FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real: When Our Thoughts Scare Us

I took a deep dive into fear this month.  Over this past year, someone I lovedearly, a close family member, has been experiencing a physical symptom. We’ve been unable to get to the bottom of it; the doctors have not been particularly concerned and so we’ve resorted to just managing the symptom best we can. I haven’t been particularly worried, assuming it was just one of the umpteen physical symptoms that come for seemingly no reason and then go for seemingly no reason, without our ever really knowing why or what it was all about.

On a recent Friday afternoon, I was having a conversation with this person and she casually mentioned another symptom that she experiences. She had never brought this to my attention because she just assumed everybody felt the same thing.

In that moment, I was slightly alarmed by the symptom she mentioned as it was definitely not a sensation most people have and certainly not one that people get on a regular basis.  It was also, I knew, a symptom associated with some pretty terrible things.  I said nothing about my concern but calmly inquired more into her experience, When does she get this sensation and what if anything brings it on and other questions.  On the outside, I probably appeared quite nonchalant, but on the inside, a small tsunami was forming in my chest.

Immediately following our conversation, I made a beeline to hell, otherwise known as Google.  I feverishly punched in her symptoms.  What I found was, not surprisingly, both horrifying and terrifying.  Her symptoms happened to be the first two on every list for one particularly dreadful and life-destroying condition.  And, as luck would have it, the third most common symptom listed as evidence of this particular disease turned out to be another symptom that my loved one had in fact mentioned experiencing over the last couple years, but which I had also dismissed and assumed would disappear on its own.

Within three hours of our initial conversation, I was disabled with enough information to be utterly consumed with fear.  I had three symptoms to work with now, and three symptoms which were the first three on every list describing the early signs of one particular horrifying fate.  Fear had not only arrived at my front door but had broken the door down and taken me hostage.

The more afraid I became, the more frantically I researched the internet, reading everything available on the condition I had diagnosed, looking for anything that would give me a different list of symptoms or at least a list where her symptoms were further down from the top.  I read about treatments, now and future, trial studies, ways that people self-care once diagnosed, the psychological effects of the disease, how early one should start taking the medication, and what the final stages look like. I read testimonials from people living with the disease, everything I could get my hands on.  By Sunday night I had five Ph.D.’s in this condition.

I was in a state of panic, heartbroken, and truly unable to get okay.  If a moment of serenity appeared, I would remember the shock of what I knew, that this person I love beyond anything, beyond everything, had no future.  I would remember that I could never be happy again.  Each moment I spent with my family member that weekend felt like the last, weighted with melancholy and finality.

I was living a narrative of fear and despair, a narrative I had written in less than 48 hours.  I was sure that the worst thing I could ever imagine happening was happening. I wondered, how was it possible that I had spent my whole life working on getting comfortable with the uncomfortable, okay with the not okay of life, accepting reality as it is, and yet here I was screaming, No, this reality is the one reality that’s not okay!  This reality I cannot bear.  I was in a thought-constructed hell, which felt real, inarguable, and true.

I was the only one who knew that she had all three symptoms.  Other family members knew of one or another, but I was the keeper of the full truth, the only one who knew the whole of it.  When I did finally break and tell another family member, he dismissed my fears as ridiculous, irritating, a case of bad hypochondria. I was to blame for my fear.  His impatience felt like an abandonment of sorts. I felt not only terrified but also deeply alone in my fear.  I couldn’t share my fears with the person whom they were about because I did want to frighten her; I couldn’t speak with anyone else in the family because they were angered by my fear; I couldn’t speak with her doctor about it because I didn’t want to set off further testing and thus speed the road to the eventual diagnosis. I was totally isolated; my thoughts had built a bubble of terror in which I was trapped and alone.

robert zunicoff/unsplash
Source: robert zunicoff/unsplash

And then something miraculous happened, perhaps because I couldn’t bear another moment of being so afraid, or perhaps just because. Grace appeared and I heard the following: Your mind is inflicting violence on you!  And what followed from there was simply, Stop! Stop! Stop! Something in me stood up for me.  I knew that probability was still on my side and the fear I was living might well be false evidence appearing as real.

As a result of this realization, I was able to halt my mind’s projections into the future, to stop re-inventing and re-experiencing a reality that didn’t and might never exist.  I recognized that I knew nothing other than three facts and didn’t need to go one day or even five minutes into the future. I could decide to live right here, now, and construct no storyline at all.  Discomfort remained, a mild anxiety, but without the narrative connecting the dots, I was remarkably okay. With the sudden awareness of how I was torturing myself, believing my thoughts, I was able to disembark from my mind’s terror train.  I refused to participate in terrifying myself; I chose the freedom and self-compassion that comes with saying, and believing, I simply don’t know. That’s the truth.

