Parents see it as parents and kids, but kids too-often see it as humans and tyrants because too often it is. As often as I’ll see it in a boardroom I’ll see it in a family; a total lack of awareness of the state of affairs prior to introducing something new.
We don’t ask what state of mind someone started with, we tell them they should have the state of mind we want them to have. This starts young, when kids act-out just when Mom and Dad were already at the end of their rope after a rough day at work.
There are also cases where parents are bending over backwards to help and the kids are attacking them as though they are the lowest life-form on the Earth. These reactions are counterproductive to our own interests and we’re better to become active managers of them.
With interpersonal leadership from the parents, kids can be taught to communicate their mental weather. If a parent is losing their temper they can say to the child at that time, “Okay, I did not have a great day with my boss and now I’m getting upset with you —let’s talk about this when I have more patience because I don’t want us to treat each other disrespectfully.”
Of course they’re little and can’t uphold their end of the bargain but that doesn’t matter —we’re not looking for unrealistic success instantaneously. This is a processes, whereby the parent is teaching the kid, not the other way around.
An adult can explain to a kid about when they’re grumpy, or tired, or hungry, or worried. And by doing that we can teach them to eventually do it too. And that’s important, because people who live together need to be aware of each others state of mind.
That is the context in which all events take place. It doesn’t matter who’s younger or older or who’s the parent and who’s the kid, everyone contributes to the overall personality of a household, and unaware parents are just as damaging to that peace as unaware kids. But parents who strive to maintain emotional awareness will also teach that skill to their kids….
If you’re a teen it isn’t unreasonable if a parent comes home worn out and is hurt that you couldn’t show your love for them by helping start dinner. Likewise it isn’t unreasonable for a kid to be tense and easily upset if they’re being bullied all day and now their parent is all-demands.
It isn’t unreasonable when a parent is upset that something they worked hundreds of hours in pre-tax dollars to pay for, ends up broken by their children through pure carelessness. The parent sees all the lost work. Most kids don’t even grasp the concept of ‘money.’
Likewise, it isn’t unreasonable for a teenager to be tired in the morning —that fact is essentially biological. Today, many school systems are trusting the science about teens needing more time to sleep, so they start later and often see better results.
For decades, it really was our parents that were wrong about us being lazy when we were young. We weren’t so much lazy as we were in a stage of development. In a way, they were like gardeners blaming a flower for not blooming when it’s just emerging from the soil.
Yes, we can greatly mitigate reactions to daily experiences, but since we have the emotions to express negative things we will express them because that’s how the world is built. Otherwise nature wouldn’t have built those reactions.
The real challenge for us is, before we’re enlightened, we don’t like it when we inevitably have less than pleasant experiences. But that’s what Yin and Yang mean. Together they create the world. We can’t have one without the other. No down, no up.
No story can be all high notes. That would be boring to read, watch or live. Our lives are a story. And our family’s life is a story. And we can use our awareness of that fact to make both ours and our family’s lives into truly great ones. There’s nothing stopping us.
We are the authors of our own pages. It is we who gets to write out an angry reaction —or an upset reaction to someone else’s angry reaction. But we can also write something more peaceful. We can choose to see our characters from a bit more distance, which will allow us to make calmer choices.
Over time we can take upset family members —and ourselves— and we can learn to slow the energy down, just as we’ve been inadvertently taught to speed it up by being impatient with anything short of perfection.
Don’t try to win or get your way. Families ultimately want to go in fundamentally the same healthy directions, so focus on those commonalities and request that everyone keep in mind that everyone has their interior lives and that some graciousness and patience would go a long way.
Don’t shoot for perfection. Healthy families find healthy ways to deal with conflict by having to deal with conflict. As long as the parent leads, and provides some time for mistakes and growth, this process can bring families even closer together. Even if on some days it feels like it’s doing the opposite.
The one thing you can count on is most kids turn out far better than their parents imagined they would and, in the end, that’s as good for the parents as it is for the kids.
Have a wonderful day.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.