Below is the story of Liz, who feels bad because she felt confused and helpless when she had to make a decision that would affect her daughter.
By considering her behavior from a place of compassion and curiosity instead of judgment and shame, Liz learns how to have more confidence in herself as an (inevitably) imperfect parent.
My name is Liz, and my daughter Madison is 12. Recently Madison started spending time with a another girl, Ashleigh, and their “friendship” makes me very uncomfortable. Ashleigh is polite enough to me… but I see her being very disrespectful to Madison.
For example, the other day they were both at our house and I overheard them talking. Ashleigh mentioned her favorite movie, which I happen to know is an R-rated movie. Madison piped in that her favorite movie is still Frozen. (I know she was going to explain that it was really about the relationship between the sisters that she admires — more than the Disney characters themselves.) But Ashleigh immediately laughed at her and said, “Madison, you’re such a baby. I don’t even know why I hang out with you.”
Ashleigh regularly judges Madison and tells her what to do. She criticizes what she thinks, wears — and even the fact that she puts effort into her schoolwork!
The other day I told Madison that I didn’t want her hanging out with Ashleigh as much anymore. At first, Madison became angry.
But then she started to cry. She told me that she felt so lonely and that Ashleigh was the only person who made her feel good about herself. She begged me to let her see Ashleigh so that she didn’t have to feel so alone.
I wasn’t sure whether I should give in or not!
I feel like an awful mother because I’m not sure what’s best for Madison. Should I refuse to let her see Ashleigh? Or will that make things worse?
I feel bad because…
I’m really not sure the “right thing” to do in this situation. I want Madison to realize that she doesn’t have to let people treat her the way Ashleigh does. But I also don’t want her to feel lonely and sad. I do know that Ashleigh has asked Madison to do things more than other girls have in the past.
When I change my thoughts from a judgmental “Why did I DO that?” to a curious “Why DID I do that?” I realize that…
I was unsure what to say to Madison because I don’t know how I want this to turn out. I don’t want Madison to allow others to treat her that way, but I also don’t want to force her not to see Ashleigh. I really wish she would come to the conclusion on her own.
The reason I did what I did is because…
I am not always sure which battles to fight. I want my daughter to stand up for herself. I don’t want people to disrespect her or try to control her.
But if I tell her that she CAN’T see Ashleigh, aren’t I the one that’s controlling her?
My solution for doing something different in the future is…
I want Madison to stand up for herself. That’s really the bottom line. So instead of forcing her not to see Ashleigh (which would prevent her from standing up for herself), I’m going to let her see her.
I’m just going to see if the way Ashleigh treats her bothers her. I’m pretty sure that it does. I’m also fairly confident that I don’t criticize Ashleigh or their friendship, she’ll be honest with me about it. She’s pretty open when I’m not judging her.
And if Madison does admit the truth, I’ll see if she needs some help learning how to stick up for herself. Maybe this friendship is a good opportunity for her to practice!
Liz’s confusion makes so much sense. Often when we have to respond to our children’s behavior, we aren’t sure how. We want to do what’s best for our children, but we just don’t know exactly how to make that happen.
One of the most effective ways to know which battles to choose is to know your values. They can act as a “north star” to help guide you when you are trying to make decisions about how to respond in the moment.
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.