Neil D Brown parenting tip Enjoy What's Enjoyable

Parenting Tip: Enjoy What’s Enjoyable

A family friend’s newly college graduated daughter was back home while she figured out her next move. It’s a common occurrence, your young adult moving back home for a bit after a time away at college or away for some other reason.

“Neil, my daughter’s back living at home with us again now. It’s not the same as before college, but sometimes I still feel that same pang from before, like there’s nothing I can do to connect with her. She’s in her own world, and when I try to connect, I feel like I’m unwanted, like I’m trying to connect with a cactus, like she pushes me away.”

My friend shared that her daughter kept to herself, didn’t seem to appreciate having a place to live rent-free, and didn’t help out much around cooking or contributing to the household tasks like taking out the trash or cleaning up after herself. She said it was sometimes pretty uncomfortable being in the same household together again.

When my friend asked her daughter for help, it seemed like she was pointing out negative behavior.  Any time my friend offered support or pointed out good qualities, that was also interpreted as negative. There’d be tension and defensiveness on both sides.

“Tell me about your daughter’s best qualities,” I asked my friend.

“My daughter is creative. She’s funny. She’s very caring, her friends adore her. She’s physically strong and athletic, and she’s quite intelligent.“ 

Even with being aware of all these good points about her daughter, my friend didn’t know how she could make a better situation out of what seemed such a negative, uncomfortable one.

“Neil, what can I do?” She asked for my advice.

It seemed to me that even though the daughter has a ton of great characteristics to offer, maybe she herself needed to come to grips with how terrific she is. Not knowing her, I wondered if her issue was low self-esteem.

With that in mind as a possibility, anything the mother could do to address low self-esteem directly would only make it worse.

So my advice was, simply “Enjoy what’s enjoyable.”  As in, enjoy your daughter in the ways you can, and let go of the rest.

I urged her not to try to make her be or feel better (a common maternal instinct). “Simply enjoy her, relate to her in ways that are possible, without feeling responsible for how she feels or behaves.”

“I’ll give it a try,” my friend said.

Parenting tip Enjoy what's enjoyable

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I saw my friend again recently. I mentioned my new special series of Parenting Tips.

“Neil, your first tip should definitely be Enjoy what’s Enjoyable!”

I’m reluctant to say it, but I’d forgotten about it!

Here’s what I learned from my friend:

“It really helped to enjoy what’s enjoyable about my daughter. Some things have changed in our relationship, and some have not. Like there’s been some growth in the helping out. I’ve gotten better at asking and she’s gotten better at taking responsibility.”

“But what has changed a lot, is me. I’m more relaxed. I’m looking for the parts of the relationship that bring me joy. I’m not focused on what’s not bringing me joy. I’ve also let go of the responsibility for my kid having a great life. It’s not my responsibility, it’s hers! And she’s doing a great job of it!”

A few more comments:

“I have the choice to get ruffled if stuff is lying all over the place or I feel like our home is not respected. I also have the choice to relax about it. Which helps me come from a better place when I ask for help.”

“Now I just get to enjoy her. Now I see my daughter coming into her own, enjoying her life and appreciating herself.”

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Your son or daughter is an essentially good kid, too.  But their habits or their mood might be annoying, or concerning.  It’s hard to let go of the way we did our parenting roles when our kids were younger and needed more of our direct input, but when they are teens or young adults, it’s essential that we actually do let go of the need to fix or control or feel responsible for their moods or feelings.

So try this simple approach, it really does work!

  1. Stay positive.
  2. Enjoy their good qualities.

Feel free to make requests versus commands, but absolutely avoid judgments or a judgmental tone. For instance, try “Could you please pick up your things in the living room and bring them to your room for me?” instead of “Don’t leave your things all over the house!” Or  “Could you give me a hand in the kitchen so that we can get dinner up sooner?”

In other words, in a time when everything may not seem enjoyable, remember to enjoy the parts that are! It will shift everything.  Enjoy What’s Enjoyable.

Have you read my book, Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle? You’ll find plenty of useful guidance there with a step-by-step process for dramatically changing dynamics in your family.

Posted in Parenting Tips.