Pain Interferes With Listening

Legitimate Reasons for Parent-Child Conflict –

1. Pain Interferes With Listening: When a kid seems insensitive or selfish, it is because he is in too much emotional pain to be able to consider the parent. Pain interferes with listening and with understanding where the parent is coming from. This is particularly hard to understand when the kid hides his pain with rage or with the “silent-treatment.”

When counseling families, I always here the parent say, “My child doesn’t listen …he needs to listen.” Then the kid says about the parent, “My mom doesn’t listen to me either.” So, nobody is listening, and here’s why:

Let’s say you and I were on a construction site, and I had just fallen off the roof and broke my shoulder – and at about the same time, you chopped your thumb off at the band saw. Then you come to me for some support — you need help because you are bleeding to death. But guess what? Unfortunately I’m in too much of my own pain to consider your pain. Not because I’m being selfish or insensitive – I’m simply not able to help you now that I have fractured shoulder.

If I hadn’t just fallen 10 feet onto hard ground, I would find you thumb, put you in my pickup truck, and we would go to the hospital in hopes that they could sow your thumb back on. But given my current state, I CAN”T HELP YOU. Sorry!

This is exactly what’s going on in the home where parent-child conflict has gone on for many months, if not years. Parent and child are in so much of their own individual ’emotional pain’ that they are literally unable to consider the other person’s pain. So mom thinks that her child is selfish and insensitive …the daughter/son thinks that mom doesn’t care …and all this is going on because Pain Interferes With Listening.

Here are some more legitimate reasons for parent-child conflict –

2. Parent and kid get defensive when talking to one another because there is an emotional link between the two. Think about it. When you don’t care about someone (e.g., Joe Blow), it doesn’t matter much what that person says or does. But when you love and care for someone — and when you want that person to love and respect you — it hurts when they do unloving, uncaring things. And that hurt comes out as anger and conflict.

3. How many times has your out-of-control kid called you a “B”? Strong-willed kids hate when their parent nags, and they try to get the parent to stop nagging by getting angry at the parent and calling here a “B” in order to create distance. But nagging equals importance. The parent nags because her kid is important, and because she doesn’t want her kid to destroy the relationship. Unfortunately, the kid doesn’t know this and views “nagging” as criticism and harassment. As a result, the parent’s good message gets lost.

4. Parents are freaked-out by the fact that they are losing control of their kid’s behavior. And this fear can come out as anger and rage directed toward the out-of-control kid — more conflict.

5. Sometimes family members behave in manipulative, hurtful ways not because they think this will change the other person’s behavior, but because they honestly feel they are doing the best they can given the circumstances.

6. Everybody in the family thinks they’re doing right. If we think others do bad things because they have evil intentions, we may give up trying to influence them, become afraid of them, get angry with them,

seek revenge, etc. Family members aren’t “bad,” they’re just desperate to find a solution to the family-problems and haven’t found one yet.

7. Family members are sharing a common experience (e.g., hurt, fear), but are expressing their emotions in different, and sometimes strange ways (e.g., dad has an intimate relationship with the computer, mom sleeps a lot, kid #1 stays away from home all the time, kid #2 eats too much and has a weight problem, kid #3 fails in school and starts smoking pot) — more stress, more conflict.