Want a Better Relationship with Your Adult Kid?

Do you wish you had a better relationship with your adult kid? 

What would it take to make it better?

If you answered something like: 

If she would be nicer to me, if he would call more often, if they would make better choices or settle down or work harder or drink less or or or… then I would feel better about them, then we could have a better relationship.

A lot of people will agree with you, and commiserate with you… because you are powerless to do anything, the relationship is out of your hands. You are at the mercy of your kid’s behavior. It is a very painful place to be. 

But is that the way it has to be? 

Here is what I believe is true: 

You, and I, and everyone, cannot make other people behave differently than they do. Even our kids.

People get to be and do what they choose.

When we set rules, expectations, “shoulds” for others, we often end up feeling disappointed, angry or hurt.

How we feel is because of how we are thinking. We think we feel hurt because our son didn’t call, but if it wasn’t for our thought “he should call” we wouldn’t be feeling hurt. 

It seems like a nice thought, a reasonable expectation: my son should call. A kid should call his mother. 

But let’s look at the reality: when we have that thought about our kid, we feel disappointed and hurt, and then how do we behave? Most likely we complain, we pout, we decide to “show him” by not calling him, or maybe we call and chew him out… And what is the result of all that?

Can you see where that reasonable thought turns out to be a kind of poison? 

So what can we do differently? 

We can start trying out different ways of thinking about our kid. So he’s not big on calling- what if we worked on making that okay. Not making it mean he is selfish or doesn’t love us. Or that we are a bad mom or have a bad relationship. But maybe instead, thinking, he is living his life, as we all are. What else? Busy, doing things, taking care of stuff, minding his business, being a grownup, just being himself. I’ve raised an independent man, living his own life.

Can you feel the relief, the easing off? 

Ultimately, our relationships with our kids are based on what we choose to think about them. Our thoughts, the emotions they generate, and the way we behave are what end up creating the relationship. 

So… what kind of relationship will you create?

Can We Talk About Your Brain?

Are you feeling called to do hard things? 

Things that make you feel uncomfortable, or require a lot of effort, but that you are committed to because they are important? Perhaps important to your health, to your business, or to creating the world you want to live in.

First, let me commend you! 

Second, can we talk about your brain for a moment? Understanding a few things about human brain function can make taking on those hard things a little easier. 

Caveat: I am not a scientific expert on the human brain. I don’t even play one on tv. But I do help people learn to do hard things, think new thoughts, perceive the world and themselves in new ways so that they can live more intentional, effective and fulfilling lives. Every day. I’m a life coach.

The most technical and science-y thing I will say is this: your decision to do hard things was made in your prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is also what you will be relying on to actually do the hard things. It’s in charge of executive function, and will require a great deal of conscious intention, focus and effort to establish any new behaviors.

The prefrontal cortex can override the rest of your brain that DOES NOT want you to do hard things. That will provide reasons why hard things, new ideas, anything challenging and that takes effort and creates discomfort is A BAD IDEA. That will suggest instead that you check Facebook, make popcorn, scroll through your phone, look out the window. That wants you to keep silent, not speak up, keep your head down, and definitely not step off the well worn path.

That part -let’s call it the lower brain- is just doing its job, which is to keep you safe and expend as little energy as possible. It automates your repeated behaviors so that you don’t have to think about them so much- things like driving, brushing your teeth, getting dressed. 

So how can you use this knowledge to help you do hard things?

You can ease the effort required of your prefrontal cortex by

  • being very clear WHY the hard thing is important to you,
  • breaking the hard things into smaller, clearly defined actions,
  • mentally rehearsing when, where and how you will do them, 
  • imagining how you will feel when this new behavior is integrated into your life,
  • posting notes to yourself stating what you will do and WHY, and then
  • practice, practice, practice doing the hard thing.

You can anticipate the lower brain’s discouragement campaign to avoid being taken in by it, and you can be your own cheerleader. 

Try my current favorite approach: be on the alert and nod knowingly when your lower brain shows up and starts balking (you feel smart), then say something like “welcome, and thank you for your concern! I hear you! Very bad idea: okay, duly noted! You have done your job and done it well; now you may move along thank you very much.” (You feel politely but firmly in charge.)

Then, you do the hard thing- yes, and feel uncomfortable- but know that you have strengthened the muscle of your prefrontal cortex (pause to admire your badassery), and that the next time it will be even easier (how strategic is that).

And if you do this enough times, eventually – here is the magic part!- that hard thing becomes easier and your lower brain accepts it as the new normal, making room for it alongside flossing your teeth and flipping on your turn signal.

If I Believe My Thought

Photo by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash

Sometimes I have thoughts that are judgmental, racist, petty or unfair.

If I believe that my thoughts reveal my moral character, I would then believe that I was a judgmental, racist, petty or unfair person.

I might then think that something is wrong with me, that I am a terrible person. I might feel deep shame. I might try to cover up those thoughts, from others and myself.

If I did try to better myself, to think more acceptable and honorable thoughts from a place of self judgment or shame, it would be like building on a shaky, unstable foundation.

If I tried to hide those unwanted thoughts from myself and others, I would always be on guard, fearful of being found out, disconnected from myself and others.

But if I believe 

-that everything I have ever seen, heard or read is imprinted in my brain, in my memory

-that I carry with me a record of my thoughts and experiences, as well as what I have picked up from my family and school and neighborhood and country and world’s thoughts and experiences

And I understand I have the ability to

-become aware of those thoughts

-decide what I think of those thoughts

-choose which ones I want to embrace, identify with and act from 

And I discover that 

-it is possible to be myself and let others be themselves

-it is possible to be with our humanness without fear, without hiding


-I understand the value of awareness, education, acceptance and love

-I understand the power of intentional thought and action

-I choose who I want to be and how I want to live

And I feel hope and love and faith in humanity.