My daughter has a friend from dance who will say to her mother, "Suzy is better at ballet than I am" and the mother responds, "Yes, but you are better at hip hop than Suzy is.” Although I often found these comments annoying because she had versions of them for every aspect of her daughter's life, I understood them for the struggles they illuminate. Sometimes it is damn hard to be happy for others! Seriously, there are just days when you want to be jealous, petty, critical, and thoroughly irate when somebody else has what you want.
I'm not necessarily talking about material things, though haven't we all coveted something materialistic of our neighbors? My next door neighbor has the best built in swimming pool of all time and there are days that I just want to kick her butt and have that pool for myself and my hot and cranky kids. But what I'm really talking about here is our green eyed jealous monster that shows up when others achieve more or when their kids achieve more than you or your family does. It's brutal and it's hard sometimes (ok a lot of times) to be happy for them when we are a bit bummed out for ourselves and for our kids.
And this my friends is when we roll out the "Yes, but" parenting and getting through life technique. "Yes, your kid got better grades but my kid made the basketball team". "Yes, your kid got into Harvard but that's because the admissions department felt sorry for him because his essay was obviously written by you - you crazy helicopter parent!” "Yes, you're skinnier than I am but that's because you are an over obsessed workoutaholic and I am (obviously) a more well balanced chocoholic." and on and on we go.
So here's my question, are we really helping our kids or ourselves when we use the "Yes, but" technique? Do your kids really feel better about not making the basketball team, the honor role, the prom court, or their top college choice? Do we really feel better? Maybe in that moment we gain a little pleasure from knocking someone down but not in the long run. Trust me; I’ve tried this technique numerous times. I caught myself doing it earlier today. Here's the thing, the "Yes, but" technique is really just allowing us to lie to ourselves and our kids. Truth is, sometimes it's damn hard to be happy for other people!
So what's the answer? Never compare ourselves to others? Good luck with that but it seems a little outside of the real human behavior realm. Pretend we are happy for others? That's probably a good idea but maybe not the complete answer. Maybe, just maybe, we need to acknowledge to ourselves and often our kids that we are jealous and feeling a tad bad for ourselves. Yep, you heard me. Maybe we should consider fessing up and owning our own feelings versus knocking others down for their success.
Tough pill to swallow? Yes it is but try it and you might find you feel better. Why? Because you've stopped lying to yourself. And here's the funny thing, once you stop lying to yourself (and others) you actually start to truly feel happy for people! Crazy, I know. Now I'm not suggesting that you say things to your kids like, "I'm really disappointed in you" or "I wish you were more like the Jones' kids". But maybe I am suggesting that Suzy might be better at ballet and that's life. No need to knock Suzy for her lack of hip hop prowess in order to pump up your kids deflated ballet ego.
And here's something to think about, when we are critical of others it's almost never about them and always about us. Is that something we really want to pass on to our kids?
Lisa Kaplin is a life coach and psychologist at www.smartwomeninspiredlives.com
You can reach her at Lisa@smartwomeninspiredlives.com