Good for you! - C.U.E. #9

Good for you! -- C.U.E. #9

In case you haven't noticed, even teaching P.E.T. doesn't exempt me from infantile behavior once in a while. (We are all ex-babies, reminds John O'Donohue, the late poet, philosopher and Catholic scholar, in this moving interview.)

Knowing P.E.T. does, however, help with quicker recovery time! With greater ease, I regain my footing on who owns the problem, what my role is and how to go about doing what needs to get done. 

I share my slip-ups hoping that my after-the-fact analysis using the Behavior Window helps all of us in this oh-so-hard endeavor of parenting. (Check out my first Consciously Unskilled Episode post for a full intro.)

The Missteps

A couple of months ago, my daughter Claudia* lay on the dining room rug in defiance. It had been a rough evening to say the least. 

A few days earlier, my three kids and I had done a Method III Problem-Solve on cleaning but now the house was a pigsty! My kids were happy in own worlds; I was firmly in the Parent Owns Problem box.

Instead of issuing a Confrontive I-Message, however, I'm chagrined to say I actually kicked my son's schoolbag out of the entry because Well, I've told him a thousand times and he should know! 

It did, at that point, occur to me to hit pause and be self-compassionate. Active Listening myself, tapping using Emotional Freedom Technique, clearing my mind of everything but my breathing and the sensations in my body -- gosh, I could have used all of it right then!

But no, I barged ahead in fight mode and called an impromptu check-in session (Step 6 of the Problem-Solve), ignoring the fact that it was past Claudia's bedtime. I went through the motions of using some skills -- Confrontive I-Messages, Shifting Gears to Active Listen, brainstorming options, discussing who was to do what by when -- but when we all got up from the table, I still wasn't my best self.

I firmly ordered Claudia, "It's after 9. Get ready for bed now!"

She slid onto the floor. 

"NOW!" I demanded.

She mutely stared at the wall in her tween way (she was on the eve of 12).

"Good night!" I said and stomped off, implying that I was not going to tuck that limp body into ANY bed.

Holy schmoly.

The Repair

I breathed deeply as I lay down on my bed for some self-talk:

"Oh, you feel so horrible, Catherine. You didn't mean to do that. You are just soooo exhausted and feeling so helpless and raw right now. And then she just lay there and you couldn't help it -- you lost it! Forgiven, forgiven. You are trying your best."

I think it took about fifteen minutes before I was ready to apologize and to Active Listen my daughter whom I found in bed, still awake.

"Claudia, I am so sorry for the way I just behaved. I was feeling really powerless and I just wanted this day to end. You must have felt so awful having me yell and scream at you to go to bed already when it wasn't even your decision to stay up this late. I am sorry."

"It's ok, Mom," she snuggled under her covers.

"You know what?" I proceeded to say. "Good for you!"

Huh? came her look.

"I really mean it." I explained. "Good for you for not listening to me. You didn't just do what I wanted you to do and that's healthy."

"Oh?" Her curiosity was piqued.

"Yeah," I continued. "I'll tell you something: not once did I ever stand up to Grandma and there are still times when the little girl in me resents that. I'm working on it because I love her and don't want to feel that way. And, as you know, Grandma probably never stood up to her parents either back in Korea. These intergenerational patterns continue unless someone stops them." 

"And," I finished with a flourish, "That's what you're doing!" 

The Take-Away

Besides wanting to make peace, I had gone into Claudia's room as her cheerleader. 

You see, in my room I had reflected on whether I had ever openly defied my own mother and could not think of a single instance. 

No surprise there. I was always a very, very, very "good" girl.

When parents use power, the responses of children often fall into one of three categories and mine definitely fit the last one: 

Thomas Gordon points out that some submissive children, when they hit adolescence, start to opt for resistance and rebellion.

Nope, not me! 

And that puts me into a high risk category:

These are the adults who remain children throughout their lives, passively submitting to authority, denying their own needs, fearing to be themselves, frightened of conflict, too compliant to stand up for their own convictions.
— Dr. Gordon, Parent Effectiveness Training: The Proven Program for Raising Responsible Children, page 207

In the past few years, I've realized that my coping choices came with a high price and so have been diligently reversing some long-held patterns (check out the new assertive me!).

So I championed my daughter's response!

And yet, clearly, the dead-weight slump will only take her so far in life, right?

So we are working on more assertive ways for Claudia to stand up for herself and she is learning the power of the Confrontive I-Message:


In this case, Claudia might have told me: "Mom, when you speak to me the way you have been, I feel annoyed and angry because I don't think it's fair! I am tired and didn't even want to do the meeting in the first place!"

Working with my children on P.E.T. skills fills my heart with hope. Truly. I dream that my experiences can benefit them and generations to come -- many lives full of smoother, happier and mutually respectful interactions. 

*Note: Every once in a while, I want to remind my readers that I use pseudonyms for my children (to limit their online presence). I am grateful for their permission to share our family's struggles. I also change facts and identities of other figures in my posts.

Thanks so much for reading!! Parenting is hard -- it helps to feel we are in this together.

xo Catherine

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