For organizing and generating ideas, there’s no match for the human mind.  And simultaneously, for whipping up fear and creating frightening storylines that appear indisputable, there’s also no match for the human mind.  The tragic part is that by creating its narratives of terror, the mind is at some level trying to calm us down, to make sense of and know the unknown, solidify the impermanent.  The mind tries to protect us from the fear of what could happen by creating a certainty of what will happen, which paradoxically can feel less frightening.

In this recent episode, my mind was desperately searching to find proof for its wrongness, evidence that showed its thoughts were mistaken. And yet, the more my imagined storyline was confirmed, the more frantically I searched to find something else to explain the unknown.

Our mind is often the perpetrator of unimaginable violence—on ourselves.  Our thoughts are the great instigator of terror, yelling fire over and over again when a hint of smoke is detected.  At some point, the suffering that we self-inflict can become too much and an act of grace or self-compassion occurs, when we say, Stop, stop torturing me.  Stop creating stories of terror… The truth is I don’t know, that’s all.  Life is challenging enough without adding any of our own terrifying storyline to it.  We can in fact choose to live in the questions, to not know, and not fill in the blanks.  When we leave the dots not-connected and sit with the fear that may or may not exist with what is, we feel a great relief.  Not only a relief from the self-inflicted violence of the terrifying storyline, but also from the need to close up reality and know—everything—even if it’s nothing we want to know.

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Can We Learn to Want What We Have?

Thanksgiving is a day of thanks and giving, as the name implies.  It’s a day we set aside to feel and express gratitude for all that we have, to slow down and nourish ourselves with what really fills our bucket. We focus on what’s good, what we love—our blessings. We fill and fulfill ourselves with good food, good company, and celebrate the importance of friends, family, and longings of the heart.  So too, we reconnect with our basic kindness, generosity, and turn our attention, on purpose, to our humanity, and the experiences that connect and nourish us, for real.

What a wonderful tradition indeed.  A yearly sabbath of sorts when we consciously step off the treadmill of busyness, productivity, and getting, and devote our attention to appreciation, goodness and love—the very best of the human being.  Thanksgiving is a day when we practice wanting what we have.

The big secret is that the nourishment we set aside for Thanksgiving, one day per year, can be something we feed ourselves every day.  While we might not feast on the mashed potatoes and pie part of Thanksgiving every day, we can in fact feast on the heart food part of this ritual, the gratitude and kindness, the thanks and giving. And, we can do that every single day of our lives, in one form or another.

Pausing throughout the day to notice the little moments (or big ones) that we appreciate—gestures, interactions, experiences, anything that just feels connected, heart-filling, satisfying, joyful, warm—good—creates an amazing ripple effect.  We start to experience appreciation even more and remarkably, more of the appreciate-able moments seem to show up.  Just the simple act of taking a second to deliberately notice what we appreciate moment to moment injects a noticeable dose of happiness into our lives.

In addition, when we end each day with a conscious noting of what we appreciated throughout the day, what went well, what we enjoyed, what we liked about ourselves and others, the world, our life, we are effectively locking in a positivity and depositing a currency of goodness into our emotional heart-bank.

Paying attention to what we appreciate, stopping to give thanks inside ourselves and to others on a daily basis is one way of living Thanksgiving every day–making Thanksgiving a habit.

So too, a daily Thanksgiving involves a practice of giving—the second half of the Thanksgiving word equation.  We can look for the opportunities to offer kindness to others, just because, without a goal—to offer a moment of undistracted listening, word of support, non-judgmental presence, curiosity, a smile, kind glance, moment of patience, a real hug—something that perhaps will lead the other to appreciate what they experienced with us.  Every day we can give ourselves the experience of being appreciate-able.  Whether or not the other person notices or mentions it is not what’s important; giving to another is a gift to them, yes, but more than anything it’s a gift to ourselves. We appreciate ourselves (and our life) when we give; we feel good about ourselves when we behave as the person we want to be.

