This was first published on KSL.COM
My relationship and life are not going well. I’m not happy with where I am at work and my marriage isn’t helping. My spouse doesn’t validate me and she hardly pays attention to me at all. I get the feeling she doesn’t want to spend time with me and stays busy doing other things instead. I hate that I’m getting old and feeling like my best days are over and gone. How can I get a more positive outlook and improve my marriage? Is that even possible?
It sounds to me like you are unhappy with yourself and life, and when you are an unhappy person, it’s hard to maintain healthy relationships. I believe this happens because unhappiness puts us into a fear and lack state, where we feel unsafe and unbalanced. This makes us overly focused on ourselves, and when your focus is mostly on you, not a lot of love happens and your relationships suffer.
You need to figure out the cause of your unhappiness and work on fixing that first. Once you are able to show up happy with yourself, you will show up in your relationship in a way that feels positive and healthy to your partner.
Here are the four main causes of unhappiness. See if any feel familiar to you:
1. Low self-esteem or fears that you might not be good enough. Do you compare yourself with others? Are you haunted by insecurity and negative thinking about yourself? Do you feel you are less valuable or good than others?
2. Dissatisfaction with what is happening in your life. Do you feel life’s been unfair to you? Have you been taken from, walked on or mistreated? Are you depressed with where you are or discouraged your life won’t get better than what it is now? Do you always wish you were somewhere else?
3. Fear about either the future or the past. Are you haunted with guilt and shame over things in the past? Do you think your past experiences or mistakes define you? Are you constantly worried about all the things that could go wrong?
4. Choosing to be unhappy because it benefits you in some way. Does being unhappy earn you some attention or sympathy love or do you use it as an excuse to get out of things you don’t want to do? Do you get something from telling your victim story or does it protect you to hold onto it?
Did any of those resonate with you? Maybe even more than one? Once you know what is causing your unhappiness, you can own the responsibility for changing it. It is your responsibility to because you are the only one who has any control over you and your thinking. You cannot make your spouse responsible for your happiness (as it sounds like you might have by your letter). It is not her job to make you happy, it’s yours. You have got to figure out what you need to do, or change in your life, to make yourself more happy.
Here are five things that might help:
1. Change your policy on human value
Make a new policy that your value isn’t in question and can’t change because all human beings have the same infinite, absolute intrinsic value no matter what they do. This will require you to stop judging others too though. You must give this value to everyone if you want it to be true for you. If you can take a fear of failure out of the picture by believing you can’t fail, because you always have the same value as everyone else, it will increase your happiness in life immensely.
2. Worry less and trust more
Uncertainty is a beautiful part of the adventure of life. Not knowing what tomorrow holds isn’t a bad thing, it is just unknown — and the truth is it is just as likely to be good as it is bad. If you put your trust in God or this amazing classroom universe you could walk into each unknown adventure without fear.
Fear is a choice. You may not believe you have a choice about fear and worry, especially if it has been your autopilot setting most of your life, but you do. You can always choose in every moment to trust the process of your life and see it as a wise teacher that is constantly conspiring to serve you, educate you and make you stronger, smarter and more loving. You can see it as always being on your side and if you see it that way, you will find there is nothing to fear or worry about.
3. Stop worrying about what others think
We all deal with the fear of judgment at some level. It makes no sense that we give other people this much power over how we feel about ourselves, but we do. If we practice trusting that our value is infinite and absolute (unchangeable) we will start to realize that no judgment, thought or idea in someone’s head can change our value or hurt us without our permission.
Julien Smith once said, "Judgment and fear will never stop, but they don’t actually do anything either." What other people think of you doesn’t mean anything or do anything. You are the same you no matter what they think. Remind yourself of this often.
4. Focus on everything you are grateful for
During the darkest hardest moments of my life I could still count my blessings and find myself more blessed than stressed. Focus on gratitude every day, even listing all your blessings, and you will find many reasons to smile and be happier.
