Advice For Someone Else's Daughter
Updated: Jun 9, 2020
Dear Someone Else’s Dad,
I’ve been working from my old bedroom in my parents’ house during the pandemic. I know everyone in my situation complains about being back with their parents, yadda yadda. But how can I talk to my parents, as adult to adults, to let them know they’re driving me nuts and making me act out in the ways I did when I was 15?
I’m Not 15
Dear I’m Not 15,
Your question rings very true to me from the opposite side of the question since our adult daughter, who is living with us, clearly feels the same way you do. I admit I’m not the easiest person to live with, and when my kids told me over the years that my self-assessment is very accurate, I kind of laughed it off and didn’t do much to change my behavior.
Recently though, when my daughter said, “Dad, can I talk to you for a minute?” I didn’t do what I usually do, which is to say, “Sure,” and then continue walking to wherever I desperately needed to go, i.e, anywhere else. We sat down at the kitchen table together and she pulled out her journal. I was trapped.
She showed me a drawing of a circular pattern of Feelings-> Thoughts->
Behaviors->Feelings, etc., and said that some of my actions were causing negative emotions, which led her to behaviors that she had been trying to quell, much like your “acting out.” Then she showed me specific examples of things I had either said to her or things that I done on specific dates (man, she had good notes!) which I couldn’t deny. I also couldn’t deny how my words or actions affected her emotions. There was a clear pattern laid out right in front of me, and I realized that if I wanted to help my daughter not engage in whatever behaviors she wanted to stop, I was the one who had to change.
The ironic thing about this chat was that for years I’ve been training corporate people to resolve conflicts by pointing out how specific actions affect people’s feelings. And here I was at home not realizing how important those skills are with people you love.
My daughter is a trained mindfulness coach, so her ideas didn’t come out of nowhere. She is exceedingly thoughtful and wise, but she told me later that it was very hard for her to ask me to have a chat together. I’m very glad she did. I can’t say I have completely changed, but I think I’ve stopped myself on numerous occasions before bleating out something potentially caustic. It’s not easy, but I’m working on it.
So back to your situation. Even though you want to say, “You are driving me crazy with your nagging and making me feel like I’m 15,” here’s an alternative suggestion:
Document their specific actions and how they made you feel,
Suggest things they can do to help you, like avoiding saying certain words or taking a moment to pause before speaking to you,
Work together to come up with an action plan.
Relationships, even with your parents, are not one-sided. If your parents love you as much as I love my kids they’ll do what they can to avoid hurting you. You just need to take a deep breath and say, “Dad, can I talk to you for a minute?” and walk together to the kitchen table.