For the last 20 years I have worked with parents who have “tricky kids/teens” - these young people are struggling with challenging behaviour, emotional overload and symptoms of worry, stress, frustration, lack of motivation and sadness. But their behaviour often triggers resentment, not our sympathy. Very commonly parents struggle with feeling resentful towards their young person.
Common statements from these parents include:
- They do not appreciate what I do for them
- They just want more – more and more!
- They don’t lift a finger to help
- They treat us like we are banker, hotel keeper and chauffer.
If you struggle with feeling resentful towards your young people, here are five steps to take.
1. Remind yourself that you are normal.
I haven’t yet met a parent of older kids or teens who has never felt one single bit of resentment towards their young person. It is human nature to want to feel cared about, appreciated by and helped by those that WE care for and help. Although logically we know that these are kids and teens – not adults – and they have extra challenges compared to some kids - it still hurts.
2. Pay attention to your resentment.
It is a very important signal that there is parenting work to be done. When we feel frequently resentful about something a young person does or does not do this means we need to address the issue, and not let it go. This is essential. Long lasting and frequently occurring resentment is very damaging for parents and kids alike – it needs to be addressed. If we feel often resentful then we will find it very difficult to parent warmly and kindly. Finding it hard to be a warm and caring parent (at least on some occasions) means really bad news for our kids. As a consequence, the sources of the resentment must be worked on (ideas for doing this are in steps 3, 4 and 5 below). This is true regardless of whether the young person has additional challenges compared to the average child.
3. Think about what small things the child/young person could do or say that would lessen the resentment.
This is the concept of “positive opposite” and it means thinking not about what we don't like in our children, but identifying very specifically the phrases or actions we want children and young people do instead. Note that vague and general concepts like “be more appreciative” or “pull their weight a bit more” or “just speak more respectfully” are not useful and are unlikely to lead to any change. Instead, it might be things like:
- Say "hello, how are you?" when they get in the car before they ask for tea
- Clean their room (following a list of specific cleaning tasks) by 10am on Saturdays
- Buying a present for a family member at Christmas time
- Looking at you when you ask them a question
- Spending 30 minutes at the table every second night instead of rushing straight back to their room
- Offering to help bring in the washing or shopping
4. Once you have identified those things that would help you feel less resentful, pick one of them and make it happen. We do need to think about what is realistic for our own young person but small actions like those listed above can be performed even with young people with quite severe emotional and behavioural challenges.
We need to stop "hoping" the child/teen will do these things, or "wishing" they will say these things - but instead actively, persisently and consistently helping this child to do it. This means explaining why you need them to do it (briefly), setting up a system so they can remember it needs to be done and helping them find ways/times/methods of making sure it is done, following up and monitoring and often using consequences and incentives. I call this “parenting work” for a reason. It is hard work. But it is absolutely possible, especially if you start small.
5. Be compassionate towards yourself first – then the young person.
Remind yourself that parenting is hard work and often hurts, you are doing the best that you can and mistakes are normal.
Then remind yourself that your child too has hard work to do (growing up is tiring) is often hurt, is doing the best they can and it’s normal for them to make mistakes too.
Self compassion and compassion for others makes everything just a little easier.
CHRISTMAS BOOK SALE!
For the next 10 working days I have reduced the price of both the "When Life Sucks books" by 25%...both books are $22.50 instead of $29.95 (free postage for for buyers within Australia).
If you are worried about your child/teen's ability to cope with the challenges next year might throw at them, or want them to have some extra help in managing frustration, motivation, social issues, conflict and their emotional health , click on the images below to find out more and/or buy a copy.