Every day when you wake up, ask yourself:

  • What kind of person do I want to be in the world today?
  • Pick a word to live by (patience, kindness, curiosity, presence—whatever resonates) and live your day through and infused with that word. When you notice you’ve forgotten that way of being or have missed the mark, just restart the day with your word leading the way.
  • What do I want to offer to the world today?Every evening before bed, consider the following:
    • What did I appreciate today, what filled my bucket, nourished my spirit, made me feel connected, inspired, joyful etc.?
    • What did I do well today?  Where am I proud of myself? Where have I grown?
    • Where (perhaps) did I miss the mark today and so have an opportunity to grow?

    Thanks and giving are ways of life, not just things we do one day a year. Pausing, every day, to notice what we already have, what’s already here, what we’re not lacking, is an easy and joyful practice to get in the habit of.  Thanksgiving is a habit we can build; just like we build bad habits, we can build good habits. Thanksgiving on a daily and deliberate basis is a practice that pays back in spades.  It’s not hard to do, not something you have to change clothes or travel for; it’s not sweaty, painful, irritating, boring, or difficult.  And, what it gives back is profound.  In terms of bang for our buck, Thanksgiving is a habit that delivers.

    From a cultural perspective, it’s also interesting to notice that the day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday.  While Thanksgiving is a day when we focus on what we have, on being thankful for what makes us happy, when we’re encouraged to feel our completeness, Black Friday is a day we focus, with vigor, on what we don’t have, what we could get that would make us feel better, and what else we need to be happy.  Our consumer-minded society trains us to believe that more stuff, more pleasure, more entertainment, more fame, more followers, more, more, more, more of everything, but mostly more me, will finally make us happy.  But here’s the problem: it doesn’t; the more we get, the more we crave and the more convinced we become that we don’t have enough, don’t have what we need, can’t want what we have.  The more we try to get enough, the more we feel like we don’t have enough.  It’s a Sisyphean Conundrum.  We roll the boulder up the hill only to have it roll right back down on us.

    It’s no surprise that Black Friday sits on Thanksgiving’s heels. If we wanted what we had for too long, if we knew that we were okay just as we are, we might realize that we don’t actually need more stuff to be happy; we might realize that it’s not stuff that nourishes us or makes us happy in any lasting way; we might realize that we have enough and are enough, that we can be okay right here where we are, satisfied with what’s already here.

    There’s no doubt that appreciation, wanting what we have, giving just because, is bad for business. But there’s also no doubt that appreciation, wanting what we have and giving just because is good for everything else under the sun.  Practice Thanksgiving, appreciate and give…make it a habit, every day, not just one Thursday at the end of November each year.  There are few habits so easy and enjoyable to practice that can so fundamentally change who you are and how you experience your life.

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Because Our Thoughts Make Sense Doesn’t Mean They’re True

Trying to find peace with the mind is like trying to open a lock with a banana…

Carol came to see me with a serious agenda.  She and her husband had had a disagreement the evening before our session and Carol wanted to explain to me why her husband had said what upset her, and specifically, what in his personal psychology and history had made him decide to hurt her. She also wanted to lay out her theories on what was wrong with her husband in a more general sense and how she was going to explain it to him so that he would understand and be different.  Knowing what she knew about him, she was sure that once she laid out her case and helped him understand what was wrong with him, he would become different—and as a result, she would be okay once again.

My client had come up with an intricate, psychologically sophisticated and comprehensive narrative about her husband’s intentions, resentments, methodology, and shortcomings, and tying in his familial history, present psychology, and relational style.  Carol’s presentation was a multi-layered, multi-dimensional, and multi-generational storyline. Most developed in her narrative, interestingly, was her theory about her husband’s strategy and intention to hurt her.

Carol was suffering and I listened empathically as she constructed her clear case for why the experience with her husband had happened. And simultaneously, what she needed to do about it or explain to her husband so that he would understand why he was wrong, and would never do this kind of thing again.  I felt her pain and frustration; I also felt how her words and ideas were trying to keep her from feeling her pain, give her some protection from her heart’s hurt, make her pain manageable. And, I felt how desperately those words were failing her.

Everything Carol said made perfect sense. In court, she would have won her case.  At the same time, I have been listening to her theories on her husband for many years, and also keeping her company in her suffering, as none of her well-crafted theories and/or action plans have changed how he behaves or how she feels about it.  I’ve watched as none of her theories and action plans have brought her happiness or peace.

On this day, I felt we were ready and so I asked Carol to consider a few new questions in relation to her story and her experience. “What if none of the thoughts and intentions you’ve assigned to your husband are actually true—for him?” I asked.  And, “What if your thoughts only exist in your own mind but don’t really exist anywhere else?”  And furthermore, “What if your narrative, no matter how true and real for you, is of no value whatsoever in making you feel better?”

