*name has been changed
“My dad wasn’t perfect. He lost his temper sometimes. He worked too much. He experienced periods of depression. But even through the rough patches, my dad always listened to me. He was never too busy, too distracted, or too desolate to listen to what I had to say—even in the rough patches.
And despite what the critics say—that giving a child our undivided attention creates a child who thinks the world revolves around him or her—I believe otherwise. Having a parent that listens creates a child who believes he or she has a voice that matters in this world.” –Rachel Macy Stafford
When I shared the above quote on The Hands Free Revolution page I received the following reader comment: “I listened to my kids. Now they won’t talk to me. Reading this makes me feel guilty. Let’s see how your kids turn out in twenty years.”
Although it isn’t always easy, I try to glean insight from all the comments I receive—even the negative ones. And this one really got me thinking.
There is a chance my children won’t turn out as I hope. There is a chance my grown children won’t want a relationship with me. There is a chance I will be shut out. Yes, these are all possibilities. But does this mean I should stop trying to do all I can now to develop a loving bond with them? Does this mean I should put a warning label on my blog that states: Despite your loving efforts, your future relationship with your children may be less than desirable? I don’t know about you, but I am siding with hope. I am leaning toward positivity. And since I have no control over the past or the future, I am focusing on what I can do today. Therefore, I will continue to offer simple ways to connect in a disconnected world. I believe small daily gestures of love bring people together, not apart.
But I cannot put a tidy, little bow on the above paragraph and say this discussion is over. You see, I couldn’t help but sympathize with that dear reader. As I read her words, I imagined angry tears falling on her keyboard as she typed that brutally honest message to me.
For a moment, I tried to put myself in her shoes and understand her skepticism. Although I have no idea what it would feel like to be shunned by my own children, I knew what it felt like to have a child you love break your heart.
During my first year of teaching, I had the opportunity to work with high school students with behavioral and learning issues. One particular student was said to be “unteachable.” But through attentive listening and relating his lessons to his interests, I was able to form a bond with Alan*. For the first time in years, Alan began doing his work. It was quickly evident that he was quite bright. Suddenly there was the possibility of technical school or steady employment in Alan’s future. He actually started smiling on a regular basis as we talked about the exciting possibilities for his life.
For several months, Alan attended class. He completed his work. He made strides no one expected him to make. The school administrators were elated and attributed Alan’s transformation to having a positive adult mentor who he trusted and respected.
But one spring afternoon everything changed. Alan erupted in a fit of anger and became violent. Furniture was thrown. Thick panels of glass were shattered. Obscene words were screamed. Students and teachers were frightened.
A few days later, while interviewed in the expulsion hearing, Alan was someone I didn’t recognize. With piercing eyes, he looked at me in utter disgust. He didn’t seem to care where he was or where he was going. The hundreds of hours I’d spent building him up and educating him were null and void—it was as if they never even happened. As Alan spewed hateful things about me, I sat there dumbfounded. I was hurt, angry, and embarrassed.
In other words, I took Alan’s reaction personally. I took it so personally that I thought about quitting teaching all together—after all, what if all my students ended up this way? What if all my hard work and effort gets thrown back in my face with vile profanity and flying chairs?
But I did not quit. I went on to teach for nine more years.
And in those nine years,
I faced a student who spit all over the room and on me.
I faced a student who killed his own kitten.
I faced a student who ran away from school. I sprinted after him for nearly a mile so he wouldn’t be alone when the police arrived.
I faced a student who was kicked out of four schools and was placed in my class as a last resort.
Despite their disappointing actions, I said the same five words to each child: “I still believe in you.”
Every time I said those words, it was like an out-of-body experience. I couldn’t believe those words were coming out of my mouth. It was not until I looked into the eyes of my own children a decade later that I understood where those words came from.
“I still believe in you” are the words I wished I’d said to Alan during the expulsion hearing. What I know now that I didn’t know then was this: Alan’s hateful words and indignant reaction were not about me; they were about him and his hurting heart. In his time of desperation, the last thing he needed was for me to turn my back on him. As his world crumbled down around him, he needed to know there was still hope.
