Client Story: Criticism in Relationships

My client "Jane" had a recent breakthrough she asked me to share.

Jane came to me with a lot of judgements that played out in her relationship with her 22 year old son:

  • He's not a committed college student so now in his senior year she has to regularly check grades and ask if he goes to class

  • His friends are interviewing so she tells him he better hurry up and figure out his future

  • He doesn't consistently respond to texts or calls. Jane tells him it's inconsiderate and hurtful but he doesn't seem to care

  • Jane's critical of his girlfriend and shares that she and her family aren't a good fit

On Jane's son's part, he repeatedly complained that his mom's controlling. He said she needs to back off and that he can be with whoever he wants.

Jane tried to change her son's opinion by explaining it's "mom's job" to look out for him, check up on him, protect him from mistakes. And that means she won't censor herself or act "fake."

Of course we want to be genuine and honest with our kids. And of course we want to guide them from our decades of wisdom.

But when a relationship is strained, it's worth looking at our behavior to see what help vs. hurts.

We're going to have opinions. That's what humans do. Our brains are like little courtrooms where a part is always in judge-and-jury mode.

Jane started paying attention to her thoughts. She was surprised by her judgment-focus and how it fed more negativity. Jane could see this wasn't helpful to her relationship with her son. She recognized that his criticisms of her made her feel insecure in their relationship. But she still had concerns about being fake. She still really believed she's "right."

So Jane learned to ask herself a simple question: Is pushing my agenda worth risking the relationship?

Clarity about our highest priorities and values helps inform how we can want and choose to act.

When we act with what I call "conscious integrity" we're the opposite of fake. We're more genuine by purposefully behaving in ways that are in sync with who we want to be.

Conscious integrity encourages us to act in ways we can be proud of in the big picture, instead of being in default, reactive mode in the moment. Saying things we regret later. Experiencing consequences we wouldn't choose.

Jane decided that to be in integrity with herself meant showing her son unconditional love. She decided to act in ways consistent with her highest value being the relationship.

Which meant she'd accept her son not having post-grad plans. She'd wouldn't make his lack of reply mean he's ungrateful or rude. She'd trust him to figure out his dating relationship. Out of love for her son she'd look for good in the girl and her family. She'd look for good in all of it. To be true to herself and her desire for a more positive, loving relationship.

Jane's son might continue to criticize her. He might not trust her new approach. It might take time for him to see that she loves him no matter who he is or the mistakes he makes.

The upside for Jane is that she feels better no matter what. She feels more positively about her son which provides more positivity in their relationship. She's proud of herself for taking charge of who she wants to be. She's free of the negative criticism that had hijacked her momma brain.

If I can help you transform the relationship with a young adult child, please reach out! I'm here to help moms and adult kids have the best relationships possible. Let's keep our families intact!


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