Below is the story of Suzanne, a mother who wants what is best for her son but doesn’t know how to truly help him. She knows that her desire to “fix” things prevents her from connecting with her son, but she’s not sure how to do anything differently.
By considering her behavior from a place of compassion and curiosity instead of judgment and shame, Suzanne learns how to have more confidence in herself as an (inevitably) imperfect parent.
My name is Suzanne. I have two kids who are 12 and 8. Everything seems fine when it comes to my 12-year-old, but I struggle with my 8 year old.
We fight all the time. And that makes me feel bad, so I try to spend time with him, but whenever I do we both end up feeling worse.
I have a feeling I know why this happens. He’ll tell me things, and often I either correct him or I imply that what he’s doing is wrong. For example, the other day he started to tell me about something that happened between him and another boy at school who was mean to him. As he was telling his story, I interrupted him and asked what he was doing about the fact that this boy was being mean to him. I don’t think I even let him finish his story because I started to focus on making sure he was going to be OK.
And when he talks to me about things he’s interested in, like video games, I just can’t seem to listen without wondering if I’m letting him have too much screen time. I guess I just see him making bad choices and I feel like it needs to be addressed.
I know that it’s creating a wedge between me and my son, but I don’t know how to stop. Aren’t I supposed to make sure I’m doing what’s best for him?
I feel bad because…
My son and I are not very connected. When he does open up to me, I have a hard time relating to what he’s saying — especially when I hear about the bad choices that he sometimes makes.
When I change my thoughts from a judgmental “Why do I DO that?” to a curious “Why DO I do that?” I realize that…
I’m worried about my son. When I know that someone or something could hurt him, I focus more on that than on connecting with him. I know I won’t be able to handle it if something bad happens to him.
The reason I do what I do is because…
I’m trying to protect my son. I want him to grow up to be healthy and happy. Even though I know in the back of my head that our relationship is important too, it’s hard to remember that when I see him doing something that I worry about.
My solution for doing something different in the future is…
Right now I’m focusing on what I need: When he talks to me, I need the relief that comes from knowing that he’s going to be OK. But what he needs is for me to listen to him. I know that part the reason our relationship is bad is because I am not really present in the moments when he’s trying to connect.
The next time he is talking to me, I’m really going to focus on what he is saying to me. I’m going to show him that he matters to me, because right now I’m not sure he knows that.
I’m also going to help my son find his own solutions to the problems that I’m trying to solve. I want to show him that I believe in him, because right now I’m not sure he knows that.
I know it’s going to be hard, but I know if I just remind myself to think about what’s truly best for him, I’ll be able to focus on what he needs — not what I need.
Suzanne’s frustration with herself makes so much sense. She knows that her son doesn’t feel good about their relationship… and neither does she.
At the same time, she needs to understand that a parent’s fear is powerful. Often that fear prevents us from being the parent we want to be. Once she learns strategies for managing her fears in the moment, Suzanne will have a much easier time connecting with her son.
Contact me to discuss this skill or and other that will help you feel more confident in your ability to raise great kids — without expecting perfection from yourself or your children.