5. Decide that happiness is your character
You get to decide what kind of person you want to be. Choose to see yourself as a happy person. Write a policy that you will choose to be a happy person in every situation because it is always the wisest choice to make.
Have more fun and be more fun. Laugh more often, collect jokes and funny stories to share with those around you. Make it fun to live with you. Be spontaneous, adventurous and positive. Be flexible and easy-going. Find ways to make whatever you do fun. Turn boring, frustrating things into a game. You have more natural ability to play than you realize.
If you will own the responsibility for your own happiness and stop expecting others to make you happy, you will find great power in determining the quality of your own life. Happiness sometimes doesn’t feel like a choice, because we all have moments of sadness, stress, loneliness, discouragement, loss, failure and struggle, but you always have the power to decide how long you stay there.
If you don’t know how to think or process your way through struggle into a healthier happier state, get some professional help. A little guidance and some new skills and tools will make a huge difference fast.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com and 12shapes,com. Her companies offer many free resources, worksheets and materials to help improve your life and relationships. Visit www12shapes.com and take the free survey.
Don't let offenses hurt you
I was deeply offended by my brother and his wife, and I’ve been carrying this anger for years. The things they did and said to me are really awful and so judgmental. Every time I think about them I feel hurt all over again. They have caused so much unhappiness in my life, how can I let that go?
The most important thing you must do, if you want to feel better and stop hurting, is to take responsibility for how you are feeling. As long as you see “them” as the cause of your misery, you will remain a victim, powerless to change anything; but if you step up and own that no one can make you miserable, because you ultimately have the power to choose how you are going to feel, you could take your power back.
Your subconscious ego programming likes to blame others for your unhappiness, to protect you from seeing your own faults, but that doesn't make the blame true. The truth is, no one can make you miserable without your participation and willingness to go there.
This means you are going to have to do some work on you if you want to suffer less. Or you can continue to suffer forever if you want to, but those are your only two options. You must understand changing, healing and forgiving are a choice. Some people make that choice quickly right after an offense and suffer for only a short time; others hang onto misery and choose to suffer for a long time.
It is interesting that most people heal faster if an offense involves a stranger than when it involves a close relative. It appears the closer the relationship, the deeper the wound, even if the offense is exactly the same. This means we give the people closest to us more power to hurt us. You give your power away when you let other people have control over how you feel, even people you love.
Your self-esteem also determines how much pain an offense can causes. If you have low self-esteem and someone criticizes you, it will cause a deeper wound than if you had good self-esteem. But you always have the power to consciously choose to see an offense as a deep wound or a scratch.
Buddha taught whenever someone offends you, you must decide right then if it is going to be a cut through water, which heals immediately, a cut through sand, which will be gone by tomorrow, or a cut through stone, which could be there for decades. You are in charge of how much and for how long you suffer.
Whenever you get offended your subconscious mind quickly creates a story around the offense and that story determines the amount and length of your misery. You may want to write down the story you have created about this offense with your brother. Then ask yourself the following questions:
If you saw it this offense this way, you might be able to see the hidden gift in the experience. There always is something positive that every negative experience creates. Some experiences make you stronger, wiser or more loving, or they give you empathy and compassion for other people or yourself. The fastest way to change how you feel about an offense is to look at it as a perfect lesson in your classroom journey.
It is time to set down the burden of this offense and focus on the good in your world and choose love. Choose to see people accurately as struggling students doing the best they can with what they need. Choose to let your relatives be a work in progress and imperfect, just like you. Choose to see their value as unaffected by their mistakes and their value as the same as yours. When you do this, you will subconsciously see your own mistakes as not affecting your value either and your own self-esteem will grow.
We believe you get what you give in the world. When you criticize and judge others, you are giving power to the idea that people can be “not good enough” and this will, in the end, make you feel not enough too.
If you choose to forgive and let everyone have infinite value and you see everyone as the same as you, you will feel your own worth is unchanging too and you will have good self-esteem. How do you want to live?
