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?