It was a risk to pull Carol out of her story.  At the same time, she had been telling me her theories on her husband for a long time and I trusted that she knew my re-direct was coming from a desire to help, and also that we’d given enough space and attention to the storyline of the moment, enough so that she would be willing to pull the lens back and examine the story-making itself.  I have learned from experience that asking someone to move out of their story before it’s received its due process is not useful or kind, but Carol and I were in a place to take a new turn in our journey.

In this moment, as sometimes happens, grace graced us and Carol had an awakening moment.  Her paradigm shifted and it suddenly dawned on her that what she had considered to be the truth, not just for her, but for her partner too, might not be the truth.  She saw that her narrative could make utter sense to her, could be un-challengeable, and yet could have absolutely nothing to do with what her husband was experiencing.

Her mind opened to the possibility that her idea (and certainty) as to why her husband was intentionally hurting her might be false, for him, or just an idea in her head.  In an instant, Carol literally unstuck from her most tightly held thoughts, she surrendered to the freedom of not knowing what’s true for anyone else.  Carol realized that just because she had a thought didn’t mean she had to believe it, even if it made perfect sense in her own head.

It’s revolutionary and profoundly liberating when we grasp that our version of the truth, which not coincidentally always places us at the epicenter of what’s motivating everyone else’s behavior, may not and probably is not the truth for anyone else.  Tragically, in an effort to help ourselves feel better and make sense of our pain, to know and be able to control what hurts, we construct elaborate stories on why others are doing what they’re doing to us.  We lock in a truth, one that applies to everyone and everything, and no matter how painful that truth might be, we hold onto it, believing that knowing is far safer than not knowing.

The narrative we are living and suffering however, is unreal and unnecessary.  It’s made up by our particular mind, with its particular wounds, conditioning, experiences, thoughts, and everything else we’ve ever lived.  In the end, we suffer alone, trapped in the certainty of our story, the story of what’s inside everyone else’s head—inside a pseudo-reality of our own damaging design.

It’s also remarkable to discover that our theories on why what’s happened to us has happened, and what we need to do about it, that none of them, none of our beautiful, logical works of mental art, will ultimately lead us to peace.  If peace is what we want, our mind and its theories will not take us there.  Trying to find peace with our mind is like trying to open a lock with a banana.  The mind is simply the wrong instrument if peace is what we desire.

That said, the next time you find yourself convinced of and grasping onto a storyline about how you’ve been wronged or any such thing, ask yourself, What if all my ideas on what’s true for this other person, the world, or whatever else is the protagonist of my narrative of the moment, what if they’re not actually true—for the other, not true outside my own mind?  What if my truths are only true for me?”  See if it’s possible to loosen your grip on the “big T” Truth.

Paradoxically, when we give ourselves permission to not know what’s true, to turn in our badge as master-interpreter of everyone else’s behavior, surrender our throne as judge and jury of universal truth, blessedly, we discover the very peace we believed we could only find through our storylines and certainty.

We get there when we get there, but usually, with enough mental fatigue and smart storylines under our belt; when we’ve tried long and hard enough to find peace through the mind’s gymnastics and found ourselves again and again at pain’s door, suffering within our brilliance and certainty, knowing so much but not how to be happy, we start to recognize our banana without having to shove it in the lock for too long.

 

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A Woman’s Right to Have Needs: The Next Revolution

As women, we are raised to be accommodating.  We’re rewarded for taking care of others, being generous and compassionate. We learn, through a whole system of subtle and not so subtle measures, to put other’s needs before our own. We learn to keep the peace, often at the expense of our own needs.  We are conditioned, in fact, to not need. Not needing anything is considered a strength, a positive identity trait.  Our sense of self, as women, often gets built on our ability to take care of everyone and everything, and if possible, need nothing.

We learn to not be a burden, not put anyone else out, not ask anyone to do anything that might be difficult for them, require them to confront anything uncomfortable, and certainly not ask anyone to change.  When we do ask for or need something for ourselves we are often called selfish, demanding or needy, even unstable.  We are deeply conditioned to accept the short stick, do without, and find our nourishment in giving rather than receiving.  We learn, early on, that it’s not okay to ask or dare insist that our needs be taken care of.

