The Truth About Parent-Child Relationships

Hey. Hey, everybody. Today we’re diving into relationships. I want to talk about how we develop them. It’s okay that they’re not perfect. You are able to create a relationship with your child even when they’re not very interested in creating a relationship with you.

Most people are confused with the parent child relationship and define it by how their child is connecting to them instead of how you are connecting to our child, independent of your child in any way.

You Can Have A Dream Relationship With Your Child No Matter How They Feel About You

It’s important for you as parents to feel empowered, capable, and confident to create the exact relationship you want with your kids, regardless of how they’re feeling, acting, or what they’re saying about us. That’s what we’re diving into today.

I’m going to start by redefining what relationships are. Most people get really confused about relationships. We understand them in the construct of society. That person likes you and you like them, and then you have a relationship. But in reality, a relationship can be distilled down to the thoughts you have about somebody else.

You might be under the impression that you have to make sure people are feeling good, especially your kids, so that you can feel good so that your relationship is healthy. This becomes very problematic with parenting because if you need your kids to always feel good and to always like you or else you feel like your relationship is off, then you are going to run into some problems with your parenting.

There are so many rules for relationships that have stopped you from experiencing the person that we’re trying to have the relationship with. These beliefs that you have about parenting lock you into your expectations of how these people or relationships should be instead of accepting what they actually are.

Your relationships become your thoughts about this other person. You might ask yourself: “Why isn’t it that everyone who knows my kids doesn’t love them and see beyond their crazy behaviors?” it’s because everybody has different relationships with different people, and they’re all based on their thoughts about the person.

So if somebody else has an opinion about my child that is different than my opinion, it’s just telling me what they think about my child.

I want to dive into the truth about relationships so that when you hear thoughts that other people have about your kids, that you’re clear that the only thing this is telling us is their thoughts about them.

Your relationship with your child is dependent on your thoughts about your child. It is game-changing to understand this secret to relationships and to being able to have the kind of relationships you want with your children, independent of what your mother-in-law or anybody else thinks.

Your relationship with everyone in your life is dependent on your thoughts about that person, not about what that person actually does or says. Now, many people believe that your thoughts are dependent on what the other person does or how they behave.

Thoughts vs Reality in Relationships

This isn’t technically true. Your thoughts about other people are dependent on your expectations of them and how well they meet those expectations or beliefs you have about them. You can’t have love for someone. You just have love when you think about them. Does that make sense?

You can’t be mad at someone. You can only have thoughts that come up in your brains that make you mad about them. You can’t have hurt feelings. We simply have thoughts that are hurt. Now, I’m not saying that these thoughts we have are conscious that you’re purposely having thoughts that make you mad at your child. I want you to notice that your thoughts are there so that you can be aware that they’re happening.

Once you realize that your relationship is based on your beliefs about someone, then you have the ability to have whatever kind of relationship you want with someone, regardless of how they’re behaving.

You can have trust in their inherent goodness and have a relationship that is not based on how they’re showing up that day. You are trusting in who they are inside.

Approaching your relationships with your children in this way is how you can have trust and love and compassion for your child, while at the same time, if needed, still say no or set a limit coming from a place of trust, not a place of frustration.

You are in control of what you think about this other person. I want you to have the awareness, because when you are aware that you have control over what you want to believe, how you want to feel and the type of relationship you want to have with your child, regardless of their meltdowns or tantrums.

You will be able to hold such a strong connection and relationship with them that no matter what they do, you can always feel great about your relationship with them.

You can think: “I love them. They’re hurting right now. They need me. They can’t set a limit, so I need to set one for them.”

Consider Your Beliefs About Other People

And I want you to think about this. There is you, and then there is the other person. You don’t have a direct experience with that person. You have a belief about them, and then through that belief, you have an experience with them.

Let me say that again. You don’t have a direct experience with the other person. What is in between you is all of your thinking, all of their thinking, and all of your thinking without inspection.

