There’s this little thing called the ego. Not so little, really. The ego says, “I’m important. Pay attention to me. I know more than you. I am right. I must be right, or else who am I?” The thing about needing to be right is that it automatically means the other person has to be wrong. There can’t be two winners when one has to come out on top.
You know what that looks and feels like in any intimate relationship. There are hard feelings, rejection, anger, resentment. None of these pave the way for love and trust, which are at the heart of a healthy and satisfying relationship.
Now imagine how this impacts your relationship with your child. (Most of us don’t have to look far for an example.) Needing to be right leads to resistance and distance, the opposite of the connection and cooperation you desire. Why do parents do this if it gets more of what they don’t want?!
When you try to convince your child that there is a better way to approach or cope with a situation, you probably feel that you’re coming from a place of love. All too often, though, it’s really fear masquerading as love.
Here’s what may be going on for you:
You have tons of life experience. They have yet to learn.
Your experience helps you make better informed decisions. They are impulsive and not very thoughtful.
You know what the consequences may be for their mistakes. They think they are invincible.
(As far as they are concerned) you know nothing and they know everything.
In other words, you know better and want to protect them from themselves and the world.
Wouldn’t it be great if they acquiesced and said, “Mom, Dad, you’re absolutely right. I’m going to follow your advice”? (And would you fall over if they did say that?)
Change your mindset, change your relationships.
Sometimes you are right… and it really makes no difference. In order to nurture that relationship, the one that has your child turning to you for guidance and reassurance, and voluntarily being with you when he grows into adulthood, he needs to feel safe. He needs to know first that you will not judge, criticize or fix. And as obnoxious as your teen may sometimes be, he’s looking for love and approval. He wants this connection just as much as you do.
The next time you find yourself needing to be right, be present and thoughtful. Remember that an argument is when something else becomes more important than the relationship and the child in front of you.
Remember what your bigger picture vision is for your teen. Put your fears on hold, if you can, and recognize that sometimes he will make mistakes. Many of these mistakes, as uncomfortable as they are for both of you, are the building blocks of competence, creativity and compassion.
Agree to disagree. Pause and disengage. Take time to think about what you really want her to know. Offer to help without doing it for her. Ask what she needs or wants from you: to listen, to problem-solve, a hug, or to be left alone. Choices are empowering. This set of choices teaches self-awareness, so valuable to emotional health and well-being.
A solid relationship with your teen is the foundation for respect, cooperation, love and everything good that comes later on. It needs to be nurtured, just like a seed planted in the ground. Let go of needing to be right. Shift your focus to a heart-to-heart connection and watch it grow.
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.