Parenting as a People Pleaser
written by Dr. Liz Matheis, posted on Psychology Today
As moms, many of us are ready to listen for and read the body cues of our children to anticipate their needs. Part of this is perfectly normal as we grew little people inside our bodies and have agreed to raise our little creatures until they are large creatures who are able to make their own decisions and live independently.
Parenthood is much bigger than just that. Once we become parents, it’s not like all our childhood wounds become healed and we are able to relate to our children free from the conflicts that we deeply repressed and that have yet to be resolved. Parenting requires a whole lot more than making sure that we prepare enough meals and provide clean clothes.
As a single mom of three children, ages 17, 14, and 10, I am deep into the teen years and the budding teen years. I find myself taking many deep breaths and listening a great deal. My children need a high level of emotional support each and every day. I am at a point where my kids can, in theory, do a lot of the things that need to get done like bathing and feeding themselves, and they can wash their own laundry. I say in theory because they CAN engage in these daily chores but what they need from me right now is far more than the physical labor that once exhausted my back and body when they were younger. I find that I’m emotionally challenged more than I ever have and I am trying to understand why. I have a few theories. Here goes.
We May Be People Pleasers
Just because I’m a mom doesn’t mean I’m no longer the people pleaser that I always have been. As parents, we want our children to be happy, but at what cost? Does that mean that you agree to privileges with which you are instinctively uncomfortable? Does that mean you say ‘yes’ because you want to avoid a meltdown? Does that mean that you compensate for the other parent’s lack of emotional involvement or downright absence?
The obvious answer is no but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t say ‘yes’ to make my kids happy or avoid a meltdown on more than one occasion. Parenting is one of the least people-pleasing activities as we have to say ‘no’ to things that are dangerous, not age-appropriate, or that are not aligned with our values. We have to sit with our children being upset with us for denying them a privilege because we have the long-term insight to know that it won’t go well or that it may create physical harm. Even when we share our rationale, which many people-pleasing parents will, our children want short-term, instant gratification rather than understanding that there are real, potentially negative consequences that can and will likely take place.