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Vail on purpose: Child’s struggles distress mom

Sheri Fisher

“How are the kids enjoying their summer?” I asked as we began our coaching session.

“The boys seem to be doing well and keeping busy,” Sabrina said.

“What about Mary?” I asked, referring to her eight year old daughter.



“Mary is driving me crazy. She’s different from the boys when they were her age.”

“Tell me about their differences,” I said.



“I initially thought it was due to gender, but there is even a gap between Mary and her friends.”

“Describe the gap,” I said.

“Mary loves to be the center of attention. If she’s not, she’ll cry, pester other children or ask the adults repetitive questions. I sometimes don’t like being with Mary. It’s a terrible thing for a mother to say,” Sabrina paused.



“You said you’re working with a counselor,” I said. “How is that going?”

“Great,” Sabrina said. “They tested and found Mary has ADHD and she is emotionally behind other kids her age, probably due to being ill when she was younger.”

“Do you feel better knowing what’s behind her behavioral differences?” I asked.

“It’s better to know, but her behavior still bothers me and I wish her differences weren’t so obvious and irritating to others,” Sabrina added.

She continued, “The other day we were at a friend’s house and the kids were playing,” Sabrina explained. “One of the other girls came in and told her mom that she didn’t want to play with ‘Mary the cry baby.’ I’ve seen the same thing at home. If Mary doesn’t get her way, she cries. My feelings were hurt. Each time I take her somewhere, I pray that we have a ‘normal’ day.”

I could tell this was difficult for Sabrina.

“It would be easier if other people knew why Mary acted like she does so they could be compassionate and patient, but I can’t explain it to everyone,” Sabrina said.

“When you and Mary are with others, how do you feel?” I asked.

“I’m embarrassed for Mary, sad that she struggles and guilty because I keep wishing she could act normal!” Sabrina said.

“Are you embarrassed for yourself?”

Sabrina paused. “Yes. Mary’s behavior feels like a reflection of my parenting skills. I feel people judge me because my child acts this way.”

“Is her behavior a reflection of your parenting skills?” I asked.

“No. I know that, but others don’t,” she said. “Maybe I’m more concerned about what they think about me,” her voice trailed off. “Maybe that’s what’s bothering me … when family members, friends and teachers make judgments about my parenting,” Sabrina said. “But I feel I’m a good parent.”

“Are you a good parent?” I asked.

“Yes, but…”

“No ‘buts,'” I interrupted. “Knowing what you know, are you a good parent?”

“I guess.”

“So it sounds like there are at least two things that are bothering you about the situation with Mary. First, is her behavior, and you said you are working with the counselor on this. Second, is how you feel about Mary’s behavior and how it reflects on you, right?”

She nodded.

“This week, will you create a description of what a ‘good’ parent looks like?” I said and Mary nodded. “Then monitor your behavior to see how closely it matches your description. My guess is that you are a pretty good parent and rely too much on what you think others think.”

“I will create a description and monitor my behavior,” Sabrina said. “Obviously I drive myself crazy trying to live up to what I think a ‘good’ parent is, even though I’m not exactly sure what that is. It’s like being evaluated at work without a job description – and that never works.”

Before she left, we agreed she would e-mail her definition of what a “good parent” looks like by Friday. Sabrina had created yet another step to move her forward.

Coaching Challenge: If you judge yourself, write down what your expectations are. Are they realistic? Where are you incorporating these traits and where would you like to turn up or down the volume? Make a short list of how to better refine or fulfill your vision and then create steps to move you forward.

Sheri Fisher is a life coach who lives in Grand Junction, Colorado with her husband Tom and their three sons. Her practice, Living On Purpose, focuses on personal and professional coaching. The situations and characters in her column are fictional to maintain client confidentiality. If you have topic suggestions, Sheri can be reached at sheri@coachwithsheri.com or for more information, visit: http://www.coachwithsheri.com.


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