It’s chow time and we’re guests at a family dinner table in India. As we enjoy ourselves, Becca, my wife, gets up to go use the bathroom. Unfortunately for her, the guest bathroom is occupied by the daugther of the family, who interestingly enough never eats at the family table. Because the bathroom’s occupied, Becca is forced to come back and sit down at the table and just grin and bear it.
Isn’t there another bathroom she could use? Yes, but Becca’s stuff is in the guest bathroom. My wife’s not upset about it; she’s gracious as ever. It is our host, the girl’s father, who is visibly upset. He shouts and scolds his daughter: “How many times have I told you? Use the one in your room….”
It’s not his parental words, but the tone of his voice that gets me.
A tone that says loud and clear, “You’re less worthy than our guests.”
Partly, his behavior is cultural. Guests in india are supposed to be honored and respected. Treated like gods even. But still, a lot of his conduct has to with the man himself, as a parent and as a person.
Laundry behind closed doors
I’ve known this man a long time now and know his children well too. While he’s always treated me (and other outsiders) well, seldom does he show the same respect for his children. He’s never without praise for other folks’ children, even when there’s nothing “special” about them. But even when his children do extraordinary things, he’ll doubt their abilities and find something negative to say. At best, he might offer a back-handed complement.
Is this man strange or what?! Yes, he is strange. Very strange indeed.
But no, not really. A lot of us are kinder to others than we’re to ourselves. We’re far more likely to forgive other people’s screw-ups than our own. And what’s more significant here, a lot of parents are kinder and gentler with other people’s kids than their own, even if they’re more protective of their own.
Apart from the fact that humans are a strange bunch, question is why?
One obvious reason is familiarity breeds contempt. But it gets a little more complicated when you take a closer look at parent-child dynamics. With some exceptions, most children are rarely good enough in their parents’ eyes. So many parents put out and endless stream of disapproval messages for their children. They can’t help themselves. It’s a form of compulsion. It’s a silent disease many parents suffer from.
Often, this disapproval is covert. The parent may simply withhold approval and instead give the child the “silent treatment. “And thus rob the child of oxygen. Where’s the life-giving-confidence-building-parental-validation? And thus we have good parents who want to improve their children… and wind up shaming them instead.
But lets get back to the dining table. Our host, who shall remain nameless, in addition to what he does behind closed doors is now publicly shaming his child. Not because our host is a bad man. Far from it. Here is a good man. In fact, he’s as good as they come. If you have him for a friend and need his help, he’ll be there for you. He’s friendly and kind and generous to a fault.
To everyone except his own children, that is.
Think he’s alone in this regard? Think again!
Most families I know are dysfunctional. The picture of that perfect family is just that—a picture. When it comes to families, the reality is often quite a bit different from that happy picture on the wall. Behind the typical family’s closed doors are many bruised relationships. The son who suffers silently because the father always invalidates him. The daughter who’s resentful because the “bitch” of a mother never shows her any respect.
Chances are, you too have been on one or either end of such family dynamics. If so, you’re tired of this family crap and want to change it. Question is how? Any attempt to change the other person only backfires. What should you do?
Here’s what: it takes only person to heal a relationship. And that person might as well be you.
If you’re a parent, chances are there are several things you can’t stand about your child. He’s is not responsible enough; she’s not ambitious enough; he wastes his money on trivia; she never finished school; he’s too hasty; she keeps dating the same kind of losers. How can you change your child?
Don’t change your child, change yourself.
If you’re the typical parent, your child will never be perfect in your eyes. Just accept that, ok? Now ask yourself, “Why am I so critical of my child? Why do I find it so hard to accept her as she is?”
I’ll tell you why. You’ve never been able to accept yourself “as is,” that’s why. For all your outward success, you were never good enough in your own eyes. And you know it.
You harbor deep-seated, negative emotions inside you, some of which you know about, most you don’t. This subconscious stuff is what you project onto others. Hidden self-loathing is what makes us judge other people without mercy. You can hide your judgments from everyone in the world—except your own family. Your dirty laundry must gets washed somewhere.
And home is where it usually gets washed.
How can you release your hidden inner pile of negativity? Spend some time and learn a simple technique called energy-psychology. Also known as Tapping Technique, EFT etc. Better still, consult a competent energy-psychology practitioner. Regardless of how you go about it, you must let go of your need to change your child and go work on yourself first.
After a few sessions with your energy-psychology coach, you have sufficiently let go of your own “stuff.”
No you’re ready to reprogram your parental brain.
See if you can change how you “see” your child. For that, you must create new images of your child in your mind, which are opposite of what your disapproving parental emotions do. Whatever your particular hangups about your child, try to imagine him or her doing just the opposite of what you’re accustomed to. This will be hard at first, but will become easier with practice.
For instance, try to imagine your boy more responsible in life for a change. See your girl dating a better boyfriend. See your child happy and fulfilled and with a purpose. How does it feel? Feels good, doesn’t it? You have the power to generate these “feel good” emotions in your system using your imagination. Use it! You can manufacture any mental images of the child you wish to see, images that make you happy.
Hold onto these images. Bask in the good feelings the images generate.
Next, be grateful for the happy child you’ve imagined. What would you do different if he/she were different? How would you behave if your child stopped disappointing you and actually exceeded your expectations? What if your child were happy, fulfilled and successful, beyond your wildest dreams?
Well, why not go ahead and behave as if that were already the case?
Now sit back and expect miracles.
You don’t have to do this alone. Need help? Contact me.
Image Source: jatim.org