My lovely friend, Lizzie, wrote a very graphic and moving piece about domestic abuse that has resonated with lots of people, whether victims themselves or not.
It certainly made me think and reflect, fear that my daughter or sons could ever stumble into such a relationship. Some of the statistics quoted on frequency of occurrence of domestic abuse (often wrongly named as domestic violence) are very frightening!
The post also made me question whether there is anything I, as a parent, can do to raise my children in a way that they are less likely become the abused or the abuser, the bully or the bullier. (Because to me these two seem very similar, correct me if I’m wrong.)
After much thought the only thing I could come up with was: CONFIDENCE, instil a health level of confidence in the child, build it and never undermine it. Then they will know and believe their own self worth and not let others chip away at it. That’s simple, isn’t it?
Well, one would think so. Yet how easily we can fall short and plant seeds of lack of self-worth:
Yesterday, was just a normal day. Little Miss got home from school at around half past four, tired as usual. I sent her upstairs to get changed quickly and then come back down to do her homework, use the computer, play and so on. I asked her to hurry up otherwise there will be consequences (something that she hears fairly frequently and is followed through- no computer or playtime, no desert, etc. Not that she seems to learn anything from it or that it makes a difference to her behaviour the following day.)
Her change of clothes were all laid out for her. (Something I’ve just started to do to try to accelerate the process of her getting changed.)
She did what she normally does: In a day-dreamy state got distracted by everything… and I do mean everything! Twenty minutes later she was still nowhere to be seen. I called up the stairs to ask whether she had changed- she hadn’t. Just like usual.
This was that last straw for the day (whingy baby, not enough hours)! I made a sandwich and took it up to her and relatively calmly told her that I’ve had enough of her, here was her sandwich, her dinner, and I wanted her to stay in her room for the rest of the evening. I didn’t want to see her.
She looked petrified, even though I wasn’t shouting, I was just talking in a firm and controlled voice: “You’ve had enough of me? And don’t want to see me again?” She said in a whingy voice ( in The Voice: that annoying one that has a mixture of emotions in it and you never know whether it’s real or not… the one that winds you up further, because you know it’s the prelude to whingy, whiny excuses, tantrums.)
Then it dropped what I had said.
Oh my goodness!
I had rejected her as a person through my choice of words . I was mortified! I had just knocked her confidence. Had I been shouting and this playing out in a full on argument I wouldn’t have even realised my error.
I quickly corrected myself, trying to soften my voice and not react to The Voice (hard as that is!): ” I can never have enough of you. I love you too much. I have had enough of your behaviour, of you doing things asked of you so slowly or not doing them at all till we get very angry.”
As she heard my words, her face softened, a relief washed over and it was obvious she had understood the difference. She made a feeble attempt to argue, but it was evident this was just to test the boundaries and whether I really meant her having to stay upstairs. She accepted her punishment- to stay in her room, eat her dinner alone and read her books. What she also did with her time was tidy up her room (unasked), for which she got huge compliments and thanks at bedtime.
So that’s how easy it is to knock their delicate confidence, often without even realising what we have done with just normal day to day phrases we use.
Shit, this parenting malarkey is complicated!
I know these are small things and making a leap from this to domestic abuse is a bit far fetched, but is it really? Lots of small actions add up.
What do you think? Do you find yourself tripping up on words?
Do you have any tips and tricks to help your children’s confidence flourish?
Image credit: Jessica Hughes photography