Ask yourself better questions and get the relationship you want.
I have never been a kid person. In fact, a few times in my life I have been coerced into teaching dance classes for children and I could not stand it. Why? I simply don’t like to be around other people’s children.
This aversion to kids was just “one of those things about me” (I thought), but became incredibly inconvenient once I became a step-mom.
First thing’s first, my stepson is a really sweet kid. But man oh man do I have a tough time loving him. It seems like he was created with every little habit that drives me crazy all packaged into one little boy that I’m “supposed to” love.
As I watch friends who are step-moms who naturally adore their step-kids, I think to myself, “What’s the matter with me? Why can’t I love him like that?” But that’s asking myself the wrong questions.
If you want to get a helpful answer in your life, never ask yourself, “What’s wrong with me?” That question sets you up for an answer that you not only don’t want to hear but is also not helpful.
Our brains are programmed to answer questions. So the answer the brain gives is dependent on the question you ask it. Your brain will not say “Hang on… that question is really going to give you a shitty answer.” Your brain just answers the question presented.
So it’s really important to ask yourself helpful questions.
Here are a few helpful questions to ask yourself when you care enough to learn to love someone else’s child:
1. “What’s good about this person?”
Everyone has something good about him or her (whether we want to admit it or not). I remember at a parent-teacher conference, my stepson’s teacher said he was the “heart of the class.”
I did a double take. Really!?
After that day I watched him with his friends and realized not only was he liked by everyone, he really facilitated an air of lightheartedness amongst the other children. I had never seen him like this, but having his good qualities brought to my attention gave me the chance to see him in a new light.
2. “How is this issue a reflection of something I don’t like about myself?”
Other people are mirrors who provide a reflection of us. When there’s something that pisses you off about someone else, it’s a reflection of an unloved aspect of yourself.
My stepson is like a little fairy… light and playful… creative and imaginative. When I’m around him, I get serious and tense.
Why? Because his lightness reflects parts of myself that I don’t see as valuable and worthwhile, which means those qualities really bug me when he exhibits them… especially when people love him for it.
Since I understand that his lightheartedness is a reflection of me, when I find myself getting “triggered” and falling into more rigid behavior and thoughts, I can remind myself that I just need to lighten up. My stepson provides me with a reminder of that.
3. “What do we have in common?”
We all can find something in common and it may not be as obvious as a special hobby or favorite food. It could be a way of thinking or seeing the world.
When you can identify your similarities, it will provide a bonding experience. At first, the only common thread may be something you both don’t like… take what you can get!
4. “How would I like to be treated?”
It’s the golden rule and worth stating here. Think about if you were a kid. Would you want to be treated like you’re treating this child?
And if the answer is “no” but you STILL can’t change your behavior, then it’s time to take a look at the child within you and ask, “Did I not get the attention I deserved in some way when I was a kid?”
There may be part of you that needed to be treated in ways that are more loving than you experienced in your young life. Healing your own past wounds brings resolution to the present.
5. “What child part of myself is having difficulty right now?”
This question will help when you notice that a part of you is acting like a child and wanting to withhold love and attention from another human being, specifically this child. Ask yourself, “How old do I feel right now?” and put your hand on your heart to receive an answer.
Inside, there is a child — you — who needs healing and by giving yourself attention in the way you would have liked back then, you will heal old wounds. Get help from a therapist or coach with this issue if you need to.
It’s worth it so you can receive the love that this relationship offers!
6. “How can I give myself permission to feel what I feel?”
Sometimes we will feel angry, sad or totally jealous and we need to give ourselves permission to feel that way. If we try to blow past our feelings, we will never be able to love ourselves, let alone someone else who bothers us.
Practice accepting yourself with this question.
7. “How can I be kind to myself?”
Loving someone else who is difficult to love is not easy. Be kind to yourself and give yourself what you need. Do you need a break? A night off? A hot bath? A place to be alone? A call with a friend, or maybe a walk outside?
Take care of yourself first. We can’t be helpful to anyone else if we aren’t taking care of ourselves — especially when it gets hard.
8. “What boundaries do I need to have in place so this relationship can work?”
Just because you love someone doesn’t mean you have to spend every moment with them or take care of them in ways you don’t want to. We need to have boundaries so we can have loving relationships.
Some relationships are best when we only see people occasionally, or when the person is not in our face constantly. Create ways that you can live your life on your terms as much as possible.
9. “What is this relationship trying to teach me?”
Relationships exist in our lives as a sole function to grow, not for us to be comfortable. As humans, we think we want to feel comfortable, but after a while, we get stagnant; because, just like everything else in nature, we are supposed to be growing.
When we ask ourselves what the relationship is trying to teach us, we get a clue as to how we can become a better person. That new way of being will provide us with lots of opportunities to experience life in a way that we just couldn’t experience had the relationship not existed.
In my experience, learning to love someone else’s kid has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.
There is a reason that 50 percent of new marriages fail within the first year, and studies say it takes 8 years to blend a family. Because it’s hard! And in 8 years, the kids aren’t kids anymore anyway!
However, the relationship challenges that come along with learning to love someone else’s child have equal rewards. And if you can hang in there and ask the right questions of yourself, you will have a chance to experience getting love back from this child when you never thought it could be possible.