Managing Expectations As A Parent
Wow have you ever had one of those moments with your teenager when you just want to talk to them about something and it turns into a yelling match? Or does it seem at every turn that your teenager is defiant and oppositional with you…what’s up with that? How come sometimes it feels like there’s more conflict then harmony? How do we move from having unproductive or aggressive exchanges to being able to resolve conflict when it arises, or avoiding it altogether?
It can sometimes feel like a monumental task when we are trying to reach some form of agreement with what appears to be a resistant teenager. However upon closer inspection we the parents also have to take some responsibility in the resistance department, because conflict only occurs when there are two resistant participants. When we go into a discussion with the intention to show the other person that we are right (which is different then wanting to share our point of view) then we also show the other person that we are inflexible and that their thoughts, feelings and opinions are not important. This is when we have to look at ourselves and see if we are responding to a situation based on expectations and beliefs that no longer serve. If we become rigidly caught up in “my son/daughter should behave or do things this way” then we create expectations they may not be able or want to meet!
For a family to operate harmoniously together there needs to be at least one person who is setting the example as to what that looks like. This is expressed in body language, tone of voice, verbal responses, and energetic intention all of which have to be congruent with one another. If it’s not congruent the other person (say your teenager) will pick up on it easily and counter respond with resistance and defensiveness. We need to be able to demonstrate whole-heartedly that we want to resolve the issue or come to an understanding by holding a space of honesty and respect without judgment.
We also have to look at the issue that seems to be the catalyst for continuous conflict or arguments because maybe it’s time to really look at “the issue” and explore if it really needs to be an “issue”! As an example when I was working with families a common complaint, which created a lot of conflict between parents and their teens, were their messy rooms! This was the source of many battles in the home and a lot of conflict was triggered because of a messy room. However when you get right down to it…it really isn’t about the room, it’s more about our expectations! So here we have a situation “the messy room” then we have the parent who is reacting to the messy room. Then we have the teenager who created the messy room (and really doesn’t have a problem with it), however gets annoyed with the parent every time they’re told to clean it up! So if you (the parent) do not want to constantly be arguing with your teenager about their messy room you have to look at why their messy room annoys you so much. We have to look at our expectations around how tidy we think our kid’s rooms should be and are we creating undue stress and anxiety by forcing that expectation onto our children? Then we need to be able to approach the subject with our teenager from a neutral place so you and your teen can come up with a solution that works for both of you. The agreement I came up with my one daughter (she was really messy!) was that if she wanted to have friends over she had to clean her room first. The rest of the time I just kept the door closed so I couldn’t see it!!
The point is we have to be able to talk to our kids and work with them on a level playing field, meaning because I’m the parent it doesn’t mean I am always right and my kids have no say. Our kids need to be included in these conversations and allowed to voice their opinions as to why they do things a certain way or why it doesn’t bother them to have their laundry all over the floor! And we need to demonstrate flexibility and understanding towards these wonderful individuals who are here to grow with us.
If you can have the kind of relationship with your teenager where you are able to talk and listen to one another in an open and respectful way then you will have a more harmonious atmosphere at home. When you work together as a family not as separate individuals needing to defend an expectation, then you create a beautiful space that everyone wants to be a part of.