Odds are you have a “challenging” person in your life, someone who’s hard to get along with and when you leave his or her presence you feel exhausted. And since you’re part of our Find Peace in Parenting clan it’s probably safe to assume that person is your child ~ the one you would truly do anything for and yet every recent interaction seems to end in friction. He won’t listen to anything you have to say. She never follows through with her commitment to you. He just let you know he no longer considers himself part of your religion ~ and he won’t explain why. She takes and takes and takes, but never gives back anything (except for maybe grief). Talk about challenging!
But what makes a relationship challenging? It’s that stubborn, ungrateful teenager, right?! If he would just show some respect. If she would just let you love her. If we could just communicate then it wouldn’t be so… well, challenging.
But, what if it isn’t your child that makes your relationship with him or her challenging? What if it’s how you think about your relationship that makes it difficult and challenging? Because it is ~ since it’s our thoughts that determine how we feel. Let me show you what I mean.
Over the years, whenever I began a “discussion” with my son about something I knew he would not want to hear (my thoughts about it, of course!), I always started with, “I know this is going to upset you, but…” or “I know you’re not going to agree with me, but…” I felt like since I knew this was going to be a challenging conversation, that I should brace both of us for it. And, like clockwork, after I was done saying what I wanted to say he would roll his eyes, usually be argumentative, and we would both go our separate ways. This happened countless times.
And then one day my son told me, “Mom, I hate it when you start off a conversation between us with, ‘You’re not going to like this, but…’ I feel like I have no choice but to disagree with you.” What?! I had never considered that I was steering most of our conversations to end in disagreement. So, although it was a strongly ingrained habit for me to brace myself for the fight I assumed was always coming because this child of mine was challenging, I determined that day to start showing up differently in those important conversations I wanted or needed to have.
This is when I stopped seeing my son as a “problem” or a “challenge” and began seeing him as a child of God on his own journey to figure things out. It took me a while to stop prefacing certain conversations with, “I know you don’t want to hear this…” I had to catch myself mid-sentence at first; then I would stop before the words even started coming out of my mouth.
Changing how I see my son in these particular situations has not made everything blissful and lovely. It’s not that we suddenly agree about everything, and now he listens and takes my advice when I give it. But because I no longer see him as a challenge, I find I no longer show up defensive, which means I get to leave our discussions feeling good about how I showed up instead of kicking myself that I got sucked into another altercation where we both leave feeling bad… and disconnected.
This really is good news because although a relationship involves you and your child ~ you are only responsible for your half of the relationship. Your son or daughter is going to be who they are going to be. Find freedom in that, in knowing that half of the relationship is out of your control. And decide how you want to be in this relationship, how you want to show up.
Here are two really great questions to ask yourself if you find your relationship with your teen “challenging”:
- What do you think about when you think about your relationship with your teen?
- Why are you choosing to think this way about this relationship?
Most of us have certain go-to thoughts about other people, especially our teens, and then we blame them for how we feel. But since another person cannot control your feelings, remember this ~ it only takes one person to change a relationship and that person can always be you! If you’re ready to really start managing that challenging relationship with your teen, Find Peace in Parenting is here to help. You don’t have to stay stuck. Schedule your own private mini-session today and let the change begin. You might not be able to change your teen but you CAN change your experience in this relationship!