Encouragement Parenting Tips for April: Trouble and Mischief Makers
What We Invite from Others:
I’d like to give you a fictitious scenario:
Imagine two people in an argument. Both are pointing their finger at the other, not listening, blaming each other. Then they break apart and walk in opposite directions. Ever see this happen?
It’s easy to blame others. It’s their fault, they did it! Point the finger and walk away.
Take no responsibility.
The self remains intact.
Keep moving forward.
Don’t worry; I’m not pointing a finger at you. We all do or have done this.
Let’s just embrace that this sometimes happens, to us all.
When we are afraid of something or really stressed, not thinking rationally, flipping our lids (Siegel and Hartzell 2004), we act in ways to protect ourselves from what we fear the most: stress and pain, rejection and abandonment, criticism and humiliation, or meaningless and unimportance (Nelsen 2006). We do this, by playing our “top card:” go for comfort, try to please, take control, or find some way of being superior (Lott and Nelsen, 1997, Nelsen, 2006, Lott and Nelsen 2012). These ‘go to’ behaviors that appear, seemingly out of nowhere, that either catch us off guard or are so seemingly ingrained in our behaviors that we take them for granted, are what Lynn Lott calls mischief makers (Lott and Nelsen 2012). They are trouble and mischief makers because these behaviors “often create the opposite of what the individual intends” (Nelsen, 2006, p. 240).
We do these behaviors to avoid the thing we fear the most but in doing these behaviors we invite the opposite of what we need from others.
When we want to avoid stress and pain at all cost and go for comfort, we can invite feelings of fear and uncertainty in others, resulting in more stress (Lott and Nelsen 1997, Nelsen 2006, Lott and Nelsen 2012). When we want to avoid rejection and abandonment at all cost and try to please others, we can invite others to feel resentment and worry about reciprocating, resulting in more feelings of tension (Lott and Nelsen 1997, Nelsen 2006, Lott and Nelsen 2012).
When we want to avoid criticism and humiliation at all cost and try to control things or others, we can invite others to feel restricted, resulting in rebellion or resistance, and everyone feels out of control (Nelsen 2006, Lott and Nelsen 2012). And when we want to avoid meaningless and unimportance at all cost by beating it back with superiority, we can invite others to feel inadequate, resulting in others feeling lesser and like failures (Nelsen 2006, Lott and Nelsen 2012).
Nelsen (2006) says that these behaviors are often at the root of power struggles that adults have with children. In thinking about our upcoming discussion on trauma, I wonder how much of the fear responses we have in parenting are not due to trauma when we were young.
If you happen to have one of these trouble and mischief makers, don’t fret, we all have a top card and play it from time to time.
Next time you have a top card mischief or trouble, take notice and try to choose a different card from the deck. Each card can offer others many rewards when it is used out of choice and with a rational mind; it supports predictability, teaches how to be considerate of others, supports organization, and even motivates for success.
See you back here this time next month for my Encouragement Parenting Tips for May!
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Catherine Gruener, LCPC, NCC, DCC, PDTC. Catherine is a multi-certified and licensed clinical professional counselor, nationally and internationally known for her parent training programs. She is the owner of Gruener Consulting and the Chief Executive Officer of the Encouragement Parenting Division.