What does it really mean when teens ‘misbehave’, do something ‘wrong’ or ‘mess-up.’ I think that all parents have a fundamental dilemma when thinking about ‘punishing’ their children.
Parents Take Their Children’s Mistakes Personally
The first part of this argument is that many parents take their children’s mistakes personally. I cannot tell you how often I hear a parent tell me:
“My daughter is getting in trouble at school and not doing well with grades…what have I done wrong? I must be a bad mother.”
Parents are not blameless for their children’s actions, but taking your children’s mistakes as a mirror for your parenting style, puts the emphasis on the wrong issue and therefore makes it harder to solve.
Parents View Their Children as a Misbehaving, Dysfunctional Version of Themselves
This is the tough one. I have found that some parents view their children as mini-versions of themselves. I do not mean this in the typical sense (usually this is said in reference to parents wanting their children to fulfill their dreams). I mean that parents expect their children to behave like them. Therefore, when their children misbehave, they feel like a part of them is misbehaving or that they are dysfunctional.
Parents View Their Kid’s Using a Lens
I call this the parental lens. Parents viewing their children’s misbehavior as a personal failure, through their own lens. Children are different not wrong. It is important for parents to realize that children are not a version of themselves and that their mistakes are different.
Parents Punish By DePowerizing Children
When children misbehave parents often castrate, emasculate, and make smaller or less than. I call this depowerizing because the punishment often means taking away power. We do this by:
1) Criticizing 2) Complaining 3) Comparing to other malfunctioning people 4) Correcting them 5) Withholding some kind of pleasure 6) Compliments to others (ie. “It is so refreshing to meet a teen who is so responsible…”)
Often this depowerization can happen with something as small as an emasculating tsk or eye roll.
Parents DePowerize But Demand Grown-Up Behavior
This is a terrible cycle because depowerization makes children even less incentivized to meet your needs, it makes them trust you less and want to be less like you.
Here is the kicker:
Parents take children’s their power as a punishment for them not being more like you, but by doing this you are highlighting your differences. We want them to be themselves and an ideal version of oursleves, but also want them to stay less powerful than us. We punish them for being different by making them more different.
I bring this up because I have recently begun to see how I apply this in my relationships and the effect it has had on making them more genuine. I challenge you to think about how you depowerize people in your life and how it affects your relationship and what you need from them.
Clearly, this is not all parents. This isn’t even some parents all the time. But, I think we all do certain aspects of depowerization and hypocritical demands on others as ideal versions of ourselves.