Parenting can be exhausting. It becomes exhausting when you believe you are doing everything you can and you keep getting the same bad result. Michele and Kimberly are in a vicious cycle. Michele is exhausted because she can’t see that she is participating in the misbehavior and causing it to continue.
Parents assume certain roles with their children. Sometimes the roles vary and at other times they become fixed. In Michele’s relationship with her daughter, she has become the doting mother. She describes how indulgent she is with her daughter, but Michele’s expectation is that with the indulgence of Kimberly’s wishes will come cooperation. Kimberly is cooperating but not in the way Michele expects. Kimberly keeps asking or even demanding what she wants and her mother is expected to comply. When she doesn’t, Kimberly escalates her behavior so that they continue in the relationship of demanding daughter and doting mother.
Jim has a teen age daughter, Marissa. She, like all teens her age, wants to go out and socialize with friends. Her favorite activities are to hang out and go to the movies. Jim thinks this behavior is a waste of time. He is very strict with Marissa. He expects her to come home straight from school on weekdays and do homework and help around the house. He allows her to go out occasionally on weekends when he knows that an adult will be around for supervision.
Marissa has been rebelling against her father’s rules. She has been skipping school and hanging out but with the wrong crowd. In response, Jim has become even more stringent with is rules requiring Marissa to be accompanied to and from school and not allowing any social activities.
Jim’s role is the disciplinarian. He has very little contact with his daughter except to discipline her and to evaluate her school work. As he continues to intensify the role of disciplinarian, Marissa is increasing her rebellious behavior.
Jim expresses his feelings about teens and their behavior: “When I was a teen-ager, I had to work. My father expected me to do chores around the house, watch my younger siblings, maintain a part time job and bring home good grades. I had responsibilities. The teens today think life is about having fun and hanging out. I don’t see how Marissa is going to be prepared for life if she thinks it’s all fun and games.”
Michele is playing the role of the indulgent parent as she perceived her parents to be. She felt loved and cared for when her parents gave her something nice—like an outing to the movies or a toy. She saw these behaviors as acts of love because they didn’t have much. Michele was expressing love to Kimberly in a way that was familiar to her, but as a result she raised a daughter who expected to be indulged. Their relationship then formed a cycle or pattern. When Michele grew tired of the pattern, she wanted Kimberly to change.
Jim formed a relationship with her daughter based on his understanding of parenting. He wanted her to grow up in his image—a hardworking, responsible and driven person. Marissa has no younger siblings. The household income is more than substantial and there is no need for her to work. She is very bright and doesn’t need to work hard to get A’s. She thinks she is entitled to enjoy herself. Jim sees her way of thinking as irresponsible and likely to lead her into trouble.
Jim believes he has to assume the role of strict disciplinarian in order to be a good parent. His own parenting set the stage for his expectations of his child. All parents face the same dilemma—they parent in the way they have been parented. Sometimes parents choose to do the opposite. They disdain their own upbringing and as a result will choose to be substantially different than their own parents. Either way, being in a fixed role as a parent will lead to repetitive behaviors in your child.