“I want her to know she can come to me.”
Ben was referring to his twelve-year-old daughter, Madison. He sought my advice because 1) he’s concerned about her grades and 2) he realizes his approach is alienating her.
When Ben talks to Madison about her grades, he doesn’t talk. He yells and puts her down.
“Suppose your boss wanted you to do better at something, ” I asked, “would he get very far by getting upset and criticizing you?”
Ben sighed and said: “I get what you’re saying. I think I take after my dad. He was never physically abusive but he would be up my a** with his tone.”
A closed heart . . . an angry, critical approach only creates resistance and defensiveness.
What’s more, it creates separation and bad feelings—our relationships suffer.
I suggested he try approaching his daughter differently: “I’m noticing that your grades are slipping. What’s going on, hon? How can I help?'” The attitude of kindness that accompanies those words will give Ben his best shot at making something positive happen.
An open heart spawns trust and a close bond. Parent and child become partners instead of adversaries. It says: “Hey, I like you, and we’re together in this.”
Another client, Kim, was equally frustrated with her teenage daughter, Nicole’s, tepid response to a family outing. Kim was pushing, and Nicole was tuning her out. To break this deadlock, each would need to go beneath the surface and see the other’s true feelings—the pain. Such is the pathway to compassion—the only avenue for resolving differences. Interestingly, Kim’s true feelings centered around grief. Click here to read about our session.
By far, the single most important task of any parent is to build a strong bond with their child. Without that foundation, parents are handicapped in their ability to guide and discipline effectively. They may get obedience—which is usually no more than a mere superficial display—but they won’t get the respect and cooperation necessary for influencing a child’s life for the better.
Names are changed to honor client confidentiality