Control by Fear
When I first become a parent, I had no clue. Of course, I had 11 nephews and neices at the time. Of course, I had been an aunt since the age of 12. Of course, I had babysat plenty.
Even with all that practice under my belt, I had no clue when it came to how to control my own child. When it isn't your own child, it is easy to give in and give them what they want, because you don't have to deal with the consequences. However, when it is your own child...and you are young, 19 to be exact...and single...it is easy for me to say I had no clue.
I didn't know anything about keeping my cool and not letting the child see my irritation. I didn't know that I should get down on their level and make eye contact with them. I didn't know how to enforce rules or for the child to take me seriously.
What I was learning though in my early experience of parenting...was that I could control my son with fear. Not physical violence fear. I am talking a different kind of fear. Let me give you some examples:
"Don't do that, you will get hurt."
"Don't go there, somebody might take you."
"Don't touch that animal, it might hurt you."
I didn't give reasonable, real life application reasons for obeying...all I knew is that if I talked this way...FINALLY he would listen and most of the time would stop what he was doing. I had a very strong-willed little one. One that would climb up high and jump off.
What I knew was, that it worked.
What I didn't know: That I was creating a child that feared everything.
I didn't realize what I was doing or saying most of the time. I am sure it just became routine.
When did I finally realize I was doing this? When I got married, and my husband was learning the ins and outs of my relationship with my son. He noticed things that I had never seen or realized. He slowly and kindly pointed them out to me. It was like a lightbulb moment. I didn't realize I had created such a fearful child!
What I learned even further is that it wasn't so much that I wanted him to be afraid, but by controlling him this way, I was protecting my own fears. Humongous horrible fears of my child being hurt, or abducted or molested. I have several people close to me that have been molested at early age and also some later in life. The idea of this happening to one of my own children was a huge fear of mine!
What I also didn't realize was how much I gave empty threats.
"Stop that or I will take that away from you."
"Stop that or we will turn around and go home."
Did I mean any of them? Nope...and he knew it! While I had been able to control him with fear....on the other end, my empty threats taught him to not take me seriously and even harder to keep him under control.
I, like many parents, especially single young parents...made many mistakes. I thought I was doing good. I didn't realize how damaging those tactics were and I certainly never meant to hurt my son emotionally by creating fears in him.
Because I have been through all of these things, it is so easy for me to recognize when other parents are doing it. I wish I could help them, but you are treading on thin ice when you try to give correction or advice to other parents. The best thing I can do, is give these people my own testimony of what I have been through, and feel like I have mostly conquered. Once in a while I hear myself slip back into one of these desperate measures when I am at the end of my rope and at a loss for what to try next...but for the most part I am able to recognize this quickly and correct myself. This results in my apologizing to my son quite often. But in return...his respect for me has grown by leaps and bounds.
I never knew I could have such a wonderful, rewarding relationship with my son. I never knew just how awesome being a parent could be. I am so glad I started learning these things slowly by the time he was 5, so that I could salvage my relationship with him...and still reap the benefits of having a healthy relationship with my son for the bulk of his childhood.
How about you? Is there something in your parenting that you used to do, or that you still do...that you know needs improving? This parenting "thing" has so many ups and downs doesn't it?! So glad to have a community of family, friends, bloggers....to share in those ups and downs!