Tag Archives: fear

Fear is Different From Respect

Photo By D Sharon Pruitt [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Whom do you respect and admire?  What do you respect about that person?  Courage? Wisdom? Mental, physical or emotional strength? Kindness? Or, do you respect that person for their power to scare and humiliate you?

Shine from Yahoo ran an article about a 13-year old girl whose parents made her stand for 90 minutes at a roadside with a sign that said, “I’m a Self-entitled teenager w/NO Respect for authority. I’m also super smart, yet I have 3 ‘D”s because I DON’T CARE!”

This might be a kick in the pants to scare her into bringing up her grades.  But in the long run, is this the kind of tactic that will bring out the best in her?  Do decent people humiliate each other?

Who are the best supervisors and coaches?  Back in my previous life as a career woman, I had a great boss.  She had high expectations, and I did not want to let her down.  I wanted to do well in that job.  Why?  Because she set a fine example.  She had a strong work ethic, was knowledgeable about her field, was a great team-builder, and encouraged me.  These are the things that make a great boss.  As I develop my parenting skills, I look to her example.  I want my kids to feel encouraged to do their best.

This boss never, ever did anything to humiliate me, even when I really screwed up.  I don’t do my best when I am scared.  I suppose I’d run my fastest if I were chased by a wild animal.  Other than that, does fear bring out the best in any of us?  Maybe it does for some people of a certain temperament, but I doubt it is common.  And even if humiliation was effective, is it the right way for a person to teach another person, whether adult or child?  Would this husband and wife treat each other this way?

I do not think that scaring and humiliating our children into submission brings out the best in them.

I admit there have been times when my children have acted disrespectfully toward me.  But it was not because I didn’t scare or humiliate them enough.  It was because I got flustered, lost my temper, and had mommy-tantrums.  I was being weak, and they could see that I was not in control.  That is how I lost their respect.  As I learn to keep my temper, speak calmly and firmly, and encourage them to do their best, I can see that I gain their respect.

Many people commented with praise for the parents who wrote the embarrassing sign.  I think it is a good thing that the parents wanted to correct their daughter’s behavior.  But I am amazed that so many people think that this is a great method.  I think it was a desperate, thoughtless, maybe even sadistic measure, and not a long-term solution.  I think it is sad that the girl’s behavior stemmed from the tragic death of her uncle, and that her parents responded by hurting her.  What a slap in the face to say the girl doesn’t care.  Obviously she does care, or her uncle’s death wouldn’t have had such a strong effect on her.  And why make a public display of a private matter?  I hope that these parents will empathize with her grief and help her work through it in a constructive way.  I hope that they strengthen their relationship with their daughter and develop true respect.

Because fear is different from respect.

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Mom with Failure-phobia, aka Perfectionism

By MeekMark (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Measuring Up

I have never been an alcoholic.  So, I was surprised at how well I could relate to Sandra Bullock’s alcoholic character when I watched the movie, “28 Days.”  I went straight to the computer and stayed up way too late researching addiction to figure out my connection.  That’s when I stumbled upon the concept of perfectionism.  I was surprised to find out what it meant.

I thought that a perfectionist felt driven to do everything perfectly, and probably looked perfect and had a very neat home.  That was definitely not me.  But apparently, there is much more to it.  A perfectionist is afraid of not being perfect.  A perfectionist, oh, just for example, might not pursue her love of writing for decades because she is afraid she might not be good enough.  Or, a perfectionist might be anxious about how she measures up as a mother.  For a perfectionist, “perfect” is the minimum that you are supposed to achieve.  Anything else feels Not Good Enough.

The day after I watched “28 Days,” I wanted to find a book about perfectionism right away at the library.  There were none available in the regular adult section, so I got one from the children’s section, “Too Perfect,” by Trudy Ludwig.  I started reading it as I stood there.  Soon I had to shut the book and fight back tears, because I saw myself in the little girl who couldn’t be happy.

This fear of failure is a powerful motivator.  It drives us to do well, but sucks the pleasure out of the process.  It paralyzes us when we consider trying something new.  Unfortunately, I thought I needed my children to be perfect in order to feel good enough as a mother.  Naturally, by this standard, I was never good enough, and neither were they.  I pushed, I nitpicked, I corrected.  I did it to myself, my kids, and my surroundings.

Even worse, I discovered that this fear of not being good enough had already infected my kids.  Within a week of discovering perfectionism, I heard my daughter asking to quit ballet because she wasn’t good enough.  My son was feeling the same about gymnastics.  I knew I had to get it under control in myself so that I could model it for them.  There are a few things I did:

  • Read about perfectionism online.  A couple of pages I liked are linked below.
  • Tried to catch myself and stop myself from being critical.
  • Tried not to get upset about making mistakes or having problems.
  • Tried to let the kids see me not getting upset about making mistakes or having problems.
  • Talked to the kids about enjoying their activities and not just doing them for the sake of achievement.
  • Did a fun little exercise of choosing one thing to do imperfectly on purpose.  This was in a book, and I am sorry I can’t remember what one.  I chose measuring cooking ingredients.  I did this carelessly, rather than my usual way of filling the tablespoon, leveling, adding a little more, removing a little.  It sort of made me cringe, but lo and behold, the recipe came out fine!
  • Accepted that it is ok to fail at things.  This is part of living and learning.
  • Worked on accepting the kids and myself as just fine who we are.

The funny thing is, the less anxious I was about how clean the house was, the cleaner the house actually became.  The less worried I was about the kids’ schoolwork, the better they performed.  I think we are better balanced and more successful when we can relax a little and enjoy what we are doing.

Links I like:

http://www.counselingcenter.illinois.edu/?page_id=113

http://stress.about.com/od/understandingstress/a/perfectionist.htm

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