Blog Postpost

Posted Thursday January, 11th 2024

Questioning if your child’s behavior is your fault

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I recently had the privilege and honor of working with a pediatric occupational and speech therapy practice. While I was there, we talked a lot about the parents' role in the therapy process. Kids might be brought to therapy with organic issues like ADHD, sensory processing disorder or autism. When parents have trouble understanding the way a child is acting, it can lead to feelings of overwhelm and frustration that can become a significant relational issue.

Often a parent may question if their child’s behavior is their own fault, and they wonder if they are not meeting their child’s needs. Or it can turn spiteful, where parents feel like the child is trying to control or manipulate them. It’s an unconscious process that bubbles up from your belly - a feeling of insecurity or anger, and it is conveyed to the child through resentment or avoidance. These feelings are not necessarily communicated verbally. It can simply be in a look of disgust or becoming rigid and stiff when the child comes toward the parent for a cuddle. This is when it becomes a relational issue between parent and child, and it can lead to the child’s behaviors getting worse.

To overcome this, it is so important to be aware of what you are saying - not just to the child, but to yourself, internally, in your own mind. What are you saying to yourself about yourself during challenging moments with your child? Recognizing that it’s about you and your child is the first step in recovering your relationship.

It may seem overly simplistic, but it’s incredibly valuable.

We all carry our own lifetime’s worth of experiences and challenges with us, and making the distinction between what you bring to the relationship and what your child brings is crucial. What we carry is our own “stuff”, but it can very easily become intertwined with our children’s “stuff”. To start interacting with your child effectively and with empathy, you must first be able to offer yourself a message of self compassion - tell yourself “This isn’t my fault, I’m doing the best I can”. Once you can do this, you will feel more grounded. If you can see yourself and what you need, then you will be able to better understand what your child needs.

The next step is coming to terms with the fact that as a parent you might need help; that you don’t understand your child’s behaviors. It can be incredibly painful and vulnerable to admit that you do not understand your child. Society tells us that we’re supposed to know how to deal with everything that comes up with our kids or that we should be able to handle it on our own, and if we can’t we’re somehow at fault. Instead, we should shift this perspective to an open mind that views these interactions with our children as a learning process. We have so many things to learn from our children. No one is at fault; it’s an invitation to understand our children, ourselves, and all humans better.

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