You don’t actually even get to see that other person at all because you’re so caught up in your own thoughts about them that you can’t drop the thoughts and just be present with what’s happening.

I want you to be thinking about what’s getting in the way of you actually seeing other people for who they really are. All those expectations and beliefs and thoughts that are subconscious, the default ones you haven’t inspected, that are helping you create that amazing relationship.

This is not the type of internal work that you will eventually grow out of. You’re always going to be needing to inspect your thoughts because everyone’s brains are a little bit crazy sometimes and they want you to just go back to that default.

People are also always changing. They grow up from toddlers to teens, and our brain has to inspect a whole new set of parameters.

You have to inspect your thoughts again and again.

What I want you to do is avoid going through life in default mode without inspecting your thoughts.

Half my kids are now adults. Recently I have started learning how to be a parent to an adult. It forced me to look at my old thoughts about my kids and my parenting and to change the old beliefs that aren’t useful to me as a parent of adult children.

I want you to start to this same practice wherever you are with your kids.

You have the ability to shape the kind of relationship you have with your child that isn’t dependent on what they say or do.

I want to hold that energy for them, that belief in them, that trust, create that safety with them so that you can always have the kind of relationship that serves both you and your kids and helps them fulfill their potential.

You’re going to wade through the thoughts and expectations that you have for your kids, and you’re going to try to eliminate most of them. If you do this, you will be able to actually get to know this other person that you’re in a relationship with (in this case we’re talking about your children).

You have to look at your thoughts. You have to do the thought downloads. Pull out a piece of paper and do a thought download and STEAR model (A tool I teach inside my parenting course) so that you can see what is happening inside your brain.

If you don’t do that work, then you won’t understand. And if you don’t understand, you are completely oblivious and unable to change your subconscious programming. You are swept away into the story you keep telling yourself.

Not understanding your subconscious beliefs is like when you watch a movie and you are swept away into the story, and you’re not even really intentionally thinking about the story. There’s a time and place for that. It’s beautiful for a movie.

You don’t want to go through your lives unconsciously.

Once you truly understand that your relationships are created through your beliefs about the other person, and once you do the work to understand the thoughts inside of your brain, your relationships with your children and yourself will never be the same.

They will be so much better in every single way. You will notice that many of your relationships are similar. And this is because many of your thoughts are very similar. You are simply recycle relationship thoughts from a lifetime of programming. You transplant them from one to the other.

I want you to think about a person you love so much, and I want you to think about what your main thought about them is (write it down if that helps). Now think about a person that you struggle with or that you don’t love so much. And I want you to think about the thought you have about them (again writing down if that helps you to see it visually).

The thought that you have about each of these people is reflective of the relationship. You are likely to think kind thoughts about someone you like and less kind thoughts about someone you don’t. You might decide that you always want to have that kind of thought about them.

I’m not at all saying that you have to go hang out with people that aren’t your cup of tea. I’m just encouraging you to be aware of this fact. I’s based on our beliefs, there is the possibility to change it if you want to.

Story Time

I’m going to tell you a quick story, and then we’re going to dive into having difficult conversations.

I typically have no problem going to sleep, I sleep well. It’s not hard for me to sleep. But last night, it was around two in the morning and I was still not asleep and I was very confused and frustrated.

Then I remembered that I probably should just pause and track what was happening in my body. For some reason, I hadn’t done that yet. And I think the reason was I was afraid to find out what was happening.

I’m in Orlando right now, and I’m going to an event starting tomorrow. And as I was trying to figure out the root of my sleeping issues I realized that I had all of these thoughts about this event. I had a lot of apprehension about it, and this was fascinating because my default was to avoid thinking about my worry and to be a little embarrassed by it.

No matter how much I tried to ignore it, I was really nervous about this event. As I looked into it I was able to acknowledge my anxiety surrounding the event. I sat with the emotion, I was present to the thoughts, I was doing thought downloads this morning and asking myself,

“why am I so nervous about this? And why don’t I feel this way?” And part of me was thinking, “what is happening? This is so weird.” And this type of judgement happens with our parenting, too.

