Do you live with a continuously rebellious son or daughter? I did. Events occur that took my breath away, made my stomach sink, filled my heart with fear and my mind with anxiety. Add to the mix, confusion from dealing with things I’d never dealt with before and not feeling prepared to handle them, could make a grown man crazy.
This was my life. In her late teens, I’d caught my daughter Renee in several lies. So, when she asked to go out at night, I couldn’t fully trust what her plans really were. I didn’t trust where she was, what she was doing or who she was with.
I’d built a set of knee jerk, verbal reactions to various things she would do. Phrases like, “you’re grounded” or “go to your room and think about that for a while” were frequently heard. Today we can joke about these things, but it wasn’t funny at the time.
Certain sounds also triggered responses, similar to Pavlov’s dog that would salivate every time it heard the sound of a bell. The dog had been trained to associate the ring with food. Whenever my phone rang after midnight, it did that for both Dena and I. To this day, she can’t sleep with her phone in our bedroom because the sound triggers a negative reaction associated with heartbreaking news.
Then there’s April, our youngest. She and Renee are two years apart. April did well through her school years: no troublesome issues; growing and maturing intellectually; emotionally, physically and spiritually in healthy ways. She enjoyed an active social life. School and church events filled her calendar and she enjoyed weekends with friends.
As both progressed through High School, two sides of having older teens in our home were present at the same time.
One Friday evening, April asked for permission to spend the night with a girlfriend. I wasn’t acquainted with this friend, so I began to grill her for details. Who else might be there? What are your plans? What do you know about her family? Do any older siblings live there, particularly a brother? And on and on and on.
Frustration built up in April as I asked question after question. She’d finally had enough of my third degree and suspicious attitude.
“Dad! I’m not Renee!” she blurted out with conviction.
It was like a slap in the face…and I needed it.
I had launched into a panic mode that I’d developed from my relationship with Renee. I was stuck acting crazy and couldn’t recognize normal when I saw it.
If we’re not careful, we can let our relationship with our troubled kid become our dominant reaction to our other children. It can cause us to develop an unhealthy suspicion they don’t deserve.
Sometimes we need that slap in the face to snap us out of the crazies. With more than one child, I needed to be careful to relate to each of them in the way that corresponded most appropriately with who they were and the trust they’d built.
What responses can you identify that have become a pattern in your behavior that aren’t helpful or beneficial?
What steps will you take to break those unhealthy patterns?
A book that can help is: Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children, Allison Bottke (you’ll find it on our book list).