Do you ever feel like things aren’t quite right between you and your child? Before you had kids of your own, you may have assumed that when you became a mother you’d feel wonderful about them all the time. You knew, of course, that there would be occasional conflict; you didn’t expect them to be happy when you disciplined them, for example. But still, you knew how much you’d love your kids, and you thought that that love would help you avoid most relational conflict with them.
Now, though, as your kids have grown past the baby stage and developed personalities and desires of their own, things aren’t always as happy as you imagined they’d be. If you’re like a lot of mothers, you may feel guilty that things aren’t better more often. You might feel bad that sometimes you feel like you don’t even like your children or your role as a mom. You might feel like you’re the only one struggling with your kids. You might wonder what’s wrong with you.
The truth, though, is that relationships ebb and flow. We know that’s true, and we expect rough patches in long-term relationships.
Guess what? What you have with your kids is a relationship, too. And you’ll go through rough patches in that relationship, too.
Sometimes, you just aren’t in a good place to connect. Maybe you’re not taking care of yourself and your patience is chronically low. That’s not a good match for a child who is simultaneously pushing your buttons or who is struggling with patience herself.
Or maybe your child isn’t in a good place to connect. She may be going through a phase where she’s experimenting with being a little more independent, and it means you’re not hearing much about what’s going on with her, and this is happening at a time when you’re craving more connection. Sometimes needs of individuals in the family are in conflict, and we struggle.
Rough patches just happen sometimes. Here are four suggestions to help you get some perspective on the whole situation:
Take the long view.
Realize that it’s normal for relationships to have upswings and downswings, and if you’re not hitting your stride with your child at the moment, it will likely come back around. Today may be tough, but tomorrow will be better. Or this week may be tough, and next week better. As children develop, it’s normal for them to disconnect from their parents in various ways at various stages. Stay consistent and loving in your interactions with your child, and have faith that things will come back around.
Evaluate your child’s needs.
Ask yourself whether there’s something your child needs right now that he’s not getting. More time with you? More affection? More attention? Less conversation and more independence? More responsibility? Often, a child acts out because he’s needing something and doesn’t know how to ask. So do your best to listen to his actions and see what’s going on.
Evaluate your own needs.
What do you need right now that you’re not getting? Time by yourself? Time with your spouse or friends? More sleep? More exercise? You know that old saying: If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. So take care of yourself.
Keep investing yourself in the relationship.
Time, effort, and intention go a long way. Just as in your adult relationships, you’ll see your relationship with your child grow and deepen as you put in the time and remain a consistent, steady, loving presence in his life. As the relationship ebbs and flows, be the rock your child knows she can count on when she needs you.