After all, where do we go when there is no hope?
Where do we go when we decide it’s too late?
Where do we go when we throw up our hands and declare there’s no use in trying?
Where do we go when we fall down and no one believes we can get back up?
Saying, “I still believe in you,” may have changed the outcome for Alan—but maybe not. I’ll never know. But what I do know is this: Believing there was still hope for the other children did make a difference. In fact, one of my students, the one who killed his cat, wrote to me when he turned eighteen to say, “Thank you for not giving up on me. At the time, you were the only one.”
Each day I receive messages from desolate teens and college students. They say they read my blog because it assures them they are normal for longing for a loving connection with their parents. They say that through my blog they are able to read the words they wished they had heard from their parents—words they can now say to themselves. You matter. You are worthy. I believe in you. I love you no matter what.
But here’s the best part: Despite the mistakes their parents made, these young people tell me they would still welcome those affirming words now. They tell me it’s not too late.
My friends, if that’s not HOPE, I don’t know what is. And I’m pretty sure I am supposed to pass that hope along.
After all, where do we go when there is no hope?
Where do we go when we decide it’s too late?
Where do we go when we throw up our hands and declare there’s no use in trying?
Where do we go when we fall down and no one believes we can get back up?
As long as we are still breathing, all hope is not lost. That’s what I believe. So each day I try my best to listen and love my children the best way I know how—through moments of undivided presence and loving connection.
Despite my efforts, you might find me in twenty years with a less than desirable relationship with my children. There is that possibility.
But I won’t let that thought stop from trying now.
I am siding with hope.
I am leaning toward positivity.
I’m focusing on what I can do today.
As long as I’m breathing, all hope is not lost.
Friends of The Hands Free Revolution, thank you for the overwhelming response to last week’s post, “To Build or Break a Child.” To date, it has reached one million people. I am so grateful to those who stepped into the light of realness with me and said, “Me too.” I appreciate those who bravely shared the painful life-long impact of living with a parent who never said, “I am proud of you,” or “I love you just the way you are.” I appreciate the messages I received from young people who wanted us to know that it's not too late to be the parent we've always wanted to be. The comment section of that blog post has become a treasure of healing and hope. If you need to know you are not alone in your struggles, I encourage you to go there.
*I have received many personal email messages over the past week from people in need of one-on-one guidance on specific challenges. I feel compelled to let all readers of my blog know about an incredible resource available to you. I am blessed to have two colleagues with the credentials and expertise to help people overcome challenging family issues. Over the past year, Sandy and Theresa have helped many readers of my blog free of charge. They also read the blog comments each week and jump in when they feel their insight would be helpful. You can use the contact information below to reach out to them directly. It is not too late to change, heal, or try to mend broken relationships. There is hope.
If you feel like there should be something you can do to turn things around but you don't know what it is, feel lost, stuck or overwhelmed, contact:
Sandra, award-winning author of Say What You See for Parents and Teachers, parenting/life coaching, click here.
If you feel hopeless like nothing you do will ever work, or if you or your child(ren) are experiencing depression, anxiety, grief, trauma, attention problems, self-inflicted injury, or are simply wishing for healing, contact:
Theresa, PhD, author of The Parent Survival Guide and licensed psychologist, click here.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, call 911 immediately.
Thank you for being part of The Hands Free Revolution—letting go of distraction, pressure, & perfection to grasp what matters most. Thank you for walking beside me on this journey.
**The ONLY LOVE TODAY vintage bracelets and non-leather reminder bands that sold out last week will be back in stock within a few days. Thanks to all for the interest and support!
I too teach and have had similar experiences. It is really hard to not take it personally so thank you for the reassurance that I did my best to make a difference and that sometimes it is out of my hands.
I had a student come and tell me he was dropping out and you know what I said? I told him “What are you going to do?” When I found out he was going to work with his uncle doing demolition, I knew that he needed to go, he needed that outlet, he needed a new start. I have talked with him since then. He is back on the area and is a nurse at a local care unit. He made it. I have no idea if what I said or did ever mattered to him, but I am pretty sure it didn’t hurt.
I try to be there for my children at home and in my classroom. I try to make myself available. I try to be open and honest. I try to make home or school a comfortable place to be. Am I perfect? No. Am I always liked? No. Do I feel respected all the time? No. But this is the life I live and the choices I have made.
Thank you for your constant encouragement and outlook on life!
To the world you may be one person but to one person you may be the world.
I would bet that the reader who typed the comment that you referenced in this post was not crying tears of anger but rather tears of anguish, pain, and regret.
I wonder this sometimes too. I have no relationship with either of my parents. My father was forced out of my life by my mother when I was a child and my own mother walked out on me when I had my eldest at 24. I look at my three children who I’ve loving stayed home with and cared for the last nearly thirteen years and sometimes I am afraid they will also not talk to me in twenty years. That feeling is selfish I know. All I can do is hope that all the amazing memories and fun we’ve had has solidified our relationship and we will be close forever because the idea of the alternative breaks my heart.
Michael Modi says
I’m a stay at home daddy & I absolutely love reading your writings on my newsfeed. i often do not have the time to read the full blogs. This is one of the times i could. Your words always warms my heart & gives me hope just like you aim to do! You have a good heart & sharing your message w/ other parents who struggle daily makes you a hero to me. I struggle being a stay at home husband because of the lack of support & understanding for this role in society. I love that i can be at home to give my 2 beautiful kids 110% of me wich i probably could not otherwise if i was working. So while i’m at home i try my best to guide them & raise them as best as i possibly can. It’s a tough, tiring & relentless job. It’s also often lonely for me but seeing the smiles on my childrens faces & seeing them healthy & happy are my daily rewards. Also reading uplifting & encouraging words like yours helps tremendously. You’re words can heal, touch & embrace! that’s very powerful! Thank you! I have had many bad times where i scream, shout & react the way i should not for what ever reasons and the feeling i have eats up & devours my insides, aches my heart & burns my mind for days. Those precious little souls don’t deserve any of it and spend the rest of my days trying to make it up to them in what ever way i can. The first time i read your blog i cried. I cried because i felt i was understood. It gave me hope that my children can forgive me for my mistakes & that i have plenty of minutes, hours, days and weeks to make up for it. I believe that raising children is the most important thing we will ever do in our lifetime. What we teach our kids they reflect back to society. Good children = a better world. So i do put pressure on myself to try and put 100% into this parenting thing. So when i make those horrible mistakes it eats me up whole. Sorry for the long reply. Just very thankful! Blessings to you & your family!!!
Julia Kurskaya says
You were brave, Rachel, to share that negative comment and to take time to think about it. I feel sorry for that reader. But there’s still a hope, even for him/her. Because it is never too late to change something in relationship with our children.
We’ll give love to them, won’t expect anything in return. And if things don’t go the way we wanted, we would know we did our best and wouldn’t feel guilty. We would still have beautiful memories of great time we had together with our children. And there always will be a hope. Thank you for constantly reminding us of the most important.
You may recall I posted to you 2 weeks ago when my son left for basic training… I heard from him in a brief phone call on Thursday where he sounded stressed and “small”…. Not my “I know more than you” son. I then received a letter that sounded nearly desperate — not to be finished, not for better food, or even for sleep but for a letter- for support, for mere words from me. (Ive been waiting for an address, I couldn’t write and his letters reached me all on the same day). I have a letter for each day to send off to him, but I am going to add a single sheet that he can keep looking at… ” I believe in you “. — I hope these are words he needs to hear and remember. Thank you!!
Wow Sharon, that brought tears to my eyes. Thank your son for his service, you must be very proud.
