Updated: Dec 18, 2021
By Erin Oliva and Debbee Radcliff
“I just can’t say no…”
“Well, I just feel so guilty…”
“I don’t want to be looked at as mean…”
How many times have you said those words to yourself either out loud or in your head? How many times have you gave and gave of yourself and when you need to dig deep, your energy is just …. gone!
Welcome to decades of “good intentions” that have led to overtaxed, anxious, and guilt-ridden society that just has no idea how to stop.
For example, how often have you heard this (typically as a child) by a family member, neighbor, or well-intentioned friend?
“Go hug your grandmother; I don’t care if you don’t want to GO!”
“Go sit with _______.”
“We do not raise our voices.”
“Little Ladies/Young Gentlemen do/don’t do __________”
“Let them play with your toys; they are guests.”
Did the adult(s) ever legitimately ask the child what she/he/they wanted??? NO, so as children and adolescents, we are raised not to have healthy boundaries, that nothing of ours are sacred, and we have to not react to another’s negativity. In theory, this may have been culturally sound, but it isn’t suitable for raising confident, respectful, and well-adjusted children.
Somewhere in the annals of time, there was a person or maybe a group (cult, more than likely…I’m just saying) that decided that individuals need to give endlessly of themselves and not only to exhaust their energy but to teach their children these “virtues.” Now before you start lighting up the torches and passing around the pitchforks, let me explain. I am not by any means saying we need to be a narcissistic, self-serving society, nor am I saying we should not give of ourselves. Honestly, giving does (in the short term) release pleasurable hormones that can temporarily lift our moods. So, no, I am not saying we give up on kindness and charity. My point is this; we need to ensure we are at our best before engaging in charitable acts.
So there are two points here, how do we reverse the “damage,” and how do we prevent the next generation from being affected.
First, let’s look at problem one, how do we reverse the well-intentioned life lessons from the previous generation. Well, the easy part is engaging in self-care, making sure if you agree to something, it is not going to deplete your energy, it lines up with your values and that you in fact actually want to do what is being asked of you. The negative, or at least awkwardly uncomfortable, part is to engage in the activities mentioned above consistently and accept that things can be different. Super easy, right!!! Well, let’s put it this way at first it could be as easy as waking up one morning and looking into the sky, and attempting to convince yourself the sky is green. The good news is you are an intelligent, malleable creature and with a little consistency, logic, and positive self-talk, we could convince ourselves that we need to put ourselves first.
Secondly, how do we empower our children to do things differently? I suggest we get curious. Before we insist Suzy kiss Uncle Joe, we could flip it and ask her uncle to help her practice saying no. I realize this may sound ridiculous, but think about what we are doing. We are giving Suzy the ability to say no and be heard in a safe situation, so she has already practiced when it isn’t so safe. Uncle Joe has given her so much more. Children, actually all people, need to practice skills when they don’t need them. Then when they need it, the ability is right there. Children who have clear boundaries and understand how to assert their boundaries are safer, happier, more self-assured individuals. Will they try this at the most inconvenient times? Absolutely! Once they know what is going on and learn to apply this skill appropriately, the number of incidences will dramatically decrease.
I want you to also think about the benefit of having your children watch you changing your habits. You are teaching them by example. I have so much more motivation when I do something for my children than when I am doing something for myself. It takes the fun out of saying, “Do as I say, not as I do!” BUT that’s a price I am willing to pay.
We have many more creative and innovative ideas, resources, and activities for both you and your child(ren) here at Creatigo. Our team from varied disciplines will happily help you navigate many common (and uncommon) parenting issues with evidence-based techniques, harmonizing traditional and holistic approaches to focus on family wellness mind, body, and spirit. Stay tuned for our upcoming events and groups.