Do not wait until you are perfect

From the archives: Posted on 31st July, 2004

I’ve only just realised the way I was brought up is not the way I want to bring up my son. I noticed what I was doing was emotional blackmail, coercive and down right bullying. I’ve come a long way, the first hurdles always the worst, I feel like I’ve had a break through but now don’t know how to jump the next hurdle.
            By going to the Taking Children Seriously web site I have found answers to a lot of questions but I have a question. How on earth do I get past the expectations that are in-built!? They make me so mad at myself that I don’t see any way past them. I feel like I need to recondition my conditioning, if you know what I mean! LOL!
            Any thoughts would be great.

One thing to realise is that it is not just you: all of us are in that position. So don’t beat yourself up – it is counter-productive – you need to nurture a good state of mind in both your son and yourself. If you are tortured by guilt and torn apart by fears of what damage you may be doing, you won’t be able to devote the necessary creativity to solving the problems and improving things.

Another thing is that there is no way simply to drop your ‘conditioning’ by an act of will. If it were that simple, there would be no need for Taking Children Seriously in the first place. So whilst of course you should strive for improvement and not take the view that coercion is inevitable or perfectly fine, you need to do that without making yourself miserable. Remember: you are a person, and you too are part of the Taking Children Seriously process.

Talk to your child about these things. Explain that sometimes you make mistakes, sometimes you do the wrong thing, and that you want to do the right thing. Apologise when you do make a mistake (without beating yourself up!), and explain things. Just as you talk to your child about right and wrong and why it is wrong to hit an innocent person, etc., so you should explain that you and he and everyone else sometimes do make mistakes including moral mistakes, and why, and how you are trying to improve.

When other people mistreat your child, explain both why what they did was wrong, but also why it might have happened – why that person may have felt compelled to act wrongly. Do not allow yourself to be used in an adult conspiracy against your child, but also don’t make the mistake of demonising people. Take the attitude that people generally mean well but sometimes make a mistake. Don’t impugn people’s motives. Don’t get into the blame game. It is possible to acknowledge wrongdoing without jumping to the conclusion that the person was malicious or ill-intentioned.

A positive, optimistic, kind-hearted spirit is essential, and people who are full of anger, resentment and aggrieved feelings have a difficult time in life, quite aside from Taking Children Seriously. That is not the right frame of mind for solving problems, and solving problems is what life requires. A little tolerance helps. This applies both to your children (try always to assume that your child means well – it makes a huge difference) and to you and everyone else. (The odd little quiet joke with your child about the beastly battleaxe busybody who has taken it upon herself to give your child a telling off can also be very therapeutic. 🙂 )

To get back to the subject of your ‘conditioning’, start from where you are and try to solve problems and think things through. Go slowly and try to do what seems right to you. When you’re not sure what’s right, seek opinions from people you trust, and keep talking and thinking and write questions to the Taking Children Seriously List. Try to foster an atmosphere in which your child can feel free to question your judgement, criticise your actions, and disagree with your ideas.

In your desire to become a better parent, don’t forget to have fun with your son. Enjoy life with him now, don’t wait until you reach the state of perfection you imagine a Taking Children Seriously person should have reached. Forget it – try to laugh together. Including at yourselves. Taking Children Seriously should always add to your life, not detract from it!

See also:

Sarah Fitz-Claridge, 2004, ‘Do not wait until you are perfect’,