From Conflict to Caring-Uncharted Areas of Parenting
Ageism and Parenting is a complex state of affairs. As parents we age emotionally, cognitively, and physically. Overtime and through the parenting process we become confident, knowledgeable, and wise, which easily puts us one step ahead of our offspring – until we’re not.
Then the game changes!
Our communication gets tripped up at an emotional level as we protect ourselves against the once familiar parenting role and age gap between our offspring, the past and ourselves. Unaware of this trip up, we become defensive – a contrarian posture in every conversation or interaction. And this tension works both ways, not with everyone and not always in public. We do this to mask our lack of confidence and emotional discomfort in these uncharted areas of the parenting rapport. Disagreement on both sides likely disguises discomfort.
Now it feels like every encounter is met with debate or disparity, which can be aggravating, exhausting, and wearisome on both sides!
Less antagonism and more affirmation is what we all need. Neither parents nor offspring are likely to see beyond their own discomfort. But evidence suggests we are not constant contrarians at all but rather highly selective persons and experts at defense.
Uncharted areas of parenting can be painful and raw. And that’s the problem.
Consider the possibility that we are uncomfortable with our emotions in uncharted areas. Maybe we never learned how to regulate or express positive feelings within the family fabric. Maybe we haven’t amassed the confidence or wisdom we’d like that takes us beyond the parenting relationship with our young children. We may not know where or how to draw the line between parental authority, tenderness, and/or affection. It is entirely possible that we have only one unique signal for warm feelings. Inadvertently this locks us into an interactive cycle of safe distance!
Emotions in uncharted areas of parenting have no tangible signal.
The healthy juncture of the parenting journey becomes more collegial and less authoritarian. This is the time to stop and change the old direction to avoid anxiety and distress.
Being recalcitrant relieves us of any need to muck around with love or caring while ensuring our needs for attention. Our conversational style becomes off-putting to others and keeps them at arms length. Then we can blame them because, indeed, it may not reflect what we are feeling. This contrary behavior associated with the change of the parenting role is not new. Creatures evolving since prehistoric times have used this tact unwittingly as a surefire authoritarian or attention-grabber!
The why of this impasse may be a future conversation but most of us want a close relationship in spite of the role change. Mostly it’s obvious that a belligerent posture doesn’t work and if we only knew a better way, we’d deploy it.
So how do we deal with the rationale of this contrariness? We can take the initiative and move our conversations or interactions to the right track leading the way to a more amenable relationship. Through such indirect actions, we can become an emotional guide without announcing what we’re doing. Using these innate skills may clarify the paradox of parenting: amidst its joy, our anxieties about the unknown flourish.
Looking kindly on such an awkward dilemma is the beginning. Be sympathetic instead of taking the bait to argument. Have a clear vision of how you want a conversation or interaction to go. Then move in that direction regardless of the obvious gravity.
One of the easiest ways to change a dynamic - possibly the riskiest but maybe the most fun - is to agree with the offender who sets up a contrary position. For example you might say, “There might be something to what you say but...” Another response can be a more directive path away from further argumentation – just what the offender often expects but saves him/her the trouble of choosing to steer the argument. Instead, tap into the subtle insight that you haveand become your own architect of the conversation you want.
Now take a deep breathand say very calmly but kindly, “You know, that isn’t the way I was hoping to spend this time with you; I was hoping we could discuss more about X, Y, or Z, which might be more credible. Do you think we could try? Ending with a specific request is crucial.
Accepting our emotions and affirming our values confirm the magnitude of emotional elasticity – the ability to feel and think without contrary defense, to cry, laugh, and honor change with fluidity. Willingly, we can learn from our emotions instead of making them our enemy. It may not be comfortable or easy, but it can help us get our life back on track.
You can change the flow from conflict to caring. Expressing your feelings without criticism or judgment. Clear the emotional muddle, distinguish the current, and change the tide of the uncharted parenting areas with a new conversational dynamic.
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I look forward to working with you.
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