Is it disrespectful to be truthful even when it’s emotionally heated? Many Moms shudder when their child says, “I hate you!” “You are being disrespectful!” Mom yells back. I firmly believe that families should be able to talk.. about anything. Nothing is off the table. However, the tone in which it is said is also important.
Open communication occurs when all family members are able to express feelings, opinions, and ideas to one another, such as in a conversation or debate. On the other hand, closed communication occurs when only those in authority are actively communicating, like a lecture from a professor. Open communication invites each family member to have a voice, to collaborate, and to feel like a welcome contributor to the family. Closed communication sends the message that parents know what is better for each member. Period.
Respect only happens when it is mutual.
What was your family communication style?
If you were raised in an authoritarian family, like mine, where one parent or both were controlling, strict, and or rigid, then it is easy to model the same pattern. This describes my early parenting. I mistook being firm and rigid for good parenting. The problem with drill-sergeant parenting is that warmth is often lacking or missing altogether. A parent that says, “you must” or “you should” leaves little open for discussion. Don’t misunderstand me, telling your three-year old to go grab their shoes without an open debate is necessary to keep the day rolling. But to create a home where your kids seek you out, value and trust you, then inviting kids to have a voice is vital.
Millions of us were ignited and inspired by Oprah’s Golden Globes speech, where she said, “Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.” Learn to speak your truth and then invite your kids to speak theirs.
Action Step ~
A child who risks telling a mother that he hates her deserves to be heard and empathized with. A good response might be, “I am sorry you feel that way. Let’s talk about it when we both calm down.” And then follow through.
Are you able to tolerate your child’s feelings and opinions? Do you shut your child down because you can’t handle conflict? Do you personalize their anger? Do you turn it around and blame? How about making your child feel guilty or shamed for having feelings or opinions? If any of these resonate, it’s time to learn to deal with your own emotions.
2. Valuing Being Nice Over Being Real
Don’t get me wrong, I like nice people and I like to be nice. Society, religions, communities, families value niceties. But there is a fine line between being nice and being fake. If you were raised in a family with co-dependency then you know that walking on eggshells, avoiding anger at all costs and people-pleasing is a way of surviving. A codependent family is often characterized where a child becomes invisible, a little parent, or hides as a result of a parent with substance abuse, who is physically, emotionally or sexually abusive, or with a parent with a mental illness or physical illness. The once human-BEing becomes a human-DOing. These children grown up to hyper-focus on the needs of others at the expense of their own needs. In fact, loving more, giving more, doing more is often a strategy that is learned in order to please and seek approval. But being nicer, trying harder, giving more doesn’t work. Irresponsible people remain irresponsible and you become more exhausted and overwhelmed.
In dysfunctional families being open, honest, and assertive is not taught and quite frankly unwelcomed. Besides having to pretend to be happy, being too nice can be dangerous emotionally and physically. Kids that are not taught to say No! are easy prey to those who won’t hear no. It is our duty to become confident, capable women who will teach our kids how to respect their own boundaries and bodies and those of others. But it begins with us. How difficult is it for you to say, “No” and mean it? Have you ever experienced an unsafe situation because you stayed too long?
I learned to be nice and I taught my kids to be nice at church, with grandparents, in school, really just about anywhere. My well-behaved children made me look like I had all my ducks in a row, like I was a good Mom in control. But what I was modeling and what I was raising were passive, obedient, conforming children who were performing just as I was. Today, the Mars family values being real above all else. There is no greater gift than teaching our kids to be themselves, respect themselves, protect themselves and loving them for it.
Action Step ~
First, learn to love and accept all parts of you…the good, the bad, and the not so pretty. Only then can you offer the same to your children. Being authentically nice is a beautiful way to be and a peaceful way to live!
1. Waiting to get help the I needed and deserved
I have a memory of my very angry and scary Mother (who struggled with mental illness) throwing items out of our hall closet to have us clean and organize it. I looked down at the mess of towels, sheets, band-aides, and medicines and felt overwhelmed. Slowly, I picked up and sorted each item on the shelf one at a time until it was neat and orderly. I feared that the growth process would be like that.
I feared that becoming vulnerable would require me to face all my pain and emotions all at once. The proverbial baggage that I had been carrying all around would be dumped out onto the floor. “What if I unravel?” “What if I am judged and criticized?” “Perhaps pretending that everything is okay is easier than facing the truth.” But, I knew that wearing a mask and showing the world only a part of myself came with a cost and kept me locked in a world of busyness and emotional loneliness. It also required that I lie to myself daily and to others about who I really was, how I hurt, and that I was really scared under the facade.
A skilled therapist or coach can gently encourage and support you to face the walls and defenses that you resurrected to hide the real you. The raw, uncensored, authentic you is waiting to be heard and seen. Then and only then when you are treasured in your imperfections, in the sacred space of vulnerability, will the tight bud be free to blossom. May today be the day for change!
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. — Anais Nin
Can you relate? I am here to help.