You’re going to feel cozy and smooth and things are gonna be running well, and then something’s going to throw a wrench in your serenity. A situation or maybe the kids have been fighting and fighting and fighting.

You might try to push the issue aside, pushing aside, but it re-triggers you and you have a strong reaction that comes back up, which is good. You are going to want to address it. And all of the sudden, your body is going to signal to you that something is going on.

Those emotions and those beliefs that you have act as information that your nervous system is triggered, that you’re in a state of fight or flight.

That’s exactly what was happening last night with me. I was laying in bed and I realized that I was just in fight or flight. I was really nervous. And as this morning I was writing, which I highly recommend writing, if you want to create more powerful, nourishing relationships with yourself and with your kids.

What I have found is that when you write, there’s something about it that allows you to access your conscious and subconscious thinking. And if you can come at it without judgment, with kindness and clarity and compassion, you will be able to discover so much about yourself, you will be able to make so much headway about your relationships.

For me, for some reason, I was laying in bed at 02:00 a.m. And I was asking myself, “why am I not going to sleep? I always go to sleep. Why am I in so much fear? Why do I have so much panic right now?”

What I want to recommend, if you want to up level the relationships you have in your life, is that you’ve got to pause. When your body’s giving you the SOS signal that like, “hey! look at me.” When your thoughts are just rotating through, you’re having a lot of dread, you’re having a lot of frustration.

Those are your body’s attempts to get your attention.. That’s your brain and body signaling to say, “hey, can you stop for a second? Something’s happening here and I really need you to pay attention.”

I want you to understand this and do not judge yourself. This is how you’re going to up-level the relationships you have in your life.

Difficult Conversations

With that being said, let’s talk about difficult conversations, because these are inevitable with kids.

As a parent, you have to have conversations with your children, and sometimes they are difficult. Most of us have no idea how to communicate without blame, frustration, defensiveness or justification.

We have this primal need to be right at all costs. We will gather evidence. We will create all sorts of stories to prove that we are right, which makes a lot of sense. Our brain wants to know that it’s safe, it’s rational, it’s validated.

We need to be right at all costs. And this need oftentimes comes at the expense of our peace. The best way to find peace in relationships is to give up the need to be right or wrong. No one has to be right or wrong. No one has to win.

Actually, no one will win in a difficult conversation. If the goal of the conversation is to prove who’s right or wrong, you just end up with two losing parties.

The first thing you have to agree on is that you don’t need to be right about anything. If your parenting alarms are like, “danger danger!”, hold on a second.

I am NOT saying you give up your priorities and your principles and your morals and your standards and be a wet fish of a parent.

I am just saying that when you are having a difficult conversation and talking to your child about something, you’re communicating the boundary or a rule in your home, you don’t need to be right or wrong. You can listen to their argument. You can listen to their side of the story.

If you can come in to the conversation with this belief that you don’t have to be right, what this does is it immediately removes the need for defensiveness.

Because when you come in to a conversation with a need to prove that your opinion is right, when you think “I got to let them know that it’s wrong to not make your bed, or it’s wrong to play xbox that long, or it’s wrong to break your curfew” when we’re having these logical conversations with our kids, if we can drop that and realize we actually make more headway when we drop the right wrong, and we just come in and we hold on to understanding and compassion because it removes the defensiveness and leads to a productive conversation.

Without the defensiveness, there’s no need for offense, and the war is over. In nervous system terms, if you’re not coming in to fight for the right thing, to prove and trying to convince your child that this is what they need to subscribe to, then they don’t need to respond with a defensive mode.

Their nervous system doesn’t need to be activated because your nervous system isn’t activated. Oftentimes, what happens is you get agitated because you haven’t done your thought work. You haven’t listened to the emotions in your body. You haven’t come to peace with yourself.

you come in with a defensive energy, or you come in needing to prove that your kids weren’t doing what they were supposed to.

