Raising my youngest daughter as a single parent, particularly through her teenage years, was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. She struggles with depression, anger, low self-esteem, resentment, and a general feeling of being unloved. Not denying that there may be other factors involved, I am convinced that my inept parenting had a significant role to play in the emotional challenges my daughter faces.
Throughout her childhood, my expressions of love to my daughter had always been measured based on her behavior. My parenting style was to punish when her behavior needed correcting, manipulate when necessary, argue to make a point, preach to when moved upon, and yell at when all else failed. The result of this was that as the years went by, my daughter's behavior and our relationship slowly deteriorated.
By the time she turned 14, I felt desperate. Things had gotten so bad that I finally had to admit to myself that I needed help. I took parenting classes, read parenting books, and forced my reluctant daughter info family counseling. The new parenting techniques that I was learning worked for a while but none had any lasting effect. My hope in doing all this was to change my daughter; however, the irony as it turned out, was that it was I that needed to change.
About 2 years ago, after expressing my frustrations about my daughter to a friend, her response profoundly impacted me; she simply told me that God was waiting for me to move out of the way so that He could do His work with my daughter. In that moment, the realization came to me that I had taken upon myself 100% of the responsibility for raising her even though I had prayed fervently for help. That realization was the beginning of a process of change in me and the turning point in my relationship with my daughter.
Though it felt un-natural at first, I began to force myself to regularly hug and kiss my daughter and tell her that I love her even in the midst of those times that I felt she was the least loveable. Slowly, there began to build in me feelings of compassion for my daughter where there would normally have been anger. Saying 'I love you' to her became easier and easier and hugging and kissing her is now a routine part of our interaction. She had come to expect me to judge and condemn her whenever she did something wrong, but now, instead of doing that, I console and encourage her and tell her that I love and will continue to love her no matter what.
The unexpected miracle in all of this is that my daughter is responding positively too, and because of the change in me. She was skeptical at first, but as I persisted in showing her unconditional love, she also began to spontaneously tell me that she loved me, she opens up to me more than she ever had, she is less often depressed, and if she gets angry with me for any reason, her anger dissipates within a short period of time. I never imagined in all the years that I spent trying to change my daughter, using various parenting techniques and my own inherited style of parenting, that the answer was simply to love her unconditionally.
I am still a far way away from perfecting this virtue because I slip back from time to time, but I am grateful for the testimony I have gained of the power of unconditional love.
Submitted by Anonymous
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