You are so insightful. Thank you so much for these words. Words I need to say, and words I needed to hear. Your message is far more reaching than you probably realize
I have always treated my kids with respect and listen to them daily 🙂 I have an 18 year old, 3 year old, 2 year old twins and a 7 month old baby. I speak TO them not AT them all and with so much pride it hurts, I can say my “baby” (the 18 year old) is one of the best and most beautiful, caring, respectful, amazing and just plain great people I know. She is headed off to college this fall to major in both astrophysics and paleontology…..I have and never will treat my kids like they are an inconvenience or that I’m tired of them. Showing them love even when they act up CAN result in an amazing young person who makes your heart swell and melt all in one 🙂
Thank you. I was away this weekend and had a wonderful time, but I could tell I had lost something of my center and groundedness. I knew there was something I do usually that I wasn’t doing while I was away, but wasn’t sure what it was. Turns out, I was missing your daily reminders of what matters. I’m glad I turned off the screens and was out of touch for a few days, but next time I’m going to bring along a few reminders to have with me, because it makes such a huge difference to how I relate to people – not just my children, but my husband and co-workers and customers too. Thank you, thank you for your insight, love, and support.
Beautiful. I admire your strength and courage so much. You are a continuing inspiration. Thank you!
Libertad Leal says
Simply brilliant. Thank you!
My brother and I came from a loving, supportive home where our parents listened to us and provided just the kind of environment I think so many of us are trying to build for our own children.
The attention and love my parents, especially my Mom, gave me carried me through years of depression and suicidal thoughts/close calls. Their love for me is what I think kept me from going through with it, got me back on my feet time and time again, and helped me build a life that I can be proud of. I’m closer to them today than ever before, and my Mom is my best friend. I’m in my mid 30’s now, happily married with a beautiful baby girl of my own, but I still talk to my Mom daily and my Dad weekly.
My brother is a different story. If he ever faltered much, I never saw it. I’m sure he did since everyone has their moments. But outwardly he held it all together so very well. He is extremely successful, he married his college sweetheart, they also have an adorable daughter and are doing very well. However, his relationship with my parents and I has completely changed over the past ten years or so. At best things are strained, awkward and distant, but when they are at their worst, we are all but estranged from him. It’s hard and hurts. It hurts personally and it hurts to see how much pain it causes my Mom. I know that a large part of where all of this comes from is because of his marriage. It would be easy to blame his wife and to blame him for not standing up to her. I’ll admit that for a long time, I did just that. But now I also see that what he is doing is living up to the values we were taught. We were taught to put our spouse and child first, to listen to them, respect their feelings, and to weed out or keep a healthy distance from people who aren’t a good influence. We were taught that when you bring a child into this world, that is your focus; your “new” family comes first.
While it’s hard to watch the fallout from his decisions on this end, I try to respect them. In his own way, he is honoring his wife, respecting her wishes and trying to do his very best for his little family. When I see pictures of him with his daughter, I know that she has a great Daddy who loves her and who is going to listen to her and pass on those same lessons about love and family. I hope, and I think, that my Mom takes comfort from that as well. She didn’t fail him; none of us did. His very actions show that their parenting made a difference and laid the groundwork for him to love and support the next generation of our family.
Thank you. This post came out today when I needed most to hear it. I will not lose hope today that I can reach my daughter and let her know that I believe in her. Thank you for your words.
Lloyd Neale says
Twenty years from now I can almost predict your children will reach out with words of thanks and appreciation to you Rachael and says, “Thanks Mother for your steadfast love, care and concern and the QUALITY time you always gave to us. God blessed us with the most precious Mother in the world!” They will look back with fond memories how their Mother shared with all her readers about their amazing lives and most importantly the genuine ways they blessed the lives of others through a loving Mother’s example. As a faithful follower of your posts I continue to be a better person because of you! May God continue to bless you my friend!
