I was just reflecting on an interaction earlier today with my son when the following came to me. I wrote it down in an offline journal. But it reminds me of the kind of thing we might sometimes chat about, so I thought I’d write it down here too.
Here it is:
Your children really really want your respect and approval. Much more—significantly more—than their behavior at any given moment might suggest to you in any obvious way.
But what complicates it is that your children want (at least) two things. 1) They really want to be themselves AND 2) they really want to be respected and approved of by you. Not either one of those things, BOTH of those things.
That’s how it is folks when you have a brain with literally 86 billion neurons, you can want multiple things (often multiple incompatible things) at the exact same time. Amazing, yes. But get over it and get with the program.
Your child REALLY, STRONGLY wants your respect and approval, but if he or she can’t get it, s/he’ll survive; s/he’ll just have a deep unhappiness about it. AND she’ll try to compensate for it, usually in ineffective ways. (oh, and also, your child might not even realize how much s/he wants this from you. That’s your job to realize.)
One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is your approval of who they really are, your respect of their efforts, and encouragement and celebration of their legitimate developments and steps forward. If you look closely and pay attention, you’ll notice ways (often subtle) in which they are attempting to get your respect (it doesn’t fucking matter if those ways don’t seem to make sense to you; just fucking recognize them already).
It can be tricky to notice this, especially with your own fucking self-esteem issues. (Chances are you don’t think you are as important as your children think you are. Yes, even with their apparent ‘disrespect’ or maddening behaviors; they actually think you are very important.). So really work at noticing the signs.