If you are holding onto anger thinking it is protecting you from future offenses, it isn’t. It is creating pain, fear and low self-esteem. It is time to be in charge of your inner state and not give other people the power to make you suffer.
Whatever the offense was, it was just words or deeds and they have no power or meaning unless you give power to them. Decide thoughts or words can’t do anything to you, they can’t diminish your value, they can’t take from your life journey (if you believe your journey is always your perfect classroom) and they can’t make you less than who you are. All they can do is facilitate lessons to help you grow. See them this way and let others go in peace with your blessing and good wishes. I promise this will make you feel stronger, wiser and better.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of 12shapes.com and co-host of Relationship Radio on Voice America. You can go to her website to get free resources and take the 12 shapes survey.
This was first published on KSL.com
How do I learn to forgive? I don't understand why it's so difficult for me to let go and forgive others. I find myself wanting to cut the people, who have hurt me, out of my life. It's like I'm trying to sweep it under a rug and forget the hurt, but I can’t, which I know isn't healthy. How can I get past my anger and really move forward?
We believe the problem is not in your ability to let go, but in your need to hold on to the grudge. There is a reason you (and most of us) struggle with forgiveness. The fact is there are very real benefits to staying mad or hurt. Ask yourself the following questions and be honest about why you might want to stay offended.
Which of these anger excuses are in play for you?
Forgiving also becomes easier when you adjust your perspective and make sure you see yourself, the other person, and the situation accurately. We see them inaccurately when we see them through a story we have created around them, which can distort the truth.
To see yourself, the other person and the situation accurately you have to first realize your value is infinite and absolute and does not change as a result of this mistreatment. Your value comes from the fact that you are an amazing, divine, one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable soul. Your value cannot change and you cannot be diminished. No matter what someone else does or says about you, you are the same you and what they did to you doesn't change your value.
The tricky part is, the other person, the one who offended you, also has infinite value and their worth doesn’t change because of this incident either and you must embrace this truth if you are ever going to feel better. If you want this principle of infinite value to be true for you, it has to also be true for them.
In order to become bulletproof and move forward from this offense, you must know who you are, claim your value, and refuse to let anything diminish you, and you have to also let go of judgment, and stop casting them as not good enough. Also remember that holding onto anger, hurt and angst doesn't do you any good. It doesn't punish the other person, it doesn't protect you, and it doesn't make you feel any better.
Choosing to forgive and let things go makes you feel better. When you claim the power to release the resentment, you will feel strong, mature and wise. It takes a pretty amazing person (with a lot of strength) to love people who don't deserve it.
That doesn't mean you trust this person again though — it just means you choose to love them, in and with their flaws and mistakes, even if you need to do this from afar. Not having them in your life is still a healthy option within your forgiveness.
After you are more accurate about your own value, you must work to see the offender and their behavior accurately. Ask yourself why did they hurt or mistreat you? What was really going on in their world that motivated the bad behavior?
We believe that like all of us, the person who hurt you is probably terrified they aren't good enough and they are afraid of being taken from or mistreated too. These fears can create immature, selfish and unkind behavior. They can keep you focused on your own needs and prevent you from showing up for other people.
When you look underneath the mistreatment and see the fear that’s driving it — we believe you will see this person as desperately scared, which will create more compassion for them. Perhaps this person made you the bad guy in their story, so they could feel superior, and relieve their terrible fear of not being enough. Can you see that dynamic in this situation?
Most people are doing the best they can with what they know at the time. The problem is they don’t know much about how their fears affect them, so their behavior is lacking.
Most people do not plan to hurt us though, and they don’t have bad intentions or malice. They are usually intending to be kind people, they just get afraid and may behave badly or say the wrong thing at times. Can you see this intention in the person who hurt you?
However, some people do intend to hurt us, but it is more uncommon. If you encounter this type of person, you must also see them accurately and understand they just aren't capable of better behavior, and it isn't about you.
