And then her mother-in-law looked at her like she was the world’s worst mother. She had to break up her kids when the fighting got rough…
The kids stood there red-faced, with sweaty foreheads, hair sticking up, ready for round two.
She had had enough…
It’s really triggering as a parent when you don’t feel that you have a handle on anything. You know you need more tools to handle situations. Maybe you have a strong-willed kid with boundless energy…
It can be great to spend time with friends and family, sometimes.
But sometimes being with friends or family and even immediate family can bring up challenges, especially if you visit somewhere where there are a whole load of rules about how things can go.
It’s as though there they are with their ‘calm water’ lives where people just go about their business, getting things done with ease, getting out of the door on time in the mornings, and then you turn up with the hurricane of energy that is your beloved child/children.
So in situations like that, with all the new rules and the different environment, it’s as though there’s gunpowder laid out in a line and it’s ready to catch the spark of a trigger and spread down the line and create an explosion that rocks the walls and then blasts outwards.
There you are with other people WATCHING you as you parent.
And you’re thinking, ‘Are they judging me?’
‘Are they judging my kid?’
And maybe they are, and maybe they aren’t, but the thought of the judging puts you on edge.
This fear of judgment makes the spark even more likely to light the gunpowder.
You’re there thinking ‘they don’t like my kid’s/kids’ behavior…
They don’t want him/her/them to act like that…
I don’t want him/her/them to act like that either…
But I don’t know what to do…
And they are judging me…
I’m doing my best, but my best isn’t working.’
You feel all kinds of feelings, exposed, lack of control, disappointment, fear, anger, JUDGED.
You feel like your child is being judged by your family or friends, and it’s an easier trigger, right?
What’s a trigger?
A trigger is when something happens that makes you react emotionally in a more intense way.
We all have them.
It’s easier to feel triggered because now you feel like you’ve got this extra pair of eyes watching what you’re doing.
You are caught up feeling that you need to live up to the ideal of what a parent should be even though you also know that you shouldn’t need to live up to the ideal of what a parent should be.
You get caught up feeling that you need to be in CONTROL of the situation.
Yet maybe your kid’s behavior is out of control.
There’s the screaming and then comes the bargaining.
‘If you do this, then we’ll…’
And you know that you don’t want to go down the bargaining route, but in the moment, what else is there?
I’m not a fan of bribing our kids. Of course, there’s sometimes some short term gain, but long term… really I don’t think it has mileage.
You’re in that crazy moment where you’re asking your kid to do something simple, and they’ve pulled up the drawbridge on co-operation.
Co-operation is not gonna happen.
You do your best to pretend you’ve got it covered…
‘Now we don’t talk like that, do we? Say it nicely… Time to calm down…’
And inside there all this whirl of emotions going on inside of you.
First, notice when you notice yourself feeling judgment from others about your parenting. Notice the people involved and the particular situations where this turns up.
That’s all you need to do for this week.
Next week I’m going to share a practical strategy for dealing with this kind of situation.
Until next week,
P.S. There’s a great tool to help with noticing how you are feeling judged from the book ‘The Happiness Trap’ by Russ Harris. It comes from ACT or Acceptance Commitment Therapy. You say to yourself first:
‘I’m having the thought that they are judging my parenting.’
Then you say to yourself:
‘I notice I’m having the thought they are judging my parenting.’
Give it a try, it might give you a little distance from the judgment and so help to ease some of the tension you might be feeling.
Ref: ‘The Happiness Trap’ by Russ Harris, Trumpeter; 1 edition (June 3, 2008)