African parents are interesting humans, they are petty, witty, funny, and very manipulative. One thing that we understand about them is that they are not perfect humans. One of the flaws they have is gaslighting. Not all of them are gaslighters, but most are.
In the second week of the Afrobloggers WinterABC festival, we share stories of Africa. I decided it was important that my generation of parents, or yet-to-be parents, learn how not to be the typical gaslighting African parent.
One thing to understand is that some of the behaviors I will be talking about have been normalized to us. We see them be expected because we experienced them. However, they are not.
How are African Parents Gaslighters?
In order to understand the behaviors of parents that are gaslighters, we need to understand the meaning of gaslighting. Very Well Mind describes it as:
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that often occurs in abusive relationships. It is a covert type of emotional abuse where the bully or abuser misleads the target, creating a false narrative and making them question their judgments and reality. Ultimately, the victim of gaslighting starts to feel unsure about their perceptions of the world and even wonder if they are losing their sanity.
Unfortunately, gaslighters may also not know that they are inflicting abuse on another person. This could be the case with a lot of African parents. What this also means is they do not see the emotional damage that is likely to follow their children.
Like I said, growing up with the experience is prone to make the victim think that everything is normal even if it isn’t. Just as how we back spanking of kids as not being physical abuse.
Gaslighting African Parents
One thing I have noted from things posted on social media is how a lot of our parents never acknowledged our anger towards them. Most of them would diminish it, and make one think their reason for being mad was just not reason enough. That is one way of gaslighting.
Having to question your emotions and their validity is not right.
Another thing is the issue of our realities. A lot of us grew up in houses where stories were constantly changed by our parents that we would question our own versions. For example, there would be visitors over and say you are telling a story. Now, imagine your parent comes jumps in, and changes versions of the story to their own narrative.
That would bring changes to reality. If you dared to challenge their version, you would be met with the “eyes” which would mean that it is time for you to shut up.
How not to be Gaslighting African Parents
In order to understand how we can make sure that we are not gaslighting parents, here are 6 ways to not be. These have been taken from She Knows.
1. Do not exaggerate conflicts
Exaggerating conflicts means escalating small issues to bigger things. As parents, we are supposed to be very understanding of our children and their imperfections. We should know that they are learning as they go and are bound to make mistakes.
According to she knows, exaggeration of conflicts can easily lead to children avoiding you. It can also give them a reason to lie to you about issues so that you do not get angry. They often question the legitness of your anger.
Another problem associated with the exaggeration of anger is kids start thinking they are failures and cannot do anything right by you.
2. Never cling to control
Another pointer to being a gaslighting parent is the need to always be in control. As a parent, you need to learn to be flexible, especially with your kids. We ought to learn that things will not always go as we plan.
Giving your children and those around them the freedom to do as they wish will give them so much peace. As parents, we need to come around to the fact that we have other people in our environment.
Being flexible allows children to express their personalities, and learn to be more open and free with you.
3. Never mock your kids’ behavior
Remember the time you would cry and your parents would mimic you? They would mimic you and start dying with laughter because of your crying face. That was a clear sign that they were gaslighting you.
Even when our babies are throwing tantrums or having a meltdown, mimicking them is not the answer. Instead of mimicking them, learn to understand them. As a matter of fact, it is best to understand their problem, assure them that you understand, explain why they cannot have it done their way, and then offer a solution.
That way, your baby feels that their frustrations have been heard.
4. Do not over assert your power
There are parents who are dead set that their kids cannot survive without them. Even some of you reading this, are reminded by your parent(s) that you just cannot do this world without them.
Growing up, they would allow you to set your wings and fly, just not high enough from their grip. That, my friends, is gaslighting.
As parents, you should allow your child to take control of themselves and scenarios they are good at. As a matter of fact, you should encourage them to take that control of their lives from a young age.
That belief you show in them will take them far in this world. And always remember, they will forever hold you on high grounds.
5. Hear your child
How many times have heard your parents say they know you better than you know yourself? Count yourself lucky if your parent has never said this to you.
Unfortunately, a lot of children get their feelings thrown out because parents are dead set that they know them better. What we fail to understand is that we automatically make the child feel like their emotions are invalid.
It is important to allow your kids to be vulnerable and being free to share their emotions is important. Also, you should always keep it in the back of your head that they change, you constantly have to learn them.
I swear, when I was a child, I hardly heard my mom apologize. When I was in my teens, she and I had a talk about it, and that was the beginning of her apologies.
We need to learn to apologize to kids when we do them wrong. It is important to show our babies that we are imperfect, after all, we are only human. We need to own up to our wrongs, apologize, and move on.
It is up to us to break the chain of abuse that is swept under the carpet. If you feel that you need help, then please seek out professional help. Share your thoughts below.