Kids famously go through phases—sticking Legos up their nose, undressing in public, eating paper and talking like a pirate, to name a few. Less widely discussed are the phases their parents experience, from the doting, nervous caretakers of a newborn, to the disciplinarian toddler-parents, and to the OMG-did-we-actually-birth-a-monster-and-not-a-kid phase when the teens years are in full force. It's just a fact of life, and of families, that as the kids grow, so do their parents.
Another phase many parents encounter is the one where they realize, generally through their children's behavior, that they haven't done a good enough job of making it known who's boss. That's when they cease giving second chances, allowing back-talk and chores or other basic family rules to fall by the wayside. Fights ensue, doors slam, silent treatments and eye rolls follow, but when Mom and Dad win, dammit, the kids learn about respect, responsibility and rules.
But do they really? Is the because-I-said-so method really the best one-size-fits-all parenting technique? While it may work for a 6-year-old who lies daily about brushing her teeth and gets punished by losing dessert for a week, it's unlikely to have the same effect on a 16-year-old.
Deep inside we all know: When we hold out to win against our children, someone always loses.
A short, 80-second video recently posted on the Facebook page of a group called Sun Gazing shows a mom at odds with her teenage son. Anyone with a high schooler under their roof can feel the pain: cocky, moody kid acting contrary seemingly just because he thinks he can. Mom's tired, irritated and hurt that her boy continues to defy her.
"I wanted my child to submit and he wanted to back off," the mom in the video says. "But deep inside we all know: When we hold out to win against our children, someone always loses."
Instead of seeing her son's messy room as a sign of disobedience and utter slovenliness, though, she manages to realize it's probably a symptom of stress, which many parents should be able to recognize because they also suffer from it.
"It became clear that I had to do the last thing I really wanted to do: Forgive him." So she cleans up his room, and when he sees it later and asks why she's doing something nice for him when he knows exactly why she shouldn't have, she tells him, "Because I want you to know this is how I feel about you and I love you enough to see past our differences."
For parents who've never tried putting themselves in their kids' shoes, it can be a revelation. Not everything kids do when they do something wrong is a knock at their parents. Oftentimes kids don't know how to open up, say what's really wrong and ask for a hug. Maybe it's hormones holding them back, or embarrassment, or a fear of failing or rejection, although it would seem that parents who can let go of the idea of winning (because who ever wants to see their kids lose heart?) might be among the most profound phases of parenting.
Blinking first and disarming angry emotions by replacing them with compassionate gestures can make all the difference, even if it means rules were broken.
"Sometimes it's more important to give our kids what they need," the video says at the end. "Not what they deserve."