The other day I was getting worked on by my “Structural Integrationist” – a fancy name for massage therapist, but I like it because it sounds like real work being done, and not just pampering. We were comparing facets of our respective professions and found that in both cases having a good relationship with those you are working on, or with, was vital to success. In other words you have to like your clients. Otherwise, we agreed, it will not matter what stroke you use as a massage therapist, or what technique you use as a Marriage and Family Therapist, the client will feel you don’t care for them and the work you do will not deeply transform anything for the better.
Believe it or not, the same is true for parents and their kids. You have to like them to be any good for them. This month we have focused our Ezine on the topic of gift giving, but I want to tell you about 3 gifts you can give that have the power to turn your relationship with your teen 180 degrees around.
Many of us who deal with an adolescent personality, feel that while we love our child, we don’t particularly like him or her. One minute they want total independence, and the next they are asking for $20 to put gas in the car so they can go out with friends. This back and forth of “come here, I need you…never mind, go away\” can make you shake your head in disgust and think \”They’ve got to be the most self centered kid on earth!\”
Naturally, after talking to yourself that way day after day, a teen can seem less likable and you may even feel justified in withholding your love and affection from them. So, just like the therapist who doesn\’t particularly like their client, your ability to have influence for good with them will vanish.
So what are the three gifts you wonder? Is it tangible, something I can buy? Can it be ordered online or mailed long distances? The bad news is (and you knew this was coming) it must come from within each of us as parents. Only you and I have the power to create these gifts and it must emanate from a pure source of love and desire to connect. What I\’m talking about are the three gifts of empathy, time, and service.
The first gift of empathy is given privately. We begin to see them through lenses that lead to understanding. Rather than thinking of our teen as… (any negative label), let\’s start with the assumption that they are doing the best they can with the challenges they are faced with. Remember what it was like with the insecurities, the strong desire for acceptance and belonging, and the pressures of moving ever closer to independence. Remember the excitement, but don’t ignore the real fears also. As this compassion for their stage and standing unfolds, watch your heart soften towards them.
Secondly, give them time. Talk, play, have fun together and talk some more. Listen to them share their triumphs and their struggles. Compliment them for how they are handling so many of the challenges so well. Appreciate how far they have come. Spend hours with them not minutes. Notice how you are starting to like them again!
Finally, serve and nurture them. In the midst of all this listening you will undoubtedly learn about what acts of service or nurturing they would find most thoughtful. Thoughtfulness equates with someone who really cares. Then serve them without expectation of change. Notice the gift you receive by giving. Your heart is changing, maybe even more than your teen’s.
This Holiday Season, give your kids the gift that only you can give. A parent that likes them.
To Your Family\’s Happiness!
Tim Thayne, Ph.D.