Wende Chan says
Thank you Rachel, very well expressed and appreciated. Being a grandmother now, I look back to the nurturing and exploration which I had as a child along with a lot of chores/responsibilities. I passed on to my children healthy home cooked meals, they shared in preparation and ate family meals together. Minimal electronic devices. Great kids! Except, they too needed to “cut the cord”, eat junk food, stay up all night sneaking video games/TV. Forging a separate identity is the job of a child, and parents as well. So, yes there were some contentious years. Yes, they went off and sometimes there were long waits between civil conversations. BUT, guess what? They chose their partners well. They have each since had a child and suddenly, out of the blue, I am showered with praises regarding their upbringing. Still laughing at this, while I also note how close both of my children and their spouses are to their children.
BTW this has also led us to re-examine the times of distance…………..and reconnect on a much deeper level. It really is never to late; to listen, to laugh at our follies, to hug each other once again and craft an ever evolving future family.
Thank you for such a beautiful, honest post. Just wanted to add a resource for the kind of hopeful, supportive parenting you are talking about. Dr. Laura Markham has written a wonderful book and has a great website with tons of helpful articles on parenting in a way that facilitates connection, love, hope, respect.. Our family has been totally changed by her work. I am truly, truly grateful to you, Rachel, and to people like Dr. Markham, who will share your stories and spread hope in this world.
This post makes me think– if the “reward” for being present with my son is a grown-up-son who acts a certain way that makes me feel loved and rewarded… I am missing the point. The point is how I want to live MY life. The person I know to be my most loving self. There is nothing on this earth that can guarantee than my son is going to feel or act in any particular way at all towartd me as an adult–because he will be his own person, shaped by many experiences and factors, inside and out, over which I have no control.
Would I love it and feel really validated if he DID grow up to praise my parenting skills and the abundance of love anmd nurturing I gave? Sure. I’m only human and we all love to be recognized– especially for something that is sometimes so hard! But that cannot be why I do what I do, say what I say, choose the way I choose.
This is exactly what I was thinking! There are no guarantees in life, and life is full of detours and dead-ends, but also lots of amazing journeys! My husband and I try to parent in a loving and attentive way, because we believe that it is good for the children and family dynamic, but more because we LOVE them and we desire to be attentive to their silly stories, their zillions of questions, and their needs. We do it because it is the way we choose to live and love in this world. There is no end-game, no “results” in parenting. Thanks for your comment because it really resonated with me!
Jean V Dubois says
We have two daughters 39 and 33 who have grown into women that we would love to hang out with even if we weren’t related. They don’t ever thank us for specific parenting “wins” (although they will recall the occasional “fail”) but they call just to shoo the breeze, they send our granddaughters to us for a couple of summer weeks, they ask their mother to come help when they need special day care coverage or when they have to be at home after a medical procedure. And they put up with grace their father’s unquenchable desire to hug them when we get down to where they live. That relationship is worth any price but you can’t guarantee it – only drop to your knees and give thanks for it. I would have appreciated Hands Free advice a long time ago and in retrospect I could have done better but my daughters never doubted for a second that their mother and father loved them and adored them and treasured them for who they were. I guess that cancelled out the “fails” and I am constantly grateful .
Ambrey N. says
I believe that there is always hope as long as the parent wants to keep trying it is never over. I think that if you are doing the best that you can then that is all you can do. You are not in control of others except yourself and that includes your children. I hope to be the best mom I can be. If my kids decide that is not enough then there is nothing I can do but keep doing my best to love them, listen to them, and respect them as human beings too. I am leaning towards hope and positivity too. Thank you for this post. I am glad there is hope out there.
Good for you – taking a harsh criticism and turning it into an uplifting, encouraging post.
I realize I haven’t seem the entirety of the comment, but coming from personal experience, parents and children who no longer talk have a shared blame for that. Maybe one part shoulders 99% of the responsibility, but it’s shared nonetheless. I’m not criticizing this poor mom, but pointing out that she might have done (almost) everything right and her children did (almost) everything wrong. Children grow up and make mistakes and sometimes cut those apron strings too severely. They are their own people. It’s not necessarily a reflection of good or bad parenting.
