I once worked with the mother of a pre-teen daughter who had adopted the sullen attitude and tight-lipped answers her mother hadn’t expected until adolescence. “How do I get her to talk to me?” was the sad plea. “How do I get her to want to talk to me?”
Over the course of time we thought and questioned and brainstormed and came up with an idea that this mother implemented with great success. She dubbed it “dropping the seed,” and it went something like this: every time mom had a potentially awkward or contentious issue with her daughter that required a conversation, she told her daughter that she wanted to talk and what she wanted to talk about, and then asked her daughter to come to her when she was ready to have the conversation. Though somewhat skeptical that this approach would work, the mother was astonished to find that within a day or two, and sometimes with an hour or two, her daughter consistently initiated healthy, productive conversations that strengthened their bond and deepened their intimacy to a level it had not been at for years.
Autonomy. The ability to make self-determining choices about what, when, and under what terms.
Here was a young girl who was pulling away from her mother and a mother who had increasingly been pursuing her daughter in ways that caused more conflict and pain than productive communication. But when mom put the ball in her daughter’s court, everything changed.
Hard topics were finally addressed.
Hidden things came to light.
Apparent transgressions were explained.
Discipline was administered thoughtfully and with compassion.
In short, they experienced their own little miracle. All because a mother was willing to let go of control and trust that, in spite of evidence to the contrary, her daughter really did still want to connect.
Our kids want some control over their own lives. They want to exercise self-determination too, just like we do. Ever heard a child whine, “How come you get to make all the rules?” or a teenager angrily shout,“Why can’t you let me live my own life?” That’s the expression of the deep-seated human desire to be able to make their own decisions toward their own desired ends. We all come with it.
And the more fully we understand that and respect it as parents, the better off we’ll be in fostering healthy relationships with our kids. That doesn’t mean relinquishing all decisions. But like the example above shows, it may require we rethink our assumptions about the best way to approach a situation. This mother owned her need for a conversation, but allowed her daughter to determine the timing and circumstances. The mother initiated these uncomfortable or awkward talks, but allowed her daughter space to prepare for them in her own way without pressure or timelines. This mother learned to lean away from what her instincts told her she had to do, and gained more intimacy that she dared dream was still possible.
Where might you benefit from learning to “drop the seed?” In what way might you give up a little control to gain a little freedom, intimacy, or relief? Dare to give it a try and see what you end up with. You may get back more in return than you ever anticipated.