Finding the right balance is never easy. I lose sight of my good intentions. There are those moments when everything goes terribly wrong. The times when I wish my kids would live up to my expectations and I just want them to be different than they are.
Maybe you can relate. These are the times when you and I can work on becoming a more accepting and understanding parent. Here are 4 practical ways for you to develop a more accepting approach.
Click HERE to read part one on “The Power of Becoming a More Accepting Parent.”
1. Talk to other parents
You can talk to other parents and get a sense of how they are parenting, what their kids are dealing with and just simply knowing that you are not alone. It is important to know that no parent can navigate the teenage years without some struggles and some bumps and bruises. Remember the acceptance work means that you accept yourself as a parent, including your best efforts as well as your mistakes.
Think about all of your friends who are parents. Identify one or two who you think are excellent parents, whether they are older or younger than you. Make it a point to have conversations with them, ask them what they do that works and how they learned how to do it. Then adapt and apply the things that make sense to your own parenting.
2. Use prayer or meditation
You can use prayer, meditation or anything that helps you to let go and realize that you are ultimately not in control. Yes, you do have power and influence as a parent, but regardless of your parenting your son will make his own choices and create his own life, hopefully learning from his mistakes. You can only control so much and if you try too hard you will only cause more stress for yourself and your family. Trying to hold onto too much power and control can push your son away from you as well. Do whatever you need to do to find the quality of serenity that will allow you to parent from a more centered place that lines up with your values.
3. Develop ways to remind and refocus yourself on what is really true
In psychology we call this positive self-talk and reframing. Self-talk is simply the running commentary of your thoughts. You will learn a lot if you pay attention to what you say to yourself about your son and his behavior. In the same way that we get stuck in negative beliefs and thoughts about ourselves, we can get stuck in thinking certain ways about our kids that do not allow them to change and grow. I think that most parents make every effort to say and do the right things most of the time. We try to be encouraging, supportive and positive. However, sometimes we allow ourselves to think really negative things and those thoughts affect the way we respond to our kids. Consider the idea that you may need to actively adjust your thoughts so that they are positive and more accepting.
There is a difference between acknowledging the truth and allowing yourself to be judgmental. It is very different to think, “Man, he is just so stupid” versus “I know he is not the smartest kid in his class, but he sure is trying.” How about “He sure is obnoxious, I wish he would just leave me alone” versus “He is driving me crazy, but I know he is a good kid and is not trying to bother me on purpose.” Most teenagers are adept at picking up on non-verbal signals and they can feel the slightest bit of negative judgement even if you don’t verbalize it. Pay attention to what you think about your teenager this week.
Reframing is a way of viewing and experiencing events, ideas and emotions to find more positive alternatives. Basically, taking a situation and looking at it in a different light, shifting your perspective. As I mentioned before, if you change the way you think about something then it will change the way you feel about it as well. “Even though my son was disrespectful to me today, I know that he loves me and he is just going through a tough time.” This is different than rationalizing or justifying, in other words just making excuses for his bad behavior or trying to put a positive spin on everything. This is the difference between reacting to every disrespectful tone and having enough grace to give your son the opportunity to have a bad day or make mistakes.
4. Educate yourself on your teenager’s particular areas of difficulty
It makes sense to learn more in general about adolescent development so that you understand what is in the “normal” range of experience. This will help you especially if your teen struggles with ADHD, autism, severe depression or anxiety, cutting or other concerning behaviors. The more you know, the more you will be able to understand him and help him. It can be helpful to find some parenting blogs or online forums that talk about the same issues your son is dealing with.
You can consult with your doctor and mental health professionals to find out what type of additional support might make a difference. Raising teenage boys is challenging with out any additional factors. Recognize that it does not make you a bad parent simply because your son has unique challenges. There is no doubt that this is a deep level of acceptance. I am continually amazed by parents who truly love their teens even when they are hard to love, they make sacrifices and fight to hold onto their kids.
What practical ways do you want to use to become more accepting? Support, education, changing your thinking or developing a spiritual practice.