Research shows that there are six the major hot buttons; the greatest areas of contention and stress that occur in these types of relationships. We left of discussing why it is that parents need to get out of the advice-giving business.
In a situation where you feel that you absolutely must offer advice, recognize that you’ve got to be precise in your approach. Say to your child something such as, “I’m sure you’ve looked into this very well, I was just wondering what you think of . . .” In a casual non-accusatory way, you only want to find out if your child has considered what you think to be a critical factor.
As a result, he will be more inclined to weigh your input, because it’s not coming from an I’m older, I have more experience, and I know better than you, place.
You will also find that if you are able to communicate to your child how much you love and respect him, and how proud you are of him (at other times), then he won’t feel the need to dig in his emotional heels when it comes time to listening to advice. This is true because he no longer feels that he has to prove anything, and to show you just how smart and capable he is. He’ll be able to hear your input in the way which it is intended, for his own good, and not because you don’t respect him enough to make a good, rational decision.
I recognize it’s not always easy to remain quiet, but I suggest to you that the damage done by forcing your advice onto somebody – particularly your child or child in-law, when it’s not welcome–is generally going to be more damaging than the consequences of other child’s decision in the first place.
I picked up a frum hitchhiker a couple of days ago, and throughout our short drive, the conversation— or more accurately, monologue—sounded like this:
“Watch out for that! Don’t! Ooh, look out! Watch that car! Do you see the light’s about to turn yellow! Watch out for this! Watch out for that!” It was amazing; and it quickly occurred to me why he doesn’t have a license himself.
As I stopped to let him off, I said, “You must be amazed that I am able to drive from point A to point B without hitting something.” “Yeah!” he said emphatically.
Were you ever a passenger, and thought, how does this person ever get along without me sitting next to him in the car?
The truth is, your child will do okay without a “backseat parent.” Again, it’s not easy to sit back and remain silent, but in the long run, better he should recognize that you trust his decisions and judgment. If your advice is not going to be listened to anyway, the message that is heard, regardless of your noble intention is, I really don’t think to much of your ideas and I do not respect you.
Now let’s spin it around and speak to the adult child—and how to best relate to uninvited or perhaps intrusive advice from your parent or in-law.
In a nutshell, they don’t have to be right for you to listen to them. It’s not going to cause you to bleed if you take their advice every once in a while. It really is nice, right, and good to listen, even when you think that they are wrong. It may cost you a little more, or it may put you out of your way, or it may not be what you really want,. So what? Your significant Torah obligation aside, the relationship itself will be better and you will feel better about yourself for making what is really the best decision. The larger picture of your responsibility must be kept in mind.
There’s no mitzvah in the Torah for being right. I looked. There are plenty however, for doing what’s right; and in a situation like this – listening to a parent or a parent in-law, even though you disagree, may just be the right thing to do. We often believe that because a person is wrong, then we have zero reason to listen to the advice. That’s the ego or yetzer hara, that says, “if you’re right, then you have to do it your way.’ In marriage, we certainly know that doesn’t work.
Copyright © 2011 by Dovid Lieberman