THEY’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY
but I can’t figure out what’s wrong
PREVIOUS: DMs Part 4
SPEAKING OF GAMES (in Part 4), this post is a slight digression from the topic of DMs & DBs, but is so striking that it’s worth including. The following examples may or may not be a part of some DBs, but they’re cruel games, the same way DBs are. This is by no means complete, so add your own family’s dysfunctional games as you become aware of them.
DEF of GAMES, from Eric Berne’s “Games People Play“:
“A pre-set, structured series of social transactions, superficially plausible but with (selfish or destructive) hidden motives, leading to a well-defined predictable outcome.” Games are usually dysfunctional, subconscious programs created by the Little Professor ego state (& scroll down), to gather ‘strokes’ not allowed directly – ways to feed the Self emotionally. As far as the WIC is concerned, even negative strokes are better than none at all.
NOTE: Some games are for fun & generally harmless, like a flirting ritual used to cajole someone into bed – as long as both people understand the rules & agree to the outcome.
HARMFUL mind GAMES – from an article by Brenda Nelson, 2008.
These are abusive emotional TRICKS played by parents on their children, and on each other! They insure not being able to form strong family bonds, generating lack of trust in the children, who will NOT look back on them fondly.
When You’re Older / Maybe for Your Birthday / Wait ‘til Christmas
This game starts any time a child asks for something (a doll, a bike, a trip, a car…. ) which the parent has no intention of providing. While sometimes asking a child to wait is legitimate, most often it’s just a cowardly & dishonest way for a parent to avoid saying ‘NO’ outright. What unhealthy adults don’t realize is that a child will always hear these phrases as a promise (“Yes, but later”). What’s really going on is that the parent hopes the child will forget, but of course they don’t – they’re just wait. What they also never forget is the broken promise, but which is in fact being lied to and conned.
If You’re Not Good, Santa Won’t Bring You Any Gifts
It’s both a bribe & a threat – a terrible way to get a child to behave. It makes being loved (the gifts) conditional on the child’s actions, rather than being loved unconditionally. An easy game to play for the month of December.
Your Mother / Father Said
When parent A tells parent B to get the child to do something, and then B lets themselves be the messenger: “Your mother said you have to clean your room pronto / Your father wants you to mow the lawn, right now……”. This is chickening out by both adults, a triangulation (A should have told the child him/herself) and B making A seem like a bully so B can be the ‘nice’ one
Go Ask Your Mom / If Your Dad Says it’s Okay
When a child asks one parent if they can do something, or if they can have something, and that parent refers them to the other parent. They’re putting the burden of responsibility so they don’t have to be the “bad guy” or say the wrong thing. They leave it up to the other adult to either please the child, or disappoint it. It’s a mean game both to the child & to the other adult.
What Would Your Father / Mother Say?
This game is both —
— a way to shame the child: ”What would he/she think of you if they know what you just did/said?” (“he/she won’t love you any more”), AND
— again, pitting one parent against the other, A using B as a threat, making them the bully & judge, so A can seem like the ‘good’ one, while shifting responsibility on the other adult
Just Wait Until Your Father Gets Home
This game is gender-specific, making the male parent the ‘more dangerous’ one. This distinction is not universal, just more common. It unfairly, unnecessarily makes the child afraid of one parent, who is being used as a threat. If A is home when a problem comes up they should deal with it themselves, immediately. Making the child wait for the other parent to deal out discipline or punishment is both unfair to parent B and a torture for the child.
Why Can’t You be More Like Your Sister (cousin, movie star….)?
This one is down right evil – negatively comparing one child to someone else. Rather than involving the other parent, it adds fuel to the horrors of sibling or peer rivalry. It can involve 2 girls, 2 boys in the same family, one child & a cousin or other relative, or the child vs. an idealized religious or media figure (“What would Jesus do?”, or why can’t you be more like Cindy Crawford, Hannah Montana…? )
— It can be made into a competition (he’s getting good grades / she doesn’t give me any trouble…)
— OR a comparison (She’s so quiet, elegant, obedient, respectful….).
• Pitting one child against anyone else clearly says to the ‘bad’ child that they’re unacceptable & therefore unlovable. Either way the child loses – developing self-hate, as well as resenting / hating the other child or person
If You Don’t Look After the Pet, We’ll Get Rid of It
This is a very destructive game. Not only does it hurt the child, but it ultimately hurts the pet. Children cannot be asked to accept a lifetime commitment, and many pets will not be taken in by others when they’re no longer little & cute, so they’re often euthanized. Children should NEVER be told they are 100% responsible for pet care. If parents can’t handle the responsibility they should not get one.
• This game definitely destroys a child’s sense of trust, safety & innocence. It can also harm their understanding of responsibility, & even their ability to maintain a relationship later in life. After all – their own parent showed them that all life, all commitments, are disposable!
NEXT: Styles of DMs, Part 6