Once you have realigned your perspective, you can then see your life accurately, understand life is a classroom and this person, who offended you, therefore showed up to teach you something.
The people who hurt us are important teachers, because they give us a beautiful opportunity to step into more mature, loving and wise behavior. This situation might be giving you a chance to step back and gain a more mature mindset, learn how to forgive or overcome your fears. Ask yourself these important questions, “What could this situation be here to teach me? How could it make me stronger, wiser or more loving?”
This situation may also be here to show you things about yourself. It might be showing you how strong your fear of failure (not being good enough or approved of) is, so you can work on it. This other person might be serving as a mirror for you, to show you things about yourself you need to see. We believe you can absolutely trust this experience is here to serve you. Your life is a divine process created for your benefit and growth. Your life, and every situation in it, is about you becoming a better person.
When you can see yourself, the other person and this situation accurately, it will change how you feel and experience this offense, and it will become easier to forgive.
If you still can’t forgive, you may be stuck in your fear and in one of the anger excuses mentioned above. You may want to reach out to a counselor or coach who can help you overcome your own self-esteem and resentment issues. We believe your fear of not being good enough might be keeping you in this defensive, protective, angry mindset. If you improve your own self-esteem first, forgiving will get easier.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham are master life coaches behind the 12 Shapes Relationship System and Claritypoint Coaching. Visit http://www.upskillrelationships.com/worksheets to get the To Be or Not To Be Upset Worksheet - a great free tool.
This article was first published on KSL.com
I had a huge fight with my husband last week because he doesn’t validate me or give me compliments enough, and I honestly don’t ever feel like I’m good enough. More of his comments are negative and about what I haven’t done, than what I have done. He says he compliments me all the time and I don’t hear them. I’m willing to admit that could be true, my whole life I remember every criticism, but maybe don’t accept the positive. I have also always needed a great deal of praise to feel like I have any value at all. How can I get him to build me up more and how can I accept it and hear it?
The truth is you are the one who is responsible for your self-esteem and no one else can fill that bucket for you. He could praise you day and night and you might remain just as needy for compliments as you are now. You are an approval addict.
Validation is your drug of choice and when you get some, it quiets your fear of failure for a minute, but that quickly wears off and you need another hit.
You have this problem because you are basing your self-esteem on the wrong things. You were taught as a small child your value is determined by these four things: your appearance, your performance (how well you do what you do), your property (clothes, car, phone etc.) and what other people think of you.
The problem with this system is, you can't win it. No matter how hard you try to be good enough in these areas and earn validation, it will never be enough. There will always be people ahead of you. This will also make you needy for praise, approval and validation, and this always backfires because the more you try to get approval from others, the less respect they have for you.
People can feel it in your energy when you don’t know your own value and they can tell when your posts on social media are all about trying to prove your worth or illicit likes or comments, and when they feel this neediness in you, it doesn’t impress them. (You shouldn't care of course, but because your self-esteem is based here, you do.)
Here is a list of things you might do (without consciously realizing it) to get validation, attention or approval. See if any of them sound familiar. Honestly, ask yourself the following questions to see if you are an approval addict.
Isn’t this more the person you really want to be?
Here are 8 steps to stop your approval addiction and improve your internal self-worth:
1. Change your foundational belief about human value and choose to see all humans as having the same infinite value all the time.
This means your value is unchangeable and the same as every other human being. It means seeing everyone as different (having their own unique classroom journey) but with the same value as you. It means you must give up the judgment of others and casting them as the bad guy or worse than you. It means choosing to see your mistakes (and others mistakes) as lessons that don’t affect value at all.
This will take some work, time and practice to consciously choose to see yourself and others this way — but you can do it and it will have a dramatic effect on your life, relationships and self-worth.
