We had an incident recently with one of our daughters that necessitated a “parental” conversation with her. Because the issue was revealed during the school day, I had a little time to think about the upcoming talk before she arrived home from school. As I was considering what I wanted to say, I thought it would probably be a good idea to bring her daddy into the loop. As we talked about the issue and what we wanted to communicate to her, he gave me the following suggestion:
If you want her to listen and not completely shut down, it would probably be a good idea if you approached her as “loving mommy” instead of “lecturing mommy.”
As I had been of the persuasion that lecturing mommy and loving mommy were all the same mommy, I asked him to explain further. He went on to say…and I am going to put this in my own words, although his would probably be more amusing because he was trying hard not to get himself into trouble…that I have two different approaches to the girls when I need to offer correction, guidance, discipline or the opportunity for problem-solving.
Sometimes I approach them in “lecture mommy” mode; I am not really interested in hearing what they have to say about the topic and I am going to be speaking until I am finished. In this mode, there is really not an invitation for discussion or other opinions and the solution to the problem has already been determined by me and will be done by them. Apparently, at other times, I approach them in “loving mommy” mode; this is characterized by the identification of a common problem with the opportunity to work together towards a mutually acceptable solution (keeping in mind that, in some cases, I have more votes than they do…this is not a democracy.) In this mode, I am all about listening to their thoughts, concerns, and ideas. In this mode, the process of getting to the solution is as important as the solution…if not more so.
My precious husband, having known me for close to 30 years, could sense that the emotion behind this issue was moving me towards the selection of the “lecturing mommy” approach. He also, however, has known the daughter in question for her entire life and has noticed how she responds to this approach, especially as a teenager. In a very gentle and loving way, he suggested that I was going to lose the opportunity to solve this problem altogether if I approached her in “lecturing” mode and that I might consider a tactical adjustment and choose an alternate path. To make a long story short, he was absolutely right and it was an altogether different conversation with my daughter than it would have been if he had not offered me these suggestions. Even today, that conversation is still bearing fruit as we continue to work together towards addressing the concerns that were brought up that day.
Don’t get me wrong; there are times when only the “lecturing” mommy will do. Or should I say the “firm, there-is-really-no-room-for-discussion” mommy…lecturing at any length is probably a waste of energy and breath. Sometimes, we need to be very clear about where the line is located, communicate that the line has been crossed and firmly indicate the neccessity for and means by which that line needs to be “uncrossed.” Some things are not open for discussion or creative problem-solving.
However, as my girls grow closer and closer to adulthood, I find that those times are less and less frequent. Although there are many times I can see what I believe to be the obvious solution, I am beginning to understand that now is the time when it is more important for the girls to learn the process of figuring those solutions out for themselves. As a parent, it is difficult to watch your kids fall down when you might be able to prevent it. Yet, even as adults, we learn best in the difficult process of getting back up.
More often than not, the conversations I have with my girls these days are more of a give and take than when they were little. I notice, I advise, I encourage, I remind, sometimes I brainstorm or share my experience in a similar situation. When I am at my best, what I mostly do is keep my mouth shut and do a lot of listening without commentary. When I really listen, without rushing to judgement or solutions, I find that my girls are often quite smart, capable, intuitive and wise. Sometimes my job is just to hold the mirror up for them to see those qualities in themselves.
I was warned over and over that the teenage years would be particularly difficult with girls, but I am finding the oppositie to be true. So far, I am thoroughly enjoying these years. My girls are some of my favorite people in the world and I love being around them. The hard part is backing off a little, stepping back and allowing them room to grow and learn…which sometimes includes falling down.
I don’t know how you could make it through this stage of parenting without prayer!