Wasting Time

When I was a child, we got up in the morning, got dressed, went to school, came back, played with our friends, did homework, spent time with our parents in the evening, listened to the radio or watched TV, and got into bed. We got 3 meals a day; we got enough exercise, enough sleep, enough entertainment, enough social activity, and enough family time.

Our parents managed pretty well too. They did their own work, spent time with us, and never seemed to rush from one person / place / activity to another.

The idea that there ‘wasn’t enough time’ – for anything – had not yet been invented, apparently! 🙂

By the time I reached teenage, time began to acquire focus. I heard my parents tell me not to ‘waste’ time: on the phone, meeting people incessantly, watching TV all evening, day dreaming…

Today, our children hear it from birth: Don’t Waste Time.

I’m sure you’ve said it to your child at least once (not if you are a newly-minted parent, obviously): “Don’t waste time! There’s so much to do – get on with things…”

One day, my irritated daughter shot back at me, “I’m NOT wasting time, okay? I want to read this book.”

“But you’ve read it at least fourteen times already!” I protested.

“Twelve,” she smirked, “but what difference does that make to you? It’s my book. I’ll read it two hundred times, if I wish it. It’s none of your business! I don’t say anything about the books you read; you don’t interfere with my reading.” (Topsy-turvy logic, I agree. After all, I’m the parent, and parents have the ‘right’ to comment on what their kids are doing, whereas the reverse is pretty off-the-wall. But I have always given her equal rights. If this is kind of conversation is what equality entails, so be it, I say.  Sometimes I think I let her get away with a bit too much in the name of equality, but there are some lessons only time can teach. And time needs time…)

I would normally have dismissed this outburst as another of the crazy, inexplicable things she does (that’s one of the ways we keep peace: we agree that the other is ‘simply nuts’! And then we place statements, incidents and outbursts in the ‘simply-nuts behavior box’ and put it aside 🙂 ), but I was in ‘listening‘ mode.

When I stopped to think about what she’d said, this is what I realized:

1. Much as I love her, it is her life, and her time. One way or another, that time will be spent.

2. I have very little control over how she (or anyone else, for that matter) spends her time. If at all I have any control, it is over how I spend my time. But here, I duck my responsibility, and say, “I have so much work, so many things to do, so much to handle, so many responsibilities, that I simply don’t get any time for myself!” Big-time responsibility-avoidance! 🙂

3. I can choose to ignore the reality of how little control I have over how she spends her time, and (i) worry about it, or (ii) explain to her, nag her, plead with her, and hound her to spend her time the way I believe is best for her, or (iii) both. This will create conflict between us, and that conflict will spill over into all areas of our lives. And there is no way to resolve this kind of conflict, because it is based on one of us being ‘right’ and the other one ‘wrong’.

4. Since it is her life, she has first dibs on choosing how she spends it. While she may or may not please anyone else with her choice; the one person she can definitely please is herself. She might as well make choices that please her. At least she will be happy, if nobody else will…  

5. She can be an independent, worthwhile adult (the goal of parenting, in my view) only if she makes her own choices and accepts the consequences of those choices. Choosing how to spend time is also a choice. And the earlier you let your child begin to make this choice, the quicker and better he will learn what works for him and what doesn’t.

6. Time cannot be wasted; just like money cannot be wasted. ‘Waste’ is an opinion or a judgment of someone. If she wants to be word-perfect on five hundred novels, re-reading them for the nth time is a ‘good’ investment of time for her.

7. Everyone’s ‘good use’ of time is a ‘waste’ of time for someone else.

If you stop to think about it, I’m sure you’ll realize exactly the same thing about how your child ‘wastes’ time!

You wasted time too, you know, in the past. You probably still do. Celebrate the fact that you ‘waste’ time. A life in which time is always spent towards the achievement of one goal or another, is ultimately, a life devoid of spontaneity, enjoyment, and joy. Incredibly sad, don’t you think? What’s worse, it’s unnecessarily sad.

The next time your child ‘wastes’ time, let him. Either you will learn that he wasn’t wasting it, or he will feel he could use it differently. Either way, you will still have time with your child – because you both realize that your time is your own, and you will choose, happily, to spend some of it with each other!