2. Choose to see life as a classroom, not a test.
As a child, you were subconsciously taught that life is a test to determine your worth and every mistake counts on your grades. You can decide today that life is a classroom, and there is no test and this would mean that every mistake is a lesson (which you can erase and try again) and no mistakes affect your intrinsic worth.
3. Choose to see all people as having the same intrinsic value.
No one is more important or better than anyone else. We are all very different and no one on the planet got signed up for the same classes here you got, so there is no level where it makes sense (or serves you) to compare yourself with others. It would eliminate most of the conflict on the planet if we could all choose to see all humans as having the same value.
4. Stop talking for a week (as much as you can).
Set a goal to say as little as possible for one week, and it will amaze you how aware you will become of your approval addiction. You will notice most of the things you want to say are about trying to get validation or managing others perceptions of you.
If you cannot say those things, it will leave you at risk of being judged and you will have to own the fact that judgment actually can’t change your value and means nothing.
Other people’s thoughts about you have no power and mean nothing, unless you decide to give them power. Don’t do it. Choose to see your value as the same as others no matter what, all the time.
5. Only post things on social media that are about building up other people.
At least for a while, see if you can let go of your need for attention and even resist the urge to post.
6. Focus on validating others everywhere you go.
If you are intently focused on giving validation and approval to others, you won’t have the time or energy to worry about what you are getting or not getting. This will be especially powerful in your marriage. There is a universal law that says "You get what you give." So, if you want more positive validation or attention from your spouse, start giving it to them. Give what you want to receive, though make sure it fits their love language too.
7. Understand opinions and thoughts are only stories.
Just because someone thinks something about you, doesn’t make it true. Opinions are only ideas that exist in a person’s head. They have no power, aren’t real, aren’t meaningful and don’t matter. They can’t change you or diminish you unless you let them.
8. Be yourself.
You are a one-of-a-kind and there will never be another you. Who you are right now is perfect and being different, being quirky and even flawed is what makes the world an interesting place. How boring would it be if we were all the same? Alan Sherman said, “A ‘normal’ person is the sort of person that might be designed by a committee. You know, each person puts in a pretty color and it comes out gray.”
Don’t be gray and don’t try to be a color that makes other people happy. Be the real, quirky, flawed, beautiful you.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com and 12shapes.com where you can find resources, assessments, coaching and classes on self improvement and better relationships.
This was first published on familyshare.com
Hindsight is 20/20 they say, and it's funny how often at the end of a bad relationship, we wonder why we didn't see the red flags sooner. Were they there? Should we have see them? How did we miss them?
The truth is, we see what we want to see most of the time. At the beginning of any relationship, we are primarily looking for the good, especially if we want it to work out. We do this at work and in our personal relationships, but there are a few early warning signs it might help to flag when you see them. This may save you from unrealistic expectations and real disappointment. It might also mean protecting yourself and using some caution around people who could be toxic.
Here are five behaviors to watch for early in a relationship:
1. They speak ill of others and relish in gossip
If they are critical and judgmental of everyone around them, they will be critical and judgmental of you, too. People who focus on the bad in others usually suffer from a subconscious fear of failure themselves. In this state they find it temporarily makes their ego feel safer if they focus on the bad in others. If they cast others as the bad guy, it makes them feel like the better guy. Anyone who speaks ill of others on a regular basis has the potential to be trouble in a relationship. They may not have the self-worth and wisdom to be able to give the love and support you deserve.
2. Every situation is about them
If you notice that everything is about them, how they feel and how it affects them, you must label what you are hearing as "selfish focus." Again, people who have a fear of failure and low self-esteem are selfishly focused on themselves most of the time. If that is their focus, they won't be able to see situations from your point of view very easily. Just because someone is in this space one day, I would not write them off as toxic, but if it's a pattern all the time, make note of it as another red flag.
3. They're frequently upset and irrational
If someone gets triggered into an unbalanced upset state easily and often, and once their logic seems a tad off, that can be a big red flag. Mature, balanced people understand that feeling upset is a choice and nothing (or no one) can make you that way. You are in control of your choices, attitudes and behavior. You are responsible for how immature and over the top your frustration or anger gets.
