I returned a mom’s call last week about her 11 year-old-daughter. “Help” was her message.
During the first part of our conversation, every moment of this mom’s daily interactions with her daughter was a battle. It was only after listening and asking questions that other moments came into play, like snuggling on the couch together, watching a favorite TV show; cooking side-by-side in the kitchen; sharing the same sense of humor and laughing about things together; her daughter always coming to say she’s sorry after an outburst.
I wasn’t trying to dismiss the negative behavior this mom was experiencing, but I did want to bring her around full circle to view the other side as well – the side where both of them feel connected and close. That’s the groundwork, I believe, on which this mom can focus – on the positive connections that still flow between them, even if a bit rocky at times.
This young girl has just begun Middle School, doesn’t know any of the kids in her class, and is very anxious about that. She’s always been anxious about new situations. And I asked how has she managed her anxiety in the past at home? “By having major melt-downs”. When I asked how her daughter responds to teachers in school, neighbors, other adults? The answer was “very polite, friendly, absolutely appropriate”.
Rather than pulling back in total frustration, anger and discouragement, I suggested this mom think more about reaching out. As much as their relationship is being put to the test right now, her daughter implicitly trusts her mom and the strength she counts on from their relationship, to always be there for her.
The storminess of an 11-year-old and a 2-year-0ld share many similarities, but a preteen’s words can feel much more like a direct hit.
As a parent, facing this type of situation, it is not unusual to come down hard, pull back, take away privileges, get ahead of it. That’s what this mom was trying, to no avail.
I encouraged Mom to focus, instead, on the strengths of their relationship – the times that connections were there – to try and build on them and to listen for the meaning of the emotion behind the words her daughter is hurling when she is upset – to listen to what her behavior is screaming.
Whether our children are toddlers, tweens, or teenagers, our biggest success will always be in maintaining a strong relationship and emotional connection with them. It is through this connection and understanding of emotions that our children grow in self-regulation and positive, strong interactions- at home and with others.
That’s why I encourage parents to consider The Parenting Place’s Positive Solutions for Families class beginning on Thursday, October 4th. It’s an 8-week interactive series that will help parents strengthen the bond with their young children, understand the meaning behind some of their child’s challenging behaviors and practice how to communicate this understanding to their child.
Connections – what relationship is all about.
If you are interested in more information about Positive Solutions for Families or to register, call The Parenting Place, 784-8125. Registration is required.