When I was first introduced to the above list of William Glasser’s 7 connecting habits and 7 deadly habits, I thought, “Well, duh!!” It seemed pretty self-evident stuff. I mean, who of us don’t know that supporting, encouraging, listening, etc. helps to build relationships, and that threatening, blaming, criticizing and the like tear them apart. Not exactly rocket science.
Yet, I heard a man’s story this week about his relationship with his daughter. He and his wife are divorced, and the kids spend weekends with him. His daughter is approaching those teen years when she is wanting to spend all her time with her friends, and has started skipping her weekends with her dad in favour of sleepovers and activities.
The dad is obviously hurt by this, and was wondering if it would be a good idea to start buying her smaller birthday and Christmas gifts than he does for her brother, and to cut back her allowance to show her that her actions aren’t acceptable to him.
But is punishing her or rewarding her with money if she comes for a visit going to build the strong relationship that he desires with his daughter? Both those actions are clearly on Glasser’s “STOP” list.
What are the chances that taking this course of action is going to result in the daughter saying “Man, I got a smaller birthday present this year. I really should try to visit my dad more”? I think the chances are strong that she will think “Man, my dad is a real jerk. He doesn’t care about me and what I want at all!”
So often, we hold on to these fantasies that our passive-aggressive tactics will teach someone a lesson, and improve our relationships. What if, instead of playing games, the dad were to tell his daughter that he understands that she needs time with her friends, but that he loves her so much and misses their time together? What if he asked her if there was a way they could find to connect with each other because she is so important to him?
Have you ever complained to someone about their behaviour when what you really wanted was to get along? Have you ever blamed someone for ruining your relationship? Have you ever nagged someone to try to get them to be more thoughtful? Have you ever withheld affection to try to teach someone a lesson?
What if we were all able to stick to the “START” list when we wanted to build relationships?