Our focus so far has been on the skills that will enable our children to share more of themselves with us, but as we discussed earlier, the potential for quality parenting is much greater when the parents also are willing to reveal themselves. Parents are sometimes reticent about the less flattering sides of themselves because they want their children to see their “good side.”
Therefore they carefully conceal anything negative. For example, we may believe that we must always appear brave and in control for our children to feel secure. We do not believe that seeing some of their parents able side will cause youngsters harm. On the contrary, It can be very helpful. One teenager told us that when he was six-teen, he was going through some old papers in a trunk and found a French test that his father had failed. The teen described his feeling as “uplifting.”
for the first time In my life, I had the feeling that I could live up to the standard he had set with all his accomplishments.” Some parents have trouble talking to their children about their own good points. We may feel that it’s our job to listen to our kids’ triumphs and dreams, not to speak about ours. In trying not to boast we keep our children from getting to know a side of us that they might value. Sometimes we can be as “stingy” in sharing our good attributes with our kids as our foibles. We are not suggesting that we make our children our cones• dams or best friends. The A-to-Z sharing that is between two adults is more than a child should have to handle.
When deriding what to share, it helps to keep in mind the child’s age and level of maturity. Obviously, we don’t want to speak in front of our children about the details of a neighbors divorce, for example, or about other matters that are clearly not their business.
It also is not a good idea to use stories about our own lives to manipulate rather than support. Children don’t want to hear about the proverbial five miles we had to walk through snow and ice to get to school—especially if our motive is to put them down for complaining about having to ride the school bus. Guilt trips, attempts to gain sympathy, and stories designed to pressure a child into doing things our way usually backfire.
One of the most useful purposes of self-disclosure is to offer support to a child when he or she Is down. By responding first to the child’s feeling. then by sharing a similar experience from our own lives, we can let the child know that he or she can survive the trauma: Mother What’s the matter sweetie? You look as if the world Just ended. Lattice l hate Charlene. She invited everybody to her party but me, Mother Oh. honey. I know that really lures because I can re-member the same thing. Lattice: Huh? What do you moan? Mother Well. one time when I was just x bole older than you are right now. there was this girl named Aretha. She didn’t like me too much. Well. actually that’s not exactly right.
To be honest, she hated my guts. Latrine Why? Mother I don’t know. It was probably kind of silly, but we Just didn’t like each other. We were always putting each other down and stuff. Well. she Invited some of the kids up to the lake to go swimming, including a boy that I really liked. Needless to say, .he didn’t invite yours truly. Lamm.. Were you mad? Mother. Mad? Money. I wanted to kill heel I ter up at the lake with Hobert and the others, and me stuck at home. I thought I would die. By disclosing a similar experience of her own, this mother has, in effect, joined Latricc in her misery.
Human nature being what It is, when disaster strikes, most of us feel better if we have some company. This mother’s good.