A Parent's Good IntentionsDec 09, 2022
Letting go of good intentions could transform your parenting.
This year my son went through his first love and breakup. This kid is loyal to the end and fell hard for his girlfriend. And when they broke up, he broke apart. We had countless tearful conversations, and he just could not seem to put it behind him.
I tried to be supportive and help him see things differently and start to heal. He would say things like, “I can’t see myself feeling good with anyone again, ever.” And I would say stuff like, “I know it feels that way, babe. How might you start to feel differently over time?” and other super cool momming skills.
Eventually, he got angry: “Stop it! I’m telling you how I feel, and you just keep telling me why I shouldn’t feel that way!!!”
But that’s not what I meant!
And my internal reaction was - “That’s not what I’m doing at all, you’re misinterpreting me, and I’m actually saying all the right things!”
It’s easy to think those good intentions are what count, but no. Our intentions don’t protect anyone from being hurt by us. Impact is people’s actual experience of us, and that has to be central in parenting. Allowing intentions to pull focus from impact is a source of pain and distance in relationships, and it blocks us from being effective with our kids.
Instead of defending myself, I said, “I am sorry I’m doing that. Please give me another chance to just listen.” He let it all out, and I could completely understand why he felt the way he did - both about his breakup and about my reaction to his feelings, and that’s exactly what I told him. I stopped trying to help. I validated his emotions and owned my mistake.
He walked away from that conversation, visibly different from our past talks. He seemed less lost, more self-assured. Yesterday he told me that our conversation made a big difference to him, and it was big for me too. It’s a conversation we would not have had if I had hidden behind my good intentions.
Parents have nothing but good intentions - of course, we don’t mean to hurt our children! But we do it anyway. Deciding that impact is what matters lessens the odds that our impact will cause lasting harm. We validate, acknowledge, repair, and attune to our kids in ways we simply cannot when we’re focused on intention. Their experience of us matters and is real - and they can see our belief in that through our words and actions.
If you're struggling
If you’re struggling to repair your relationship with your child, to make the distinction between your intentions and impact, or to get them to line up a little better, I’m here to help. Reach out for a free consultation today and share your story.