Most of us long for a more satisfying relationship with our children. Our children, in turn, want this kind of relationship with us. Without us realizing it, though, our own views and behavior can undermine exactly what we hope to achieve.
We are all capable of changing even the most unpleasant situation, however, and this book explains how. We, as parents, can, and should create the most fulfilling relationship we will ever experience and make our children our best and truest friends.
Being the Adult
As a parent, we must always be the adult in relation to our children, regardless of how old the children are and what the situation seems to be. There are no exceptions to this as we are not only older but also have a special responsibility to our children as their parent. This is natural and appropriate because we have many more resources (financial, emotional, etc) than the child and also a head start of many years in dealing with other people and their individual personalities.
Our relationship with our children begins at their birth and, from the very beginning, requires that many concessions be made. We quickly find that children have needs, desires, and perceptions that are different from ours and that may, in fact, conflict with our own views. Some parents react to this by insisting that children conform to their requirements, whether this means following certain rules, always taking second place to the adults in the family, or being placed into a schedule that reflects the parents’ obligations. In this, parents sometimes see a child as another of their possessions, so to speak, that is somewhat more demanding than a pet but that must be trained just the same to fit into the parent’s activities. The aim of this kind of approach is to maintain the primacy of the parent in the relationship; it is the parent who has important things to do, and the child must be taught to make accommodations.
This is a futile way to approach our relationship with our children and one that will never lead to the kind of deeply satisfying friendship we are aiming for. Despite a considerable desire to please, children cannot make the accommodations we, as adults, can. They do not have the emotional resources or the understanding to do so. Children’s needs and wants are more pressing to them and it is more difficult for them to put them aside than they are for us. It is the case that young children can be made to behave in a certain way – they have no choice if we insist – but they often do not accept what they are expected to do as natural and appropriate. The resentment they feel frequently does not surface until they are much older and have gained a measure of emotional strength. Older children, whom we try to compel to accommodate to our needs, frequently refuse outright. This can result in the kind of very serious conflict of wills that we see in too many families and may also lead the child into really destructive behavior out of anger and frustration.
Rebecca Fanany has a PhD in Public Health and currently teaches at Deakin University. She is the author of many books and articles on topics ranging from health promotion to folklore. Originally from New York, she lives in Melbourne with her husband and two children.