I work with families who are fostering or adopting severely traumatized kids….you bet there is always hope, if there wasn’t these kids would be lost to us forever, it takes caring compassionate people to live and work with these kids and never give up on them so they don’t give up on themselves. They are truly resilient and I am the lucky one that learns from them every day.
I needed this. I’m a speech pathologist and I’m struggling to reach a child completely crippled by stuttering and he is obstinate, defiant, and rude to me. I’m out of ideas and then I read this. My parting message as we leave for the summer will be ” I still believe in you!”
I am a veteran high school teacher. I have dealt with challenging students over the years. Many of those challenging students struggle emotionally. To have someone treat them decently is so meaningful to them. Teaching them decency and showing them care/concern is often more important than the particular subject they are in. The books can follow the care.
Glenn Orin Clifford Stansal says
I am most grateful that one of my beloved daughters, Mandy, posted this on her facebook site tonight, and I then picked it up and shared it to my own, for I, too, am facing a most difficult decision. I can no longer have my twenty-year-old son, Evan, posting such obscene and offensive things onto my fb site. I have given him the choice to continue to do so, and thus, to choose to unfriend me; or to change the content and the offending of all my 117 friends, by cleaning up his act and staying in connection with me. It is the hardest thing I have had to do in many years, but it is, I feel, absolutely necessary. You may see it on my facebook site, under my name, that this is currently ongoing, this evening, and will continue until he responds with his final decision. It has been a long and difficult road for him and me; I have always treated him and his needs with the utmost deference and respect. Sadly, not so, in the opposite direction, however. Thank-you, again, for this helpful piece; it was so miraculously timed, that cannot help but feel good about the possible outcome, no matter which choice he makes, ultimately.
Mary Ann says
Thank you for lifting my spirits and giving me hope. I have a beautiful and loving 7 year old son. He’s been diagnosed as ADHD for the last 2 years and now recently autism. It’s been very challenging and with my depression often times I feel like walking away. Your kind words and wisdom helps to put things in perspective and pushes me to try again and to not give up on this little guy.
Thank you again and I look forward to reading more from your blog.
Thank you so much for this blog. It was a gentle reminder I needed. To always remind my five year old that I believe in him. I grew up not feeling like my parents believe in me, and at 41 years old, I still long for that. I still wish I could turn to them and find that belief. But I know it won’t be there. I can’t change them, I can only work on me. And your blog showed me that it’s not always the big things that matter, but the simple words :I still believe in you. Thank you and God bless.
You said that that reader was “brutally honest”. I don’t know if that is true. Perhaps they are not being honest with themselves. We grew up in a horrible childhood with a mother who told us every day that she hated us and we ruined her life and she wished we didn’t exist. The good times were few and far between. Now none of her three children talk to her because we don’t want more of the same. Now that we are adults we have the ability to say no into control who we hang out with who we choose to let into our lives. If you were to ask my mom, she would tell you that she did nothing wrong and it did the best she could. I do not for one second believe that she did the best she could do and although I have forgiven her and we can’t change the past we can change the future which is why we all leave her to her own delusional thoughts about the past.
Perhaps the person who wrote this comment to you is not being “brutally honest” with themselves and what they did in this relationship.
For me, I have three children of my own and have broken the cycle of abuse. Although some days it is harder than others and your words have lifted me up and inspired me many times. No one can predict what the future will bring but it sounds like to me that you are on the right track 🙂 and I will continue to not only listen to my children but to love them in all their imperfect ways and accept them for who they are. And also accept myself and my imperfections 🙂 only love today.
I agree. This reader’s comment did not sound like it came from a place of insight and kindness. It sounded angry and spiteful. It is one thing to be regretful of one’s mistakes and another to seemingly wish the same outcome on others. It was a very kind response on Rachel’s part.
