Freedom in Parenting
At this time of year ~ at least in the United States ~ it’s easy to think about freedom. As we get ready to celebrate 243 years of independence there are special shows on television, patriotic messages at events, and even more songs about freedom playing on the radio. If you’ve been reading my blogs for any length of time, you probably know that my love for freedom extends beyond national holidays that point our focus there at certain times of the year.
As much as I love my country, though, and as much as I love and appreciate all those who sacrifice to keep us safe and free, as a student of history and as someone who tries to deepen my understanding of human nature, when I think about freedom I can’t help but think of Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist from Austria who spent time in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. While he endured the hardships and cruelty at that time of being a Jew, he also came to the profound understanding that, “Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress.” (Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, 104.)
But what does this have to do with you ~ a mom struggling with her teenage son? EVERYTHING!!!
While it’s probably safe to conclude that you are free physically, are you held back from happiness because of your son? Do you believe there is no way in the world you can feel confident in yourself as a mom as long as your son is living like he is? Is the thought of peace so beyond your reach that it hurts to even dream about it?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions then you are not free in the one way you actually have control of. Stephen Covey describes it as that space between something happening and how we respond to what happened. You may not really notice that space until you start looking for it, but I promise you it’s there. And, more importantly, that’s where you will find real freedom. In fact, Frankl describes it as “the last of the human freedoms ~ to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” (Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, 104.)
So… if there’s always a space between what your son does and how you feel about it, him, or even yourself (and I guarantee you, there is!), then you are the one who gets to decide what happens in that space. This really is good news because ~ as you already know ~ controlling your son will never work. No matter how bad you want him to be different or how hard you try to make him see the light, it just doesn’t work that way.
Real freedom comes from what you think about your son and what he’s doing. Seriously. There is always a thought in between something that happens and how you feel about it. Notice how these thoughts feel different:
Automatic thought: My son sure is mean and rude to me.
Or try this: It’s possible my son’s mood has nothing to do with me.
Automatic thought: He isn’t even trying.
Or try this: Maybe he is trying in the way that makes sense to him.
Automatic thought: I don’t know how to deal with this.
Or try this: It’s his journey and he will figure it out.
Thinking the worst about what’s going on just ensures you get to feel miserable ~ the thing you’re trying your best to avoid. However, if you’re tired of letting your son determine how you feel, day-in and day-out; if you’re ready to claim the last inner freedom that seems so out-of-reach, but it isn’t ~ take a moment this week to be aware during that space of your son saying or doing something and your reaction to it. That’s where your freedom lies. That’s where you’ll find peace.