I just NEED them to BE better so I can feel better!
Hmmm . . . Is that really what you need? Parenting just messes with our brains. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but if it’s about you (feeling better), then you’re probably barking–literally–up the wrong tree if you’re involving your child (hoping they'll make you feel better).
The Who Needs What Moment
When you find yourself saying that you “need” them to be…, start by being curious about what is being stirred up in you.
"I NEED you to lend your leotard to your sister so that I can feel like a good parent.”
“I NEED you to listen to me because I am feeling unheard.”
“I NEED you to be more respectful because I am feeling under-valued.”
“I NEED you to be better on the baseball team because I feel like I wasn’t.”
You’ve heard me say this before. If we are in our story then we can’t be in theirs. And sometimes (well, a lot of the time), they need us to be in theirs. Parenting is a job. Emoji eye roll.
But sometimes we just want to be in ours, get our needs met. And that’s okay! But that’s self-care, not parenting. (The self care piece is wondering–and following through on–if and how you can get those needs met without your child’s help.)
But wait! There’s a powerful parenting moment opportunity for you to invite your child to contribute to your needs.
Share your feelings and lead with a solvable problem.
“I’m feeling frustrated and out of patience with you two bickering. When I give you the pillow, can you help me brainstorm some solutions?”
“Kids, I’m feeling rushed and kind of stressed, and I’d really like your cooperation; we need to leave in ten minutes.”
"I am feeling a little unheard here and want you to consider what I asked. It helps me when I can rely on you to stick to our agreements around chores."
Quick tip: to create an emotionally safe space, we can’t be yelling from the other room. Try looking them in the eye or, if they’re little, getting down to their level.
Why it Works
Kids are kids (or adolescents or teens). They are being kids (or adolescents or teens): making mistakes, meandering, learning, testing. But, brain-science tells us, kids also need to feel worthy and significant. Here you are giving them the opportunity to have both while also teaching them empathy. And, importantly, if, in the process, we can relinquish them from the responsibility of how we feel, we are offering them the space to learn and grow.
Taking a moment to convey confidence in your child’s ability to contribute to a solution helps them to feel appreciated and capable. And they'll return that in spades by being helpful and cooperative.