Not Going Blind
Mom can yell, grab, and frighten the little lady into submission. But, as noted previously, the battle just goes underground—both in the daughter and in mom—with profound consequences to that little lady as she grows up. Or…Mom can give up the battle, training her child to be spoiled, narcissistic, and demanding.
In these options, both Mom and Daughter are blind…and remain blind. Blind to what’s really going on in both of them. Blind to the pain. And blind to how their battle is shaping the little lady’s character. Thus, the pattern of the psychopathology of everyday existence continues. The beat goes on…for generations.
How does Mom help her little lady to not remain blind? And not become blinder?
First, Mom has to step out of the power struggle—without bailing from parenting. One key way for her to do that is to reflect on what is going on inside her. “Why am I getting so hooked that I typically yell? Why am I bailing from my job as parent by letting her do what she wants?” I’ve written elsewhere about the King David Search. This is one of those times for Mom to use it—and use it until she removes the blinders within her own psyche to find out just why she is getting so hooked.
Once Mom is in command of herself, no matter the little lady’s reactions, then she can proceed to take command of the situation. Mom’s job then is to target the little lady’s blindness, help her face her motives, and then figure out how to behave…as a disciple of Christ and as a member of the civilized social order. To do this, Mom must be in command of herself.
Second, Mom needs to decide specifically what’s wise for her little lady. For that, she draws on her own experience. But the vast majority of parents have parented by the seat of their pants, simply reenacting the parenting they grew up with. So, to advance herself and equip the little lady beyond how she was equipped as a child, Mom may have to read books. Or consult with a pastor. Or consult with a psychologist. I’ve been in practice decades, and many families have used me as their family psychologist, coming in at various periods of their children’s development for advice. Certainly, Mom and Dad should consult behind closed doors, pooling their wisdom and the advice they’ve accrued from one or more sources.
Third, Mom needs to actually sit and talk with her little lady about what went down between them. Yes, this takes time. No, other parents typically don’t do this from situation to situation. Yes, some older children will call this dumb. With life being hectic, such discussions can be a hassle. And draining—when you are already tired enough. But it is a hassle that needs to be top priority if building her daughter’s character is Mom’s top priority. There is no short-cut.
As best she can, Mom needs to help her daughter specify the pieces of what happened, how they both felt, and why the little lady did what she did. That kind of discussion is not letting the child off the hook by “simply talking.” And it is not lecturing. (It is like Restorative Practices. Restorative Practices is a way to create transformative dialogue between offending high school students and their victims, whether other students or teachers. While I have heard horror stories of the mismanagement of this approach with ineffective results, in its intent, and for those who implement it well, it is useful.) At the heart of Mom’s talk with the little lady is to help her daughter name what happened—and why. That’s a step toward the daughter taking responsibility for her behavior.
Fourth, Mom has to bring her wisdom accrued from any and all sources into play with the little lady. Mom and Daughter enter the “sweat tank” together to figure out what to do to replace the little lady’s errant behavior. This might be as brief as one minute or as long as it takes to figure it all out—no matter the age of the child.
Fifth, in order for wisdom to be wisdom it has to be practiced. Practicing wisdom—practicing behaving wisely and lovingly and morally— “internalizes” it over against other motives and behaviors. So Mom has to have the little lady practice asking her brother if she can play with his toy, rather than demanding it, or grabbing it, or hitting her brother, or all of the above. We practice everything else in life, from tee-ball to the flute to airline pilots in flight simulators. But strangely, we more often yell or time-out the wisdom we want to build into our child, rather than practice it. If a tee-ball coach did that instead of actually practicing how to swing the bat, we’d consider him both stupid and abusive. (I’ve discussed practice at length in another article.)
Yes—all this at age two…and three…and four…and fourteen…for life.
Breaking the back of blindness combined with the consistent practice of wisdom will forge powerful character within that little lady. Not to mention Mom. “Crucifying” blindness and practicing the “fruits of the Spirit” are the one-two punch to break the back of the psychopathology of everyday living—and, in this case, to break it for the many future generations emerging from that one Mom.