A few years ago I was at a holiday party chatting with a woman I had never met before when the topic turned to children. When I told her the ages of my children she got a sad look on her face and said, “8 and 9 was around the time that my children began to pull away and need me less, and it was REALLY HARD.” Then she said, “And it only gets worse from there.”
At the time, I felt very secure with my children wanting to be around me. There was no “pulling away” going on. But here we are two years later, and what she said has completely come true.
I haven’t only noticed the changes in their behavior, but have also recognized some changes in my own behavior as well. Mostly it is about my new extreme expectations. Expectations about how my interactions with my girls are “supposed” to go.
Yes, I may have had some expectations in the past, who doesn’t? But now it is as if my thought process consists of, “If I do X (or say X) then Y should happen.” I consistently have this idea of a perfect outcome in the back of my mind each time we are together. I want them to have certain reactions, to be happy most of the time and to want to be with me all the time. Unfortunately, this type of thinking does not take into account their moods, expectations, development!, agenda or interpretation. I am setting all of us up for failure and myself for disappointment, but I want things to be as they used to be.
Through some pretty intense self-reflection, I have realized that these expectations are really about my need for control, and that my digging in with more control is about holding on tight to what used to be because I’m feeling a sense of loss. It’s a Mid-Parenting Crisis per se as Shefali Tsabary discusses in her book the Conscious Parent.
The reality about tight controls is that they bring about marked behaviors including rebellion, a “shutting down” of emotions or getting sneaky. And while we can recognize this as teen angst and rebellion, it may not only be about the teens. It may also be about what the parent is going through as this Psychology Today article confirms. It is in fact very possible that many parents of teens are also going through a “Mid Parenting crisis”. Feeling similar behaviors to those I have been experiencing, such as rejection and loss, plus others including the “Who Am I?” (without my child) questions as well. I can see how easy it would be to want to hold on tight to teens thus causing even more rebellion. Interesting stuff.
So how does one avoid the Mid Parenting Crisis? In Tsabary’s book she discusses letting go of strict controls and moving more towards having influence over your child.
Influence – The act of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command – helps your child be more open to those things that you really want them to learn. Those things include our values, listening to that little voice inside of their heads (especially if it’s ours!) and the long term life skills and characteristics we want for them such as responsibility, respect, kindness.
Influence is different from control. It’s about connection and also about letting go. Letting go of strict expectations, letting go of our old parenting conditioning, and sometimes letting go of our own ego based needs in order to give the child an opportunity to fly.
How to influence:
- Greet your child with a gentle touch, a kind word, and a smile every chance you get
- Listen, really listen, without judgment.
- Spend lots of time getting to know your child and what his world is like.
- Talk to your child with respect and kindness, the same way you would like to be talked to.
- Make it safe to express feelings.
- Build a relationship & create a lifelong connection.
Hope it helps, Paige