Do you ever have days when your communication is a little off? Well, that happens to me from time to time with my twelve-year-old daughter. She tends to be emotional at times and very sensitive. My husband and I talk to her about thinking things through before she jumps to conclusions and the importance of being in control. We all have emotions, and it’s okay to show them but everything can’t be a crisis. I think part of the issue is her age and stage of development.
My mom used to tell me that she is just like me when I was younger. Maybe that is what led me to pursue a career in human services and administration. I like to talk about my feelings and to create systems for making things better.
A couple of weeks ago, my daughter had a basketball tournament about an hour away. Her dad could not join us so I took her to the tournament. She had four games that day with an hour or two in between games. After the first game, we had a conversation in the car that went south very quickly. One of her straps was sort of hanging out of her uniform jersey and I was trying to get her attention to fix it. Well, I gave up but decided to mention it after the game. That’s how it all started and it went downhill from there. Immediate stank face. She was annoyed, and she began to cry. She could have been emotional because of the game too. They lost. It was not quite that simple but you get the gist.
I should also add that she does feel the need to have the last word and thinks she knows more than me which poses a whole other set of problems. That’s a topic for another day.
The emotional breakdowns as I call them are very upsetting to me. Like most parents, my hope for my children is that they be strong and able to handle life as it comes. She is only twelve but my job as a parent is to help her manage her emotions. Sometimes I’m too close to the situation and find myself feeling disappointed and insensitive. I think to myself, is she kidding me? Is the drama really worth it? It prevents me from helping her in the most effective way that I can. I’m a nationally certified counselor for goodness sake! Of all people, I should know just how to handle these situations. I thank God for her dad because he has a way with her that is pretty special. Now don’t get me wrong, I communicate effectively with all of my kids but sometimes there are challenges as in any parent-child relationship.
I realize if I am going to help her to develop into a strong, confident young woman, I need to step up more and really use my skills.
Since emotions were high, I came up with a two-part exercise for both of us on the spot while sitting in the car. This is how it went.
Daughter shares with mom
1. Share 5 things with me that would make me a better mom to you. I wrote it all down in my handy notebook that I keep in my purse. I did not comment until she was finished sharing and she gave me the same respect. Then we talked about each item. We followed this format for the both of us.
2. Share 3 things that you love about me.
Mom shares with daughter
1. Share 5 things with me that would make me a better daughter to you. We had a great discussion. She understood that we both have to do our part to make things better.
2. Share 3 things that you love about me.
This simple exercise made a world of difference in our communication. Everything we discussed was documented. My plan is to type it up and make copies for the both of us. It will be a great reminder of the conversation and what we committed to working on to make our relationship better. I want the best for her, and will do everything I can to support her.
I allowed her to begin the conversation to validate her feelings. I don’t believe in dumping on a person, which is why we named three things we love about one another. Lead with the opportunity areas and also share the positives. We all have areas for improvement and there is no such thing as a perfect person. Discussing the issues in this way also provided a good example of how to talk about tough issues without drama.
The only reason I used 3 things for the second part was she was looking tired. No need to make things too academic. It worked out well, and helped to diffuse the situation. More importantly, she felt good about the interaction and her whole demeanor changed for the better the rest of the day. Simple but meaningful.
There is no how to manual for parenting. Each child is different. We do the best we can, and sometimes we have to be creative.
Peace and Blessings,