Stop the whining! -- P.G.D. #2

Stop the Whining! -- P.G.D. #2

We are home for Easter Break and it is domesticity galore. I'm back to the way things used to be in the US, sans domestic helper.

Yeah, boo-hoo, I hear all my non-Hong Kong readers sniff!

No, seriously, it's a good break for my soul, getting back into the rhythm of household management: loading and unloading the dishwasher, daily laundry cycles in our small washer and dryer, menu planning, cooking and clean-up. Getting the kids involved feels familiar.

All this is to explain that perhaps my Line of Acceptance was already high for my 11 year old daughter who was not happy earlier this week.

What was going on?

She has a science project on heart disease that she is not relishing.

She has piano every day (she decided to do these make-up lessons) and does not like the extra in-between practice.

What did all this frustration sound like?



After a couple of days, I had it and kind of blew my top. I did not use Confrontive I-Messages. I opted instead for the communications Roadblocks of Logic, Arguing and Lecturing:

"Listen, if you don't want to saute the mushrooms, just say so. You don't HAVE to do anything. And you can chop up more onion YOURSELF! And what do you mean, 'What are you doing?' I can check my emails if I want to!"

I felt bad as soon as the words were out of my mouth. Claudia left the kitchen with a "You do it then!" 

I calmed myself down but apologizing to her later did me little good. There was more going on here than simple housework burnout or the powerful, evolutionary role that whining plays in getting someone heard. 

Something was wanting my attention.

I paused with my forehead on the doorjamb of the master bathroom. I knew I needed to reflect on this something. But, tiredly, I thought, I don't have time for this. I can't believe I have to do this. Do I have to? Really?  

Yet I knew from experience that it was the only way out.

Things had been building up over the last few days hearing Claudia's tone of voice. Once I even told her with the -- ahem! -- insight of a P.E.T. instructor: "I can tell you are unhappy because of your tone of voice, but I am too tired and don't want to Active Listen you anymore! Good night, honey. I'll see you in the morning."

Really, it had to stop.

So here's what I did to get to the bottom of this.

I asked and answered my guiding questions

  • What really matters -- is that Claudia feels accepted for her annoyance and frustration and assisted through those feelings so she can assertively solve her own problems. Once her temperature is lower, I can always Consult on other strategies she can use to meet her needs, like Confrontive and Declarative I-Messages.
  • If I had to drop the story of how she was wrong to keep whining, I would have to feel -- a plethora of emotions and limiting thoughts. This is a take on Thomas Gordon's approach of encouraging us to look for the primary emotions under the secondary anger we are directing at our kids.  

I started tapping to help me delve further

Emotional Freedom Technique helps me to explore all the emotions of the moment and to make connections using what comes up as I tap on acupressure points.

Having done a fair amount of EFT as well as Matrix Reimprinting (which uses EFT to rewrite an upsetting memory so that it no longer holds negative feelings and beliefs), I already know what a few of my issues are. Not surprisingly, some go way, way back.

[I]f you want to parent well, you have to work on yourself, too. A child doesn’t cause the anger or anxiety that hooks us into power struggles; that comes from our own fear and doubt. Our own childhood experiences, our own early traumas — major and minor — are part of who we are. What’s more, they’re the part of us that takes charge whenever we’re upset; so when you’re angry or frightened, you know that’s almost always an early bad experience driving your reactions.
— Laura Markham, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, page 4
[I]t is important that we try to be aware of our own emotional processes and respect their central role in both our internal and interpersonal lives. Children are particularly vulnerable to becoming the targets of the projection of our nonconscious emotions and unresolved issues. Our defensive adaptations from earlier in life can restrict our ability to be receptive and empathic to our children’s internal experience.
— Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell, Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive, page 69

I integrated some implicit memories

Siegel and Hartzell, in the first chapter of Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive, describe implicit memories as "fascinating" in that, when they are being retrieved, we lack awareness that anything is actually being recalled. 

In that moment, we simply don't know that our current internal experience is being generated from perceptual interpretations and mental models of the past.

The authors urge us to reflect and integrate these implicit memories into an explicit, autobiographical life narrative. That way, we free ourselves of their power and are better able truly to respond to the child before us.

Tapping, I found some significant emotions, experiences and impressions that were informing my response to Claudia:

  • Her whining brings up feelings of anxiety. Somewhere in me feels that, somehow, it is my fault that she isn't happy!
  • I feel threatened and insecure -- if she is not content, then I am failing as a mother.
  • That's connected to a sense that I am unlovable.
  • It's extremely hard to prove I am lovable so I feel helpless!
  • And afraid!

I rested quietly then, grateful for the insight and sense of clearing. I offered love and care to my younger self -- she's still with me, for sure.

I journaled by starting this post and then went to Claudia's room with my laptop.

I repaired and reconnected

I told her again that I was sorry for speaking so angrily. "It's ok," she said sincerely.

"I'd like to explain a little about why I was reacting to you like that." I went on. "I realize it's all about my own issues."

And then I shared my first draft. I didn't go into it any more and she didn't ask. I was lighter knowing she better understands my limitations and struggles and that I don't blame her for her own emotional state. 

We hugged and went out to the kitchen looking for some late breakfast. The mushrooms and onions were still there.

I felt a heck of a lot better after achieving authentic connection with not only my daughter, but myself as well.

So much for "ruining" my day -- far from it!

How much do you share with your child?

I haven't disclosed any painful childhood memories with my kids. It's enough that they know that all children (and yes, Mommy was once a child) are vulnerable and susceptible to taking on limiting, negative self-beliefs.

I stress to them that IT'S NO ONE'S FAULT. Everyone -- my parents, my grandparents and even me -- simply tries to do the best they can with the skills they have in this most challenging (and rewarding) endeavor of raising another human being.

I hope you liked this second post in the P.G.D. (Perfectly Good Day) series. I share different resources, books and practices that have helped me to "unstuck" myself and put the P.E.T. communication skills into practice more of the time.

P.S. I learned EFT and Matrix Reimprinting with Caroline Rhodes, founder of The Body Group in Hong Kong. I am so grateful for her guidance and presence in my life.

Credits: No whining button (