Carefree Parenting has moved to a new home! Please visit http://carefreeparenting.com for all the articles, books and other material. See you soon. 🙂


Your Sensitive G-spot

Here’s a quiz for you. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to your G-spot immediately after the quiz! :-))

Of the options given below, pick the one that is most true for you:

Q1. Your work relates to your area of study or training.

a) True

b) False

Q2. Evaluate your level of satisfaction with the work you are doing at present:

a) I am delighted to be doing the work I do.

b) I’m reasonably happy doing what I do.

c) I’m sort of okay doing what I do. Could be better, but could be worse too.

d) I’m not too happy doing what I do.

e) I’m miserable! Help!

Alright, it’s G-spot time!

Whether you are a Dad or a Mom, you have a G-spot. And since it is a G-spot, it is sensitive. In fact, it is so sensitive, that it can ruin not just your mood, but your peace of mind and your relationships as well!

G is for Grades, the holy grail of academic achievement.

If your child makes a good grade, there’s a grin on your face and in your mind that you can’t wipe off (and you don’t want to either! 🙂 ). But more often than not, your child doesn’t make as good a grade as you’d like, and that is a niggling dissatisfaction that you can’t quite get over.

You pore over his assignments and his exam papers.

“How could you make such a silly mistake?”

“You don’t know how to spell ‘impossible’? But you spelt it okay in 3 other places! How can you misspell it in a dictation/spelling bee?”

“Really, how can you get confused between addition and multiplication at age 10? 2 x 3 is 6, not 5. Maybe it was a genuine error (! Are there any other kinds of errors? During exams?!), but you should have left enough time for revision before you gave the paper in, and you should have caught and fixed the mistake while looking over your answers! How many times do I have to tell you…?” You’re almost howling with disappointment by now.

Er – let’s get back to the quiz.

What kind of student were you? Maybe you were a star, outperforming everyone. Super! And how long did that continue? Right through high school? Undergraduate school? Graduate school? Even beyond? WOW! That is some achievement, and I congratulate you. 🙂

And you were a star because it all came naturally to you? Or did you have to put in some effort? And if you did, did you want to put in the effort? Or was someone ‘motivating’ (or pushing or nagging) you to do better? And how did you feel about it all? If you could go back today, would you still do what you did then? Or would you choose differently?

For most of us, we might have got pretty good grades through school, or even had flashes of brilliance, but we weren’t on top of the Grade game through our lives.

And whether you set new records with your Grade Point or not, what does that have to do with the work you’re doing now?

How fulfilled are you – doing the work you are doing now? Today, more than ever, people are choosing to set aside years of training in one area, and work in a completely different field. They have invested time, energy and money – their life – in a profession, and they choose to walk away from it. It might be understandable if the choice was made under pressure: a lawyer’s son ‘chooses’ to take the bar exam to continue his mother’s practice; a businessman’s daughter goes to business school …  

But even if the choice was freely made, people are choosing to walk away from earlier choices and make new choices all the time – at any time of their lives. 

I know people who chose to study at the best Ivy League engineering colleges, where they successfully competed for merit scholarships. They graduated with honors, winning medals and trophies, got wonderful jobs, worked at them, and after years, threw it all up because they wanted to study music or spirituality! And they’re back at undergraduate school, studying.

There are doctors who have trained for over a decade, worked for a while, and then decided they didn’t like it enough to spend more time at the job. Some became photographers, others joined Government (in non-medical) administration, while yet others set up factories to manufacture garments!

Why do you obsess over your child’s grades?

Stop reading for a bit, and spend some time with the question: WHY do you obsess over your child’s grades?

You know from personal experience, from the media, that how well you do at school is no guarantee that you will be happy in your chosen profession.

Or have I made a mistake? Maybe you’re not looking at your child’s happiness.

Maybe you just want to ensure that she is a ‘success’. ‘Success’ means she must make her way rapidly up one of the top 5 companies in the world in her chosen area of work. She must win accolades, she must get a fat salary, and perks you can boast about to everyone you know. And naturally, if she is ‘successful’, she will be happy. (! There is no limit to our capacity for self-delusion!)

We must remember something we are always in danger of forgetting: happiness and success are two different things.

