Make Peace with Your Mom
- Thursday, February 15, 2007
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of H. Norman Wright and Sheryl Wright Macauley's book, Making Peace with Your Mom, (Bethany House Publishers, 2006).
Your relationship with your mom has more power than any other to impact your emotional health. Whether your relationship with your mom is currently close or distant, it can always use improvement. Any unresolved issues between you will hurt you unless you make peace with her.
Here’s how you can make peace with your mom:
Evaluate your relationship. Consider your past and present relationship with your mom by asking yourself some key questions: “How would you describe your relationship with your mom?”, “In what way was your mom there for you?”, “In what way wasn’t your mom there for you?”, “Describe how your mom has influenced or shaped your life (either negatively or positively).”, “If your relationship was lacking, what have you done to overcome this?”, “What do you appreciate the most and the least in your mother’s involvement with you?”, “If your mother’s interaction was missing in your life, how did you fill this void?”, “What are three rules your mother taught you about life?” and “At this point in your life, what would you like to be able to say to your mother?”.
Reflect on your memories. Think about your memories of your mom and how they affect your life today. Notice your feelings when you ponder memories such as: your first memory of her, your last memory of her, your best memory of her, your worst memory of her. Also remember times when something especially memorable happened in your relationship, such as: when you were most proud of her or when she was most proud of you, you were most upset with her, you laughed the hardest at something she did or said, you discovered a secret about her, you said something to her you wish you could take back, and you first shared a spiritual experience together. Consider what these and other memories tell you about your mom. Keep in mind that God loves both you and your mom in spite of the flaws you each have. Find photos of yourself at various ages growing up, and think about the quality of relationship you had with your mom at each age as you look at the photos. After doing this, write a summary statement of your childhood. Think about who you were, who you could have been, and what you can do now to move forward with your life.
Respond wisely to your mom’s voice. Listen to your mom’s voice that you hear in your mind, reminding you of the messages she’s given you in the past. Pay attention to what she says in your current conversations. Realize that, although you can’t control what she communicates to you, you can choose how to respond to her messages. Pray about unhealthy messages from your mom, asking God to renew your mind and help you discard lies (such as an assertion that you’ll never amount to anything) and replace them with truth (such as the reality that you’re valuable to God and that your life has a great purpose). Don’t let your mom’s voice resonating in your head control your life. Understand that issues that frustrate you about the way your mom interacts with you can be resolved if you set proper boundaries with her. For example, you can ask her to call before visiting rather than just showing up unannounced, and if she still comes by without calling, you can politely yet firmly let her know it’s not a good time to visit.
Know that if your mom labels you in a way that upsets you, you don’t have to just accept that negative label. Instead, you can put it into perspective by asking yourself: “What indicates this belief is true? Where is the evidence? If I were to ask three friends if this is true, what would they say?”, “What’s another way of looking at this situation? What’s an alternative response?” and “If there is truth in this belief, what do I want to do to correct it?” Think about the rules (both spoken and unspoken) your mom taught you about life, such as: which subjects should be discussed and which should be off limits; when it’s appropriate to discuss certain subjects and when it’s not; who to associate with and who not to; what your family would or wouldn’t do; how you’re supposed to act around the opposite sex and friends of your same gender; how you’re supposed to act at church; and how you’re supposed to feel about yourself, school, and work. As you consider these rules, think about which of them you’re thankful for, which you wish you’d never been given, which rules are still guiding your life, and which rules you’d like to give up following now. Practice changing any unhealthy messages your mom gave you to healthy messages that reflect your own decisions as an adult.
Resist criticism and control. Stop worrying about trying to earn your mom’s approval. Realize that the only approval that ultimately matters is God’s approval. Recognize that your mom’s personality and parenting style may be drastically different from your own. Understand that it’s futile to try to change her; decide to accept her for who she is. If your mom hurts your relationship by criticizing or trying to control you, choose to either leave the situation, ignoring her, anticipating her moves and changing the subject, or honestly discussing your concerns with her in a firm yet respectful way. When talking with her about behavior that bothers you, seek simply to convey information rather than condemning her. Be specific and make it your goal to try to resolve the issue. Whenever your mom criticizes or attempts to control you anyway, don’t get defensive or counter attack. Instead, remain confident and calm. Simply agree with any truth in what’s she’s saying (or the possibility that what she’s saying is true), without offering her any response beyond that. Just repeat your same statements if she pushes the conversation further. Give up arguing with her. Remember that if you’re at peace with yourself, you can deal with your mom well and confront bothersome issues without alienating her.
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