Sitting in the den curled up on the taupe couch with a cream blanket I read my book by the light of a silvery crackle finish lamp next me in the dim room, the soft light permeating from it's pale gray shade… the flat screen television, it's volume low, played the local weather update on it's screen. Snips of a conversation my children were having with their father in the kitchen went high and low intermittently in the background. As I turned the page and tried to continue reading, something said distinctly jumped out at me from the next room in their conversation. I heard their father say darkly over the phone… "I'm not smiling right now. I don't have a smile on my face."
I paused, glancing up, craning my neck to see my children gathered at the pale table at the far end of the kitchen. Beyond them on the dark gray wall hung a huge oversized canvas that read 'Bless Our Home Family Food' in quaint lettering. Under the bright kitchen chandelier they looked perturbed and although I had missed whatever had been said by the children that had in their father's mind made him lack a smile on his face… inward I cringed.
Once again he was making
them feel responsible for his feelings.
It wasn't their job to make him smile or not.
It wasn't their job to make him happy.
It wasn't their job to keep him that way.
I bit my tongue and with a deep breath exhaled, continuing to read my book but once again that scenario showed that as parents we all need to be very aware of what words we use when we speak to our children.
There are common phrases used by people with Personality Disorders toward their children. These phrases are used to invalidate their children and their feelings. It actually highly ups the chances of creating a child who will later go on to become an adult with a Personality Disorder. With awareness we can subscribe to a healthy way to relate to our kids so we don't set them up to be deficit in relating to others and then continue the cycle of disorder for future generations.
1. Shutting down the child and his/her feelings. "Don't feel bad", "Don't be sad", "Don't be angry." "Don't cry." All of these phrases are uttered by a parent who is either too uncomfortable in dealing with a child's upset or hurt or doesn't want to take the time to adequately address it. So they shut the child down and don't allow them to express themselves in a healthy manner as they should.
2. Comparison of siblings. One of the worst things a parent can do is compare their children (even step kids to biological, etc) to one another. Each child has his or her own strengths and weaknesses and comparing them only serves to tell your child: "You're not good enough", "You don't measure up", "And I'm disappointed in who you are." It kills the child's confidence and instead breeds low esteem.
3. Comparison of a parent. Telling your child (especially if you're divorced) that they are "just like your father!" or "You act just like your mother!" only serves to label the child as another person in the family. It invalidates the child as his or her own person and inhibits their growth in who they are meant to grow up to be of their own accord.
4. Asking "WHY?!" during times of distress. If your child is crying, the best thing to do is #1 COMFORT. Once the moment has passed and he or she is able to think logically a parent can say: "I can see something upset you. Would you like to talk about it?" Demanding to know why someone is crying when in the midst of it isn't productive. They are hurting and won't be able to accurately relay what exactly the issue is until they've calmed down.
5. Basing your feelings on their behavior. "I'm not happy right now." Really? What does that have to do with the issue at hand? Instead address your child's behavior: "I need you to treat me with respect. The words you are using toward me are not nice. Would you like to discuss this calmly?" This is a positive way to address the child (modeling healthy relational skills) and their behavior instead of twisting and spinning it back to be about you as the parent. No one cares if you have a smile or not, and a child who is acting out can be certain to not care… it's not their job to make you smile. Alternatively, when your child is sad or mad it's not healthy to tell them: "What do you need to do? Smile!" A parent is then basing their own mood/happiness on whether their child has a smile plastered on their face. This ruse may be used under the guise of "But I'm just trying to raise a POSITIVE child!" But it will backfire down the road.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014
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