Below is the story of Becky, a mother who is afraid to take her daughter Deena out because of the way Deena treats her in front of others. Becky wants to be able to take Deena to do things, but when they go out Becky is so worried about her daughter’s behavior that she can’t enjoy herself.
By considering her own behavior from a place of compassion and curiosity instead of judgment and shame, Becky learns how to have more confidence in herself as an (inevitably) imperfect parent.
I hate how my 7-year-old daughter Deena treats me. Sometimes she and I get along so well, but other times she is so disrespectful to me! When I ask her to do something, she either ignores me or is downright rude.
The worst part is that she treats me this way in front of other people. We used to spend so much time with other families. I used to love doing neighborhood potlucks or going to birthday parties with her and socializing with parents while she played with other children.
But these days we don’t go anywhere. We stay at home because I’m ashamed of her behavior. I don’t want anyone to see how she treats me. I mean, what will people think about me as a parent? And what will they they think of her?
I do resent the fact that we have to stay at home so much. I am a social person and I crave being around other people. But it’s not worth it to go out. I put so much energy into worrying about how Deena is going to act that I don’t have any fun anyway.
And I feel like I’m struggling more than everyone else. I don’t know any other parent who has to stay home because of their kids’ behavior. Other kids listen to their parents! I don’t know what they’re doing that I’m not.
I feel bad because…
I feel bad that we’re stuck in the house. But I also feel bad because I resent Deena for that. And staying home is a reminder that I’m a bad mom who can’t handle her own daughter. I recognize that keeping her home isn’t teaching Deena anything except to avoid things when they get hard.
I don’t know why this is so hard for me when it seems so much easier for everyone else.
When I change my thoughts from a judgmental “Why do I DO that?” to a curious “Why DO I do that?” I realize that…
I stay home with Deena because I care about what people think. I don’t want people to say that I can’t control my daughter, and I don’t want people to stop inviting Deena to things because of her behavior. And it’s just miserable for me to be out with her.
The reason I do what I do is because…
I’m worried about the possible repercussions of taking Deena out to social events. I want Deena to learn how to act more appropriately, but I don’t feel like I have the tools to do that yet… and I being in those situations without knowing how to handle it feels like torture to me.
My solution for doing something different in the future is…
Well first of all, I think I need to consider how to teach Deena to act differently. I’ve tried punishing her when she’s disrespectful, but that only makes things worse. And the thing is, she wasn’t always like this. It got worse when her dad and I split up. I wonder if that has something to do with why she is acting this way. The truth is, Deena is very sensitive and if I sit down and tell her she’s hurting my feelings… and ask her why she’s acting that way… maybe we can figure it out together. Either way, I’m going to let her know — not with punishment, but by being honest, that I will not accept her behavior anymore.
But whether that gets Deena to change her behavior or not, I think I need to stop worrying so much what people think about Deena’s behavior. That will definitely be easier said than done! But I also know that the more worried I am what people think, the more I freak out when Deena does act disrespectfully. And when I’m not worried about other people’s opinions, I can be more calm and think through the situation more carefully…which actually makes her behave better. Ah, the irony!
Becky’s guilt makes so much sense. She feels out of control and doesn’t have any solution but to avoid facing situations that lead to her embarrassment.
Fortunately she recognizes that while she can’t control her daughter’s behavior, there are some things she can do to influence Deena more. Just as importantly, there are steps Becky can take to feel less embarrassed when her daughter does act out. As a result, Becky can feel empowered rather than resentful.
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.