Loving the Wild Child

The moms and dads who struggle with their child’s experimentation or behavior wonder where it will lead and how they will get through the challenges they face. But amidst the pain, there are insights and opportunities for growth that are profound. One such insight is from parents who have learned that the child who is fighting them the hardest, who is the most difficult to love, may be the one who needs them the most.

One mom wrote on my blog: No matter what a teenager brings to the table we have to remember that we love them enough to keep loving them—no matter what. Another writes: I have learned along the way that the one who is the most outrageous is also the most at risk for me pushing her away and out of the house before she is ready to go

It is the deepest and most challenging kind of growth a parent can experience to let go of being right, to let go of control, and to allow ourselves to shift and change, and in so doing open up a new way of connecting with a struggling teen.

Many years ago I had the good fortune to spend a rejuvenating weekend at a lovely health spa. I took advantage of what they called a tai-chi walk which was a guided walk through the woods with a tai-chi instructor. Funny how a newly-opened mind makes the world look so different, even when you are gazing upon things you’ve seen your whole life. We stopped on a small bridge that spanned a brook rushing over round and worn New England rocks. Our guide asked us to observe the water and the stones and to consider which was more powerful. At first glance, of course, one wants to say the rock is, but the reason the rocks are round and smooth is because the water wears them down. The water can change its course; the water is infinitely more flexible and moldable and therefore more powerful.

And so it goes as we interact in our families. As we can bend and mold to the issues and temperaments of each of our particular and unique teens, we can find new and better ways to connect with them, influence them, and teach them. You cant take YOU out of the equation. This is your opportunity to bend, to learn, to change, to grow and to love in a way that it reaches your child, even your troubled, difficult to love child.

The first mom I quoted above goes on to share more of her learnings: When my teen started doing things that I had not expected from her, like sexting, numerous texts, porno on the computer, hanging on boys, changing her appearance, etc. I had to shift gears. It was painful, I will not lie! I will admit some of my initial reactions were not pleasant, and if continued would have driven her to run—which she did once. Funny thing though, she was my child and she loved me enough to give me a second chance. For that I am very grateful. When I was able to remember how when she was little and I was teaching her ‘life skills’ like swimming, that she depended on my reactions to develop her feelings about those skills, it became a much smoother ride.

How do you love your wild child?

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