The other day I was asking my kid if they wanted to join me on an errand or stay home with their step dad. After asking how long it’d take they said they wanted to stay home.
Before I even had a chance to respond they asked if I was gonna say something like
“aww okay” that would make them feel like they have to go because I want them to.
We’ve talked about stuff like this a lot- that it’s pretty normal that people will say and do things that are meant to make you feel a certain way to get you to do something they want you to do, and why it’s important to be aware of that.
They’ve called me on it in the past and there have been genuine times I was sad or disappointed and then there have been times I was hoping to sway them into making a different choice. When it’s the latter I take a moment to take inventory of myself, then take responsibility for it and tell them I appreciate them calling me on it.
But this day I really wasn’t feeling tied to an outcome, and wasn’t going to say anything like that.
I was getting ready to tell them
“no I’m not going to do that” but I thought about it for a moment and decided there was something more important here to point out.
I asked them “What if I did say something like that? What if I really did feel sad? Do you know what your job is in that situation?”
They thought it about it for a second but they weren’t sure.
I told them that it was their job to decide what they really wanted, and to be okay with making me sad.
It’s possible I’d be sad if I wanted them to tag along and they didn’t want to. I might say
“aww okay” not to try and get them to feel guilty and go but because I genuinely was feeling disappointed.
And if that was the case they need to know that other people’s feelings aren’t their responsibility. That they can’t take on the burden of making sure other people are happy at their own expense.
There’s nuance there of course-sometimes it is important and worthwhile to examine your choices and the possible outcomes.
Maybe when you think about it, it turns out it’s something you can change your mind on to create connection with the other person.
But maybe it’s not, and in that case you need to feel comfortable disappointing others.
So much of my early parenting journey I spent worrying about burdening my child with my emotions.
And very young children who can’t yet reason, it is important to be mindful of this.
But as my child gets older, the more I realize that the point isn’t to create an illusion that the choices they make have no impact on me.
The point is to teach my child that their job is to honor their own safety and integrity above the discomfort of others.