Eleven-year-old Grace had always been a challenge, but the last two years everything had become a struggle with her parents. Grace wanted more freedom; Mom needed to keep a watchful eye. Grace thought Dad was overbearing; Dad found Grace inconsiderate. Explosions erupted constantly and no one knew how to turn the tide.
Parents often complain to me about their kid’s behavior. They are relieved but dumbfounded when others compliment them are their well-behaved children. “Why don’t I ever see that kid?” they ask. If this sounds familiar, take heart. Your child’s awful behavior is a sign of comfort, of trust in your love and consistency. He knows he can dish out the worst and you won’t abandon him. You might chastise, punish, or yell, but you won’t stop being his parents.
Invite your child’s imagination into the conversation of improving family harmony – it can give you a gentle way to clear the air and validate the deepest parts of him as you open communication channels.
Like Grace’s family, if you and your child sometimes struggle to get along, your family may appreciate these ideas:
1. Listen with an Open Heart:
Encourage your child to share his concerns about you. Let him know there won’t be any recriminations for what he says – what’s important is honesty. Let him know you care about his feelings and no matter how impossible the situation seems, you can work it out. Listen for the hurt or need behind any angry words. “You never listen to me,” is less a statement of fact than a plea for connection. Nor do you have to give in to every request; just being heard and understood can release resentment.
2. Balance with Good Techno Thoughts:
If your kid is besotted with new technology, use its language to engage her imagination when you’re trying to communicate better. It puts you in her world. Maybe she can watch an imaginary iPhone video where you guys are getting along. Or text her loving messages a few times a day. Let her know you’re on her side.
3. Connect to the Heart:
If you’ve been encouraging your child to check in daily with his Heart’s wisdom, it will be easy to ask inside to shed light on parent-child relationships. If not, now is the time to start. Imagine the relationship you both want – it’s an important step toward your goal.
4. Write When Talk Doesn’t Work:
If you have trouble talking to each other, writing can help. Jot down your feelings, thoughts, hopes, and desires for a better relationship. Again, use your imagination – along with your Heart’s wisdom – they are the source of what you really want to create. Young kids can dictate, older ones can also try writing with their non-dominant hand as another way to connect with their intuition. Exchange notes, and accept whatever is written. It may make initiating a conversation easier.
5. Use the Power of the Post-It:
An encouraging word from you can make a big difference in your kid’s life. Get a pad of post-it’s in favorite colors and leave them all over – on his door, on her desk, in his lunchbox… Then write whatever comes from your heart: “I love you.” “I believe in you.” “You can accomplish your dreams.” “You’re doing great.” “I’m so proud of you.” “I’m here for you always.”
Allow yourself to re-connect to the love you feel for your children – and they feel for you. Practicing these tips can set yourself up for clearer and more loving communication with your family — today and every day. Let me know how it goes…
Adapted from "The Power of Your Child's Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success."
Charlotte Reznick, Ph.D. is a child educational psychologist, an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at UCLA and author of the Los Angeles Times bestselling book, "The Power of Your Child's Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success" (Perigee/Penguin). In addition to her private practice, she creates therapeutic relaxation CDs for children, teens and parents, and teaches workshops internationally on the healing power of children's imagination. You can find out more about her at www.ImageryForKids.com.