Welcome to my life. It's a whirlwind of kids, chaos, pets, people, family, art, and being home (most of the time; I like to get out here and there). We unschool, so the unexpected is, well, expected...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

mothers... and parenting... onward

In all things that a mother can do, the most important is to build a relationship with her children.

That relationship can look so many different ways. Just like a mother who shushes her children or soothes them, a mother can create a relationship that is beautiful and lasts a lifetime, or one that is bumpy and difficult. Sometimes it's really bumpy for many years and people change and it gets better.

There are things one can do and ways to be with your children where it starts beautiful and stays that way. Mothers can and should be friends with their children, giving advice as needed, helping in times of need, laughing together, and playing together. It never needs to be otherwise.

Like any relationship, if there is unbalance there will be problems. If one person attempts to control another, there will be problems. If one person's ideas trump the other, there will be problems. So how does a mother go about NOT doing those things?

The very first thing is to recognize that other person as a full human being, that child right in front of you, who is growing and changing right before your eyes IS another human being. That person deserves trust and respect, the same kind of trust and respect that adults give other adults as a default benefit. In doing so, you also earn trust and respect, it's mutually beneficial. If you can trust and respect your children, you will not be able to, in good conscious control and belittle them, not even for their own good.

Parents have all the rights within a family, they get to say what goes and what doesn't. It's powerful, and power can be used to control others. Mothers do it all the time to their children. They do it by enforcing their own mandated rules. It's easy to do. Since a baby is completely dependent on it's mother for everything, what mom says and does, goes. What happens is that, as that baby grows, it becomes independent of it's mother, it walks or crawls away, comes back for it's dependence and goes back away.

As that little one grows it moves farther away and stays gone longer, and all the in between times can be little bits of maintaining closeness or alienating that young person. By the time that child reaches puberty, if alienation has happened repeatedly, that child will remain a secret to their mothers. Alienation happens every time a parent demands something of their child that is in any way hurtful, disrespectful, or tears down trust, as seen through the eyes of the child. That's important to see that a parent can do these things and not recognize that their child feels very different about the actions being taken.

Here's where it gets tricky though... sometimes a mom might not even know that they are doing something that their child dislikes, because the lines of communication have broken down over the course of years of not being trusting or respectful of that child's voice. In the case of the mother of the runaway that I recently posted about here, the daughter had been made to feel guilty so many times that she just simply agreed with anything her mother said, just to get her to stop talking. The mother sensed compliance, agreement, and being on the same page as her daughter, but it simply wasn't the case and hadn't been for a very long time.

There is a way to change that. The very best way is to give ample opportunity to listen, not just hear what you want to hear, but really listen and stop yourself from making comment. Listen without judgement and without giving your own opinion, ask for theirs, and only give yours if you are asked.

If you haven't torn down the relationship, advice is freely accepted and welcomed, even if you give bad advice that you later need to retract. There is nothing like open honest communication between a parent and a child. Without it, a parent is navigating blindly. With it, lives are shared and transformed in ways that I never thought possible. With it, a mom gets truth and respect, without it she gets half truths, secrets and lies.

Underneath a mom's attempt to control, lies fear. I see it every time. Fear steals away a person's ability to rationalize without bias. What is there to be afraid of more than the loss of a relationship with your child?


Sandra Dodd said...

There are many things I do not have, but my children trust me and that's priceless and irreplaceable.

I love that you wrote this. It would be wonderful if the other girl's mother somehow could read it and change. But someone will read it and change.

Jenny Cyphers said...

Thanks Sandra! I have to write it out, otherwise it will eat me alive...

I hope very much that the mother in this story can salvage her relationship with her daughter! Her actions, even now, are tearing it down.