Thursday, December 25, 2014

Why I'm Glad She Expects More Gifts

Sometimes I feel as if I am the only one going the other direction when it comes to small children and their egos, worldview, and self-images.

Since it's Christmas season, we're generally seeing a slew of articles on how to MAKE our children be grateful, humble, and unselfish. You can quickly find plenty of articles telling you how to reduce, how to minimize, how to repress, and overall how to deliberately change the hearts and minds of your children. The message is clear: children NEED you to change them or they won't turn out "good" by societal standards.

Meanwhile, before Christmas, Dear Daughter (DD) snuck into the closet to "oh and ah" at all the wrapped gifts. I was watching her quietly. She then counts only two gifts with "her" wrapping paper. I pause, don't say anything. She mulls it over, then she declares, "All the rest of mine must be hiding behind that stack because I know you're getting me tons of gifts."

And you know what? I was cheering for her in my heart. I teared up at the situation. I know it was a tiny glimpse, but it was precious to me, to know that my little child automatically ASSUMED she was being given an abundance and that she was SURE the universe had more for her.

Right away, I know parents out there are already confused or even judgmental about this, asking how in the world she's going to show empathy for others, or how she's going to withstand difficulties in life.

Here's the thing...knowing her...if she only opens two gifts, she will turn to her stocking and be happy about how full it is, or turn to the "all kids" gifts and be excited about games to play with her siblings. Life cannot "beat her down" because in her heart she is SURE that she is loved. She doesn't have those damaging, insidious scripts that many of us adults carry around from our childhoods, such as, "I got hurt because it's what I deserved" or "Life is hard because I'm not worth anything."

What I've come to realize is that those who have the inherent expectation that they are good, worthy, and that abundance is coming their way will not only weather the tough spots in life better, but they will somehow *find* what they expect out of the world and from others. It's a contradiction, similar to what we see with attachment parenting. The more you GIVE to your children, the more you fill up their cups, the more they are able to be that humble/grateful/unselfish person that society demands. Whereas, people who feel deprived, denied and neglected end up feeling too much pain and neediness to easily help others. They are too busy licking their wounds to spread goodness to others.

I was thinking about this using the analogy of Cry it out (CIO). Think about how parents believe that their babies have to CIO to learn to self-soothe, when in reality, babies need responsive parenting to establish security and they need time to develop skills as they get older. CIO doesn't make them mature and self-regulated, it just breaks them enough to be quiet for the parent. The outcome looks the same, but internally, the landscape is very different.

Similarly, many parents want to push that J.O.Y. concept (Jesus, Others, You), or they promote the twisted versions of humility and gratitude. They think they have to deprive, and hurt, and break their children to somehow get wholesome, loving, giving, grateful children.

Stop. Think about it. It just does not compute. You can't break something and expect a whole piece from it. You can't break the extremely complex and unique personhood of your child and realistically piece together the jagged leftovers to build your own masterpiece. Nor should you want to do that. Your child is already a masterpiece.

The truth is, a joyful, loving, giving person comes from a place of knowing joy, love and unconditional giving.

Children learn to be grateful by watching their parents model gratitude in daily living.
Children learn to be unselfish by receiving unselfish behavior from their parents.
Children learn to give unconditionally by receiving unconditionally in their family.
Children learn to empathize and think of others when parents empathize with and think of them.
Children learn to respect others when they are shown respect.
Children learn to appreciate life and to see the wonder of every tiny bit when the adults around them appreciate life and share the wonder of it.

If you fear that your children are selfish, spoiled, entitled, and arrogant, then the place to look first is in their hearts. A heart filled with unselfish, unconditional, unlimited love has no room for being entitled or selfish. A child who is not showing love to others is a child who needs her heart filled to the brim with more love. If a child does not have enough to go around, you cannot magically make more by subtracting love from her.

This Christmas, celebrate giving and loving others by giving to and loving your children.

More on this topic...

Seeing your child in a positive light:

Sharing the bounty:

Safe emotional expression:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

1 thing you need to do if you survived sexual abuse, assault, rape...

I was chatting with someone today about the experiences I've had in sexual violations. And it turned out the person I was chatting with had also been violated in a certain way. She asked me, "What helped you the most? Why are you functioning?"

Hands down, the most important factor in healing and being able to live, was DH learning about sexual violation and being a supportive partner. I highly, highly recommend that if you are in a relationship with someone or intend to be in a relationship, you ensure that the person is:

OPEN to learning about the topic and becoming educated enough to understand basic related concepts, treatment and healing options, normal emotional experiences, and other things that are part of the journey

SENSITIVELY HONEST so that frank and important discussions can be had with tact, while still being clear so that unintended hurts don't occur.

100% RESPECTFUL of every iota of your being, committed to healthy boundaries physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Do NOT sacrifice these aspects because the feeling of violation can linger such as by being triggered from unintentional behaviors, or by fighting to be acknowledged, or by being misunderstood. Smaller cycles of unhealthy behavior, such as threats, harshwords, gaslighting, etc, can all cause an amplified feeling and bring back past hurts quickly.

From being in this discussion with many people, one thing I frequently note is that survivors tend to think they can close the door on that experience, and completely black it out of their romantic relationships. Many of them do not tell their partners anything at all happened, or if they do, it's a very brief description devoid of tangible meaning and influence.

Unfortunately, sexual violation of all kinds impacts us, and plays into the way we act, think, and love in our relationships. If your romantic partner is unaware of your experiences and how they influenced you, then it can lead to a lot of misunderstandings and unintended harm to both people. Even if it's hard, it's really important to develop radical honesty in this area.

If you're unsure how to go about it, relationship therapy could be a great way to feel safe and to have a 3rd party guide you. If you feel unsafe sharing, this might indicate a need to carefully evaluate the relationship.

There are a plethora of books available on ebay and amazon, and probably at your local library right now written just for the partner of survivors. Consider ordering some and having an open discussion with your loved one soon.

Support for Partners

Secondary Survivors

Primer for partners of survivors

A guide for intimate partners

Survivor Parents