So growing up, I walked a fine line. I was a model student, always well behaved and high achieving- only because I had a sense of fear of my mom and what could happen if I let her down. I’ve always joked that my mom was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a-badass Bucs fan Adidas shirt in addition I really love this original “helicopter parent”- she was involved in everything I did, volunteered at all my school functions, controlled who I could or couldn’t be friends with, the music I listened to, shows I watched, etc. I remember begging her, just once, to let me go to a school dance alone with just my friends, without her there, and her asking me accusingly, “Why? What are you planning to do that you don’t want me to be there for?” Although I’d never been in trouble- not even minimal missed-a-homework-assignment trouble, I was made to feel that I could never be trusted, that I couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to make sound decisions for myself. I never was able to confide or openly talk to my mother about life, questions about growing up, issues I faced with friends or the opposite sex or anything- because I always feared getting in trouble or being put on lock-down if my mom didn’t like the way something sounded. Even something as simple as, “Can I start shaving my legs?” at the age of 12 was enough for my mom to question who I was hanging around with and where was I getting these ideas, and maybe I need to find new friends, etc. Mind you, we were/are a typical western family living in the US Midwest in a midsize city- not particularly religious or anything. So as you might imagine, after being shut down for simple requests like shaving my legs and armpits, other, more controversial topics were definitely off the table. So when I was older and faced sexual assault, my mother was not someone I could trust to confide in, and it’s been a secret I’ve kept from her for decades. By all accounts, I’ve lived a wonderful life, I have fond memories of childhood, and I’ve accomplished much in my life- so maybe my mother’s methods really were for the best. But these specific, pervasive and continual comments and behavior by her have had a cumulatively negative effect on my own views of myself as a young adult.
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I frequently struggle with feelings of inadequacy, worthlessness, and that I don’t deserve what I have (which, maybe I don’t? What upper-middle-class American really does deserve all they have?). It’s taken me some time to be able to reflect on this aspect of my upbringing and begin to understand and grow from it. At the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a-badass Bucs fan Adidas shirt in addition I really love this end of the day, all parents make mistakes- I know I make mistakes in raising my children which they’ll probably have to deal with when they become adults. But if you want my advice, based on my experiences: Parents- dont devalue your children. They need to know that they bring value to the world and their fellow humankind in whatever way they are. There are many more ways to be a worthy person than by simply adhering to standards that define a “good husband” or a “good wife.” They need to know that their dreams are legitimate and that they deserve whatever they work to achieve. But please, teach every child that they have value. I was not taught this about myself, so it’s so important for me to teach my own kids this now. Raising my autistic daughter taught me many strategies that I used with my non disabled kids and with my middle school students as a teacher. Rule number one is not to take what they say or do personally. Kids express frustration and anger and sadness and other strong feelings through their behavior and you are the adult and need to react in a logical, rational way without feeling anger and embarrassment for yourself. Focus on the behavior. You can’t tell your kids often enough that you love them but their behavior is unacceptable. Then rule two is to constantly do what the pros called “preference assessment.” What do they care about or want? Use that to get the behavior your want. We used to joke that the toys went into time out, not the kids, because that’s what worked. With my disabled daughter we used tiny food rewards in the early years, then transitioned to small toys or privileges that had to be earned by getting through a period of time with appropriate behavior. We took a daughter who was aggressive toward others, self injurious and bolted away from us and she’s now well behaved with an ability to go out into the community that I would never have guessed.