When I write a post, I usually have many points I want to get across relating to a specific topic. My goal for this article is to make it more generalized. I want you to fill in the blanks to make this idea work for you. It will look different for everyone. I will give you examples specific to me and my relationship to my youngest son, but I encourage you to create ideas based on your unique situation.
If you are in an ongoing power struggle with any one of your kids, you may find this helpful. I tend to butt heads more with my youngest son. His unfiltered honesty and stubborn streak are at once admirable and frustrating. I mostly admire his ability to say exactly what’s on his mind and the grit he has to stick to his guns. However, and this is a big however, there are times that I wish he would keep opinions to himself. No, I did not need to know that my chicken soup is not as good as Panera’s thank you very much.
It seems we go in streaks. When we are in a particular rough patch, my goal is to make sure I have one positive interaction with him a day (this can work with partners and spouses, too). One doesn’t sound too intimidating, right? Believe me, I know it can be. When you are feeling frustrated and undervalued by someone, it can be challenging to be the bigger person to make that move towards positivity. It helps to know that you are doing this as much for yourself as you are for them. If you are consciously choosing to interact positively with them, you are going to feel better too. You will feel more in control knowing that you are shaping how you interact with them. Another plus is that sometimes one positive interaction will roll into another. In a best case scenario, it will snowball all the way back to a peaceful and enjoyable coexistence with the person causing you distress.
Here are some ways that I try to change the energy between me and my son. I compliment him on something that matters to him like playing soccer or bringing home assignments with high marks. I also like to highlight the aspects of his personality that I appreciate like his humor or creativity. Having a favorite snack ready when he comes home from school goes a long way in keeping things light between us. I tend to avoid making him meals as a positive interaction because this usually opens me up to his feedback. Since I never know what that will be (which is part of his charm, right?), I stick to snacks. I can’t mess those up (if I do, I’m sure he will let me know!). Maybe making a favorite meal would work for you if time allows, but I also find ordering out or picking up from my son’s favorite restaurant is a fail-safe option for me (see Panera chicken soup above). Even though he will deny that he likes this for the rest of his days, I will sneak in an unexpected hug along with the compliments and snacks. Simply by writing this paragraph about incorporating positive interactions, I am noticing good feelings about him expanding within me.
I think sometimes we need to be reminded that underneath all the drama and tension, there lies an unbreakable bond that connects us to our kids. I hope that by incorporating a daily positive interaction with the one who is pushing our buttons, we will get back to a natural ease in the relationship. Keep in mind, the ones that we struggle finding patience with are often the ones who need it the most.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent