Gaslighting sounds like a ghastly term to be labelled with (to say the least), but many parents engage in these activities without even realizing it. Indeed, both protection and discipline must be doled out in good measure, and sometimes it’s necessary to scrutinize both behaviours and individuals in order to determine how much of which to dole out. More specifically, gaslighting is a psychological concept of manipulation which causes an individual to question their very sanity. It may not be likely that you are genuinely driving your child or children crazy, but it is definitely likely that most parents are forcing their children to negatively question their own way of thinking and feeling. A good basic definition of gaslighting is attempting to convince someone that one of their experiences isn’t true—sound familiar?
A little too familiar?
10 common examples of parental gaslighting.
Source: Duke Endowment.
#1: Forcing a child to finish a meal when they’re not hungry.
#2: Telling a child “everything’s OK” when many things are actually bleak.
#3: Telling a child that they shouldn’t be crying about something.
#4: Lying to children in order to prevent them from doing something (or from wanting to do something).
#5: Causing a child to be afraid in order to compel them to heed your advice.
#6: Telling a child that one of their passions is unimportant (or will be).
#7: Telling children to never talk to strangers, or asking them to follow other unreasonable advice (with many exceptions to the rules).
#8: Telling children not to question their elders or authority figures.
#9: Forcing a child to follow a specific religion (or any religion).
#10: Telling a child that something should make them feel a certain emotion.
Again, parents must avoid conveying the notion that something a child has experienced wasn’t real as they themselves experienced it. This is extremely harmful to children’s mental health, as it’s always unhealthy to try to live in alternate realities. Instead, offer support, freedom, and understanding, and follow the more specific tips below.
10 ways to avoid parental gaslighting.
#1: Don’t forbid tantrums.
Furthermore, don’t tell your child to “suck it up” or “stop crying,” and never try to intimidate them into complying with such wishes. Children must learn to handle these types of difficult events and situations in life, and they will not be able to do so if you unnaturally intervene.
#2: Allow crying.
If you don’t allow your child to cry, they will have difficulties expressing genuine emotions once they become adults. Crying releases stress and enables human beings to truly move on from things, so crying is essential to good mental and emotional health.
#3: Allow emotional expression in general.
For children, it’s usually easier to express themselves emotionally rather than literally, so if you insist that they articulate their thoughts rather than just demonstrating them you will be preventing healthy mental growth and learning.
#4: Be a good example.
This means teaching resilience, empathy, and compassion by way of your own actions. It’s hard, but it’s the only way to truly teach and learn these things.
#5: Maintain integrity.
Try to convey precisely what you want to express, and try to perceive precisely what your child is trying to express; don’t pretend to think or feel something in order to win them over to your side, and don’t pretend to understand something in order to do so either. Instead, validate their experiences, and show compassion and understanding; this will enhance their judgement, their trust in their own judgement, and their long-term self-esteem.
#6: Allow genuine decision-making.
If you never truly allow a child to make their own decisions, there is no chance they will ever be properly prepared to make their own decisions.
#7: Give the benefit of the doubt more often.
If the consequences aren’t life and death, your child will learn more quickly and easily by discovering a truth firsthand as opposed to being told about it in advance by a parent.
#8: Don’t manipulate.
If you provide “incentives” to obey you, they will only prevent your child from genuinely learning and growing internally.
#9: Don’t fix everything.
Despite a parent’s best efforts and intentions, odds are that they will not always be there for their children—and children need to solve many problems on their own if they are to be able to solve even bigger problems on their own as adults.
#10: Don’t stipulate conditions.
If you offer to pay for your child’s education if they go to one school but not if they go to another—it’s easy to see how ultimatums like this would restrict a child’s mental development and strength.
Remember that gaslighting is often passed-on, so if you can stop doing it entirely then it means that your grandchildren will likely never have to worry about ever experiencing such things.
Featured Image Source: Duke Endowment.
Article Source: Ravishly.
*This content was inspired by an amazing article that can be found here.