Oftentimes parents say that they feel they are doing everything for their children yet have such a hard time connecting with them when their children act ungrateful, unkind, or selfish. Parents ask, “How do I feel connected to my child when they are treating me this way?” The answer is that both we and our children do not have to do anything at all to be connected to each other because the connection is natural and is always there. Sometimes, however we do need to remove blockages that make us feel disconnected from our children. Blockages can include our thoughts about ourselves or our children. Most of the time those thoughts are judgmental in nature, meaning that our brains are telling us that our children should be doing things differently. All “should” thinking is destructive. There are no “shoulds” in life.
Here is one example: A mother tells her daughter to deliver a package to an older woman who lives down the block. Her daughter answers, “No, do it yourself.” The mother starts yelling at her daughter because she acts according to the root thought of “kids should listen to their mothers, and it’s terrible if they do not.” While her daughter’s response was clearly very disrespectful, and requires wise direction from her mother, the mother needs to be responding from a grounded place of clear thinking in order to tap into that wisdom. Instead of thinking, “My daughter should…” she can think clearer truths such as, “Let me think how to set a healthy limit/help my daughter take responsibility here so she can act respectfully.” (It is not healthy for the daughter to not listen to her mother.) “This challenge is uniquely and lovingly designed for me by Hashem to provide me with an opportunity to grow.” “If I got this challenge, I certainly have the tools inside of me.” “My daughter made a poor choice, and I still see her Real Self beneath that. Her mistakes do not define her.”
Now if the mother is responding to her daughter from a place of clear truths, she will be able to see that her connection to her was never lost in the first place, but rather that her original faulty thinking is what created the blockage.
Consequently, when her daughter says, “No, you do it,” the mother might respond with, “That comes across like you think you do not have to listen, and I know you do not mean that. Now please go and bring the elderly lady down the block this bag.” All that is said with zero judgement in the mother’s voice. She is not thinking less of her daughter and is not worried about her either. Her daughter simply made a mistake. It is just a bump in the road, and she needs to take responsibility.
How to Deal with Disrespectful Comments
If the daughter often makes disrespectful comments, the mother can have separate conversations with her at a different time about it.
Notice I said conversations in plural because it’s two separate conversations, never to be mixed.
Conversation #1: Is there something her daughter needs?
Conversation #2: What is expected of the daughter? (We do not make excuses for misbehaviors.)
I like to always tell the child that we need to have these two conversations and ask the child which one they would like to have first. They usually pick the conversation about what they need first. I then give my undivided attention as the child explains, “You always ask me to help you, and not my sisters.” or “Sometimes I am just not in the mood.” To that conversation I just listen, but I never excuse. Just help the child to feel fully heard.
Then comes the second conversation of, “The real you wants to speak respectfully. You need to find different words to use when you are having these feelings.” We then trust our child to want to do the right thing by smiling and asking, “Can you give me your word that you will work hard to remember that?” People want to keep their word, so the chances of improvement are high.
If they forget after that, do not slip back into “should” thinking. Remember that this is part of your child’s journey with you. Use the challenge as an opportunity to see beyond the misbehaviors, so you can focus on the natural connection between you and your child, which never leaves you. That is when you will come up with the best strategies.