Unconditional love vs. guilt-tripping


I just listened to Brooke’s podcast on Love vs. People-pleasing. Towards the end, she gives an example of her son Christian asking her to take him to the airport at a time that she already has something scheduled. She describes people-pleasing as telling him she’s so happy to take him, etc., which isn’t the truth. I totally get that. Then she describes unconditional love as telling him that she doesn’t want to take him but she will because she loves him; she said that it’s important to communicate that she doesn’t want to do it but will.

I struggle with situations like this where my 12-year-old son asks me to do something that I would prefer not to do (e.g., listen to music I don’t like, watch a horror movie I don’t want to see, play a game I dislike, etc.). I’m not tempted to lie and tell him I really want to do the thing that I don’t want to do. My difficulty is with what I say to him if I agree to do it. I feel that when I tell him I don’t want to do it but I will because I love him, it sounds like guilt-tripping. Maybe Brooke would say that to the extent that I think I can make him feel guilty based on what I say, that’s just a thought, his feelings are created by his own thoughts, and I can’t “make” him feel anything. That said, I’m unclear as to why it’s important to communicate the fact that I don’t want to do it (especially to a 12-year-old). Put another way, is there anything wrong with just agreeing to do it and not communicating anything about whether it’s what I want or not?

In writing this, I am realizing the bigger challenge for me is usually the decision whether to do the thing or not. I really appreciate that he wants to connect and share his interests with me, and I anticipate that as he becomes a teenager, this may happen with far less frequency. Yet, I don’t want to listen to music I dislike, watch horror movies that freak me out, or play games I don’t enjoy. Then I get concerned that I’m a selfish mom and that I’ll have regrets later when he is 15 and avoiding me like the plague.

C: N says: “Mom, watch ‘Child’s Play’ with me.”
T: I don’t want to, but if I keep declining these things, I worry that I’ll feel so guilty when he’s older and doesn’t want to be around me.
F: Confused
A: Don’t watch the movie, apologize, tell him I can’t stand those movies
R: I am less connected to him

C: N says: “Mom, watch ‘Child’s Play’ with me.”
T: I love him and I don’t want to watch the movie.
F: Clear
A: Tell him I love him so much, I don’t want to watch that movie with him, I’d be happy to watch something that isn’t a horror movie or go in the backyard and kick the soccer ball around.
R: I feel more connected to him.

Wow! That was super useful! 🙂