I’ve been holding tightly to my perfectionism lately. That’s not to say that I do everything perfectly, but it’s to say that I have a perfect vision of how I’d like things to be…and when life doesn’t live up to it, I can get a bit uptight.
It’s a cycle. I know it’s a cycle, but it’s still hard to break free. I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly. It’s a work of genius. She has put into words so many things that I have merely skimmed over.
We’re working on implementing some of her teachings in our parenting. My mama was early to the idea that it’s counter productive to shame a child. Bless her for that. I have gotten enough self shaming tendencies from society to last me a lifetime, thankfully I wasn’t given the shame tape from my parents as well…at least never on purpose.
So Tommy and I are careful about how we discipline and talk to our children…but as I was reading Brene’s book the other day, a light bulb went off (one that I didn’t really care for). I realized that Grace is having a shame reaction many many times when we talk about behavior issues.
Brown says “When we feel shame, we are most likely to protect ourselves by blaming something or someone, or rationalizing our lapse, offering a disingenuous apology, or hiding out.”
I had just read this sentence on Friday afternoon. I’d taken Ava and the boys to the nature center and a little hike with a friend in the morning, had a picnic with them, and was curled up on the couch reading while the boys had a little nap and Ava played computer games. That line really rang true. How many times as a spouse have I done something that I’m not proud of, and then rationalized it in my mind, dug in my heels, and blown whatever it is into a huge argument? Lots. More times than I can count.
I internalize a lot as shame. If you need a definition of shame, it is the reaction that says internally (I am bad). If you do something and tend to react by whispering “I’m a fucking idiot” under your breath, then you probably have issues with shame too. I’ve been actively working on this for a while now, but didn’t really put these words to it….because I didn’t have them.
Apparently shame is quite destructive. I always used to be in the habit of trying to motivate myself with shame. It never felt good, but I thought if I could call myself worthless enough times, I could motivate myself to be worthy…yeah, that doesn’t make sense.
Anyway, so back to Friday. I don’t like to leave Gracie out of all of the fun, so I decided to take everybody to the park right after school. It was such a nice plan…but we got foiled. We had been at the park for about ten minutes when it started raining and I had to tell everyone to get back in the car. Gracie was in denial. It wasn’t raining she said. She didn’t want to go.
Too bad. We had to go. It was time, and privileges would be lost if she didn’t get in the car by the time I counted to five. Guess what?! I got to five and she wasn’t there. Privileges lost.
Screaming. Crying. Full on tantrum mode. I was the worst. I had made it the worst Friday ever. It was all my fault. The crowning moment of the 1 minute drive home was when I calmly told Grace that we could talk about all of this when she had calmed down, but until then I wasn’t going to engage.
“How can I calm down when you’re YELLING at me?!?!”
I almost burst out laughing when I caught Ava give her a WTF are you talking about look.
The tantrum escalated when we got home. I had held it together as best I could, but all of a sudden I snapped a bit. I was about to launch into my well rehearsed tirade about gratitude and how I’m so tired of not being appreciated for the nice things that I do for her….blah blah blah. She’s heard it a million times.
And then I remembered the stuff about shame reactions…and realized that Grace was in a huge shame reaction. She was rationalizing her behavior. Suddenly I felt soft again and like I could really connect with my daughter rather than yell instructions at her about how she should behave and how she knows better…and never acts this way for her teachers yada yada.
Instead we had a conversation about how it feels to know that you’ve reacted badly in a situation, and how it can be really hard to own up to it. About how her Dad and I are never thinking that Gracie is bad, and that most of the time we’re not even particularly mad. Gracie talked about how sometimes it’s hard to stop herself from going into full blown yelling and carrying on. But we also talked about whether it made her feel better or worse to do so (worse, of course).
I didn’t really view this as an exercise to see if I could control Gracie to never have a tantrum again. We’re just learning more and more as we go along.
What is something you see in yourself that you want to help your children avoid?