We find some people tend to have over-the-top responses, drama and irrational thinking. This behavior is important to flag because one day it may be you they are upset at, and this immature behavior makes it difficult to talk things through and resolve them. If they aren't able to see things from another person's perspective, logically see what happened and why and talk about things without drama and emotion, they will have some unhealthy fighting behavior that could be directed at you eventually.
4. They don't trust you
There is a universal law that says we see the world as we are. This means anyone who doesn't trust you, accuses you of cheating, is dishonest or has ill intent might think you would act that way because they would. It's not true 100 percent of the time, but it is worth looking into. Those who would never be dishonest rarely are suspicious of others and are often taken advantage of. If someone is constantly accusing you or others of bad behavior, that could be a warning sign they aren't trustworthy.
5. Their moods and reactions are unpredictable
If you are never quite sure which version of this person you will get today and there is a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde feeling to the two sides of their personality, that could be a red flag. Toxic people are often moody, unstable and even may have borderline personality disorder, one of the more difficult mental illnesses to deal with. These people rarely admit they have a problem and rarely seek the help they need to have healthy relationships. If a person is normally very calm, kind and rational, but on occasion has a blow-up that is way different from their normal personality, you might not really know them as well as you think.
When dating, starting a friendship or thinking of promoting someone at work, you want to make sure you see the other person in stressful, upsetting situations and watch how they cope first. Everyone behaves fairly well when things are going great. You don't see their unbalanced behavior until things get scary, unsettled or threatening.
Just keep your eyes open and don't be afraid to love some people from afar.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com and 12shapes.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity" and a popular life coach, speaker and people skills expert.
This was first published on familyshare.com
Most of the couples we work with admit that intimacy continues to be the most challenging part of their relationship. We believe the one thing that creates the most disconnection and lack of intimacy in relationships is disappointment, and this is a big problem because we are all disappointed with our spouse and our marriage on occasion.
Disappointment is a problem because it creates fear of loss, which is the feeling of not getting what you wanted or having unmet expectations. With this comes resentment and a marriage where you don’t feel safe. If you don’t feel safe, you cannot give yourself to your spouse intimately in a connected way.
Here are four important principles that can help cure fear of loss and disappointment, so you can have a better connection in your relationship:
Principle 1: We are on the planet to learn and grow — not to have all our expectations met.
We are striving for happiness in life, but we must also understand the real purpose of this journey is growth and learning. Because of that, we are attracted to a person who can help us grow and learn, not a person who will make us blissfully happy every day. In other words, you marry your best teacher, and they teach you by pushing your buttons and triggering your fears — so you can see them and work on them.
You must start seeing your marriage as school with the goal to learn to love and understand another person, get past your expectations and practice being responsible for your own happiness. When you see your marriage accurately, you are more prone to focus on growth and experience less loss and self-pity.
Principle 2: In every moment there will be things in your life that aren't the way you wish they were.
You may have health problems, financial problems, a husband that struggles with selfishness, a leaky roof, a mean neighbor or a wife who is struggling with love and intimacy. When these situations show up, you might have feelings of misery, anger or self-pity. Your disappointment and frustration towards these “less than ideal circumstances” creates unhappiness.
What’s important is that you recognize you are responsible for the amount you suffer with these. Your spouse and their issues cannot make you miserable. You are always in control of how miserable you decide to be. Of course, you will always do what you can to fix and repair situations you don’t like, but you must also choose to focus on the positive around all the blessings you have, too. People who are grateful have better connection than those who feel cursed by life.
The questions you must ask yourself are: “What could this experience of lack be here to teach me? How am I supposed to become better, stronger or wiser through this in my life?” When you approach disappointments this way, you will step out of the victim mentality and into a place of growth. Connection and self-pity can’t both happen; you will have to choose which you want.
