As a parent, do you ever play the martyr in your home?
I will be honest with you; I’ve gotten the role down pretty well. But I also know that being a martyr to get a desired response from kids and spouses does not promote a healthy family dynamic.
Why do you play the martyr? Because you are hoping to see a desired response.
I always have to take the garbage out will hopefully result in your spouse jumping in to save the day and take the garbage out.
No, it’s okay, I’ll clean up the kitchen, accompanied by a huge SIGH–this will hopefully prompt your kids to jump in and say, “Mom, let me wash the dishes!”
The problem is; sometimes the martyrdom attitude words and sometimes it doesn’t. When it does work, you are training your kids and spouse to only respond to you being a victim and when it doesn’t you get even more upset because no one got the hint.
Martyrdom is not the best way to get people to respond; but it is very habit forming for the user. Here’s how you can starve yours and break the cycle.
- Stop expecting people to read your mind. Start expressing exactly what you’d like. Wishful thinking does not solve problems. Good communication involves speaking and listening. A simple conversation can clear up a big misunderstanding. We always said to our kids, “You know what happens when you ASSUME, don’t you?” I’m sure you know the rest of that!
- Take responsibility for the problem you face. Ask yourself “What do I do that contributes to the problem?” and “What can I do to make the situation better?” For instance, if you feel that one of your kids is not doing his part to keep the house clean, you may have cleaned up after him because you couldn’t stand the mess. Perhaps you expressed your dissatisfaction. but were ignored. Your responses enabled him to continue the behavior. Next time you are tempted to do his chore for him, ask him directly to do it that day. When you ask, be calm and neutral in your tone – avoid showing irritation or hurt. Controlling your emotions will minimize conflict and hopefully get you what you want.
- Bite your tongue. I truly believe that if parents would bite their tongues more often, there would be less conflicts in the home. It takes practice and self-discipline to think about what you are going to say before you say it. But it helps to say it to yourself and ask what it sounds like. I’ve been working on this for years and still blow it. But I also have seen improvements in those moments when I think about my words and how they will be perceived. That though process has kept me from many a conflict I’m sure. When you feel like giving your martyr speech, practice biting your tongue. Think through what you really want to communicate and talk about it in a way that communicates clearly and honestly.
Being a martyr does not make you a bad parent or spouse; it’s merely an ineffective way to communicate your need for help. If you’ve given in to the martyr habit, it’s time for you to stop playing that role; start telling your spouse what you really need and teaching your child real responsibility.
Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. She authored the Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series and has recently launched a podcasting series for sports parents.You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.