This is a tough one for me and an almost universal topic with other parents that I work with.

Why is it that seeing our kids being lazy or avoidant or uninterested is so triggering and difficult to deal with?

For starters, I think on some level it is really hard to connect with what it was like to be their age. Yes, there is a small percentage of kids that are super self-motivated, but most kids aren’t.

If you give kids a choice between creating a website or watching a youtube video, the vast majority will choose to watch the video.

I know that I wasn’t a self-motivated kid, so why is it so hard for me at times when my son just wants to chill?

It would be one thing if I had been one of those super motivated kids, always creating with endless curiosity, but I wasn’t. I loved playing with my friends, watching hockey and hanging out.

Not only that, my son is a much better student than I was. He is disciplined, works hard, gets amazing grades and is just an all-around great guy.

When I was able to own that I was projecting my ugly stuff onto him, I was able to do something about it. My desire for him to create and fill his time doing wonderful things is about ME. It’s not about what he wants or needs at any given moment.

When we lived in New York, Eric took piano lessons for a few years. I was always on his back to practice just ten minutes a day, but he didn’t want to. He didn’t want to play. His teacher was amazing and he loved her, but he wasn’t into it.

It’s hard to know how much to push and when to back off. The same thing happened with soccer.

What is most important, in my opinion, is to do your own work as the parent to identify and understand what is yours and what is theirs. If you are just projecting your own unfulfilled dreams and insecurities onto them, all you’re doing is paving the way for them to share your insecurities and to resent whatever it is you want them to do.

If you can work on understanding and owning what you’re bringing to the table, try to remember what it felt like when you were their age, and listen to them with an open heart, it will go a long way.

This is what it takes to end passing on the skeletons in our closets to future generations. It’s so easy for our kids to act as mirrors. Our job is to make the effort to distinguish between them and our own reflections.

David B. Younger, Ph.D is the creator of Love After Kids, for couples that have grown apart since having children. He is a clinical psychologist and couples therapist with a web-based private practice, and lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, 12-year-old son, 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old toy poodle.

Originally published at