On one hand parenting is a very practical job. Feeding the baby, changing the baby’s diapers, giving the baby a bath, cleaning up after the baby and on and on it goes. Even though this can seem a bit tedious you gladly offer these gifts to your innocent beautiful dependent babe because you KNOW they can’t do it themselves.
On the other hand, parenting is an emotional experience. Emotionally supporting your children can feel confusing and demanding. What you forget is that your children are also emotionally dependent on you just like they are on the practical. Their young nervous systems don’t just magically regulate just like they don’t know how to change their diaper. The problem is that you actually have an expectation that they should actually know how to emotionally handle themselves especially when you feel emotionally triggered. Doesn’t that baby know how to stop crying? Can’t they sleep through the night?
Being well aware that practical skill sets take time, repetition and patience to learn why is it so hard to recognize that emotional regulatory skills require the same? Because no one took the time to support you. Instead they expected you to be emotionally mature way too early.
One of the main problems I hear from parents is how to get their kids to do chores and at the same time to be happy about it. When they mix up the practical with the emotional things tend to go South.
What if you separated out the two? Instead of using the emotional to teach practical skills, what if you saw them both as needing your attention? Have you ever felt frustrated with your child in relation to a practical skill and then used shame or blame to guilt them into doing the task? That would be using emotional blackmail to teach your child a practical skill. It may work in the short run and yet in the long run it builds a resistance to the practical task.
I STILL hate to unload the dishwasher which is a very easy practical skill. As a child, I had a very high value on play and being social and unloading the dishwasher was a tedious skill and easily learned. When I failed to do it every night or complained (emotional) I was shamed and blamed for not helping out and being lazy. To this day, I have resistance to this simple task.
I’d learned the practical skill and yet wasn’t supported in working with the emotions that came up when I was asked to do something that wasn’t in my high value. I was not motivated to do something I already knew how to do. Instead of linking my high value to unloading the dishwasher I was shamed and punished while at the same time being told I was irresponsible and needed to learn that skill. What? To my young mind this made no sense at all.
The bottom line is that you and your child have practical needs and emotional needs and linking those two instead of using the emotional to get the practical done is something that you may need to learn.
Listen to this week’s podcast to hear more.