Happiness is what you experience – you know it is real for you.

Success is tricky. You may be held up by the world as a shining example of success, but you may not believe you are a success (if you feel you could do much more, for instance). On the other hand, the world may not think much of you, but you may think you are a success (someone who wants to mow lawns because he loves to do that, and goes ahead and makes a good living from it as well!). 🙂

But you keep getting confused between happiness and success. You are so ‘achievement’ oriented, and you want the best for your kids. Heck, you want your kids to BE the best! So you hound them to ‘Get Good Grades’.

Whether or not they are capable of good grades. Whether or not they wish to get good grades. (Unfortunately for you, their wishes have everything to do with this – you can’t keep pushing them forever. It will only work if they want to get good grades for themselves.) Whether or not they are happy.

And so you make GRADES the fulcrum of your relationship with your child – the fulcrum against which you bang your head till it’s bleeding, and till your relationship with your child is in tatters, but you can’t get yourself to stop.

I’d say that’s a sensitive G-spot. Wouldn’t you?

Carefree Parenting has moved to a new home! Please visit http://carefreeparenting.com for all the articles, books and other material. See you soon. 🙂

When Parents Fight

We are so unnatural around little children! We don’t want them to know about hurt, anxiety, anger, fear. More precisely, we don’t want them to know that any ‘negative’ emotions exist outside their little world. We behave like Gautama Buddha’s father 🙂 – let them not know there is anything but joy and pleasure and ‘good’ things.

But some day, your son will know. However hard you try, someday he will know that these troublesome emotions do exist. Someday he will learn that people are vulnerable to these emotions at every age, that no one is immune to them. Someday, he will have to learn to deal with these emotions.

One of the most common ways we try to hide the ‘ugly’ bits of life is the way we handle adult conflict around children. I’m not talking here about the ‘you were so thoughtless’ or ‘you were so rude’ kind of arguments. I’m talking about basic, major conflicts that you may have with your partner.

These may not be at the forefront of your consciousness: so you don’t argue all the time, but you wish your life could be different, your partner could be different, your relationship could be different. Or the conflict may be a living, breathing reality in your life: you are hanging on to the tatters of the relationship by your finger-nails, wondering how, hoping, praying, to make it work. Sometimes, you are trying to make it work only because the alternative is too scary to contemplate.

When your baby is little, you are too tired to put much energy into disagreement. As she grows, and your routine slowly swings back to normal, you feel more yourself, and more ready to make a point with your partner. You are still careful around her. But she sleeps enough hours in the day to let you have it out with your partner. So you feel she is protected from the conflict you are both experiencing. Any protection she enjoys is only relative, however.

I say your baby is only ‘relatively’ protected for two reasons. Firstly, I believe children take in a lot subliminally, especially when they’re babies. So somewhere, your argument is registering in her subconscious, if you are having it around her sleeping form. Secondly, if the argument is fierce, you will both be feeling its after-effects, and it will affect the way you will be with each other in the near future (till the problem is sorted out – if at all it gets sorted out). When she wakes up, she will get the unfriendly vibes that you are sending each other. Oh, yes! She will definitely know that there is conflict. So any protection she enjoys is only ‘relative’.

After a while, it becomes difficult to control yourself. Arguments may flare up for any reason at any time. There are hundreds of reasons to clash with someone, and only one to hold your peace.

You and your partner disagree about something. Both of you are unyielding. It might have started as a discussion of whether to go to Australia or Switzerland on vacation, but it has degenerated into how each of you is impossible to live with.

As the disagreement escalates and tempers flare up, vocal cords are out of control. One or both of you may start banging doors or throwing things around. If you realize in time that your child is awake and may be listening, you may put the fight away for the moment – till she is in bed, or elsewhere, so that no ‘damage’ is done.

You are proud of the fact that you don’t show conflict in front of your child. You present a united stand. You are loving parents who love each other. Yours is the ‘happy family’ that fairy tales end with.

Is this a good idea? I doubt it.

I believe you are doing your son a grave disservice by making him believe that life is a bed of roses. The sooner you can acknowledge reality and introduce him to it, the better equipped he will be to make his way through life with relative happiness.

