Are You Burning Bridges With Your Child?
Published 19 September 2018 at 17:38
“My 13-year-old daughter is just so unenthusiastic and passive for just about everything. I have to constantly remind her of small things like putting her shoes away to packing her bags. She is intelligent, but she needs to be reminded to do her homework and prepare for her assessments. When she does it, she does it well…but my pain is the reminders. I feel like a broken record player…you know one that keeps playing the same track again and again!! Arghhh!!! Other children her age are so active and self-motivated”, ranted my client. Fatigue and frustration were apparent in her voice, face and body language.
Credit: photo by Steinar Engeland / Unsplash
This is a story of not just one parent but of so many of us. As a Mum and Teen Coach, I have had the privilege of listening to both sides of the story on the same issues.
The parents see themselves being ignored and disrespected. They also feel frustrated as the responsibility of getting everything done lies on them whilst their child does not even follow instructions, let alone take any responsibility. On the other hand, the child feels constantly nagged at for the smallest of things. Constant nagging and pressure to do things that someone else wants and at someone else’s pace leave them frustrated too. Eventually, they end up reacting passively (doing the bare minimum to avoid confrontation), passive-aggressively (agreeing to do but not doing despite constant reminders) or aggressively (argue and rebel openly).
Whichever way the child chooses to react, it leads to a spoiled parent-child relationship. As parents, it’s our responsibility to guide and support them. But if they shut us out, there is not much we can do. Due to lack of communication and trust with the parent, a child might end up reaching out to wrong and unreliable sources when they are taking crucial decisions in life like choosing a career and partner. When the bridges are burnt it’s hard for either side to reach out to the other.
When parents push their children to do things, they have their best interest at heart so that children can grow into conscientious and responsible citizens of tomorrow. It could be to improve their grades, teach them self-discipline, or to teach them the virtue of cleanliness. But it cannot come at the cost of our relationship with them as that is going to push your child away.
Credit: photo by Chinh Le Duc / Unsplash
Below I list 3 strategies that have worked for my clients and are an outcome of my learnings from coaching practice.
1. Consequences: When a child does not do a chore, usually a parent would get tired of repeating and finally reach a point where it results in an argument.
Adding consequences for noncompliance helps to get the work done more easily than constant reminders. Here too, one must remember that consequences of non-compliance do not come out of the blue. Parents should set ground rules beforehand and the child should know what is expected, by what time and if not done, then what will be the consequences. Example: If shoes are not put away immediately upon return from school, the phone would be taken away.
2. Let them Fail: In the competitive world today, the whole aim of the parents is to make sure that the child is not left behind. This leads the parents to get over-involved and micromanage child’s academics.
This inhibits the child’s ability to figure out challenges on their own and learn from them. According to a famous psychologist, Erik Erikson, letting child experience shame and resulting embarrassment of disappointing adults (meaning teachers, parents or any other significant adult in their life) early in life, gives them a chance to grow from that experience. It then gives them a chance to work to earn their trust back which is empowering and leads to stronger moral characters. Again, here too, I would recommend that parents start early. Let your child experience and learn from failure.
3. Help them Choose: A child is a totally different personality from their parent. It should not come as a surprise if their interest and choices are different from that of the parent. Some people tend to call it generation gap. I call it the individual choice.
However, a parent can’t leave the child to their devices. A child does not have the experience and skills to investigate the future and decide what is best for them. So, we as parents must help them to understand and fully comprehend the cost of their choice: what they (child) would have to give up to get what they want. Example: a child wants to dye her hair to look trendy. She will look trendy, but her hair will become brittle and dull. A parent can guide her on the impact. After that, if the child still decides to go ahead, is it an issue worth burning bridges over?
Credit: photo by Sai De Silva / Unsplash
Summary: There is a famous saying “Choose your battles wisely”. The key is to know which battles to fight and which ones to let go. According to me, maintaining a healthy relationship with your child is of paramount importance and as it helps in the long run, in shaping their child’s personality, career and relationships.
About the Author: Shalini Bindal is ICF-trained, Certified Professional Coach. She does personal and group coaching for Career Mums and Teens. Before becoming a Coach, she was an HR professional and Corporate Trainer. A mother of 2 teenagers, Shalini has lived in India, Belgium and currently in Hong Kong. Email her for a 45 minute free face-to-face or virtual session at email@example.com