When they were little, they came and told us everything every day. They vied for our attention. We didn’t have to ask them anything. They went round and round us and wanted to tell us all about their friends, people they met, things they did, what they had at lunch time, who said what to whom and so on.
A few years later, we started going round and round them, asking – what did you do today? Who did you meet? How are your friends? What did you have at lunch time and so on… but we didn’t get much more than monosyllables in response. What happened? Same child. Same parents. When did the equation change?
When they were tiny, we looked at them and smiled at the lovely things they said. They received our appreciation. They felt our complete acceptance of who they were, our whole-hearted approval of their pure innocence.
One day they came to us and said, ”Guess what! Today I bunked school to go watch a film.” Did we smile then? Did they feel our approval, acceptance or appreciation? No. They didn’t. If we could have smiled that day, they would have come and told us each and every detail of their day. But that day they felt our rejection. That day we put a deep long distance between them and us. They came to us with an openness which we were not ready for. Our judgement got in the way. We gave them a proper telling off in their best interest. In the evening, a family meeting was held to discuss the fact that this child has gone off the rails. The child got criticism, humiliation, ridicule and a feeling that everyone was trying to control their actions.
A few days later they tell us that they were introduced to smoking cigarettes by a friend at a party. That day a big huge drama takes place at home. Slowly, they stop telling us anything. We think they have learnt their lesson and stopped doing those things. In fact they have only stopped telling us what they were doing because they don’t want to meet our disapproval, our inability to listen without judgement.
We wondered how and why this distance came about?
Because we made them feel deeply rejected.
Everyone needs appreciation, approval and acceptance to experience closeness in any relationship. That leads us to the issue of boundaries and discipline. More thoughts about that tomorrow. Of course, I am no expert.