He must know that people have differences of opinion, and that they work (or argue or fight!) to resolve them. He must know that it is normal to disagree with loved ones. It doesn’t make the love any less real. He must know that it is okay for people to feel anger and resentment against loved ones, and still be ‘good’ people, still be lovable.

In his life, he will be faced with conflicts. How will he handle them? If you don’t handle at least some conflicts in front of him, how will he learn how to handle conflicts in his life, in his relationships?  Would you rather he learnt how to handle conflict from the TV programs he’s hooked to or the movies he watches? He has to learn from somewhere, and he’ll learn from whatever and whoever is available. It is your decision to make. 

But there is a much more immediate cause for concern when you hide conflict from your child.

No matter what you do, your child will know something is wrong between the two of you. You may think you’re giving nothing away, but he knows

Children are egocentric – they consider themselves the center of the universe. 🙂 Whether at age 2 or 12 or 16, when it comes to their family, the world revolves around them.

So when your son sees or senses conflict between you and your partner, he unconsciously but naturally considers himself responsible for it. There must be something he’s doing or not doing, some way he’s behaving or not behaving, that is causing this rift between you and your partner.

You won’t be able to make any of this out from his expression. He might be stoical or matter-of-fact about your fights, but in his head and heart, he’s wondering how he can fix what’s wrong between the two of you.

He may become extremely docile to please you and make you happy. In his mind, this happiness will then spill over into your relationship and all will be well. Fixed! Or he may go wild. His wildness will give you both a common agenda and draw you closer together – towards happiness. Done and dusted!

But this doesn’t really happen, does it?

Your child struggles under the weight of the conflicts you are either suppressing or giving vent to.  Not quite what you’d intended when you started out as a parent, is it? More tomorrow…

Carefree Parenting has moved to a new home! Please visit http://carefreeparenting.com for all the articles, books and other material. See you soon. 🙂

The Only Choice You’ll Ever Make

When you agree with somebody, there is no problem. You both feel the same. If there is a difference, it is a difference of degree. You like Tom Cruise, the other person loves Tom Cruise. But both of you feel positively about Tom Cruise, so you’re both happy.

‘Problems’ arise when you feel differently from someone else. And if that someone is your child, the problem assumes huge proportions. You are torn apart by your love for the child and your desire to see him ‘happy’ on the one hand, and by your ‘knowing’ exactly what will make him happy on the other!

Your son says “I’m going to get my left eyebrow pierced.”

You wince, cringe, bite your tongue, speak civilly to him about it, try to dissuade him with ‘logical’ arguments – and then all hell breaks loose. Your son is going to do WHAT?! You can’t believe it! How does he think he’s going to find an after-school job with a pierced eyebrow? And what of his position as a star of the school debating team? They won’t send him to the nationals (and he’s good enough to qualify) with a pierced eyebrow! He’ll blight his own future! All because of a silly whim! I mean, how will a pierced eyebrow add to his happiness? Does he have to do this to be part of the ‘in’ crowd? Who cares about such an ‘in’ crowd? (Umm – apparently, your son does.)

It goes on and on – for days, weeks, maybe months. Either he will get his eyebrow pierced, in which case, you will throw a blue fit, and blame every social, academic, physical, mental and emotional issue he will face in the future on the eyebrow-piercing. (Perhaps till he’s in his 30s – if he’s lucky enough to be forgiven that soon! :-))

If you emerge victorious (yes, I’m using war language, because this has become a battle between the two of you), he will blame you for everything. (“If you’d let me have my way, I’d be happier, and I’d have studied harder and got into an Ivy League college” (!), for instance.)

It might not be eyebrow-piercing. But there will be something or other about your child that drives you to distraction, that makes you feel as if you have no choice but to react as you do.

You teach him how to make the bed, and he learns. What’s more, he actually makes his bed every day! 🙂 But he’s not making it the ‘right’ way (also called ‘properly’ or ‘correctly’), and that is a problem. If it is his bed, he will have to make it (and lie in it! :-)) all his life. I ask you: doesn’t he have the right to make the bed his way? What difference does it make, after all?

