Mommie Fearest

Dear Dr. Darcy: 

My 16-year old daughter is not doing well in school and currently has a solid B average. She is constantly studying hours every day but she is doing so badly! We have tried everything from tutoring to grounding her. She knows our expectations are to do engineering, pre-med, or business but her math marks are not good and I am afraid she will have no future. What can I do to help her?

ANSWER: 

The toughest part of this question is my choice of tone in the answer. I can lean in, give it to you straight and hard, which will entertain my followers but which will likely result in you shutting down and failing to learn anything…or I can spoon feed you an answer that will be more likely to resonate with you but which will surely result in viewers falling asleep before they hit the end. This is my dilemma. And I’m not sure which way to go.

As a parent, it behooves you to view your daughter through a lens of curiosity – which is the exact opposite of having expectations that you impose upon her. Ideally you’d be curious about what she likes, what she exceeds at, where her strengths lie. Instead, you’ve chosen to ignore the very obvious data - which I find odd given your affinity for math (or is it just your daughter who needs to excel at math?) - and you’re pushing her into a narrow choice of fields which require a skillset that doesn't appear to come easily to her. Do you know how it feels to spend your life trying to master an aptitude that doesn’t come naturally? It would be like me expecting you to work in my field, to utilize emotional intelligence on a daily basis.

If you choose to stay on this course, your child will continue to attempt to meet your highly unreasonable expectations, which will destroy her self-esteem and undermine her sense of self, the combination of which is the strongest indicator of life happiness or misery. THIS, not her choice of career, will result in a lifetime handicap, impacting every aspect of her world.  So you see, you have a decision to make: Let her live her life or force her to fail at yours.

Your daughter is doing very well, despite your parenting. The people who run this world and who make 7-figures tend to be the B and C students. Those are the people who become entrepreneurs, who create products, cures, and mathematical equations that change the world. Stop trying to bang a square peg into a round hole, and be grateful that you haven’t provoked an adolescent rebellion to rival our definition thereof.

In the final analysis, I’m not sure which tone I chose. Hopefully one that resonates with you – for your daughter’s sake.

  

Father Doesn’t Know Best

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Dear Dr. Darcy:

My father has no concept of my privacy. I’m 14 years old and he refuses to wait for me to say come in when he knocks on the [bedroom] door. He knocks and opens it at the same time. This is a big problem for me when I just come out of the shower and I’m changing in my room. He still thinks I’m a child but I’m not ok with him seeing me naked or in my bra and underwear. How do I tell my father that I’m a teenager and I deserve privacy?

ANSWER

You are absolutely right. As a teenager, you deserve to have a few seconds notice before someone comes into your room, and the knock-push (as I call it), is frustrating because it gives the illusion of respect without the follow through.

Sometimes parents have a hard time accepting that their children are growing up. It doesn’t make it right – it’s just to put his behavior in context.  But it’s imperative that you learn that it’s OK to set boundaries. Because the boundaries you set today will turn into the boundaries you set when you’re dating – and we want you to be able to express when something doesn’t feel right (You hear this, parents? A submissive child turns into a submissive adult).

I don’t know what your family is made up of, but if you have a second parent, that would be my first step towards fixing this. Presuming you do (and if you don’t, please let me know and I’ll repost a new answer), I’d speak to that parent and tell them exactly what you’ve told me. In particular, I’d emphasize the just-out-of-the-shower moment. It’s a hard scenario to argue with – even for a parent who’s in denial that his daughter is morphing into a young woman.

Writer’s Stats: Female, Straight.

Forgiveness Is A Choice

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Dear Dr. Darcy,

How [do] I deal with an emotionally stubborn mother who is unable to forgive and wants nothing to do with my new life? She has made it clear I have wronged her in every way and bought shame to our family and destroyed my son’s life.

How do I learn to accept this? How do I forgive her for not being sympathetic towards the [fact that I was raped and the subsequent trauma and side effects that I sustained]? In her words, 'it happened that's not my problem, it's yours.

Everyone says give it time, it’s a great healer but I know in my gut that she will never accept my life choices. Just like any child who grows into adulthood we seek some sort of praise from our parents… Forgiving my mother and moving along is the hardest. How do I forgive someone so bitter? I feel like an aids virus to my family it's highly upsetting.

ANSWER

Before you try to forgive your mother, you need to forgive yourself. You were the victim of a horrible crime. You were drugged, bound and raped for dozens of hours. Anyone who lived through such an ordeal would have sustained significant trauma which, understandably, impacted your ability to parent your son. I’m sorry your mother isn’t able to empathize with this very obvious cause and effect. She sounds like she’s emotionally constipated. Stop focusing on her and focus on yourself.

You need to do a fierce and honest inventory of the ways in which you fell short as a parent. Leave absolutely nothing out. Make a list. Include anything that could have even remotely been your responsibility. Then give explanations for every item on that list. Defend yourself. Don’t deny your responsibility – provide a context for why those shortcomings occurred. Then re-write the original list and describe how you wish you had been as a parent. Use your imagination and your years of maturity and therapy to help you create an ideal parenting story. Finally, forgive yourself. Forgive yourself because you didn’t have the years of maturity then that you have now. And you didn’t have the years of therapy under your belt that you have now. When you know better, you do better – and you only knew what you knew back then. Forgiveness is a choice. Decide to forgive yourself once and for all.

Writer’s Stats: Female, Straight.