Michele Armani and Sally Meisenheimer
Dear Style & Substance:
My mother leaves your column out every week and then asks me over (and over again) if I read it. My parents have these great expectations of me, but the way they act with each other, makes me not want to even try to succeed. They fight over the pettiest things and expect us kids to be polite and have nice conversations. What should I do other than hope that you answer this and I can leave it out on the counter for my mom to read?
Everyone has probably heard the response from a parent, “Do what I say, not what I do”. We find that it doesn’t work too well with anyone, it creates an almost hostile environment, where expectations are simply dismissed. Although they are your role models, they are still human. Bickering can be a comfortable, habitual style of communication, and your parents may not be aware that this has become their style.
To give you a little parental insight, without giving out too many secrets…parents are generally worried about a number of things of which you may be unaware. They worry about money, jobs, possibly aging parents of their own, and their own relationship. Sometimes the bickering about petty things is because of stress, time and inadequacies that they are struggling with. If you aren’t hearing fighting about this big stuff, kudos to your parents, in that they are not concerning you too deeply with adult situations that are beyond your control!
Parents can be the best role models you can have, so once you have identified this issue of bickering, it needs to respectfully be communicated. We believe that the role of a parent is to demonstrate and lovingly instruct good behavior, a strong work ethic, healthy choices for wellness, and to create a happy and secure home. Parents are supposed to be forming lifelong relationships with their children, and teaching them how to along the way.
Thinking of how the fighting makes you and your siblings feel, is a good place to start. Then you are not attacking your parents behavior, you are just stating how you feel. By saying, “when you two bicker, I don’t feel like being around you” or “when you are fighting, it makes all of us upset” or “when the fighting starts, I don’t feel like listening or following through on any of your advice” could be some of the words that you play around with. It helps you solve the problem better, by identifying the emotion and then what the situation is doing to the family dynamics.
You can even go so far as to say “when this bickering happens, I will be going to another room and we can discuss it at a better time”. Retraining needs to happen with people of all ages, and when your parents get a negative response that is calmly stated, they may just begin to change. It takes work on both sides, for you and your siblings to respond with love and for your parents to start with awareness and make the changes out of respect to their role and your well-being.
A S K
Style & Substance
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