Harking back for a moment to the experiences of fitness mentor John Stone, we promised a special bit for parents, and here it is. The author’s thoughts were not even expressed with parents in mind. He was thinking about adult-to-adult relationships. But everything he said applies to parents too, and more so:
Hopefully everyone has some people around them who are supportive of their fitness goals. I was very lucky in that regard. Still, there are always people in your life who want to see you fail. Misery loves company.
Let’s not be mothers and fathers who transplant our own unhappiness into our children. Every person has a dark side, and being aware of that is healthier than trying to deny it. A parent who wants a child to fail, at anything, is much better off realizing such an aberrant thought because awareness is the first step in dealing with it.
Self-awareness is catching ourselves doing unworthy things, in time to do a course correction. Stone writes,
Maybe some of them are your friends, and perhaps some of them are people you have to put up with at your office or in your neighborhood.
And some of them are parents.
It hurts to realize that one might, oneself, be that kind of parent. There is a subcategory of people who like to see others fail, and who sometimes take active measures to assure that failure. Among grownups, the maladjusted person might tempt someone who is trying not to drink. “Aw come on, just one won’t hurt.” Stone says,
They try to convince you to eat junk food with them.
Do we bring home high-calorie, low-nutrition garbage food? That thoughtless habit can hurt a child who is trying to be conscious and careful. Letting them eat it, and not letting them eat it, are equally counterproductive. The best idea is to just keep the stuff out of the house.
While outspoken critics are unpleasant, subtle undermining is even worse to cope with, because there is no clearly aggressive act that the victim can point to. Stone wrote,
The people I’m talking about are the ones who make light of what you are doing. They roll their eyes when you talk about your fitness program. Some of these kinds of people are more subtle than that, and some are more outspoken, but you always know exactly who they are.
Do we make light of our children’s ambitions for self-betterment? Do we tease them, or undermine their spirits by asserting that they will never succeed? Do we roll our eyes, or say things like, “I know you. You won’t stick with it.”
A tremendous amount of emotional abuse is inflicted on children in the name of humor. To disparage someone’s hopes and undermine their good intentions under cover of “just having fun” is a species of cruelty. If they accept it, they are knuckling under, and lose self-respect.
If they resist, they make themselves targets for progressively more hostile words. “What’s the matter, you don’t have a sense of humor? Awww, poor baby.” Some parents have trouble believing that other parents talk to their kids that way. But they do.
Kids are not grownups
Children are not equipped to deal with multi-layered emotional situations. What they need from their parents is the same humane consideration that those adults would probably extend to a valued colleague or a visiting clergyperson.
To adults, Stone says this about the obstructive others: “What I suggest you do is use their negative energy to your advantage.” It worked for him. But it doesn’t work for kids. They don’t have the skillset. They need parents to act like mature sane adults, so they can get on with the business of being kids.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Mental tricks to help you stay motivated,” JohnstoneFitness.com, 08/03/06
Image by Zaid Alasad/Public Domain