After 7 years of motherhood I formally absolve my mother of any and all guilt accumulated from parenting me through the use of… well… guilt.
It would seem the only two things my amazingly teenagerish, somewhat assholian, seven year old responds to these days are spankings, and guilt.
If I spanked her every time she was rude or disrespectful to me or her dad, every time she failed to listen to our instructions or gave us the seven year old version of the finger I would be up to my elbows in sanctions from various child welfare agencies. Instead, I use the only other effective weapon in my arsenal, guilt. Big, fat, piles of Catholic Grandmother guilt. (Nothing else is working!!)
At six she had a highly developed sense of empathy and really could be managed by simply saying “how would you have felt if….”. Now if you ask that question she will flippantly answer “Sad. Am I grounded now?”. However, if you say ” Your actions really hurt and upset me tonight. I feel really bad.” She will pause a little before asking “Am I grounded now?”Then, if you answer “No, you just have to deal with knowing that you hurt my feelings” she will usually respond with apologies that at least appear sincere in nature and squeeze out a tear or two. Of course, sometimes it helps a little to ground her anyway.
I always swore I would not engage in guilting my kids into behaving well. I hated that by the time I turned 20 I would begin to feel guilty about a proscribed action before I had even finished commiting the damn thing. (Career criminal is not the life for me.) Even now I feel guilty about guilting my kid into understanding that standing with her back to me mimicing my stance and pretending to mouth off while I am talking is mean and disrespectful.
Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving.
Maybe at 8 she will recover her former empathy and once again begin to feel for others, or maybe she feels for others already, but doesn’t care to apply such feelings to her father or me. After all, she is very caring towards her brother, and seems to really feel for the completely fake strangers she sees on the T.V.
Why do I have a feeling that I am going to visit Mr. Margarita quite a bit when she becomes a teenager?