How to Deal with Challenging Relationships 


A little over two weeks ago, my son Oliver, went from youngest child and apple of mommy’s eye, to middle child after the birth of our latest addition, Ethan. While completely in love with his little brother, Oliver is adjusting to his new role, which means he’s, um, driving me crazy. 

He’s not acting jealous. Instead, he’s taking on his new role as big brother seriously. Meaning, he thinks he’s reached some sort of big boy status just because he has a younger brother in tow. So he’s been challenging everything I tell him to do. He feels he’s “big” enough to make his own choices and decide what’s right for him. And the guy is only 4 years old.  

It’s been really easy for me to get caught up in this annoying challenge. Fighting back with him, trying to reason, and getting nowhere. But what I’ve been failing to see is the lesson in all of this.  

The truth is, we’re living a spiritual life. A truth we often forget. And our relationships are where some of our greatest lessons are taught.  

This challenge with my son is not about power, although it seems that way. What I need to ask, and what we all need to ask when faced with a challenging relationship or time, is “What are you trying to teach me?” 

Honestly, I have not figured it out yet. Perhaps he’s teaching me the importance of boundaries or consistency. I’m not quite sure yet. But do know there is something deeper there for me.  

Challenging relationships seem like a total curse, but they’re not. They are in our favor. We just have to ask the question, “What are you trying to teach me?” 

And while many relationships are much more complicated than the one I have with my stubborn four-year-old, there’s always an opportunity to grow. Sometimes we grow by walking away and sometimes by staying, but either way, this challenge is here for you and not against you. 

nikki novo