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  • Writer's pictureJulia Gillis

If Your Kid is Sh*tty, It's Your Fault.

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

I packed up 2 full plastic totes of my child's most cherished possessions - her books. Then I added her second favorite item - her blue tooth headphones, which she wears all over the house, in the car and everywhere else I have been letting her get away with it. Then I put in her iPad & her lap top. I put the lids on the totes and hid them in my closet while she was at school.



I had already left the gym crying that morning after ruminating over the morning struggle. I had already yelled at her the night before and slammed a door; a rare occurrence due to my typically stoic level of patience. Arguments, negotiations & bargaining had become part of the morning routine & evening routine in the house. Simple requests have been met with stomping feet & tears.


My daughter has committed to a life of misery - spewing her pessimism all over the house & the lives of the other two people living in it. She lies about brushing her teeth, she doesn't want to make her lunch, she doesn't want to get dressed for school, she doesn't want to pick up her socks, she hates her vitamins that taste basically like candy, she doesn't want to shower, she doesn't like her food....uugghhhh.


Honestly - these are all pretty typical things for an 8 year old. She wants new levels of control for herself. She wants agency & autonomy. Fine. I can play that tune. I have tools for this. But she's piled it on top of 2 more heart breakers:


Do you want to go swimming? No

Do you want to colour together? No

Do you want to do origami? No

Want to go for walk? No

Can I read to you? No

Do you want to wrestle? No


Every suggestion I make - even if I play 'perceived choice' (Do you want to do this or that?) is met with a lack of interest to participate in any of the things she loves.


Third & worst: her running dialogue of how much she hates that we moved to a new town, that we moved in with my partner so I could keep building a family, that she has to go to school, that everything sucks, she misses her friends, misses her bio-dad, she doesn't like anything, or anyone & nothing makes her happy.


I am a Resiliency Life Coach. My daughter is now my worst nightmare - a client I didn't choose & who doesn't want to change to feel better or get better. How the F- did I get here?!



She's making friends at school, she's getting horseback riding lessons, she is getting gymnastics & swimming, she loves the babysitter I found, her new step-dad is the most loving, funny, kind, devoted person to both of us, we don't have crazy room mates anymore, our house is amazing, our neighbourhood is full of kids that she likes to hang out with & we go for mother daughter dates at a cafe where we like the treats.


"But Julia", you say, "what about the things that actually count as a parent?"


Yes - I give her my undivided attention during bed time reading. We put phones away at the dinner table & talk about our day, I support her in talking about her feelings & validate them because we've had some major shifts in our lives that were not up to her. I offer her language & tools for getting her needs met instead of just telling her what 'not to do.' I repair with her & say sorry when I react in a way, as an adult, that is unhelpful. I give hugs and bonding and tell her how proud of her I am for all the great stuff she's doing or how she's handling new parts of life.


So what the hell?


Well I'm also sometimes telling her that she's lazy. And I get angry at her for not being helpful. And I get irritated with her when she has a shitty attitude. And I lecture her for not being polite or not displaying considerate & compassionate social skills. And I get frustrated with her for continuing to reject her step-dad. And I get totally pissed when she doesn't seamlessly execute her morning school day routine. And I get down right fucking insane when she doubles down on explaining to me why she is devoted to being miserable - no matter what solid logic or coaching or suggestions I make to encourage some optimistic resilience - in the face of a rather privileged & comfortable life. I even admit - sometimes I withdraw affection & attention when I'm so mad I just can't express myself in a healthy way.


All while I let her put on her head phones with a podcast or get lost in a book & cut out the world around her. She is struggling with reality right now. And I am passive-aggressively allowing her to just 'check out.'


My kid was not like this 6 months ago. Before the legal battles with her dad so I could relocate with her, while pregnant with a stressful surrogacy, before the 5,000 km move, while I was 2 months postpartum, before my mental health started to struggle - my parenting was all on point. She wasn't like this before.



It's my fault. My child's behaviour is a product of her environment & her experiences. I'm her environment. She experiences the life I've designed around us.


If she is miserable, acting out, being shitty - that's on me.


I remember when I was growing up, my parents did basically nothing when I acted out or did something wrong. I got a shaming lecture. I got emotionally neglected. I got told my behaviour was unacceptable. But that was it. I remember the odd time being sent to my room. I remember being grounded once. I was mostly asked "What's wrong with you?!"


