“Do you wanna know why I am the way I am?” my fifteen year-old daughter tells me one evening.
Frozen on the spot, I don’t know if I really want to hear her answer.
With tears rolling down her face, she says, “I’m the way I am because of you! You pretend you care, but you don’t! Want me to prove it to you again? What did I just say before what I just said?”
She caught me and she knows it; I go inside my head and tried to recall what she shared with me prior to her rant, but I draw a blank … as usual.
“That’s what I thought. Please get out of my room.” She turns around and faces the wall. I watch her pick up and hug one of her pillows for dear life.
Have you ever wanted to feel emotionally closer to your teenager?
I go sit at the dining table by myself. My daughter walks in. Really wanting to make amends with her, I say, “I am sorry. I love you and I am going to do better next time.”
She answers swiftly, “That’s what you say every time. Tell me … Are you really sorry, or are you just sorry you got caught?”
“I really want to hear what you have to say; I will change.”
My daughter’s look softens. “You mean well, but I’ve heard you say this so many times that I am tired of it.” After pausing a moment, she adds, “Time will tell.”
I nod in response. I feel a sense of relief; my daughter is giving me another chance to make things right between us.
A few days later, I walk inside my mentor’s office and relate to him that incident. He asks,
“How does your child (teenager) know for certain you love them?”
For certain? I feel crushed. Putting myself in my daughter’s shoes for perhaps the very first time, I feel how I had never truly listened to her. I start feeling our relationship through her filters: it sucks deeply. No wonder she is feeling angry and hurt.
Let me ask you …
Why do we fail to parent ourselves better?
I believe the answer is, because we think we know better than our children. If that is true, how will parenting my daughter without parenting myself first ever going to make me feel emotionally closer to her? Clearly, the way to feel emotionally closer to our teenager is to parent ourselves first.
Having said that …
Here are three actionable steps you can take to feel emotionally closer to your teenager:
Sleep 7-8 hours at night. Our physical bodies are not designed as machines that can go on indefinitely, no matter how many cup of coffee we drink that day. After a good night’s sleep, we feel more rested, more joyful, more attentive. We are also more patient towards ourselves and others. Our teenager needs our attention, joy, and patience.
Examine your beliefs about parenting. Growing up, my parents taught me to do as I was told, or else. Because I had never closely examined their/my parenting beliefs, I tried to raise my daughter the same way: as some sort of robot who had to do what she was told or fear my wrath. A child who needs to hug their pillow needs to feel safe.
Hire an EQ mentor/coach. No one can parent themselves alone. Until my EQ mentor started questioning my micro-management of my children, I thought I was being a good parent who wanted her children to succeed at all costs. To me back then, I thought that if I hid my true feelings and emotions from my children (if I worried them less), they would be happier. But all that being fake caused my daughter to rightfully call me a hypocrite. As I found out for myself, a great EQ mentor/coach knows what great parenting feels like and they will guide you in a direction where you can feel emotionally closer to all your children, including your teenager(s).
Five years after I first wrote this article, my daughter was visiting and out of the blue, she said to me, “Time did tell. You have changed.” I hugged her fiercely.
I trust you have found value in this article. My name is Anne Beaulieu and I am an Emotional Intelligence Coach who assists her clients in parenting themselves so they feel emotionally closer to their teenager(s). I can be reached at https://walkinginside.com/contact-us
Your EQ coach,