"Assignment #1 in your program requires me to tell my daughter that I love her. I used to do this every day, but can't do it now because it's no longer true. I can't stand her. She is so rude and hateful to me. If I can't do this, is it worth me going on with the rest of the exercises – you said 'no half measures'?"
What we’re talking about here is resentment. This is not uncommon (i.e., parents not liking their out-of-control, disrespectful teenagers). In fact, I often had parents tell me (in my former roll as a probation officer) that they simply want their kid out of the house (e.g., “Just get him out. I don't want him living here anymore …take him and lock him up!”).
I don’t think you hate your daughter – I think you hate her behavior. In any event, if you cannot bring yourself to say to your daughter “I love you,” it is not going make much difference in your ability to effectively work the program. The larger issue here is resentment, which WILL get in the way of successfully working the program. You’ll need to work on that, and the best time is now!
Resentment will make it nearly impossible to stay objective throughout the four-week program. And without objectivity, you run the risk of getting emotionally tangled-up in the day-to-day conflict that must be weathered with a poker face. Forgiveness is the cure for resentment. Let’s talk about that for a minute...
- is a way to let go of resentment
- means letting go of the past
- is for you, not your "hateful" daughter
- is a gift you give yourself
- lets you get on with your life
- takes time (maybe you’re not able to forgive yet; perhaps the pain is too fresh - you don’t have to hurry)
- is a process (it doesn’t happen 100% overnight)
- allows you to feel better about you
- is a choice (it’s not something you do because you “should” forgive, or because someone tells you to)
- allows you to heal old wounds so you can get on with the really important things in life
- gets you un-stuck
Forgiveness does NOT mean:
- forgetting (you need to remember what happened so you can protect your mental health in the future)
- you’re letting anyone off the hook (except yourself)
- you have to tell your daughter that you have forgiven her
- you have to trust her again (trust is earned; she will have to earn your trust back before you can trust her again)
- you’re saying to your child, “What you do and say to me is O.K."
- you’re trying to alleviate her feelings of guilt
- you’re trying to make her feel better about herself
- you’re trying to make her feel better about you
Forgive your daughter - not because she deserves it, but because you deserve to be set free from that emotional pain! You may need to forgive yourself too. Sometimes we can’t forgive others until we forgive ourselves. I offer you the following exercise in forgiveness. With your hand on your heart, take a deep breath and affirm:
“I completely forgive my daughter. I know I have done the best I could given the circumstances. If I had been in a different state of mind, or if I had more information when my child started acting out, I probably would have parented her differently. I ask God to help me reach the place of forgiveness for myself and for my child. I love and accept myself with all of my problems and perceived limitations. I am letting go of resentment. I am now able to replace it with forgiveness and hope.”
My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents