Below is the story of Becca, a mother who feels bad because she exploded when her daughter refused to listen. She also resorted to using strategies that she didn’t feel were best for her daughter in the long run.
By considering her behavior from a place of compassion and curiosity instead of judgment and shame, Becca learns how to have more confidence in herself as an (inevitably) imperfect parent.
My name is Becca, and I have a 6 year old daughter named Savannah. Savannah is a very bright girl, she is funny, and she is often very kind.
But Savannah also has a stubborn streak. When I ask her to do something, she’ll do it — when she feels like it. If she doesn’t feel like doing what I ask, she’ll pretend that she can’t hear me. She knows that I can’t literally force her to do what I want her to do, so often I feel completely helpless.
The other day I asked her to clean off the table before dinner. She had been working on an art project right where we needed to eat…. and she didn’t feel like stopping, so she ignored me when I asked her to put her things away. I asked her again, and she ignored me again.
I was livid. I did everything in my power to try to make her clean up. I screamed. I told her she was being selfish. I threatened to take away every single thing she cares about. None of that worked.
Finally, I told her that I’d buy her a new outfit if she cleaned up. And suddenly, she cleaned. So what happened? I ended up bribing her to clean the table before dinner — something she should do just because I ask her to.
I feel like an awful mother, not only because of the things I said to her but because I don’t think she should need a reward to clean up the table!
I feel bad because…
I don’t want to talk to my daughter the way that I did. I really exploded on her.
I also feel bad because I’m obviously not raising a responsible child who does what she is supposed to do.
When I change my thoughts from a judgmental “Why did I DO that?” to a curious “Why DID I do that?” I realize that…
I exploded on her because I was tired of her frequently ignoring me. Usually I can hold it in, but at that point I just snapped! I think the other times that I “held it in” all came pouring out.
I tried to control her — yelling, making her feel bad, saying I’d take things away — because I honestly didn’t know what else to do. I know I’m supposed to be the one in charge, but when I use my “power” it doesn’t work!!
The reason I did what I did is because…
I yelled because I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. I let everything out that I’d been feeling for years.
I eventually bribed her because I really didn’t know what else to do. I felt like I had no other solutions. I didn’t want my child to control our house, but I felt out of control as well.
My solution for doing something different in the future is…
First of all, I need to stop ignoring how I feel about this. It’s obviously bothering me and I’m building a huge amount of resentment. I’m going to tell her how much her lack of cooperation bothers me. I don’t need to make her feel bad about herself, but I do need to tell her how I feel.
As far as finding a solution, I still feel stumped. Clearly controlling her isn’t the solution. Maybe I need to ask her what she really needs in order to be more cooperative. I’ve noticed that in the past when she helps to find the solution to the problem, she is more willing to cooperate. I remember that when we kept fighting in the mornings, she told me that if she could pick out her own clothes, she would fight me less. And she was right.
I think talking to her about how I feel and asking her to help find a solution will make a difference that we can both feel better about.
Becca’s frustration makes so much sense. We want our children to do what we ask them to do… and usually what we ask them to do is something that will teach them to be responsible, respectful people!
Unfortunately, we can’t actually control our children’s behavior. However, there are certain things that us more likely to influence their behavior. When you are able to influence them instead of controlling them, they become more internally motivated to make healthy decisions.
Contact me to discuss this skill or and other that will help you feel more confident in your ability to raise great kids — without expecting perfection from yourself or your children.