive and be successful through life’s challenges.