Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

“Do you like me?” Children always have this unspoken question on their minds and it’s easy for parents to overlook it. The answer is crucial to both friendship and parenting. Like good listening habits, liking habits are part of the overall parental attitude the children will take to heart.

Parents send a lot of messages about liking. Every time the kids do anything, the parents react negatively or with support or indifference. What a parent likes and doesn’t like about what’s going on is constantly expressed.

What should a parent look for in a child’s or a teen’s choices of action? We parents know the bad behaviors well but we are less specific about the good.

Mom: “Leave the baby alone, Nathan”

Nathan: “I was just going to pat him.”

Now Mom has a choice. She could say, “I know what you were going to do. Now just stay away, you will wake him!” Or she could say,”I like to pat him too, but it will wake him and he’s tired.”

She has the same choice when the mistake is already done: (Nathan drops his jelly sandwich.) “You are so messy! Look what you did!” Or she could say, “Oh, look what happened! Better pick it up and get a paper towel.”

If Mom goes with her first impulse, she emphasizes Nathan, the person. You will wake him , you are messy! If she chooses her second choice, she emphasizes a situation that she and Nathan are dealing with together: It will wake him. Look what happened.

It won’t make a lot of difference to Nathan on this one occasion, but over the days and weeks, Nathan ends up with a very different message and a very different relationship with Mom.

Many of us had a good mother like Nathan’s. Very concerned, always carefully watching, correcting, often lecturing. But Nathan was frequently disagreeable and angry. When I asked Nathan’s mom for examples of Nathan’s good behavior, she had trouble getting started but finally came up with common ones such as “doing well in school” and “getting along with others.” I asked her to look for specifics of these during the next week and compliment Nathan when he showed success.

At our next meeting she reported an odd reaction after a compliment. Nathan said, “What’s the matter with you?” After another week of being on the lookout for chances to show a little liking, Nathan’s mom encountered another odd reaction:

Nathan asked, “Do you like me?”

“Nathan, I’m you Mother, I love you. Of course I like you,” Mom said.
“Wow,” said Nathan; already ten and just finding out that his mom not only loves him, she likes him!


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