Your blog is my favorite. Always putting the feelings in my heart into words that can be read. Thank you for your loving approach. Its much easier to be “tough” on our kids than to be patient to the end. I lose my patience daily with my four year old twins while trying to manage a new baby but I am TRYING and I will master my own behavior one day. 🙂
In addition, I have a father that was abusive to us and my mother, short-tempered, and non-attentive. I have a mother that purposely made us feel guilty for everything . It would be easy to write them off as people I don’t want to associate with now because of the way they were. But I choose love. I see how they were as I am now. A fledgling parent learning to… well… parent. Maybe they didn’t do it well, but they did it the best way they knew how at the time. And I will do my best.
I will leave you with a prayer I have recently learned and repeate to myself daily to make it a habit in my life: The prayer of St. Francis – Lord make me an instrument of thy peace, where there is hatred let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may seek not so much to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Love…… thanks for the reminder. I will always keep this in my mind.
Indiana Lori says
I know the death of hope seems awful. It seems the end of the world. But it is not. I agree that we should never stop hoping for our children, but if a child must let go of a parent…well? Sometimes we must let go of the hope an adult can or will change, and take that hope, and feed it into ourselves. I spent 42 years trying, and I’d had enough. I’d made myself physically ill with all that trying, and no one should live in an emotionally abusive relationship with a parent if they can choose otherwise.
I let go of hope, with the help of a therapist, many years of counseling, and the support of my family. The world did not end. In fact…it began. That hope I have transferred into my own parenting, with a plan to break the cycle. But I do agree…hope is the end of the road, and we should hang onto as long as we can. But just know, in rare circumstances, it’s OK to let go.
I really liked your post! It, helped me a little because i dont want to give up on my child, because he is only 14, but when a person has out all their heart and soul into helping another and they in turn get slapped over and over it hurts. My heart hurts, i am depressed over my own child, he needs help and i dont know how to help him any longer!
Where does a mother turn when she feels lost, like she has failed her child? I, am a mother of 3 oldest 16, middle 14, and youngest 8. Middle is my, son he is the one that gives me a run for my money, i am hurting because i feel as if i have failed! I, do all that i am suppose to, as a mother to assure they are good, it is becoming very hard, to where my hands are been thrown up! I am lost, i am overwhelmed, i am giving up i think! all hope positive hope has been lost! Please anyone give me suggestions!
Rachel Stafford says
Von, thank you for openly and honestly sharing your story, your struggle, and your heart. I have a very special colleague who is trained in areas I am not. Sandy Blackard is a brilliant parenting coach and author who helps readers of my blog facing challenging issues. I have asked Sandy to come here and share her wisdom with all of us. In the meantime, I want you to read something I wrote. I pray that it helps you see how you are NOT a failure. In fact, you have done something quite significant and you are still doing it today as you share your heart and soul in an effort to help your child. You have not giving up. You never have. I see it. I see it. I pray you see it too. Read this: http://www.handsfreemama.com/2015/05/10/the-end-of-your-insignificance/
Sandy Blackard says
Like Rachel, I believe in you! I see your struggle and feel your despair, yet the fact that you feel this pain so deeply is proof that you haven’t given up. Giving up feels listless, not angry, and you sound angry, hurt and disappointed with yourself.
You feel you have done all you are supposed to do but it’s not working, so throwing up your hands may feel like giving up on everything. But it also could be that you are simply giving up on things that don’t work, which would be the right thing to do, and an important step in readying yourself for a change.
When you feel overwhelmed, giving up can actually give you a bit of relief, so stay in that space or go in and out of it as much as you need to. Allowing yourself to be wherever you are emotionally and shedding some badly needed tears actually allows you to take another important step toward change.
We may have just seen a mini-version of this progression in your comment: you moved from the pain of despair, to giving up, to requesting suggestions. If so, it’s no accident that the request for suggestions came at the end, not the beginning of your thought process.
And think about it. Why would you make an open request for suggestions if you had completely given up hope? That’s why Rachel and I both feel confident in saying to you that some part of you has to know there is something that can be done, even though you don’t know what. That’s practically the definition of hope!
