When it comes down to it, therapists are often seen as a combination of a diary full of your most intimate thoughts, plus your best friend who you gossip with, plus your own personal cheerleader, plus your mirror, with a sprinkle of advice. But there is one thing that seperates therapists from everyone else in your life.
“... when we truly love others without condition, without strings, we help them feel secure and safe and validated and affirmed in their essential worth, identity, and integrity. Their natural growth process is encouraged. We make it easier for them to live the laws of life— cooperation, contribution, self-discipline, integrity— and to discover and live true to the highest and best within them. We give them the freedom to act on their own inner imperatives rather than react to our conditions and limitations.”
-Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
This quote embodies the therapeutic relationship. If you ever feel jealous about your therapist’s relationship with your child and wonder, why don’t my children respect me in that same way, there’s a good chance it has to do with the way a therapeutic relationship is developed. A therapist has no agenda other than the one set forth by their client. A therapist starts every relationship with a truly collaborative approach.
People aren’t paying for the “advice” a therapist gives them. They are paying for the experience of connecting deeply within themselves while being guided by a person outside of themselves. An experience which is difficult to get in our everyday lives as other people can be focused on their own agendas and needs.
Your children respect their therapist because of the therapist’s ability to separate themselves from the situation while maintaining genuine integrity. Therapist’s are trained to see people in the world through the rose colored lens of unconditional love and positive regard while keeping their “stuff” out of the process.
As a mother, you have internalized a lot of societal “shoulds.” My child should always behave, my child should always listen to me, my child should succeed academically. I should always have a clean house, I should always be “put together”, I should always be respected. Focusing outward on the fear of being judged, having unclear expectations, and reacting quickly to situations are some of the “stuff” that gets in the way of connecting with your child, especially if they’re acting out.
The should’s in life that don’t fit within our values or ability lead to anger, resentment, embarrassment, guilt and shame. They become our baggage that we carry with us from situation to situation. At some point the pressure we feel from the shoulds, along with our own historical pain, makes our baggage too heavy and we drop it. Emptying the contents in a flurry of emotion towards the closed available person— often our kids or partner.
Therapists are different in that they can tune out the shoulds. We focus on helping a child build their understanding of themselves, verbalize what is important to them, and provide positive feedback for living their lives within their values. Then we do the same thing for the parent in relation to their child, basically helping them understand one another. We confront and push back when the family engages in behaviors and activities that go against what they say they want. Sometimes we even practice making mistakes to explore empathy, self-awareness, and forgiveness.
You may be wondering how can therapy help my family?
Therapist’s have an uncanny ability to build a relationship, break it, and then repair it.
Families tend to be good about building relationships and breaking trust, but truly repairing the relationship is something that takes a lot more effort and conscious thought. Repairing a relationship takes time and change in both parties. The reasons most people fail at repairing a relationship is that:
(a) they don’t talk about the fact that they made a mistake,
(b) they don’t apologize for it, or
(c) they don’t know how to approach changing their response or behavior to avoid continuing the same mistake.
They don’t talk about the fact that they made a mistake.
Who is guilty of this one? Show of hands. ✋This may seem like an issue of pride, but this behavior is often learned. If you were taught, whether consciously or not, that admitting a mistake is a sign of weakness, then you’re not going to be very good in this area. These are families that often “sweep it under the rug.” The thing is, this behavior creates more discord generation after generation. Eventually, that lump of dirt under the carpet is pretty freaking obvious. Not admitting to mistakes just increases the likelihood that it will happen again. Not only will it continue to ruin your relationship with your loved ones, but they too will learn to not admit their mistakes.
They don’t apologize for it.
If admitting you made a mistake is hard for you, then apologizing for it is probably even harder. Refusing to apologize or being insincere in your apology can damage a relationship faster than anything else. Apologies allow for closure and an opportunity for forgiveness. Both your child forgiving you and you forgiving yourself. If you can model sincere remorse you will help your children develop empathy, understanding, and remorse in themselves.
They don’t know what steps to take to change.
Parents often bring their child into therapy because they don’t know how to repair the breakdown in their relationship with their child. The child feels like they can’t be themselves with their parent and the parent’s “stuff” is getting in the way of really being present for their child. No, it’s not your fault. It’s a part of the parent relationship. All parents experience this separation between themselves and their child. It can happen at various points in their lives, most often in adolescence, but it is a part of parenting.
Every new relationship in your life is an opportunity for growth and change. New romantic relationships, siblings, friendships, employers, co-workers, and— you guessed it, children. Your kids by definition will challenge everything you thought you knew about yourself.
The fact that you are trying to learn how to be a better parent will make you more successful than the parents who just keep doing the same thing— often what their parents taught them to do, or the exact opposite. To truly be able to make changes to repair your relationship with your child, you need to be ready to change your relationship with yourself.
If you are ready to challenge yourself and repair your relationship with your child join NEXT LEVEL PARENTING. A series of online parenting programs designed to help you improve communication, connection, and understanding with your child.
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