“Am I a good boy? Or am I a bad one?”
Really appreciated the (unexpected) connection here to being hard on one's self. As an adult it's already such a fine line between holding yourself to a high standard and knowing when to tell that inner critic to chill tf out and go away for a little while. I would hope to raise kids who are better at striking this balance than I often am. But I honestly hadn't yet made the link between this and discipline (especially as it relates to teaching kids how they "should" behave in all manner of life situations/holding them accountable to those expectations when they inevitably test our limits).
Thanks a lot for this one, you've honestly made me reflect on my parenting today.
Thanks for this article. I appreciate your reflection.
In my own parenting journey, which has coincided with the deconstruction of my Lutheran upbringing, this topic of religion and spirituality has been an ongoing struggle. Now that I am outside the wisdom tradition I was raised in, I am constantly questioning how I can impart the meaning-making mytho poetics to our son without the baggage of the institution. I don’t claim to have any answers on this, but a few things I have been doing include:
1) When he asks questions directly related to stories from the Bible, I answer in a frustratingly-nuanced way by saying “some people interpret that story this way, other people in interpret that story in another way. What do you think?” If this hasn’t completely lost him (he just turned seven), I will follow it up with telling him that the most important thing to think about here is that we are talking about it. We might not know the answers, and that’s sort of the point, the not knowing.
2) When it comes to good and bad, I try to take the Dr. Becky and/or Whole Brained Child approach: Everyone is good inside. Sometimes, people act in ways that hurt other people, but that’s usually because they’re scared of something, and they’re just trying to protect themselves. There are good behaviors and bad behaviors, but no matter what, you are always good inside.
Over the last year, we’ve also been trying a lot more to focus on the reality of our emotional states. When someone starts to feel out of control, we are working to identify what feelings are happening in our bodies. Like Brené Brown says, if we can name our big, scary emotions, it takes away their power over us. This can be hard to do in the heat of the moment, so we printed out an emotion wheel (google image search) for kids. In calmer moments, it’s something we look at. We read off all the different emotions and talk about them, and we talk about how people can feel several emotions at the same time and that’s normal. This practice seems to have helped in those stressful moments when he’s becoming overwhelmed by fear, anger, sadness, loneliness, overstimulation, or guilt.
Bit of a rant there, apologies.
Keep writing, I enjoy your stuff :)
“Along this way outside the prison gates, / I love the romance of crime, and I wonder, / Does anybody feel the same way I do? / And is evil just something you are / Or something you do?”
From clearly the most prophetic seer, Morrissey, in “Sister, I’m a Poet”.
This idea has been rattling around my inner ear, has been chewed on in my gob for the past several weeks. As a dad to two daughter of unequal temperament—the oldest of whom is getting REALLY into guilt, self-reproach, and negative self-talk (oops, there I am, that’s me, the writer of this comment being unintentionally reflected in his child)—the question of good and bad feels prickly and impossible. Even gentle reminders that an action wasn’t kind, wasn’t polite, didn’t quite match the “in our family, we…” metric elicit a “IT’S BECAUSE I AM JUST A TERRIBLE KID AND I AM THE WORST AND I’LL NEVER BE GOOD ENOUGH.”
Maybe we need to work on being okay with good enough for now.
A small but important update, changing “death” to “murder” after receiving the following note:
“Hey there, I live in South Minneapolis, so you better believe that I felt obligated to object to your wording, "George Floyd’s death in 2020". Death is technically correct, but obscures so much. "Murder" is the right word to use here, as confirmed by a jury the next year.”