I had a hard life growing up and things were tough for us back then. I am determined to give a better life to my child and work extremely hard to achieve this. But my son is never happy with anything. Now he is not communicating with me and has a constant bad attitude. Where have I gone wrong and how can I fix the situation?
Your own background means you are over-compensating in certain areas of your parenting. Where you got nothing, or next to nothing, you feel compelled to give your son everything. This a laudable but ultimately flawed approach. You’re in a process of ‘righting the wrongs’ of your own challenging upbringing. However, handing him everything on a plate, without any effort whatsoever on his part, will inevitably lead to the toxic environment you’re experiencing now.
I often find parents cannot resist the lure of the ‘pleasure of pleasing’ factor, whereby they continually set out to please their child (righting perceived wrongs in your case). Over time they erode their ability to set rules, limits and boundaries; they lose their power to make demands over the child and in turn they simply can’t say ‘no’ any longer or be able to stand by it. This is because they fear their child being unhappy or angry with them. A downward cycle then ensues where the parent gives more and more and receives less and less in return for their efforts.
Where does this lead? There are only two things worse than a spoiled child. A spoiled adolescent and a spoiled adult. ‘Spoiled’ defines a person who thinks of no one but themselves, who see themselves as the natural hub of interest and concern for everyone, and who supposes the fulfilment of their needs should always overrule the wishes of others. Sounds familiar? However, parents should not always blame the teenager for acting spoiled, since it is often their doing that has caused them to turn out this way.
Try not to be too harsh on him; after all, it’s all he knows. He’s never gone without or had to work up to anything, so how could he possibly comprehend your own childhood experiences? You’re looking at his life, his hopes, ambitions and fears from your own perspective, through your own eyes.
How to change the situation? Your youngster needs to learn to live in a two-way relationship with you. He will also need understand who is in charge, why you are in charge and the importance of him becoming mindful of the needs of others.
Speak to him calmly and quietly about how things are going to change and improve. Be clear about what your expectations are, and also be clear that you are insisting that his attitude must change. In essence you’ll require something in return from him now; more consideration of you (and others), an improvement in his attitude and an understanding that he’s not going to receive everything without question any longer. Naturally, there will always be room for compromise. However, never compromise on your expectations of him and what you desire in return. If he promises to do something later to get it now, do not agree to this offer. Promises from a spoiled adolescent are notoriously false currency. Actions and results are all that counts. Your new rule is to insist on getting want you want before automatically providing what he wants – always insist upon a fair exchange!
For your part, try not to fixate on your own upbringing but instead consider what type of relationship you’d like to have with him.
Russell Hemmings is a life coach and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist, and author of The Mind Diet and Active Positive Parenting. Contact Russell on 055 286 7275 or russellhemmings.co.uk