So while there may be some new things to learn about working with teens that would help you, another missing piece in finding a solution might be a clear understanding of the problem.
Fail is a big word that can encompass many things. And in fact, something that feels like a failure to you, may not seem so to your son. So truly, when you asked, “Where does a mother turn when she feels lost, like she has failed her child?” my first thought was “to your son.” You turn to your son and check, “Have I failed you?”
Most kids at 14 feel like they are their own people already, and not the product of someone else’s parenting, so you may be surprised by his answer. He might take ownership of his own perceived failures, or not see anything as a failure at all. I’m not sure what he is doing that is giving you “a run for your money” and creating doubt in your mind that he is a good, but I can almost guarantee you that his perspective on what he is doing and why will not match yours.
That is why I believe your best next step is to find a family counselor so you can hear each other’s perspective, find mutual goals for your relationship and his future, and work toward a solution that feels right for you both.
Your despair has you focusing on the things you (and maybe he) are doing wrong. When you see the things that are working in your son’s life, or what he thinks is working, you can put the problem in perspective. Plus the best solutions come from understanding what is working already and why, not from focusing on what’s wrong.
Calling a trusted licensed psychologist like our friend and colleague Dr. Theresa Kellam would be a good first step. She can either help you figure out some steps to take immediately or direct you to someone who can. To find out what she can do for you please contact her here:
Meanwhile, here’s another wonderful post by Rachel that might help remind you that despite the struggles you face now, you have always been and will always be there for your son in your heart, and that’s never a failure:
Relief and solutions are what you need. I wish you a swift and safe journey in finding them.
Robert Allen Burge says
I can relate.
I realize this article was written a couple years ago, but what I have to say still applies in the lives of others today.
You student Alan, you spoke of was and more than likely still is a very hurting soul with a broke spirit. I can relate to Alan and where he was and may still be.
My dear, when Alan lashed out and trashed your class room, he was crying out for just a simple embrace and needing to hear the words “its ok, we can fix all this”. Alan just needed to be loved and know that he was loved by someone. Alan needed someone to stand up for him. Instead those like Alan, and myself, just need to be encouraged when we mess up or fail at something. But rather, the Alan’s of this life are criticized and put down, torn down for the mistakes they make, for their shortcomings, for their failures.
What the Alan’s of this life need is someone to let them know the failures, mistakes, shortcomings, are not a big deal, that it don’t matter how bad they mess up, someone still cares and loves them. Someone to tell them “its ok, we can fix all this”. The Alan’s don’t need to be told how they messed up, they already know how they messed up. Just listen and try to understand. Help them carry the burden that weighs them down.
You were very blessed to have a loving father who took the time, no matter how busy or stressed he was to show you he loved and cared about you. To let you know you mattered to him.
Everyone at one point in there life need to know someone cares, loves and does what they can to protect them.
Everyone wants and needs to be included.
I would have to believe Alan was an outsider, shunned by parents, siblings, classmates, etc.
Rejection is the worst thing a person can and will every experience in life. We see in the word of God how rejection even had a heartbreaking effect on God, when the people would reject Him.
To reject a person, child or adult, young or old, is painful and destroys a lot of lives.
Rejection says to a person; you don’t matter, you mean nothing to me, I don’t like/love you. Rejection sends the message, “I am of no value to anyone”!
Just a simple embrace, touch of the hand, a hug, a hand on the back, and two little words, “its ok” can give someone what they need in order to find hope in this life.
This world is to caught up in feeling the need to upbraid another when they fail, or make mistakes. We can correct a person when they do wrong without upbraiding them, but even correction without encouragement says to the Alan’s of the world, you are a failure.
Don’t let the young Alan’s of this world become the 50 year old Alan’s still living without hope or the suicide statistic.
I just want to say to all the Alan’s; “it ok, we can fix this” together! If it means anything at all. I care about you!
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