Principle 3: In every moment of your life there are things you could be grateful for.
We understand that a lack of intimacy or poor connection is painful and disappointing, but if you step back and count your blessings and look at all the problems you don’t have, you could also be really grateful. The truth is, in every moment of your life, some things will be good and others will be lacking. So if you can’t focus on the good and be happy and grateful right now, you will never be able to. Or you could choose to happy and grateful all the time. It’s up to you.
Principle 4: The secret to quality intimate connection is being the cure to their fear.
If you become the safest place on earth for your spouse, a place of encouragement, appreciation and admiration, they will feel a whole new level of connection with you and their interest in intimacy will increase.
If you often criticize, complain about or act disappointed in your spouse, they will pull away emotionally and connection will not happen. After working with hundreds and hundreds of couples, we promise that becoming your spouse’s safest place works and quickly increases connection for most couples.
If it doesn’t work for you, there are probably issues in your relationship around your spouse not truly wanting to fix it, and nothing can improve if one of you doesn’t want to.
Buddha said, “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” He meant that your situation does not determine your happiness. The way you choose to think and feel about your situation does. You have the power to be at peace right now. Then, from this peaceful place, validate your spouse and make them feel safe — great connection will follow.
We know this is a hard one — but you can do it.
Kimberly Giles is the president of 12shapes.com. She is also the author of several books “The People Guidebook for Great Relationships” and "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness. Kim is also a sought-after coach and speaker.
This was first published on ksl.com
I can't seem to communicate with my 17-year-old son without conflict. I am trying to get him to respect me, and listen to what I am saying to him about his friends and his school work. I worry about the kids he is hanging around with and the lack of interest he has in achieving things. I only want what is best for him, but he isn't listening to me anymore. I am a single mom and I worry that I am not doing enough to keep him on the right path. Do you have suggestions or advice?
It sounds like it’s time to shift from a child/parent relationship with your teen, to an adult/adult relationship. When our children are small, we parent from a place of authority. We often correct them and dictate the rules and the consequences, and this works when children are young. However, as they mature and their need to express themselves, their wants, their needs, and their opinions increases, and it becomes time to make some adjustments to the dynamic of your relationship.
In an adult/adult relationship there is more talking to each other with mutual respect and treating your child as more of an equal. This does not mean you start treating them as an adult or giving them the same responsibilities or freedom though. It’s just about honoring their intelligence and feelings more than you used to.
Instead of speaking down to your teen, speak to them with the same level of respect you might use with a friend or peer. You would probably ask them about their ideas and opinions, instead of just talking at them. If you show up differently and have genuine interest, respect, and concern for their thoughts and emotions, not just authoritative dialogue or lectures, you will get much more respect back. You will also find they feel safer with you and are willing to actually talk to you about what’s going on in their life.
As children become teens, you must strengthen your connection with them if you want to maintain influence. You can do this by making them feel heard and validated and doing more listening than talking. This doesn't mean you always agree with what they say, but you do give them the space to share their ideas, while at the same time maintaining the final say.
As your children grow, if this shift from control, to one of trust and respect continues to grow, you can have great, healthy and open conversations with your teenagers and adult children. The shift here is really a shift from fear and control — to trust and love.
Parenting from a place of fear means you are afraid that your children will not behave or make the decisions you want them to make, and as a result of those decisions you will either lose them or look (or feel) like a failure as a parent. Because we can be really scared of these things, we can have a huge need to control them and make sure our fears aren’t realized. We believe no one can trigger your two core fears (the fear of failure and the fear of loss) easier than your children.
When they make mistakes or choices that scare us, we may react from a place of fear and respond in a way that is driven by the need to quiet our fear, not in a way that’s really best for our children. Our fear of not doing a good enough job as a parent may actually make you not a good parent.
Instead, we must parent from a place of trust and love, rather than control. In this place of trust and love, because we aren’t scared, we can focus on what our child needs and behave in a way that teaches, guides and influences with respect, honoring where they are and what they think and feel.
