If you've followed this blog for any length of time, you may have begun to pick up on the fact that I'm a pretty big fan of my mother's parenting style. Sure, if it was just me that came out so well, it could have been a lucky accident, a fluke- but as it turns out, my younger brother's even more awesome than I am, so obviously my mom knows what's up, when it comes to rearing a non-sociopath*.
My mom has given me lots of good advice down through the years about how to handle children and relationships (of all stripes), but I realized the other day that one of the most important lessons I learned, I didn't learn because she explicitly told me- I learned it from years of watching her behavior. And it wasn't until the other day that I realized it with utter clarity;
My mother has never, in the entire time that I've known her, used guilt as a weapon.
Oh sure, she used it as a tool to deal with us (guilt can get a kid to confess to a wrongdoing real quick, if they're of the correct personality type), but she never used guilt against us, to coerce us- or anyone. We make our decisions, and even if she doesn't agree with them, she supports us. This is an incredibly healthy relationship to have with another adult, and having had it modeled for me throughout my childhood and into adulthood surely has something to do with how good my marriage is- as well as my relationships with the rest of my friends and family.
The only downside is that lack of practice has left me a bit unprepared for when people do try it on me.
I shouldn't say "people", actually. Because the vast majority of the population could try it on me and I would laugh in their faces, and cold-logic along my merry little way. But when someone I care deeply about does it, it leaves me frozen like a deer in the headlights: taken unaware, not totally sure what's going on, and with no game plan for how to escape the horrible monster bearing down on me.
I still generally don't give in- primarily because nothing makes me so viciously stubborn as another person's passive aggression- but it leaves me feeling resentful that I was put in the position in the first place, which is never a good place to be with a loved one.
In conclusion: let's all agree not to use guilt as a weapon, and hopefully within a few generations it will be bred out of the species, anyway. And think how much healthier the human race will be for it!
*(for the record, I did in fact clarify with my mom whether or not she ever feared she was raising a sociopath. She was quick to reassure me that she never thought that about my brother. And after a long pause for consideration, she said she never really thought it about me, either**.)
**(I may have paraphrased that conversation just slightly, to make it a better story. Don't shoot me, Mom.)