The term “gremlin” originates from Royal Air Force slang in the 1920s. It describes a so called ‘mischievous creature’ that sabotaged aircraft. Gremlins were responsible for otherwise inexplicable accidents which occurred during flights
In coaching terms, a gremlin is a habit that stops people from achieving their goals in business or life. Gremlins are also known as the inner critic, negative self talk or negative fantasizing. Gremlins are keepers of the status quo. They love to keep you locked in your comfort zone and they are experts at blocking you from reaching , and sometimes even seeing, your greatest potential. There are many examples of areas in which gremlins show up. Here I will take an example from parenting teenagers.
When your teen distances himself from you, your gremlin tells you “teenagers are impossible”, and so you keep away, making the gap wider. When your teens mood fluctuate your gremlin tells you “she is impossible to manage” and you retreat leaving her alone to navigate the twin confusions of wanting to belong while desiring to be independent. When your teen shouts hateful words at you the gremlin says “shout back, louder”. And so you do, and send a message that you do not love or respect her, even when that is not true.
Gremlins love to act out your worst fears. When it comes to teens, you are already vulnerable because it is a confusing time for them, and you will be questioning your parenting skills more than ever. They can act weird, and bring back all sorts of memories and emotions from your own childhood. If these memories and emotions are not pleasant it makes it harder for you to parent your teen effectively. Still, you can break the cycle.
Awareness of what informs and influences your parenting style is the first step to breaking the cycle. Parenting is a journey fraught with trial and error. And as we navigate the roads as parents we carry along our baggage as individuals.
What are you carrying along from your teenage years that’s getting in the way of your seeing the signs and taking the right direction? How much is this baggage weighing you down? To what extent is this baggage reflected in your parenting style? How willing are you to do something differently so that teenage become an enlightening journey rather than self defeating conflict? Is your gremlin whispering “you have too many other things to deal with, and no energy to spare for your teenager”?
We are free to create the life we want, regardless of where we have come from. In the process of dealing with our childhood baggage, healing, creating, and thriving, we gift our children with not having to deal with our wounds and pain, and free them up to live a brilliant life. They get to be free too.
Don’t let that gremlin tell you “teens are impossible”. Take a step to free yourself today.