parents to the end

Parenting Adult Children for Your Peace of Mind and Their Accountability

Friday Food For Thought: Great Expectations III

Posted on December 5, 2014 | No Comments

by Linda Herman, LMHC

Great Expectations Part III

We are in the holiday season. Expectations for family fun and togetherness may reach a peak at this time of year.  With great expectations comes the possibility of great disappointment. As an antidote to the media hype of the holidays, I am posting my Twelve Truths for Parents of Adult Children on the six Fridays prior to the New Year (two per week).

So far, I’ve discussed the first four:

  1. Love does not conquer all.
  2. Doing more and more for others will not bring love and respect.
  3. Loving and liking your adult child are not the same thing.
  4. It is neither possible nor prudent to treat all your children equally at all times.

Today, we look at two more:

5. Guilt-making does not improve relationships.

If there are times of year when people feel more guilt, the holidays are at or near the top of the list. Many of us were motivated growing up by the specter of being “made to feel guilty” if we did not visit certain relatives during the holiday season. It is wonderful when family members can come together with open hearts and warmth toward one another, but that is not always the case.

Do your best not to motivate friends or family into visits or activities through guilt-making. As I say in Parents to the End, “Endeavoring to make someone feel guilty as a way of influencing their behavior may foster compliance, but it comes with obvious disadvantages. Anytime you have to quietly disgrace someone into taking the action you want, you win the battle, but lose the war. It is far better to have an honest conversation about your needs, desires, and disappointments than to disguise your wishes through innuendo.”

Try to keep in mind that your needs and desires may differ from those of other family members. This does not mean that either of you is wrong. Compromise, when possible, can be an effective way to bridge differences of opinion.

  1.   Adult children need to feel “heard” before they will listen.

Actually, this applies to all of us. If you do get into some heated discussion with your adult child (or others), you will have a greater chance of getting through the conflict if you can at least acknowledge the other person’s point of view. This does not mean that you are agreeing with that person. It just means that you have listened to and recognized his/her position. Very often that is all that is wanted. In my work, I have seen situations of work conflict escalate and even go to court when the affronted party had really only wanted to have his thoughts or feelings acknowledged.

Do you have a challenging adult child or other important person coming for the holidays? Rather than engaging in an effort to convert that person to your viewpoint, put your energy to letting that person know that you truly “hear” him.  Again, from my book, “the very act of recognizing someone’s position, even as it differs from your own, is a powerful facilitator for communication. The listener will begin to lower his ‘wall’ of defenses and become more open to suggestion.”

As I have stated in prior blogs,  abusive communication and behavior are never acceptable.


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