She was solving problems in differential calculus before she turned 10 years old, but she wants to clean, trim, buff and polish people’s nails at a salon. Obviously you’re tearing your hair out by the roots in frustration. What else can you do when she simply won’t listen? You have no choice!

That is not true. Whatever the issue: habits, attitudes, thinking, choices regarding friends, careers, significant others – you always have a choice. And it is always the same choice!

At every moment of every day, you choose either to be RIGHT, or to be HAPPY. There is no other choice.

Amazingly, most of us choose, almost all the time, to be RIGHT. And that sets us up in conflict with other people. Arguments, slanging matches, tension, anger; loss of focus, time, energy, health, relationships – we accept all this. Accept? We actively choose it!

Because we’d rather be right than be happy.

You want your child to do as you wish because you believe you know better. You may know better. But you may not! You refuse to even consider the second option. Comfortable in your higher age, your greater ‘experience’ and ‘maturity’, you are immovable in the notion that you are ‘right’.

Well, so what? Even if you are right, why should she listen to you? Some day, she has to learn to make her own decisions. How long will you look over her shoulder? How will she learn what works for her and what doesn’t? When will she be her own person?

You know it’s a criminal waste of her abilities if she works in that salon. Actually, so do I. I am 100% with you on this. But once you’ve coaxed and wheedled, explained and pleaded, threatened and blown up at her, there’s nothing left to do.

At the end of the day, you can’t ‘make’ her do anything. It has to be her choice.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t get your children to see your point of view. You are the parent. They do not have the breadth or depth of thought or experience to know as much as you do. But once you have informed them, exposed them to the consequences of a decision, you have to learn to walk away.

It has to be your child’s decision.

Meanwhile, you have your own choice to make. Will you choose to be ‘right’? If you choose this, you will be resentful of your child’s choice, there will be unpleasantness, fights, and you will create a deep rift in your relationship with your child. Because your love for her is set up in conflict with what you ‘know’ is ‘right’ for her.

What if you chose to be ‘happy’? You may obviously never be HAPPY about her choice, but now that she has made it, you may choose to accept it. Now you can choose to be happy that she is doing what she chooses, even if it is not what you wished for her. You can tell her frankly that you disagree with her choice, but that you are willing to respect it. And then go ahead and respect it!

From your point of view, at worst, she will ‘waste’ her potential at that salon all her life. But she will remember and value your support and respect for her decision. You will have a wonderful relationship with her.

At best, she will become impatient with the lack of challenge and choose again; something more in line with her abilities. She will not ‘waste’ her life. She will remember and value your support and respect for your decision. You will have a wonderful relationship with her.

It’s your choice.

Carefree Parenting has moved to a new home! Please visit http://carefreeparenting.com for all the articles, books and other material. See you soon. 🙂

Letting Your Child Make You Happy, and Other Such Ideas

Some widely-accepted strategies to manage conflict are:

1. Separate the wrongdoer from the wrong.

2. Don’t accuse the person.

3. Talk about how the wrong action / words make you feel.

Okay, let’s dive in.

Your child is pushing your buttons. You’re determined to hold on to your temper. You say, “I get really upset when you hit your little brother. I wish you wouldn’t. You are his big sister, and you should be taking care of him, protecting him, not hitting him yourself. It would make me very happy if you stop hitting him.”

The next time she desists from hitting her brother, she will want your acknowledgement. “Dad is really happy you didn’t hit your brother. You made me very happy.”

Or else, “I get very angry when you throw your clothes and books all over the house. Please put your things away.”

You try to manage your child’s behavior from morning to night by telling him your reaction to specific behaviors of his. Some of his actions make you happy, others make you sad, yet others make you angry, still others disappoint you. This way, you try to teach him ‘acceptable’ behavior, and train him to live the way you’d like him to live.

What you might not realize is that you are also taking away all his power as an individual.

Look at the message he is getting: He makes you happy, or sad, or embarrassed, or proud, or confused, or hurt, or annoyed. And you? You’re just the puppet being jerked around at the end of a string. He’s the one making you feel all the emotions, so he has the power!

Hmm – maybe it’s the words; the words should change. Maybe you could say, “I feel happy or proud or furious when…” instead of “You make me feel…” But the message is still the same. Your child has the power to make you feel a certain way by behaving (or not) a certain way.