Then your nervous system is triggered and your kid’s defense mechanism comes online to match your attacking energy. Biologically, you need to be safe. When you’re encountering someone who’s coming in and they have this fight energy, our body’s thinks, “well, we better fight, too, because we need to protect ourselves”.

When you remove this need to be right and you remove the need to be defensive, then there’s no reason for your kids to be offensive. You can start the conversation by going as far as being willing to be wrong. You can take a deep breath of peace.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to give up on what you believe, you just need to give up your need to have everything be exactly as you think it should be.

Here are some things I think are right. I think we should make our beds every day. I think we shouldn’t fight with our siblings. I can have these beliefs while at the same time being open to hearing a different side of the story.

If my kids have a compelling reason why they should fight or not, I’m willing to be wrong and change my opinion. Even though you’re probably not going to change your mind, it’s important to come in with that energy.

When you do this, you might want to consider starting by asking your kids what they were thinking, asking them to give their side of the story.

This communicates that you believe in and trust your child. You could say something like, “Tell me how you feel. Tell me what you’re thinking. Tell me why this is this way for you”.

You put yourself in their shoes, and you see it from their eyes and from their thoughts and from their STEAR, and where are they coming from. Stephen Covey, in his infamous book, The Seven Habits Of Highly Successful People says, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

That’s what I’m trying to communicate here. You need to start coming in with the knowledge that you have something you want to communicate, but that you also really want to understand the other person. This is the point where you can try to understand their thoughts.

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Try Looking At Your Kid’s Thoughts Like A Scientist Or An Alien

Sometimes I like to look at my kid’s thoughts and situations like I’m a scientist trying yo understand a confusing experiment. It’s like I’m an alien coming down and I want to understand how these humans think. I want to understand their logic and their reason.

You want to see the situation from the eyes of your children. You want to look at their STEAR. Where are they coming from? Can you understand it? Can you make sense of it? Does it make sense if you were them? Can you see it from their point of view?

Throughout this process you keep releasing this defensiveness and any sign of disagreement, and you want to make sure that you fully hear them.

Make a true effort to understand your child’s every thought, every feeling, every action, every result. This is going to require a different kind of energy. Typically when you have a difficult conversation, your intent is that THEY fully hear YOU. You want them to hear your thoughts and you want them to know how you’re feeling.

I’m saying to turn that idea completely around. I want YOU to fully hear THEM.

Now, I did not suggest that you are going to be getting that same loving attention and energy from your child. You’re most likely not going to get the same luxury from them. You get to be the one who learns and you get to be the one who hears.

When you understand how this works, you will understand that telling your whole story isn’t necessary. You will understand that your job is to understand, to listen, and to create safety.

You can create safety if you can understand where they’re coming from and validate and affirm their side of the story.

That doesn’t mean you just lay down passively and throw all your rules out the window. I’m not saying that at all. What I’m saying is when you take the time to understand deeply, your kids will feel safe and validated. This might take a few times, it’s possible that the first time you do it, your kid will be suspicious or dismissive of your new approach.

If you keep practicing this, I promise you that you and your kids will feel safe voicing your opinions. You will be communicating that safety. You will feel confident, you will feel assured, and they will begin to co-regulate their emotions with you. You will begin to resonate at a similar frequency or vibration or emotion.

If you consistently do this, it’s inevitable that you are going to feel the calmness and connection that you’ve been wanting to feel towards them. Once you have heard them out, I want you to identify the facts and make sure you can both agree on those facts.

Identify The Facts

You’ve heard their story, you’re clear on their STEAR, you understand their perspective. You see how they’ve come to that conclusion based on what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling.

Now you’re going to simplify it down to facts.

Make sure both parties agree on them. Facts always stand alone. Facts are always neutral. Everyone can agree on them because they don’t really mean anything. They don’t make anyone right or wrong.

You’re going to distill it down to the facts. That’s the next step. Then you’re going to boil those facts down to a sentence.

