So my last blog post came out May 30th and I feel like it’s time for some new content.
I thought about the purpose of my blog and it is really twofold. On the one hand, I want to bring your child’s world closer to you, so that you can get a better understanding of your child, and on the other hand, I want you be more self-aware when it comes to your parenting in order for you to be calmer and more effective with your kids.
I see this a lot in my private practice. Parents bring their child in to fix him or his problem and they are less willing to look at their own parenting styles and are less involved in the process. Then the hours in therapy and depth of work don’t bring the results the parents want.
However, there are other parents who are open to work on own their parenting in order to help the child and who have the courage to do what needs to be done to make changes. They not only want change, they are willing to change! As you can see in the caricature below all of us want change but how many are willing to change?
As a Swiss native, my parents wanted to make sure I knew how to ski. It didn’t take long for them to realize that there would be more dignity to the family name if I stop! So we tried snowboarding. I remember how the instructor taught me how to take a curve. In order to change direction, I had to first move my head in the desired direction, then follow suit with my upper body and finally use my legs muscles to turn the snowboard. In the beginning this wasn’t easy. I usually tried to force the curve by just moving my legs because moving my upper body to a different direction than I was riding was really scary. And it wasn’t enough to successfully take the curve.
To change direction, you have to start with the top and go all the way to the bottom.
So it is with changing the family system. If something isn’t going right at home, if there is one (or more) of the kids who just always makes trouble and spoils the family atmosphere, then you as a parent are focused on fixing that child without looking at changes that can be made in the larger family. The parental system is like a snowboarder trying to take the curve by forcing his legs to move without using his upper body. It’ll take an enormous amount of energy and he won’t succeed in taking it smoothly. The same is true in parenting. Working with the child probably will improve things, but it’ll take much longer and much more energy. In the end it won’t be as good as …
Making that change from top to bottom.
A parent doing the work along with the child will have a much better effect. In fact, the more work you do to turn your upper body, the less energy you’ll need in your legs. So, the more changes you can do as a parent, the less energy needs to be spent in changing the child’s behavior because it will automatically follow.
We all lose focus on ourselves from time to time and over-focus on our children.
Let me share with you an example from my vacation with my family. On vacation there is always less structure and sometimes it even resembles some form of anarchy. Now, I personally get irritated if there is too little structure. I really wanted to employ a structure fit for vacation and expected everybody to be on the same page. Well, my kids couldn’t care less and I found myself nagging and fighting with them over keeping a schedule for the first few days. My high expectations prevented me from enjoying the vacation.
One important thing I learned throughout my years as a father is that upset emotions are a warning sign that something needs attention and is not going the right direction. I realized that I was too focused on their getting it right instead of setting my own personal structure for myself in order to feel good. I put my needs on them. That’s when I realized that I wanted change, but wasn’t willing to change.
So after noticing that I got too triggered with their lack of schedule, I was able to step back and see that my own needs got in the way of relating to them calmly. I then decided to take action and focus on me instead. So I organized a schedule for myself that made sense to me and my family’s needs (this is a reminder to involve your spouse!) and let them follow to the degree that was possible for them. The mood improved drastically and we had a nice time together.
In my upcoming online course I will discuss in more depth how to notice and change your parenting when it’s in conflict with your children’s behavior.