My husband is a ‘bit’ of a clean freak (yay, lucky me!) and he is more than willing to take on the cleaning chores to get things done the way he wants them done (which it was made clear very early on in our marriage was not the way I clean things). So there he is slaving away on a Saturday of his own volition cleaning the bathrooms, while I am spending my time polishing my nails and leisurely reading. It is all I can do to refrain from thinking, “You make me feel so guilty…” or, if there is company present, to shout “Stop! You’re making me look bad.”
In truth he holds no animosity towards me for my chosen activities, which are separate from his. He has expressed many times that he feels that I carry my share of the load and all is fair. So owning my own behavior, which I still struggle to do, is in my own head. No matter what my mother did ahead of me and no matter what society dictates (cleaning is traditionally a female responsibility) we two have our own agreed-upon relationship terms that works for us.
The bottom line is that no one else can make you feel guilty, make you look bad, make you do anything – only you can do all of these things to yourself. You control your own behavior and trying to place the blame on anyone else is bogus.
Do your misbehaving children make you look bad to others for perceived poor parenting skills? Do they make you feel bad – because you look bad, or… because you have failed them? Or do they make you look good when they behave, as a positive reflection?
“Stop making me feel bad about having to punish you for [insert transgression]” or “Now you are just trying to make me feel bad with that sad face” – which often leads to, “Then don’t punish me and you won’t have to feel bad!” The conversation now veers off course, instead of tying back the punishment as a logical consequence to the transgression, with the known punishment fully expected.
Children are confused when you send a mixed message, indicating their responsibility for having done something to you that is not in their control. My father, who believed in corporal punishment, would always preface the punishment with, “This hurts me more than it hurts you”. As a child, I never understood what he meant and naturally responded with contempt (“Yeah, RIGHT!“). He was failing in his efforts to make me feel responsible for his actions, mainly because I was too young to comprehend his point. Confusion never helps a negative situation and children are easily confused by adult concepts.
COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY: Much of your parental responsibility is to model the values, the language constructs, the behaviors that you want your children to emulate. Usually this is done without much forethought in the process of what you are delivering in what you hope to deliver. Sometimes the process that is used is detrimental to the result that is desired. It takes continual monitoring to get the job done adequately, never perfectly. Owning your own behavior is just one value of mature adults, along with keeping your word, delivering on your promises, and other responsible behaviors.