Very subtly, he is learning manipulation.

Why do children get away with throwing tantrums? (And tantrums of different kinds are thrown at different ages – this is not about the Terrible Twos alone. :-)) They do it in a very calculated fashion. They have calibrated, almost to the second, the moment when you will give in to them because you can’t take the tantrum any more. The tantrum might be yelling, spitting, banging, giving you the silent treatment, throwing things around, refusing to eat or go to school, not doing chores – whatever. But you let it get to you. So they manipulate you to get what they want from you.

Here’s an incident that always makes me smile when I think of it. 4-year old Lily, the youngest of the family, cried for minutes on end at the slightest impact. “It hurt!” she would wail, and only be mollified by large quantities of candy, cola and other ‘taboo’ foods.

One day, when she and Josh, her 8-year old brother, were the only ones at home, Josh heard a huge crash in the backyard. He was in the kitchen making a sandwich, and knew that Lily would be screaming in a moment. Surprisingly, there was no sound from her. He was just thinking of going out to investigate, when the door to the backyard opened, and Lily walked in, her knee bruised, blood dripping down her shin. Lily was startled to see Josh, and stopped mid-stride.

“You’re hurt? And you didn’t even shout once?” asked Josh, not really able to take in the phenomenon.

She said, “I didn’t know there was anyone around to hear me, so I didn’t yell.” 🙂 🙂

Kids are supreme manipulators.

Don’t let them get away with it. Just keep doing your thing. It won’t be easy, because they’ve trained you too well. 🙂 But you’re the adult here, and it’s time to take back your power. They may try to annoy you, but don’t be annoyed. You may be boiling, but try not to show it, and with time and practice, you’ll see how easy it is to stay cool.

She has a problem. She wants something. What if it had been someone else’s child? You’d just have left her alone and removed yourself from there. Well, go ahead and do it! The only one preventing you from doing so is yourself! Don’t play her game. Walk away. Do your own thing. It will take time, but she will slowly learn that she cannot ‘make’ you feel a specific emotion.

There are two wonderful results of not letting your child ‘make’ you feel a certain way.

For one, you will take back your own power. People and events have the power to affect you only so long as you let them. In the words of one anonymous person, if you’ve lost your job, your car has broken down, and you’re down with the flu, why make things worse by being depressed?

🙂 Okay, this is a clear exaggeration, but seriously, we make things a lot worse for ourselves than they need to be. You’re stuck in traffic. Worrying, abusing all and sundry, driving like a maniac – none of it will get you to your destination on time. It will take as long as it will take. Then why let it ruin your blood pressure, heart rate, digestion and mood? Why hold so much tension in your body that you’re aching all over when you reach? Only you know the answer to this one. But if you don’t have an answer, someday you might begin to realize you’re not playing it smart.

The other delightful outcome is that your child will also learn to be responsible for his emotions. Most importantly, he will learn to rely on himself for his happiness. Because you will have trained him, through your responses, that no one can ‘make’ anyone happy. People just are – happy or irritated or pleased or … This is a big one.

He will also be less likely to be manipulated.

The biggest immediate beneficiary is you. When you deny him, and he tries to give you the old: “I’m really sad because you aren’t letting me play my PSP”, you can give him the same logic in reverse.

“I’m not letting you play, but you don’t have to be sad about it. You’re just choosing to be sad.”

Your children will get it after a while, so long as you are consistent. They’re smart, you see! 🙂

Carefree Parenting has moved to a new home! Please visit http://carefreeparenting.com for all the articles, books and other material. See you soon. 🙂

Where are YOU in Your Priority List?

You are a loving parent. You may not be the perfect parent you want to be, but you’re certainly trying your best. At least, you think so.

I disagree. You are busting a gut trying to set a good example to your children, but in a very important way, you are failing them. Yes, you’re failing – failing to set them perhaps the most important example of all: the example of loving yourself.

When your children are tired, you feed them, bathe them, and hustle them into bed. You let them sleep late on weekends to make up sleep deficit accumulated over the week; you let them take the day off school if they’re sick. You let them get away with some ‘bad’ behavior if you know they are stressed. Their activities are sacrosanct – you ensure they get to practices and events. You ensure they have access to nutritious food on time.

