Posted by: coachingparents | August 9, 2007

Competition for Love


I asked a group of teenagers what, if anything, was the single greatest stumbling block preventing them from having a healthy parent/ child relationship. WOW! I was not prepared for their response. “Our parents are competing for our love”. I pressed further for a more succinct explanation and discovered that regardless of the family dynamics, (single, divorced or together) the child is, more often than not, caught between a rock and a hard place in trying to balance an otherwise emotional roller coaster between the two most important people in this child’s life. “How does this show up” I asked? “Our Dad typically involves himself in our competitive events (sometimes living out his own uneventful childhood through us); and our Mom typically involves herself in our emotional events competing with our Dad and other Moms to be sure we’re given every opportunity to ‘fit in’. Each one trying to gain, what appears to us, a competitive edge over our relationship with them? Our ‘hanging-in-the-balance’ feelings are mere afterthoughts, if anything”.

There are NO winners in this competition. On the contrary, the child loses out every time. The consequences of being caught in the middle of a power struggle between parents without any consideration being given as to the effects it has on the child, turns into a one-up-man ship battle for the child’s attention and affection. The disservice to the child’s self worth can be catastrophic Parents competing for the attention of their child so that they can feel as though they are the better parent are, in fact, driving a huge wedge in the relationship. Kids are a lot smarter than we’re giving them credit for here. They know there is no way they will ever settle the score between the competing parents so they ride the wave, learning, instead, to manipulate each parent into providing them with their ‘wants’ rather than their ‘needs’. Is it any wonder that today’s teens have been dubbed the “Lost Generation” (their words-not mine)? In my studies and research on parent development ALL CHILDREN learn to respect their parents when they attend to their needs. Providing all the materialistic/or superficial ‘wants’ to a child to win them over, will never put ‘humpty dumpty together again”.

Be honest. Do you see yourself in this scenario? If yes, discuss it with your kid. If no, discuss it with your kid anyway. I guarantee an enlightening discussion.

By Becky Kapsalis

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