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Go along with the guilt trip

This past week my family life was very busy.  It doesn’t hold a candle to the activities of most families but I felt the squeeze.

I shaved back my hours in the office to spend more time with my seven-year old.  I took him shopping and out to dinner, I attended an afternoon drama performance and took off the rest of the day, I did an early pick-up so he could spend time with his grandma before his music program and after work on Friday I hosted an impromptu play date.  Saturday morning, his dad took him to get free comics on Free Comic Book Day and then to a 10:00 play date with a friend.  When he was dropped off at home following the play date, he was fit to be tied.  He didn’t want the play date to end and was upset when I sent the other parent and child on their way. 

Then came the guilt.  He didn’t have any fun.  I never let him do anything.  He didn’t have time to do this or that thing. 

Lucky for me, I had spent the morning in yoga class.  I arrived at the Wellmark YMCA 45 minutes before class so I continued to read my newest book purchase - “Letting Go” by Jean M. Baker.  Chapter Four is titled "The Kids" and the author discussed the importance of encouraging independence and not “helicoptering”.  When the yoga studio opened, I went in 15 minutes early and caught up with the yoga instructor, who I admire, and performed relaxation stretches.

Needless to say, by noon, I was relaxed and ready to take on life.  When the guilty comments, phrases, accusations were slung by my 55-lbs child, I was calm.  I was reminded in the book “Letting Go” that, on many occasions, I agree to do things because of fear.  Fear that my child will feel unloved, fear that one day he won’t want me to cuddle with him at bedtime, fear that I don’t spend quality time with him, and fear this fear that other thing. 

I am a person who feels guilty when I say no.  I can and do say no, but there is a post mortem feeling that because I said no, I have skewed the future that was laid out in advance and the world will be off balance.

I clearly need to get over myself if that is the case.  When I say no, good things happen to me.  I am exercising self-care for my mental health.  I am keeping time available that would otherwise be used by someone else’s needs.  And when I say “no” the world continues to turn and society continues to function.

If you have a child, either a true child or an adult acting like a child, saying no is more than saying the one syllable word out loud.  The response to your “no” is met with resistance and (drumroll) statements to make you feel guilty. 

I will start with the adult child at work.  A colleague or supervisor asks for your help to get XYZ done for the client.  They waited until the last minute to ask and zoned in on you because you are a team player. It is the end of the day and a client expected XYZ by the end of the day.  You tell your colleague or supervisor “no” and they hop aboard the guilt trip train. 

My advice is to go along with the guilt trip.  In my opinion, it will help them realize their ludicrous tactics. Respond to the guilt statements with the following" “Then Ms. Jones will fire us as a client”, “Mr. Barry will post a negative comment about our company online”, “The boss will be upset”.  In a not-so-subtle way, you are reflecting to the person that bad things could happen, but you are not taking ownership of the situation. 

Now let’s talk about the guilt trip from your child.  A response that will fit any situation, and is clearly ludicrous, is “I know, I am the meanest mom (or dad) in the world”.  

After the play date, when my child was slugging guilt statements my way, I agreed with everything he said.  “This is the worst day of your life”, “You never get to do anything”, “You didn’t have any fun today”.

If you respond with agreeable phrases, it will stop the guilt train in its tracks. Use this technique when you are confronted with unreasonable demands or complaints.  It is difficult for the other person to argue with you when you agree with them.  

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