I notice that I’m having a hard time liking one of my children. We are so opposite from each other and clash all of the time. It’s taking a toll on me, and probably him as well. I’m tired of the fighting and I’m tired of hating my own child. Any ideas on what I can do?
I’m sorry to hear about the pain you both must be experiencing on a daily basis. As Hain Ginott so eloquently said in his book Between Parent and Child, “no parent wakes up in the morning determined to make their child miserable.” I appreciate your sincere plea for help so you can have peace in your home.
Since we don’t get to choose our children’s personalities and temperaments, it’s almost certain that we’re going to have some mismatched moments (or, several, as in your case). Please remember that your child isn’t the only one who will be “raised” in the family. Parents should do just as much emotional and relational growing as they learn patience, tolerance, and compassion.
It will be good to better understand your child’s temperament and personality. Since you’ve hit a gridlock with him, I recommend that you take some time to get to know him better. Perhaps this will make it easier to know how to reach him, and ultimately set you both up for success.
There are a few resources I’m fond of that will help you understand you and your son’s personalities and temperaments. Carol Tuttle wrote a great book called “It’s Just My Nature” that outlines four significant personality types. Her down-to-earth explanations about temperament and personality have helped thousands understand themselves and loved ones. When you understand how to better celebrate your differences, perhaps you can have more tolerance and compassion for the things that drive you crazy.
I also think it’s good to slow down and see what he really needs. The Haim Ginott book I referenced earlier in this column is an excellent resource to help you learn how to access his real needs. Sometimes children have such difficulty knowing how to ask for what they need that they become offensive in their asking. If we aren’t careful, we might miss a need that we would gladly meet if we better understood it.
Even though everything in you wants to be away from him, I would seek out the moments where you don’t mind being close to him and maximize those times. For example, perhaps it’s easier to connect with him in the mornings when he’s eating breakfast. You don’t need to sit around and discuss your relationship. Instead, just focus on being with him. That will certainly help you feel a little closer to him. You might even pull out your old photo albums of him when he was a baby and reflect on your memories and feelings about him when you first met each other.
Your exasperation is completely understandable. I’m glad you’re not giving up on the relationship with your son. As you learn about your distinct personalities and temperaments and then look for openings where you can naturally connect with him, I’m certain you’ll start to discover ways to improve your relationship.