I am excited to be writing my first newsletter. I feel this is a great way to share some parenting tips and techniques or “food for thought” based on my many years of experience as a child and family therapist and more recently as a parent. For ease of reading I am going to use “child” in my writings to describe the ages from 5 -18, and I will use “his” for both genders.
What Does Your Child Really Need?
I have been to many professional workshops that describe techniques on how a counsellor might work best in family therapy, or with situations such as an anxious child, a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or child depression. What experts in these related fields are emphasizing is the importance of the parent/child relationship. This to me is the essence of being in a family: strengthening familial bonds for the purpose of raising happy and healthy children who grow to be responsible citizens in society.
My true love in counselling and in parenting is working on strengthening the attachment relationship between the parent and the child. Attachment equals closeness, love and belonging, and emotional and physical safety. For infants, the need to attach to a caregiver is vital for their survival. Their cries signal to parents the need for food, warmth and diaper changes! They begin to learn that they are likeable and loveable, but if neglected they develop feelings of worthlessness. A child’s need to be attended to and adored doesn’t change over time. The only things that change are the ways your growing child expresses their needs and the ways in which a parent communicates their love and concern throughout their child’s life. When a child is school age, parents often feel their child doesn’t need them as much or that they as the parents struggle to compete for influence over TV shows, computer games and friends. Children need Intentional Parenting - they need all of you!
What Is Intentional Parenting?
Intentional Parenting is about you, the parent, being aware of directing, soothing and positively influencing your children to follow your values. Increasing the likelihood of your child doing this depends on three things. The most important is that your child be attached to you - that they look up to you and want to please you because they trust your best intentions for them. The second thing is that your child knows you are in charge, and will allow for mistakes to enable learning and growth. The third is for parents to communicate an understanding of when their child is upset or struggling emotionally, essentially, being empathic. So parents, try your best to listen to what your child’s emotional and physical needs are, and then intentionally direct your parenting actions towards addressing those needs.
What Is A Need?
All humans have similar needs - for acceptance, respect, privacy, to be heard and to belong, for positive stimulation, for fulfillment and for safety, to name a few. Children also have the innate need for boundaries - limits or family rules against which your child can test for right versus wrong or “too much” versus “just right.” Your child’s irritability or negative behaviour tells you that one or some of their emotional or physical needs are not being addressed adequately. A conflict or an argument lets you the parent know that something in the relationship needs to change. Arguing does not mean that you have a poor relationship with your child. It can mean that as your child has grown and matured, their needs have shifted, but their parent has missed this subtle change. For example, are you as the parent pulling back too much, showing disinterest in what your child is doing? Are you now too involved, where your child feels he cannot think for himself?
What Does It All Mean?
A door slamming is a cue that your child is angry. Perhaps waiting until he cools down to find out what is upsetting him is more important than yelling at him for slamming the door. Focus on the feeling communicated in the behaviour and not just on the behaviour. Get to the heart of the matter! Anger is about frustration. Frustration is about not getting something or accomplishing a goal. Frustration, therefore, is about a loss - something personally meaningful that you can’t have or achieve. Loss equals sadness, and this sadness or loss is the root of anger. Understanding the roots of anger that give way to frustration from experiencing a loss, is a formula that can guide a parent’s approach and sensitivity in supporting your child and not reacting to their anger.
Why Is Intentional Parenting So Important?
Intentional Parentingis important because it keeps you the parent in the forefront of your child’s mind! You are one of the most important role models for your teenagers. Having your child attach himself to you the parent increases the likelihood of your child/teen listening to you, following your instructions and being truthful. It makes the home a calmer and happier environment. The goal of intentional parenting is that your child will be better equipped emotionally to say NO when it counts. As your child grows older, he will take his cues from people who have similar values to the ones you have instilled. This means greater resistance to peer pressure!
If your relationship with your child has been rocky, the intentional parenting principle means that repairing your relationship is possible and desired by your child. Support yourself and your child: BE INTENTIONAL!
Christine Kutzner, M.Ed. is a Registered Clinical Counsellor providing services to children, parents and families in North and West Vancouver. To inquire, contact Christine.
Copyright Christine Kutzner, 2008. All rights reserved.
provides counselling services to children, parents, and
in Vancouver, North Vancouver, and West Vancouver.