As we grow and evolve, many of us learn how to tap into, identify, respect, and ask for what we need.  We become more compassionate and supportive of our own needs and relate to ourselves with a level of care previously designated for others.  We get better at taking good care of ourselves and most importantly, feeling the right to do so.  We matter more, to ourselves, and feel empowered.  And yet…

What remains a challenge for so many women, even those of us who are truly empowered and adept at taking care of ourselves, is still, to ask for what we need when our need is contrary to what another might want.

What I hear again and again in my office is some version of this: when we as women need something that might be difficult, or require a change in the other, a reconsideration of what the other has considered right, we are treated as the problem.  Our judgment is questioned, our validity, our right to need what we need.  We are too needy, too demanding, unappreciative of what we’ve already received and essentially, to blame for needing what we need.  We then take these judgments to heart, internalize them and doubt ourselves, distrust our needs, and more systemically, judge our very right to need.  Consequently, we tuck our needs away, anesthetize them, bury them, shame them, and get on with the business of meeting others’ expectations, accommodating, and shape-shifting into whatever it takes to keep the peace.

The result is that we suffer, not just from our unmet needs, but from the self-judgments and guilt that come from having needs at all, and daring to imagine that they matter.

As mothers, we give; it’s just what we do, usually without any expectation of receiving.  Perhaps it’s built into our female DNA whether or not we have children.  But as women, it’s vital that we learn how to receive, and also learn that we deserve to receive—not just give. It’s time that we knew that it’s our right to have needs, and not just have them but express and stand up for them, stand up for ourselves when they’re questioned.  It’s even our right to have needs that make another person uncomfortable and/or ask something that’s difficult—to “put another out” as we like to say.  (Out of where? I often ask.)  It’s important that we women not only take up more space in our professional worlds, but (and perhaps more challenge-worthy) that we learn to do so within our personal relationships, which means taking ownership of our right to have needs.  For some of us this is easy and natural, but for many of us, it is not.

We can introduce the idea of having the right to have needs and begin the process of allowing them, literally, by just saying the words to ourselves, “I get to have needs.”  It might sound simple or silly, but for some women, this simple mantra, repeated throughout the day and in difficult situations, can be powerful and transformative.  So too, we need to remind ourselves that we are not guilty for needing.  This can also be practiced through the regular repetition of such words, “I am not guilty” and/or “I am not guilty for having needs.” For some, this precise affirmation can be profound and revolutionary, often bringing women to tears as they fully absorb this truth, are given permission to own it and absorb it into their cells.  Such tears also carry with them the grief of having lived with the assumption of guilt for so many years, of taking a blame and shame for which they were never and are not responsible.

We’ve made incredible strides as women over these last few years, establishing undeniable new “No’s,” and setting strong new boundaries around what we will accept in our treatment, everywhere.  This is an extraordinary evolution and revolution.  My hope is that as we gain strength and feel the right to speak up more and more on the public front, we will also feel empowered to champion our own personal needs, the emotional ones and all the others, the needs that we stash away, suppress and numb, the needs that go unheard and uncared for, because somewhere deep down we believe we’re not supposed to have them; we don’t have the right to our own needs.

It’s spectacular to witness and participate in our awakening as women, into knowing that we have the right to be safe from sexual predators, to not be silenced, even when our words are inconvenient.  In personal relationships, we still have a ways to go.  Many of us still need to know, really know… in our bones, that we have the right to need what we need, which is no one else’s to decide or judge.  And, we have the right to receive, not just give. This quieter, more private but equally profound knowing is, I hope, the next universal truth to emerge in this astounding women’s movement now unfolding.

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Am I Supposed to Be My Kid’s Friend?

I give frequent talks to parents on issues related to technology.  After my presentations, parents ask for advice in managing their children’s behavior.  I hear similar questions and worries everywhere I go, with slight variations depending on the population of my audience.  However, I am nearly always met with one specific concern that comes in response to my more challenging suggestions, the ones our kids don’t like.

It goes like this: parent asks a question about something their kid is doing or wants to do with technology, something they’re worried about, usually the amount of time the child want to use or the kind of tech he/she is using.  I respond with a suggestion or intervention that requires limit-setting and a set of guidelines for incorporating that change.  Parent then says some form of this: “But if I do what you’re suggesting, I’m going to be yelled at or hated by my kid; it’s going to cause a huge problem.”  I usually smile and say yes.  This however seems to confuse the said parent, as if they’re waiting for me to offer a solution to their problem that doesn’t require discomfort or disagreement, a policy that’s easy to implement.  I then deliver the following, sometimes surprising news alert: “As a parent, you’re not supposed to be your child’s friend.”

