Do you have a Sour Patch Kid? Sometimes they’re sour, and other times they’re sweet. This is my Sour Patch Kid.
For parents of teenagers and pre-teens (and sometimes adult kids), this analogy might hit home all too well.
Sweet and sour is my life with my 16-year-old daughter. One moment, she is sharing her day with me, seeking my opinion, and making me feel like the most important person in her world. The next, she’s grunting in response, exhibiting selective hearing, and behaving like an alien has invaded her body.
As a parent, especially a mother, this rollercoaster can be challenging to navigate. To be completely honest, I’m human and it sometimes hurts.
After all, I’m the one who goes the extra mile, waking up at 5 am (when she’s running late) to make her smoothie or being the go-to person if she needs something. If you have a sour patch, you can 100% relate.
The key, however, lies in understanding that this is a part of the process and how you handle it can have lasting implications.
It’s crucial to understand that loving your child isn’t enough; what truly matters is that they feel loved. The emotional experience they have in your presence can significantly impact their perception of themselves and you.
If you want to know what causes you to yell/snap, a defensive child, and disconnection then keep reading.
You are an amazing mom, and I want you to acknowledge you’re doing the very best you can.
The following tips aren’t an attack; it’s just an attempt to provide you with more strategies that can increase the connection with your child(ren) and create more peace internally and externally.
Strategies for Navigating:
Take a Step Back: Understand and accept that their behavior is not about you. People often express their frustrations towards those closest to them. Remember, this phase is temporary.
Get Curious: The teenage brain can be difficult to comprehend, however, if you get curious it will allow more space to foster a better understanding and relationship. It’s hard to be angry/hurt when you’re authentically curious.
Actions that either enhance or hinder connection and communication:
1. Work on Self-Regulation: Recognize your human, but strive to regulate yourself. Self-regulation decreases behaviors like yelling or snapping. The more you feel stressed, overwhelmed or out of control you’re more prone to these behaviors. This is the basis of the work I do with my clients, learning to self-regulate. You can’t be a calm, present and loving mom if you’re not regulating your mind and body.
2. Unconditional Love: Extend love unconditionally, not solely when their behavior aligns with your expectations.
· Avoid Conditional Acts: Resist the “tit-for-tat” mentality; refrain from actions like me deciding not to make a smoothie for my daughter because she did something I didn’t like. This isn’t a punishment or consequence. Consequences, if necessary, should be separate from expressions of care/love.
· Watch Out For Unintentional Manipulative Tactics: Steer clear of passive-aggressive behavior, such as silent treatment, avoidance or statements like…
o “You won’t listen anyway, why do I bother?”
o “I would’ve killed to have this relationship with my mom.”
o “You’re going to do what you want to do anyway.”
o “Sorry I’m so embarrassing.”
o “I’ll remember this the next time you ask me to do something.”
o “I can see you’re in one of your moods again.”
o “You don’t appreciate anything I do for you.”
Things like silent treatment, avoidance, and these passive aggressive statements try to manipulate the child’s behavior. Love/connection should never be contingent on “good behavior.”
Dealing with Behavioral Issues:
1. Thoughtful Consequences: If behavioral problems arise, apply consequences thoughtfully. Avoid punishing in the heat of anger.
2. Express Love Amidst Actions: Remind them consistently of your love, making it clear that while you may disapprove of their actions, your love for them remains unwavering. In order to do this, you must be regulated and practice a lot of self-love.
3. Offer Support: Let them know you’re cheering them on. It’s essential to provide a constant source of calm/support in their uncertain and overwhelming world. This strategy is all about creating more calm mentally and increase the unconditional love your child feels.
Connect More Than You Correct:
1. Avoid Over-Correcting: Be cautious of correcting more than connecting. If you correct frequently and only connect sparingly, resistance and distance will arise.
2. Positive Communication: Refrain from constant suggestions for improvement, unintentional criticism, and/or judgment. Here are some examples:
o “My room never looked like this when I was a kid.”
o “You’re going to wear that?” (in a condescending tone)
o “I would never do that as a kid.”
3. Allow them to be heard: There should be freedom to express themselves without denial of their experience or repercussions. Listening doesn’t equate to them getting their way. It doesn’t matter the age, humans want to be heard and accepted. This makes them feel loved.
1. Quality Time (may not be possible initially) Take them out on “dates” doing activities they enjoy even if it’s outside your comfort zone.
If you have a very defensive child, get curious, see if there is constant perceived criticism and/or correction on your part.
Disclaimer: If you’ve been doing things to create disconnection your child may resist connecting and quality time. Who wants to connect with someone who often criticizes, withholds love (perception is their reality), and doesn’t listen? Just be patient give it some time they will come around when you start making these changes.
Mantras for Tough Moments:
· This isn’t about me.
· I can’t control her/him. I can only control how I feel.
· We will be okay.
· This is temporary.
· I can be a better example if I show her/him how to respond in love.
This is still a work in process for me with my daughter, however it’s so much better than it used to be. The old me would offer the silent treatment and tit for tat responses when behaviors didn’t align with what I wanted. Now I just hold space and allow her emotional rollercoasters to be about her.
The foundation of your relationship with your child rests on the pillars of connection, communication, and love.
Your current actions have a ripple effect, influencing not just the present but also shaping the course of your future relationship.
The stakes are high.
If you find yourself not handling the challenges of parenting a “sour patch kid”, let’s talk. I can guide you so you make this journey a little calmer and sweeter.
Your sanity and the well-being of your parent-child relationship are worth the conversation.
Let me help you navigate.