So, for example, you might have had a situation where the kids didn’t help clean up dinner. The fact that they didn’t clean up dinner. My kids could have given me a multitude of reasons for why they didn’t clean up dinner. “I’m so busy” or “I don’t have time” or “It’s unrealistic” or something else in that vein.

My default to these reasons might be to think that they’re lazy, or that this isn’t an unreasonable expectation.

The fact is that the kids didn’t clean up dinner. My kids have a story (or belief: “I was too busy”) about it and I have a story about it (“my kids are so lazy”).

This is why we disagree. This is why we’ve had a problem. My kids think it’s okay to not do the dishes, and I think it’s not okay to do that. No one is right or wrong. We just have different sentences (or beliefs) in our brains.

I love wording the issue like that because it feels less emotionally charged. We just have different sentences in our brains. We just have drawn different conclusions. Once we’ve done this, we can talk (calmly) about solutions that work for both of us.

I want you to think about this process of having a difficult conversation that we have discussed today. I want you to think about an issue you are having with your kids and how you could come up with a solution that you both agree with.

This is the point where you’re not talking about the problem anymore. You are brainstorming solutions. That’s what you can do now. That’s the only thing you can do.

The goal is to find a solution that makes life better than it was before you had the problem. Be willing to take time with this. It’s not going to be a slam dunk right out of the gate, necessarily. But if you go through these steps, if you come with the curious, scientist-like energy, everything else will just fall into place.

Here’s some questions that you could use if you were going through this process that you might want to write down to save for later when you have your next difficult conversation.

What is the disagreement or fight about?

I love asking myself, why are they right?

How could I see it from their perspective?

That just gets our brain so far out of what it normally is asking when we’re in a tricky, problematic situation, what if they’re right?

How could they be right, at least from their point of view?

I want you to list all of those things, and then I want you to write out their thought process as best you can, because that will give you clarity on where they are coming from. This is powerful.

What are the facts that you both agree on? You could totally distill it down to facts that are provable in a court of law. Look at what’s actually happening, what is the reality?

Based on those facts, what’s my belief about those facts? And what’s their belief about those facts?

They may or may not tell you. Sometimes this might be the work you do solo, completely on your own. You’re having this tricky thing with your child. Maybe they’re not in a place to talk about it. In that case you’re just going to have this conversation with yourself. You’re going to dive into it with yourself.

Ask yourself these questions on your own, or you could approach them with your child, but don’t do it in the heat of the moment. I am not saying use these questions or use this strategy in a heated moment. You want everyone to be calm when you go through these questions.

A lot of times you have to do this work on your own. If you’re doing it by yourself, you should focus on hypothesizing with the intent to create more compassion and empathy for yourself and to be able to come and still be clear on what you want.

As parents, we both need and want to set limits with our kids. We want to have productive, if difficult, conversations. We want to connect with compassion as the fuel, not frustration.

A lot of times you set a limit. The energy that’s behind the limit is frustration or upset or disappointment. You are setting a limit because your child has done something to upset or bother you. You don’t want that frustration to be the fuel for most of your interactions with your child.

This process will help get that out. To recap, don’t forget to be clear on your thoughts about the conflicting sentences (your child’s beliefs vs your beliefs). Then brainstorm solutions.

Try to figure out if there is a solution that you both could agree on if you’re working through the issue together. Is there just a solution that you just feel pretty good about?

Go rock it as a mom this week! I believe in you!

Be really compassionate with yourself, too. You know, nothing’s gone wrong when you made a mistake. It’s all for your learning and benefit. Be so kind to yourself.

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Andee Martineau

Andee’s a mom of 6, reformed yeller, and the creator of Connect Method Parenting. She’s on a mission to help moms feel in control, bring the fun back into parenting, and ditch the yelling, corrections, and endless feelings of failure!

Can you imagine your kids happily listening to you, helping around the house, confiding in you, and getting along with their siblings? She’s got you covered with simple, scientifically-sound steps to do just that (that actually work. For real!)

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