Indignation, parenting and self-esteem

According to my beloved father, who will cringe to be mentioned here, I sometimes suffer from being indignant.  I always thought he said this when he felt that I was a being a precocious stroppy madam.

But in writing this, I checked the dictionary definition, I like this one best:

feeling, characterized by, or expressing strong displeasure at something considered unjust, offensive, insulting, or base

Well, I rarely get indignant at something base, I tend to snigger, but aside from that – yes – I do get rather indignant about stuff, particularly certain attitudes towards children including:

  • controlled crying – isn’t that practically an oxymoron?
  • the ‘sit there until you’ve cleared your plate’ weirdness
  • the naughty step (my steps are all inanimate and do nothing, bad or good)
  • dragging a screaming youngster along by the arm
  • smacking, in fact even shouting at, kids

I very specifically say “attitudes towards children” as I don’t believe any of the above warrant inclusion in even the broadest sense of the word ‘PARENTING’.

I am choosing all of my words very carefully in this post as I don’t want it to get categorised as one of those ‘Mom Epiphany’ things that regularly circulate on Facebook: 10 Things I Learned When I Was Decent To My Kids For 5 Minutes! or whatever.

Most of us (I hope and believe) recoil in horror when we see a little kid being belted one in the supermarket by an angry parent but far fewer are shocked by other parenting ‘strategies’ that are based on the same principle – misuse of power.

When we witness dominance or power play adult on adult we use words like dictator, abuser, coercer and when we see it child on child, we say bully.  Why when the playing field is at its least level, adult on child, do we not react in the same way?

An adult can generally dominate a child.  There are times when, due to imminent danger, I parent ‘with force’ to prevent something drastic happening.  I try to never utilise that tactic otherwise.

I am no earth-mother hippy.  Sometimes my daughter’s behaviour really grips my shit and I want to lash out and quite often I can find myself thinking that a lot of other kids are just little bastards.  Oh, come on, surely you’ve experienced that play date from hell too…….

The ultimate blessing of parenting an intelligent, sensitive and thoughtful child is that you can’t do much the slack way.  Whilst most parents probably get the odd twinge of guilt about a lazy, selfish parenting decision, they generally console themselves that no lasting damage was done.

I don’t believe I get that luxury.  Actually, nor do I believe do they.

If I had to sum up all the aspects of what we try to achieve by ‘parenting’ rather than chucking our kids in a pen and tossing them scraps to live on, then it is simply building self esteem.

It’s a weird type of armour.  At full strength, it can provide incredible protection.  One little crack in the wrong place at the wrong time and the whole lot can very quickly become useless…

Parenting is a difficult quest to grow an adult with an appropriately full sense of their worth, a solid self esteem, and therefore a clear understanding of the same, equal, value of all others.  Hard.  More so when maybe you don’t feel that way yourself…

Every (even small) bad choice I make can leave a huge scar that never quite fades, a regression that lasts for longer than I can bear to feel that much regret.  But even for the strongest-seeming kid, all those little bad parenting moments create chinks in that armoury of self esteem.

And I believe it’s those chinks that lead to doubts that lead us to make bad choices as adults and parents, one long big cycle of imperfect self-esteem from one generation to the next…

I can feel I’m at risk of ranting so I’m not going to go on further with lots of examples… but I am going to revisit this topic numerous times as it is so important to me, and I can’t sum it all up in one go.

But for now, as I need to sign off and go work gently on building a very frail young self esteem here, I suppose I’m saying: don’t do unto your kid anything that you wouldn’t want done unto you (especially if you find yourself vehemently justifying it by saying your parents did it to you and you’re fine…).

Mind your language: you might use words like greedy or scaredy cat or silly billy with humour, in a voice you think is gentle and loving, but imagine hearing them yourself from someone you dislike or don’t know… then you can hear their real meaning.

Be forever close by: don’t banish your child to another room or the bottom of the stairs when they have been naughty are too tired, ill, or overwhelmed to make the right choice, give them a cuddle or wait next to them whilst the moment passes.  Remember that time you fucked up.  It felt bad.  It probably felt worse if you were shunned because of it.  You probably felt tons better as soon as someone told you it wasn’t the end of the world and it would be OK.

Never, ever let a child cry alone.  By now I hope you are getting the gist and I don’t need to point out how awful we all know that feels……..

Love you Dad, glad you helped me remain indignant.  I don’t believe my self esteem is perfect but I know you and Mum did all you could to build it as strongly as it was ever going to be.  Thanks to both of you for always holding my hand on an imperfect journey and, however exhausted you have both been by the challenges you have faced, never ever leaving me to cry alone.

12 thoughts on “Indignation, parenting and self-esteem

  1. I found this very interesting. My children are grown now and there are so many ways in which I feel I failed them. I totally agree that we should treat children with respect; if we wouldn’t do it to another adult, why do it to a child who is vulnerable and dependent on us? However, I did do lots right and I think it’s important not to beat ourselves up for our failings as that can create a downward spiral. I am very fortunate that my children are growing into happy, loving adults. You might be interested in reading a post I wrote about them for mother’s day. If you get a chance let me know what you think.
    Thank you for your lovely posts, I enjoy reading them.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Thanks for this. I believe that every mom puts her children first. She may not get it right, but in every given circumstance she does her best for her children. She does carry the guilt of her actions sometimes, when she has been harsh, but again, she hurts more when she hurts them….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “But for now, as I need to sign off and go work gently on building a very frail young self esteem here, I suppose I’m saying: don’t do unto your kid anything that you wouldn’t want done unto you (especially if you find yourself vehemently justifying it by saying your parents did it to you and you’re fine…).” i wish my mother could see this!


  4. Thanks for sharing this, it really helped me this morning. I was full of guilt from shouting at Luke at bedtime last night (he is 6 but like something from the Exorcist, seemed possessed by a 2 yr old with a tantrum) the next time your words will be in my head as I remember to take a breath before reacting.
    Julie xx


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