And I remember being angry all the time. I remember being depressed. I remember feeling hated & unloved in my house. I remember running away, shoplifting, drinking, smoking, throwing things at walls, sneaking out. And it didn't matter. Because there were no consequences - and no one saw my early behaviour as a alarm bell of pain. It was treated as dysfunction & was responded to with rejection.


So I got worse. And then I got even worse. All I did was test where the line was for how 'bad I could be.' I got away with it, and kept doing it after I moved out. I lived for years believing that no matter how bad I am or what I do wrong - it didn't matter. There aren't any real consequences for being a shitty person.


Doing recovery finally showed me what healthy love & relationships look like & how amazing & rewarding they are. It also taught me that when someone - especially a child - is in pain...they're behaviour is a request for help & support. No matter how dysfunctional it looks.


My child doesn't need discipline. She needs more love. She needs more support. She needs more patience. She needs more attention. She needs more help. But she needs it with direction & boundaries.


Her headphones & books allow her to check out. It allows her to cut off. It allows her to get lost and not be present.


It also creates a barrier between her & 2 adults in the house she wants love & attention from. She's 8. It's easier to just go get lost rather than ask for love. But its creating a negative feedback loop. As she floats away to feel comfortable, she becomes more angry about feeling alone.



I allowed it. Her obsessive reading was a source of pride for me. "She's such a good reader!" And her podcast was a side step, "Well at least it's not screen time!"


It was also an excuse for me to get time to breathe. For me to get time with my own thoughts, to recalibrate, to process... to not parent.


To not parent.


We are often 2 humans floating between the living room, kitchen & dinning room - not interacting. Ignoring the other.


And she is suffering. We all do this. We crawl into a soothing addiction to comfort ourselves. To not deal with our thoughts or dissatisfaction.


But she is 8. That is not a tool I want her to develop. Her brain has no perspective on the negative repercussions of this in the long term. That's MY job.


I want her to develop the tool of asking for help & support.

I want her to develop the tool of stating her needs & if they are being sufficiently met.

I want her to develop the tool of integrity (being the person you say you're going to be & doing the things you say you're going to do.)

I want her to develop agency.

I want her to develop self awareness.

I want her to keep her compassion & kindness & empathy.

I want her to keep her joy & optimism.

I want her to develop fluid acceptance.

I want her to develop the tools for conflict repair.

I want her to develop emotional regulation.


And it's no one else's job to teach her those things but me.

Me. I'm the one.


If she doesn't develop those things...or she loses any of those things - it's on me.

It's my fault.


Is that a lot of pressure for a parent? It sure is.

Can I do it on my own - I sure can't - it takes a village.


And I need to ask for support too (**Thank you Gretta<3)


Will I make mistakes? I sure will.


When I feel so angry at her, when I feel like yelling at her, when I feel she's on my last nerve - I have to stop & ask, "what is she not getting from me?" (Instead of asking "what's wrong with her?!")


She wont learn through discipline & punishment. She needs guidance, support, reminders, positive reinforcement, encouragement & consequence.


I hope that every single person who feels they came from a low nurture, abuse or toxic background understands this. It is 100% the responsibility of the adults or primary caregivers to help, support & guide a child into the development of resiliency, boundaries, integrity, ethics & self-efficacy. If you don't have these things - there was a gap in your upbringing. If your child is struggling with these things - get help. There is a gap in your parenting.


This does not need to be a source of shame. We can't teach what we don't know.

And sometimes we just need a little extra. Extra support. Extra encouragement. Extra time. Extra something. Sometimes extra love.


Trauma is when an experience causes a level of pain that leaves us in a consistently weaker state.

Resilience the ability to learn & grow from hardship & stress.


If we work to raise our resilience, we can move beyond & outgrow our trauma.


 

If you loved this blog, don't forget to like it and share it on your social media!

 

If you would like to start building your Core Resiliency Skills contact Coach Julia today. You will learn how to Thrive beyond your damage, become a Transitional Character, break abuse cycles in your family cycle & build the core resiliency skills most often missed when being raised in a low nurture environment.


Julia is a Holistic Health Consultant, holding a Double Diploma in Community Support & Addictions Work, is a Certified Transformation Specialist, Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach & a Lvl 2 Reiki Practitioner. She specializes in Trauma Informed Practice & Resiliency Coaching. PrettyAggressiveRecovery@gmail.com



If you are seeking material on parenting beyond your damage, check out the first of my workbook series Parenting Beyond Your Damage on Amazon.ca (and Amazon.com)


You can work through The Pillars of Resiliency while learning to bond with your child to end the intergenerational abuse cycle.


Units 2-6 are do to be released soon.

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