A child is much more than a child’s behavior
Note the distinction made above between your children and their behavior. The distinction is critical. I have worked with many different children of all ages, sizes, colors, and of different backgrounds and I have not met a bad one (and I have worked in places where they send “bad” kids). I have met many who exhibit behaviors I don’t like; that I identify as “bad” behavior; that cannot be accepted (harm to others or self). A person is not merely a set of behaviors. A person is much more than that. Your kids are much more than the irritating things they say or do. They are much more than the loving and love inducing things they say or do. They are unique, wonderful (you know it’s true…think of how they look (feel to you) when they are sleeping… see, I told you they were wonderful) individuals. They deserve to be loved by you even when they are at their worst. They deserve to be loved by you even when you are at your worst. As a kindergarten teacher I reminded the parents that their job is to see how many different ways they can tell their children they love them (emphasizing “I love you” works really well). Unfortunately, teenagers often exhibit the ability to bring out the worst in their parents. The hard part is communicating that love when angry, worried, hurt, resentful, or confused. The hard part is to perceive that love when angry, worried, hurt, resentful, or confused. Love can be communicated while setting a limit for a teenager, it can be communicated when saying “no,” it can be communicated when you are displeased. They are just different ways of communicating “I love you” (though you likely will not get agreement from your kid that it is a terribly effective method of doing so). The means towards this is to provide the focus of your love with three things that I believe are basic interpersonal needs: Respect, Recognition, and Appreciation. (I described these in my “The Second Three” article, but it is worth reviewing here)
“Love” is a powerful word. We use it in many different contexts and for many different reasons. For the purpose of explaining what I mean with regard to your relationship with your child think of “Love”= respect, recognition, and appreciation. See below review of “the Second Three” of my “1-2-32:
The second three consists of what I believe are three basic needs of all of us. We need to feel respected, recognized, and appreciated.
Respect as the acknowledgement of (I am);
Recognition as the identification of (I am Neal)
Appreciation as the valuation of (I am Neal. I am good.).
One last thing (for now; it’s tough shutting me up for good!):
We don’t have to like everything about another (even our children). The greater capacity we have to accept our children, the more fun it is to hang out with them.
Do not mistake this acceptance for changing any standards/expectations you have of your children’s behavior. This acceptance I refer to comes from an understanding (which does not always occur as I discussed in my “Understanding Not Mandatory” article; contributing to the difficulty, sometimes, of acceptance) and appreciation of your children as the unique (yes, and special) individuals they are. This acceptance also comes from your ability not to take personally your children’s behavior (much easier said than done.)
don Miguel Ruiz in his book, The Four Agreements identifies the following as one of those agreements:
Don’t Take Anything Personally that he defines thusly:
“Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”
So, that’s the work. Simple (that is, few moving parts), but not easy (for anybody). Well worth the trouble, however. I mention that here in order to encourage you to practice/implement the principles described above (and in all my articles) more than once. Right practice improves all skills and to conclude after one attempt that it doesn’t work simply reflects little interest in really doing anything differently than you already do things. [The underlying principle in the previous sentence: Be honest with yourself.]
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