Have you ever taken the time to sit back and reflect on what motivates you? Specifically what motivates you in how you parent? What are those conscious or unconscious thoughts that drive your actions; things below the surface that impact your daily interactions, whether positively or negatively? Sometimes, a new level of consciousness comes when there is conflict; maybe criticism for how we do things. Often this criticism comes from our children; (a somewhat confronting experience). Regardless of whether their assessment is right or wrong it can potentially encourage you to think more deeply about yourself; become a little more honest with who you are and why you are this way.
Being fully honest is not something we find easy to do. Being honest often means being vulnerable, and being vulnerable means that potentially we can feel pain or open ourselves up to hurt. Therefore it takes courage to be fully honest with ourselves and others. It also takes time; quiet time to reflect.
Never before have I experienced this more fully than parenting teens. I had honestly thought that up until now I had done a pretty good job at parenting. Yes, I have made plenty of mistakes. I am quite unafraid to admit that. In fact, I’ve always been willing to reassess my motives and question myself; this I see as being healthy. A verse in the bible that has often spoken to me is Psalm 51: 6. In it David says, “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” David goes on to say in verse 10, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” I’ve taken comfort in the fact that it is God who reveals to me the things in my heart that need to change. It is God alone who knows me perfectly, and loves me so much that before him I can be honest without fear.
So it came as a painful surprise to find (maybe I’m slower than the average person) that there was a whole deeper layer to me that shaped the way I was parenting. Something new that God had to reveal to me, and it is through my children that he chose to do this deeper work. It’s not until you have a child who is quickly growing toward adulthood and independence that you discover more fully the things that you value, your unspoken expectations and even confidently voiced expectations are potential stumbling blocks in helpfully relating to your child. I am blessed with more than one child, who might be described as strong-willed, and it is in this clash of wills that I discover more fully who I am. As the clashes have intensified, and walls of resistance and silence have been built, I’ve begun to ask myself an important question: “Why is this thing important to me? Is it worth the fight? Do they need to change, or is it me who needs to change first?”
Let me give an example. I have a daily battle about how much time is spent playing computer games. I didn’t grow up with a computer in the house; in fact my family was 10 years behind everyone else on the technology front. (We didn’t own a television until I was 13.) I place high value on relationships. I see it as an important life skill to be able to relate to others in real and genuine ways. Someone who is constantly glued to their phone, unwilling to be present to those around them really bothers me…so seeing my teen do it all the time raises my blood temp. I also value a balanced, healthy life; anything that becomes all-consuming seems unhelpful and unhealthy. The loud dialogue in my head goes something like this: “I didn’t raise you to stay on your phone all day. When did the latest high score become more important than spending time with your family? Surely a homework deadline will motivate you to unplug and do some real work. I wish I could hurl that jolly computer out the window and be rid of it forever!”
While I believe that what I value is still good and worth having as a standard, I’ve allowed my expectations for my children to become more important then my relationship with them. My nagging and negative comments begin to erode a good relationship that I developed with them when they were young. I read recently a helpful thought that has informed my role of mothering teens. The thought being: by the teenage years, my child knows exactly how I feel about expected behaviour. I can still gently remind them, when they seem to have forgotten. However, deep down they know what I expect, and therefore habitually reminding them is just nagging. I need to respect their choice, even when their choice is not my ideal, continuing instead to show them love. Choosing to value a good relationship more highly than good behaviour.
It’s very humbling being a parent. Even more humbling to realise that there are things in yourself that need to change. Change is never easy, however if embraced, it can be the platform for something new and positive. So be honest with yourself, is there something that you need to change?
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