Of course you do all this and more. You love them!

And what about yourself? You probably don’t do all this for yourself, which means you don’t love yourself. Don’t deny it! And this lack of love for yourself causes all kinds of problems for you.

You’re perpetually rushing around doing things for others. You are in self-sacrificing mode (why??), which means over a period of time, your nerves are on edge. You are tired (exhausted is more like it), frustrated, stressed, and trying to juggle all the demands on your time and energy. Eventually, you begin snapping at the least provocation or even without any provocation at all.

Your children are left wondering what they’ve done to get an over-the-top reaction from you. They are confused. You end up feeling guilty, and then swing between overcompensating to manage the guilt, and letting off steam. You feel worse about yourself so you do even more to make yourself feel better. Life swings more out of control.

This is only one fall-out of ignoring your OWN needs – for time, rest, fulfillment, quiet, nutrition, exercise – whatever does it for you.

There is a much deeper malaise it creates with our children. This malaise takes root at two levels.

Firstly, it teaches your child not to value your needs. Children learn by copying speech, behavior, mannerisms. After all, if you yourself don’t value your needs, why should your child? But you continue to value his needs, so he does too! As you do this over months and years, the attitude of valuing himself, and under-valuing or not valuing you becomes ingrained. You know what happens next. You complain. You protest. You accuse him of being selfish, of not caring for you. “After ALL I’ve done for you!” 🙂 In short, you even stoop to blackmail. But to no avail.

How can you blame him? You are the one who has taught him this attitude. Think back to the number of times your son told you over the years, “Why don’t you go to bed if you’re not feeling well?” He was just echoing what you said to him. And in all those years, how many times did you actually go to bed? Try and think. Did you? Or did you say, “I should go to bed, but then who will do all the work…” Of course he’ll treat you like a drudge later on. You’ve taught him to do so!

Look at what this does to your relationship with your child. You feel ill-used, under-appreciated, and resentful. Your child, meanwhile, is mystified by all the fuss. He can’t understand why you suddenly want things to be different from how you’ve wanted them all these years.

Since he’s going through (or almost going through) puberty by this time, he has enough to deal with already. And your behavior has him convinced you’re going through a mid-life crisis. (At the very least – most of them think we’re completely gaga [and that’s not Lady Gaga ;-)] by this time.)

Your relationship with your child goes into a tailspin at the very time you need it to be strong so he can be relatively grounded through the turbulent times ahead.

The other level at which putting yourself last affects your child is that it teaches her that ‘good’ people (adults) don’t value their own needs; that they put others’ needs before their own. It teaches her that this destructive relationship with oneself is called ‘loving someone’. Obviously, someone other than oneself!

When you put yourself last all the time, you are teaching her to shortchange herself for the rest of her life. It prepares her for a life of less joy and fulfillment than she is capable of, and definitely less of it than she deserves.

She will be manipulated by people all through her life. “If you love me, you would… / you wouldn’t…” Once again, I must specify that this is as true of men as of women, though on average, women tend to be less respectful of their own needs than men do. Must be the nurturing gene…

Do you want this for your child? Why not empower her to live a free, fulfilling life?

So why do you do it? No, don’t say “who else will take care of things?” You mean if you take the day off sick the office will close down? Really? If you ask your child to be responsible for his own breakfast on Sundays so you can sleep in, will he think Dad and Mom don’t love him anymore? That you are selfish? Nonsense! Who taught you all this? Look back. Where did you learn this? Revisit your childhood. Do you see how you got to this point?

Do you see what a terrible legacy you are handing down to the child you love?

I don’t know your child personally, but I’m sure of one thing: your child is smart. Actually, that’s SMART in capital letters. As you go about your life putting yourself last, and trying hard to convince her you are happy, the only one you are fooling is yourself. She knows at all times when you are really feeling something, and when you are only pretending to an emotion you do not feel.

If you are not at peace, your child will not be at peace. Your pretending will only make things worse between you. Take the time and space you need to be yourSELF.

Put yourself right at the top of your priority list – yes, No. 1!  And your child will find she has the best parent ever! 🙂

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