- My child is talking back to me.
- I can’t say anything without her rolling her eyes at me.
- It hurts when he says, ‘You are a mean mother’.
- It drives me crazy when she’s intentionally ignoring me.
- Oftentimes, I feel like we’re strangers living under the same roof.
- I can’t believe how disrespectful they are to me!
These statements came from real parents whose parent-child relationships turn out to be not as wonderful as they were dreaming of. Being in such relationships, parents feel depleted, confused, and overwhelmed.
By creating families, parents are hoping to sustain their own special, happy worlds in which all family members feel loved, appreciated, and supported. They want their home to be a safe place so that its members can be themselves, openly share their challenges and vulnerabilities, and know that they are understood and accepted just the way they are.
However, most families do not look like their creators’ dreams. Despite their best efforts, parents feel disrespected, taken for granted, unloved, and insignificant. Consequently, they begin seeing themselves as incompetent and incapable.
Few parents realize that their children feel the same way, even when their children act as they feel differently. As a result, a home – the place that parents want to be special, peaceful, and happy – turns into a place of distress, negative emotions, shouting matches, and turmoil. The home becomes a source of suffering rather than happiness.
Even though that’s not what they want, most parents settle for unhappy homes like this and poor relationships between family members. This is the sad news.
The good news, though, is that it can be changed! How do I know? Because I’ve seen it – in my own life and in the lives of other people, including those I’ve worked with in my practice.
So, why do most parents settle for less than they desire? Why don’t they make the changes they want?
There are three main reasons why parents don’t make changes.
Reason 1. Parents don’t believe it’s possible. They tolerate the child’s unacceptable behavior and poor quality of their relationship because parents don’t believe a positive change is possible. Some parents believe that their child’s behavior cannot be changed because it’s just the phase every child has to go through at some point in their life. Therefore, they allow their child’s rude, disrespectful, and sometimes even violent behavior to happen because they think that kind of behavior is what should be expected and accepted at a certain age. For example, many parents know about toddlers’ “no!” phase. So, they don’t say or do anything when a toddler refuses to listen to them, is playing with food at the table, throwing things at guests, or grabbing toys out of their older siblings’ hands. By the same token, it has become a norm for most parents to see a “Leave me alone!” or similar type of sign on the door of a teenager’s room. It doesn’t seem to matter to the parents that that sign conveys anything but respect and appreciation of their parents. What do parents do? Remind themselves that their child is “just a teenager that will outgrow this phase,” accuse themselves of being too sensitive, suppress the pain from hurt feelings, and walk away.
Yet other parents believe that they cannot change anything because it’s just the way their child is. Those parents tolerate any kind of behavior their child displays, even when they don’t approve of it, only because they think that it is who their child is and it is impossible to change them.
- My son is just very stubborn, and he won’t do anything I ask if he doesn’t want to.
- She’s very strong-willed. It’s impossible to change her mind when she decides to do something.
- My friends’ children are very kind and responsible. They are completely opposite from mine!
- I keep telling him that his laziness will backfire someday, but what can I do? It’s just the way he is.
When parents believe that their children’s behavior cannot be changed because that’s just the way they are, parents and children continue suffering from the results of that behavior.
There are also parents who believe that they cannot change anything because the ability to parent effectively is something you either have or you don’t, and if you don’t, you can’t do anything about it. They think that effective parents are either just born with the necessary skills or some sort of parenting intuition, or that it comes naturally to those parents who have respectful, loving, and trusting relationships with their well-behaved children. “My son’s best friend’s mother seems to always know what and when to say or do. I simply don’t have that kind of gift.” Believing that, they keep maintaining the status quo while quietly envying or sincerely admiring those parents.
Parents’ disbelief in the possibility of changes blocks their way to their happiness as a family.
Reason 2. Parents don’t know what to do. They tolerate the behavior and a poor relationship with their children because they simply don’t know how to change things.
As family therapist and conflict mediator HAL RUNKEL said, “If there is one area where we feel the pressure of absolute success, it is with our parenting.” Parents feel immense pressure to raise a “normal” child – I call it “a societal ‘normal child’ syndrome”. Uncertain about what to do, many parents listen to the advice from often equally puzzled friends and family. Frequently, parents try to imitate what other parents do to “fix” their child’s behavior, unintentionally forgetting about the uniqueness of their own child and damaging the close bond with them.
Confused by all the online articles that often offer incorrect, incomplete, or contradictory information, parents experience “analysis paralysis,” when overthinking prevents them from taking action.
Overwhelmed with societal pressure, confusing advice, and contradictory informational overload, parents feel paralyzed and don’t know what to believe and what to do.
Reason 3. Parents give up too soon. Some parents know what to do. Not only do such parents learn what they need to know from their own parents, a parenting program, or a family relationship coach – they also act on what they learn. However, after applying what they learned for a short time and not succeeding in making changes to their child’s behavior or their relationship, they give up. Some parents start believing that those strategies work for other parents with other children, but not for their families. Others simply lose belief in themselves.
For these reasons, parents quit using what they learn.
Despite all the reasons above, many parents have been able to turn their situations completely around by:
- Believing that it’s possible. The belief itself that change was possible allowed parents to take the first step towards improving the situation.
- Trusting only research-based, proven information and ensuring that the expert they chose to work with had the necessary experience and knowledge and could produce positive results.
- Actively applying what they learned from credible sources for sufficient time. They remember that just knowing is not enough. They understand that they need to allow enough time for the new approach to show results.
Don’t let these reasons stop YOU from making the changes YOU want - follow the same steps as effective parents.