Do you remember that silly thing we used to do when we had a crush on someone? We’d pick a flower and pull off the petals one at a time, chanting, “He loves me, he loves me not.” And whatever the chant of the last petal, that was your destiny. (Of course it wasn’t, but it was fun.)
Do you feel loved? Kids, pets, spouses… we love to feel the love from them, only sometimes it doesn’t have the look and feel we want. Sometimes it’s the opposite and we question whether we are important to them at all. Let me begin with a story about our dog, Kessie.
I know Kessie loves me. I think. She sure has a funny way of showing it. When I walk in the door she’s so excited to see me. Well, not really; it’s her insatiable desire be outside. One lick, and she’s panting at the door, frantic to get out. And I am NOT exaggerating.
I was away for five days for a coach training. My husband picked me up at the airport and I hoped that once, just once, I’d get a really warm welcome from her. She flew down the stairs, jumped on me, gave one lick, and scratched at the door to be let out. Sigh… Kessie’s just not the cuddly type. It doesn’t help that our first dog, my sweet Goldie, was 100% a love bug, and I can’t help but make comparisons. (Comparing your children is a whole other discussion which we’ll save for another time.)
What’s the lesson in this story? It’s not about me. The love is in there somewhere, but Kessie acts first from her own needs, which are to be outside in the fresh air with room to run and explore (and hunt - ugh). When she first came to us from a rescue shelter, she followed me everywhere, even to the point of leaving her food if I left the kitchen. That was more about her need to not be left alone, than love for me. And that’s okay.
What does this have to do with you and your child? Parents have shared their sadness at a growing chasm between them and their child. It feels like anything but love and connection. He loves me, he loves me not? On the surface it changes from day to day, moment to moment.
When children push you away, it’s not because you’ve done something terribly wrong and are undeserving of love. You are the person they love most, no matter how they protest. You are their safe harbor in a confusing world. Most likely they are working through something, going through the adolescent phase of separating, or you’ve given them an answer they don’t like. Their reactions and responses to you are about their needs, not yours. Your job is to love them no matter what.
(NOTE: They may be rude, loud, or shut you out, which is expected at this age; however, just because they are acting in a predictably adolescent way doesn’t mean you ignore disrespectful behavior. There are ways to address these behaviors without lecturing, punishing and talking louder than them. Your other job is to model more loving and productive ways of responding in difficult, button-pushing situations.)
There are many days when parenting requires a thick skin. When my children were toddlers, I remember having a higher threshold for the tantrums. I could attribute them to fatigue, overstimulation, limited verbal skills, their tender age, and lack of experience.
As they move into and through the teen years, you have higher expectations for your kids’ ability to behave at a more mature level. The fact is that their brain hasn’t reached the maturity of their body, and you’re often disappointed. That requires more patience on your part as well.
When you separate yourself from their behavior, you all win. When you stay calm in the face of their craziness, you all win. When you love them in spite of themselves, you all win. Hmm, maybe it really is about you…
He loves me, he loves me not? Yes, he loves you.
Fern Weis is a certified life coach who learned that caring and good intentions are not enough in parenting. In fact, they are often the problem! Fern supports parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations, including addiction recovery. She helps parents release guilt, end enabling and confidently prepare their children to thrive through life's challenges. Her articles are featured in Thrive Global, Medium, Motherly, The Teen Mentor, and Bergen County Moms.
Learn more about coaching and classes at www.fernweis.com. And then download your free guide, "Five Powerful Steps to Get Your Teen to Talk." For information on Family Recovery programs, visit www.familyrecoverypartners.com.