Humpty-Dumpty Parenting

walking on eggshellsEver feel like you’re “walking on eggshells”? Does it seem like you are on constant alert for the next emotional “episode” to erupt? Sometimes it seems that if you look cross-eyed, your child will meltdown. Asking him to put on his jacket can seem like you’ve told him to jump off a cliff. “…for no reason at all,” might be a constant refrain in your family. Those eggshells are fragile; we step carefully to avoid any cracking, but it seems futile.

When you think about those eggshells, where do you imagine they come from? Not your child. After all, isn’t it she who you assume is running the show, controlling everyone in the family? Even if she melts down at the drop of a hat, she appears to have the power to get whatever she wants.

Face it, you are the one afraid of your child. You are the fragile one. Those eggshells broke away from you leaving you exposed and raw. You’re the one who has been worn thin, are at the end of your rope, feel like you have been sucked dry. Your child is just fine.

If all the kings horses and all the kings men can’t put you back together again—then it’s up to you. The good news is that once you realize those eggshells are yours, you can take control of them—or at least sweep them up.

“Walking on eggshells” is a metaphor used by a victim mentality. Your child is certainly not the victim in your eyes, you are. “She’s making me…, She just wants control, I can never go out…, He makes me feel….He has to have it his way.” When we “walk on eggshells” we fear that if we don’t do what our child is demanding, she will fall apart.

Again that fear is yours. It may relate to how your negative emotions were handled in your family of origin, or what negative emotions you had to endure. Meltdowns and eruptions are never fun to be around, but they don’t have to immobilize us—unless we cower and assume devastation is at hand.

The first step in reclaiming your eggshell is facing your own fear of intense emotions. Perhaps you have consciously decided that my child is going to be able to express himself and not be ignored like I was (or something of the sort) You have chosen not to use force to quiet him—but this wasn’t what you were counting on! Your inner voice is screaming, you were never allowed to do that, how come he is? You doubt yourself, you doubt your child’s mental state, and you certainly doubt you’re ability to calm this raging storm. Realize that your fear came from a situation that no longer exists. Your child is not you and you don’t have to protect yourself anymore.

Next, know that you are not responsible for your child’s feelings. They are hers and she can handle them. All she needs from you is to witness and be there to keep her safe. After the storm subsides, acknowledge what she went through with compassion and help her feel normal and capable of controlling herself—even when it seems that she didn’t.

The more you feel battered by your child’s emotions and energy, the more you will be a victim, feeling resentful and put upon enough to become either a doormat or a dictator—and the more your child will feel unaccepted and will dig in her heels. When you can gather your eggshells and reclaim them, you will regain enough of a hard shell to protect you from getting sucked into her drama so you can be the helper she truly needs.


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