We are living in a time when, as parents, we’re supposed to be our children’s best friends at the same time we’re being their parents.  Moms and dads hang out with their kids as if they’re hanging out with peers.  When there’s a disagreement, parents believe we’re supposed to negotiate with our kids as if we’re negotiating with equals.  Parents of seven-year-olds report to me (with a straight face) all the reasons their child doesn’t agree with their decisions regarding the child’s behavior.  I see parents of children under the age of five who get an equal vote in setting up the rules of the house, which includes the rules that will apply to the children.  I hear the delight of parents who are friended by their kids on social media.  We’re spoon-fed the message that we’re supposed to be buddies with our kids and that they should like us, all the time.  And, that we’re bad parents if they are upset by our decisions.

We have thrown away the distinction between an adult and a child, undermined the wisdom of our adult experience, all so that we can be liked by our kids. We’re choosing to be our children’s playmates rather than to do what’s best for them.  There’s no wonder kids now hurl profanities at their parents in public places, to which the parents giggle awkwardly, and wonder if this too is part of the new hip friend/parent milieu.

As parents, we’re taking the easy path, the path of least resistance, telling ourselves that if our kids like us we must be doing this parenting thing right.  In the process of trying to be friends with our kids however, we are giving away our authority, depriving them of the experience of being taken care of, denying them the serenity, trust, and confidence that arises from knowing that we can stand our ground and protect them even when it incites their anger.  It is precisely because we love our children that we need to be able to tolerate their not liking us all the time.

When we’re driven by the desire or responsibility to be liked, we’re giving ourselves an impossible task.  We simply cannot prioritize being liked and simultaneously raise healthy, sane, human beings who can tolerate frustration and disappointment.  We are setting ourselves up for suffering and failure.  We survive on the ephemeral crumbs of being liked—liked for giving them what they want, while denying ourselves the real nourishment of the experience of providing our kids with what we know they really need, pleasing or otherwise.  We are, as with many other things, opting for the easiest, most immediate and pleasurable option over the deeper, harder, and more thoughtful and ultimately satisfying choice.

We are also, in this friending over parenting process, doing a great disservice to our kids.  Our kids need boundaries and guidelines.  A woman I work with who was raised by a parent who, above all, wanted to be her friend, put it this way: “I never felt like there was someone to stop me if I got to the end of the earth and was going to dive off.”  Our kids, even though they may scream and throw things, also want us to know things they don’t, to stick with our wisdom despite their railing, to be willing to tolerate their rants in service to their best interests—to take care of them in ways they can’t yet take care of themselves.  Our kids want us to demonstrate fierce grace.  So too, we feel our best when we walk the walk of fierce grace.

Often, children do not know what’s best for them, and almost never do they know what’s best for them when it comes to technology use.  It’s hard enough for us grownups to realize what’s best for ourselves and children have front brains that are not anywhere near fully-developed.  Allowing children to make their own rules around technology is like handing an opioid addict a vial of heroin or a bottle of oxycontin and asking him to make his own rules whether or not to us.  Young children and teenagers should not get an equal vote in matters that relate to their tech use, nor in many other matters. As parents, we usually possess at least a couple or more decades of experience under our belt that our children don’t possess. Put simply, we know things they don’t, and we can tell them this truth. This makes our kids not equal in matters that require discipline or hard choices, ones that go against what their brains’ pleasure centers, hormones, or inexperienced thinking tells them is best.

Remember this: it’s okay for your child to be upset with you; it’s okay if they don’t like or agree with the decisions you make; it’s okay if your child is madder than a wet hornet at you for setting limits and sticking to those limits. You’re allowed to say no; it takes great courage to say no.  You’re not a bad parent if it gets bumpy and your child goes through periods when he/she doesn’t like you—at all—and maybe even says she hates you for a while. It probably means you’re doing your job as a parent.

Assuming your role as the authority in your child’s life is critical and the more you assume that role, the more you will feel the wisdom of your own authority.  Being the authority doesn’t mean turning a deaf ear to your child’s anger, disappointment, or anything else they feel.  We can listen to our kids’ emotions and thoughts while simultaneously holding our ground on what we know is best for them.  Being the authority in your kid’s life doesn’t mean being callous or insensitive, it does mean being brave enough to stay strong in the face of a tsunami that might come back at you, knowing that your role is to be the grown up in the parent-child relationship, to be loving in your willingness to do what’s best for your kids.  Your role is not to be your child’s friend.

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