My 14-year-old daughter was asked to babysit a few nights ago by friends of mine.
My daughter has been babysitting now for about two years and is considered one of the most reputable babysitters in our community, as she is considered mature for her age, responsible, and dependable.
On the afternoon of the evening she was set to babysit, I headed out to take my son to his weekly wall climbing class, but noticed my daughter sleeping on the couch in the family room with the lights out.
This seemed very strange to me. What teenager takes a nap at 6 PM in the evening? So, I flicked the lights back on. She reacted immediately, “Turn the lights back off! I’m resting!”
I shrugged my shoulders, turned the lights back off, and left the house. On my way to the car, I considered she was just tired and wanted to rest before needing to stay out late babysitting. I beamed with pride for her maturity and sense of responsibility.
When I returned home three hours later, I found my daughter still laying on the couch, with the lights out – a half an hour after she was supposed to leave the house to babysit! What was going on?
I was furious! How dare she break this commitment to this family who was depending on her! What kind of kid is she? Why didn’t my friends call her when she didn’t show up at the set time to babysit?
Getting on my high horse, I started to ask a gazillion questions to get to the bottom of this and I demanded answers from my daughter.
In the meantime, my daughter quietly picked up the phone to call my friend and apologize for what happened. She explained to my friend that she hasn’t been feeling well the past few days and didn’t hear her phone ring when my friend attempted to reach her.
It was apparent (from only hearing one side of this conversation) that my friend was incredibly understanding.
Yet, I surely wasn’t going to let my daughter off the hook so easily! I stared at my daughter to signal that I was awaiting a response, but she just responded, “Mom, I don’t feel well,” and walked off to her room to go to sleep for the night.
Standing alone and feeling incredibly uncomfortable with what just transpired, I started to text message my friend.
“I’m really sorry for what happened tonight. I just can’t believe it!”
“It’s fine! Don’t worry!” she responded.
“No, really. This is not acceptable! You guys bought tickets for this concert! My daughter made a commitment to you! I’m so embarrassed!”
“Shira, really. It’s fine. Health is the most important thing. I hope she feels better soon!” she responded kindly and earnestly.
“She should have called you earlier in the day! She should have cancelled knowing she was sick. I’m really sorry!”
“Shira, it’s fine! Everything is ok! Really! Your daughter is the most responsible kid we know! Things happen!”
But, I couldn’t accept my friend’s words. I was so stuck on disappointment and embarrassment, that I couldn’t see another way of being in this situation. My daughter was in the wrong. To me, it was black and white, and as her parent, I knew I should have been ashamed of her behavior, which I certainly was.
But, after a few moments, I caught myself being stuck in this story in my head.
And knowing that staying stuck in my own stories will never get me unstuck, I began to take some time to process through what happened. Getting unSTUCK: Five Simple Steps to Emotional Well-Being is a book based on a technique called The S.T.U.C.K. Method which helps move a person from an emotionally stuck to an unstuck place. As long as the person is aware he is stuck and has a desire to get unstuck, this technique is something that can be applied to any situation, anytime, anywhere.
So, I took a STOP. Instead of continuing to chase after my rampant thoughts, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Then, I took another few until I was able to calm myself down for a moment and temporarily separate myself from the story in my mind. Taking a stop helps a person return to the present moment – a place where so few people tend to live their lives.
Then I TOLD myself what I was feeling. I allowed myself to feel disappointed and embarrassed, rather than running away from those emotions. I permitted myself to take time to feel those vibrational energies in my body and question where I was holding them in my body. I noticed I was holding on tightly in my shoulders and my stomach.
I UNCOVERED my beliefs. I made a list in my head of all the thoughts I had regarding my daughter’s behavior and investigated the accuracy of each of them. My daughter was irresponsible! Is that 100% accurate? I should be embarrassed by her behavior! Is that 100% accurate? I looked out for words like, “should”, “should not”, “needs”, “never”, and ”always” – to help cue me in to the possibility that my thoughts may very well be just that: thoughts and not facts.
I CONSIDERED other perspectives, even though doing so is quite challenging – for when we get stuck, we are in our own, emotional, biased and narrow-minded perspective and typically can’t see any other way of being or seeing. Yet, I began to come up with new viewpoints because I knew that broadening my outlook would ultimately guide me to getting unstuck.
- I considered that my daughter is incredibly responsible, and that this situation was an aberration.
- I considered that my daughter didn’t skip out on babysitting on purpose and probably felt remorse for what happened.
- I considered that judging her and putting her down wouldn’t help the situation at all.
- I considered my friend honestly forgave my daughter.
- I considered this story had nothing to do with me. It was between my daughter and my friend.
- I considered I didn’t have to get involved, and in fact the situation was resolved long past my reaction to it.
- I considered that my daughter acting imperfectly isn’t necessarily a reflection of my parenting.
- I considered that raising a child to be perfect isn’t necessarily a recipe for a perfect life.
- I considered that by not allowing my daughter to be imperfect once in a while, I could be creating future challenges and obstacles in her life.
- I considered there were endless things to consider regarding this situation – and that it certainly wasn’t black and white, as I had previously believed.
I took on all of the above considerations to get myself unstuck.
I then reminded myself of self-compassion. I got stuck on disappointment and embarrassment, but I told myself it was OK. It happens to the best of us. It happens to many, many parents who unconsciously try to raise perfect children, and then get let down when their expectations aren’t met. I forgave myself for having gotten stuck and apologized to my daughter for my behavior.
The 2-Minute Action Plan for Fine Parents
Expecting our kids to be perfect is an unrealistic expectation, and one that can backfire and cause possible irreparable damage to our children. The next time your child doesn’t meet your expectations, ask yourself:
- How does expecting perfection from your child affect your child? Affect your relationship?
- How can permitting imperfection from your child once in a while encourage self-growth and development?
- How can acknowledging that nobody is perfect imbue a loving and trusting relationship between a parent and child?
- How can sharing a time when you were imperfect, help your child?
- Does your child’s behavior always reflect you as a parent?
The Ongoing Action Plan for Fine Parents
If you are used to expecting perfection from your children, consider trying out these practice steps.
- Take a few minutes each morning to sit quietly to set an intention for yourself to watch your tendency to expect perfection from your children. Remind yourself that raising a perfect child will not create for your child a perfect life. Bumps, roadblocks, and obstacles will always arise and sometimes they will fall. Teaching them how to get back on their feet with a sense of self-compassion is worthwhile. Your own self-awareness is key to the self-growth and development of your child.
- When your child does something “right” this week, acknowledge him for his efforts. When your child does something “wrong” this week, share with your child a time when you were imperfect. Let your child know he is not alone in this world. And, consider how you would have wanted your parent to have behaved towards you.
- Take a few minutes at the end of the day to check in with your parenting. Don’t be harsh on yourself, but be honest. Did you berate or condemn your child for being less than perfect? If so, consider inviting your child to a conversation and apologizing to him. There is nothing children value more than having a parent who is willing to own up to his or her mistakes. And, by modeling you own imperfection, you children will learn how to cope with their own.
All of us get stuck: parents and children alike. But the more we can become aware when we get stuck on expecting perfection in others, the healthier and happier our relationships will be.
Want to get unSTUCK and learn how to turn your “stuck” spots into sources for energy and positive change? Pick up a copy of Shira‘s book (an Amazon new bestseller), Getting unSTUCK: Five Simple Steps to Emotional Well-Being.