If you’ve ever struggled with getting through your parents or making them understand you better, feeling helpless and hopeless, your eyes have landed in the right place.
Parent-child disagreements have been a classic evergreen hallmark through generations and are just a part of this relationship dynamic.
In all honesty, given that the universal focus is justifiably always on enabling parents to be better at their roles, there aren’t actually a heap of resources for kids to navigate through challenges with the grown-ups, which kinda sucks but also inspired me to do what I do.
Am hoping this piece offers you optimism and some tools to manoeuvring your way through what can sometimes seem as an existential crisis.
Here’s the truth you need to realise about yourself: You were born as a free spirit with an independent purpose that you’re here to fulfil on this planet.
Here’s a truth you need to know about parents: They often try to fulfil their unfulfilled plans and desires through you (which isn’t always the worst thing) but it gets tricky when you are pushed to pursue choices they think are best for you, based on their model of reality.
This can feel unfair especially in this new tech age , where there’s been a massive paradigm shift and kids at the age of 12 seem are exposed to more information than the previous Gen had at 40! So yes, you have ambitions and dreams of your own and rightly so.
It’s the expectation game where things go all haywire. Especially when you feel like a pressure cooker loaded with expectations to prove yourself to your parents — of scoring the perfect grades, of being an all-rounder, of being well acknowledged by the social circle and so on. At some point, that steam’s going to blow off.
Many of us end up carrying these expectations like excess baggage that sticks through adulthood and beyond, which can sometimes lead us to holding resentments against parents without even necessarily realising it.
Here’s what you gotta know…
The aspects about your parents that trigger you has a whole history to it. If you choose to listen to their part, in all probability they were exposed to the same traits and mannerisms by your grandparents.
Life repeats itself in cycles. Our conditioning, upbringing and experiences become a pattern that’s unconsciously passed on from one generation to the next. This becomes particularly obvious in the understanding of our parents.
You may not be able to change your parents but you can certainly change how you respond to them and there are healthier alternatives to managing your equation with your parents.
To our rescue is Transactional Analysis, a psychological theory developed by Eric Berne, which I feel is the best way to analysing what goes behind the scenes of human relationships.
Berne describes that every single individual has three ego states- Parent, Child & Adult that play out in the transactions (read interactions) we have with people.
I wont go too deep into the technicalities, but here’s an example of what this could look like in the (actual) parent-child context:
Wouldn’t take a genius to figure out which scenario is likely to lead to the most constructive interactions.
While the second ‘Adult to Adult’ scenario is ideal, it’s quite possible for either (you or your parent’s) Child ego to be activated at any time, regardless of how nicely something is said!
The only appropriate way to handle such a situation is for either of the parties to try to shift to the Adult ego state.
Also make no mistake, no matter how old parents are, they too have an active inner child that sometimes needs pampering. Yep, thats right!
This can be in the form of recognition, sympathy, encouragement etc and such occasions will invite you to take the role of the ‘adult’ or the ‘nurturing parent’.
Moving on to more demanding behaviours, in case you are subject to too much control, the natural reaction would be to defy and rebel. Although unfortunately this only creates more stress in the relationship, as you’ve probably experienced for yourself. But it may help to know that control or anger is unconsciously used as a strategy for camouflaging fear.
Understanding what lies behind the mask of our parent’s destructive coping mechanisms equips one to handle them better. Rather than get agitated, assume the role of your favourite superhero (be responsible basically), assure your parents that there’s no need to fear the consequences for anything you set out to do and you might just be able to help them retract from the idea of control.
If your folks are absolutely adamant, take this as your personal assignment to boost your courage and expressing yourself openly and authentically. Doing so will invite you to drop your own inhibitions of predicting their reactions and quit playing those worst case scenarios in your head! The more you succumb to fear, the more you give them power over you and your self-expression.
In fact, speaking with conviction and acting true to your words only builds self- confidence that helps you face anyone out there in the world and yes including your parents. It’s hard to not give someone the right amount of trust, autonomy and credibility once they’ve earned it. If you know what I mean.
More importantly, communicating your un-met needs with heartfelt emotion rather than reacting or shutting yourself down, can inspire them to participate in the same dialogue, creating connection you never imagined was possible.
As a teen, I too made the mistake of concluding that my parents ‘wont get it’ and isolated myself, especially from my mum who really speaking was always there for me! In retrospect, had I behaved differently and communicated more I would have earned more time to have the same rapport I share with her today.
Finally, the key to being understood is by understanding another. So take a genuine interest in your parents lives. This means dropping judgements about how they show up and tuning into their stories. Stay present and curious about the struggles they went through while asking questions that build empathy and mutual understanding.
I love how Brené Brown says, ‘Don’t hold people responsible for the information they didn’t have’. There is no place where this fits better than in the parenting context.
We know that in spite of their quirks and sometimes inexplicable tendencies, parents just do everything in their capacity and to the best of their knowledge, for us.
So give them credit and express gratitude, for all they do, do. When you alter your own perspective you might just be surprised at the shift that can take place.
Bottom line: Dont isolate. Communicate. And let the art of connection do the rest of the magic.
P.S: If you have any further questions or need support in diving deeper in this matter, feel free to reach out or add a comment below.