The phrase “stop it, I like it!” connotes the ambivalence children feel in relation to their mother.
On the one hand, growing children and adolescents want to be left alone to explore and find their own way. On the other hand, these same children and adolescents would feel neglected if their mothers did not show interest and concern. Mothers sometimes feel that they are in a no win situation.
Pam, a 14 year old, asks her mom if she looks good in the dress she is wearing.
- If her mom says “yes”, Pam will feel good momentarily then argue “You are only saying that because you are my mother”.
- If mom says “no”, Pam will feel upset and cry “You always criticise me”.
- If mom refuses to comment, Pam will feel neglected.
In short, Pam wants feedback but it feels like her mother never gets it quite right. Pam’s mother feels confused and rebuffed.
In this scenario, both mother and daughter feel stressed.
Jason is a 15 year old who wants to drink alcohol at parties. His mother is adamant that he is too young and asks him to promise that he will not. Jason is furious and shouts “I am not a baby anymore and you can’t tell me what to do.” But, internally, Jason is relieved that his mother cares, is behaving like an adult and not trying to be his friend.
Jason will probably go ahead and do what he likes. His mother will be stressed at home worrying about his safety.
Tips for mothers.
These tips will give you direction and reduce stress. By focusing on your behaviour and not on your child’s reaction, you can feel calm and centred.
- Be an interested parent no matter your child’s age. Allowing independence does not mean neglect.
- Stay true to yourself. This way you will give a consistent message over time.
- Give honest feedback. You will not get it right anyway but at least you are being honest. Hopefully, sometime in the future, what you said may be accepted by your child.
- Encourage independence but keep a look out for potential “danger”. Protecting your child, and teaching values, continues throughout adolescence.
- Do not be pressured into anything. Stand firm. Get support if necessary.
- Do not try too hard to be liked. It is more important that your children respect you than like you.
- Be flexible. Allow more independence, privacy and autonomy as your child matures.
- Relax. These interactions are normal.