The Yoga of Parenting... Listening for the "Please'

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The spiritual path is about letting go, never about holding on. Here, Leena Patel applies the wisdom of Yoga to the Art of Parenting.

Here is a letter I received in the mail from a woman with a 12 year old son:

“My teenage son (not yet 13 he must have started early!) Is testing my patience. We are always at war with each other. Any suggestions on dealing with teenagers would be most appreciated!

Thank you- Ann“

Despite it being over 20 years ago, I still remember what it is like being 12 going on 21. I believe that it doesn’t matter whether it’s a child and parent, or your spouse or your mother-in-law, when there is conflict of any kind, the only way to resolve it is to listen to the needs behind what the person is expressing out loud to you, acknowledge your own without blame or accusation, then find a way that both your needs can be met. Sometimes simply ‘seeing’ the other person’s need, diminishes any anger or frustration you feel because you are able to respond with understanding and compassion. Herein lies the pathway to non violence and peace.

Here’s what I believe this young man would like to say if if he could articulate them. In essence, it boils down to a ‘please’.

"Please hear how difficult this is for me."

"Please hear how much I am struggling."

"Please acknowledge my growing need for independence...’

I invite his mother to read the ‘please’ behind his tantrums and see if this creates a spaciousness within to communicate with him in a way that serves them both.

Dear Mom,

I am stomping my feet so that I can discover for myself where my boundaries are. I am testing your patience because I am discovering that I have a voice and an opinion and I want to be heard and acknowledged just like I perceive adults are heard and acknowledged. I haven't yet developed the skill to say to you 'I am growing up and I am going through lots of changes. My body parts are looking different everyday, I've got this weird looking hair growing here and I don't know if it's normal but these days I feel embarrassed to undress in front of you. I'm getting more curious about people and subjects that have never interested me before, I have questions about them but I don't know who to ask...

All of this is making me feel invisible and invincible and fragile all at the same time. The only way I know how to deal with it and hide it from you is by locking myself in my room or yelling at you or throwing a tantrum. I want you to hear my needs behind my lashing out. I want you to help me by setting boundaries and telling me- gently- what your needs are while respecting mine. I am looking up to you as a role model in how I can learn to connect with people and have each of our needs met. I want to know how to make you feel safe in the knowing that I'm not going to consciously do anything to hurt you or let you down while you are bravely giving me the freedom I need to learn things for myself. I'm pretty sure that if I give you what you want then I am more likely to get what I want! I know you want the best for me. I love you.

Scott (name changed to protect privacy)

Leena Patel's question for OV readers: Does becoming aware of his need, his ‘please’, encourage you to relate to Scott with more compassion?

Leena Patel is a yoga teacher, mind-body healer and and speaker in the area of personal transformation and wellness. She coaches and leads worldwide seminars on the art of Living Yoga Celebrating Life and applying yoga wisdom to daily life. Visit for inspiration, news and events.