Here are four ways to shift from fearful parenting with control and punishment, to parenting from trust and love, where you empower and equip children to make good healthy decisions for themselves:
1. Take responsibility for your fear and reactive responses
Have an open mind and analyze for yourself what could be fueling your fearful parenting. What are the fears you have about your children? Are you afraid that they will fail, they will go off the rails, they won't reach their potential? Are you afraid of how you might look to friends and family if your children make choices they don’t approve of? Are you afraid of losing them? Probably a bit of them all, right?
Most of the high risk teens we work with have parents who struggle extensively with fear of failure. They are afraid they are not doing enough, doing too much, or not guiding their children effectively. This fear is of little use. It only makes you show up as confused, controlling and overbearing, and it makes it hard for you to ask questions, listen and take the time to respect and honor your children and how they feel. The truth is they are scared too, and their fear of failure is often driving their bad choices. When you understand this, you will spend your energy building them up, instead of using fear-based reactions.
2. Decide your value is not on the line
Remember, you can see your value as a human being as in question and something you have to earn, or you can see your value as a human being as unchangeable and not affected by the way you parent your children.
We recommend you choose to see your value as infinite, unchangeable and intrinsic, as something you cannot lose or gain more of. If your children are successful, get great grades and hang out in the right crowds, it doesn’t make you better than people whose teens are struggling.
This might sound obvious, but at the subconscious level, most of us still think our performance (and that of our kids) reflects on our value. But we don’t lose value if our child goes off the rails or gets into drugs.
Stop the comparisons with other families and choose to trust your value is secure, and the same as every other human being no matter what happens with your kids.
3. Show your kids their value is safe too
Your teens and tweens have fears of failure and loss too, which influence their behavior and decisions. They suffer with major fear of failure and they compare themselves to their peers and desperately want to be accepted. They are also scared to death they won’t make it in the world.
If we want to have real connection with our teens, we must first earn their trust by creating a safe place for them and showing them the way out of their fears. You do this by loving them exactly as they are. Loving them through their bad choices, when they disappoint you, and teaching them to see their value as unchangeable too.
When they know you see their value as infinite, in spite of struggles or bad choices, they feel safe with you and this will create a relationship where you could be their 'go to' person when they need help, which is really the goal.
4. Trust the universe to provide the classroom lessons you and they need
This is the hardest part for most parents, because it feels like it would be safer to control them, but control is really a delusion anyway. The truth is you can’t really control your kids, and safety only lies in encouragement, building them up and inspiring them to be all they can be so they decide to make good choices for themselves
The better your connection with your child is, the more influence you will have. Showing them you believe in them and believe they can make it in the world (and telling them this often) actually makes them want to live up to your highest opinion of them. While comments coming from fear that imply you don’t trust them and their judgment tend to encourage bad choices.
Choose to trust God and the universe to provide the right classroom journey for each of us. This means trusting God is in charge of your kids and has their education well at hand. If they sign themselves up for some rough lessons, don’t freak out. Trust that God is the author of everything and feeling safe and in his hands, will make you more capable of showing up with love and compassion — instead of fear.
Our favorite parenting book, The Conscious Parent, written by Shefali Tsabary, encourages parents to view their teens as their perfect teachers. When you remember you are a student here too, and your child is triggering your fears, you have a chance to work on your fear issues, grow, and learn to trust more fully and love more liberally, and it will change the way you see your child’s struggles.
Work on these four things and focus on loving your son unconditionally and telling him you believe in him constantly (even if you aren’t sure you do). The more you can tell him he’s fantastic, smart and capable, the more he will see himself that way and make better choices. Set your fears aside and make sure most of your interactions with him are love driven, not fear driven.
You can do this — and your connection will improve.
Kim Giles and Nicole Cunningham are the Master Life Coaches behind claritypointcoaching.com and 12shapes.com, they are sought after speakers, authors and coaches.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.