APSGO Parenting Blog

by Donna DiMascio

Someone asked me the other day what I thought about 2020.

The first word that came to mind was &$!#% ….. and then a whole slew of other negative thoughts: uncertainty, scary, horrible, rough, stressful, dreadful, terrible and sad.

Or as Queen Elizabeth once said, “1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure.” She could have easily been describing 2020 because that is what it has felt like for most people. Many of us feel that not until we are all relatively safe or have a better fighting chance against COVID and can stop worrying about those we love (yes worrying, that useless verb that serves no purpose and doesn’t change the outcome) will we be able to breathe a sigh of relief.

That is the thing about worrying about this pandemic, worrying that we will get sick, that someone we love will get sick or even, worst case scenario, lose their life to this. We can wear masks, socially distance, try and follow all of the many recommendations, but at the end of the day there is still a lot of uncertainty, and so we worry. And while worrying serves no purpose and won’t change the outcome, it will provide you added stress, sleepless nights, an unwell feeling. It might make you harder to be around because when we worry, we want everyone to know, and we want them to worry too. Somehow that makes us feel better. If worrying could solve all of our problems, we’d all be happy, our kids would grow up to be very successful people, there would be no money troubles, and we’d have world peace.

Then I asked myself, “How would you like things to be?”

The first words that came to my mind were much different: secure, safe, hopeful, peaceful, easier, more relaxed, calmer, breathtaking, happy and normal! These are emotions that appeal to most of us.

How did it feel to read that? When you read the first paragraph, how did the negative words impact you? When you read the second paragraph, did the positive words impact you? You may have felt something or you may have felt nothing. This isn’t true in relationships.

When we indulge in disconnecting habits, we push other people away while we try to control their behavior.

  • Criticizing
  • Blaming
  • Complaining
  • Nagging
  • Threatening
  • Punishing
  • Rewarding to control

When we use connecting behavior, we pull others towards us while we control our own behavior.

  • Supporting
  • Encouraging
  • Listening
  • Accepting
  • Trusting
  • Respecting
  • Negotiating differences

The difference between negativity and positivity (disconnecting and connecting behaviors) is really the difference between failure and success – unless you find that criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing and rewarding to try to control others’ behavior works for you. We have found that most of the parents who join APSGO come in thinking it helps and stay when they figure out it doesn’t.

Who is your closest friend in the world? You know, that friend that you would sacrifice your life to save. The friend that you respect the most. The friend that, if they weren’t in your life, you would miss their presence? Yes, that friend!Do you blame them, complain about them, nag them, threaten them, punish them and then reward them to control their behavior? Have you ever asked yourself why not? Go ahead, ask yourself, why not?

My answer is: I would never treat my friend that way! Who does that? I respect them too much to do that! I love them too much to do that! And besides, that’s not who I am or how I treat people! So why do we feel differently when we think about our own children? If we love them and would sacrifice our life for theirs, why can’t we find it in our hearts to respect them the same way we respect our closest friend?

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Association of Parent Support Groups in Ontario (APSGO)