Send the Parents, Not the Child
When asked about counseling for a 4-year-old child, I explained that I work with the parents, not the child. Before I could even explain why, I was then confronted with the line, “So you blame the parents.”
The parent then went on to explain that they just wanted their child fixed and returned.
Truth is, I have heard this many times before. However, the issue isn’t “blame”.
In no other species but the human species is the ability to parent so much a learned act. While we are biologically determined to want to parent, the skills of parenting are typically learned on the basis of one’s own experience growing up with one’s own parents. In other words, how we were parented and what we were exposed to in terms of viewing parenting by others, is influential in how we then manage our own young.
Our exposure to the parenting of others, most notably our own, shapes our skills and beliefs which in turn translates into how we manage our children.
Some may argue that because of what they were exposed to, they have taken a different approach to parenting. However even in taking a different approach it remains that the approach taken was still influenced by the experience had. The choice to do something different is in reaction to that prior experience and so is still influential in choices taken. To add, knowing what not to do, doesn’t necessarily mean one knows what to do.
In addition to how our parenting is determined by our experience of having been parented, our experience is also influenced by the temperament we brought to the the situation when we were a young child.
Every child is different and so the approach used for one child doesn’t automatically mean it will be helpful with the next child. There are individual differences between children in terms of temperament, intellectual capacity, development, etc. What works with one child may not work with another child.
Beyond what we have learned and how we parent, children are also exposed to all things happening in the home. What they are exposed to influences their behavior. So regardless of how you parent what goes on in the home can influence how a child responds to any given situation.
If you want to address a child related matter then, it is important for the parents to first figure out how effective their parenting strategies may be; how well they match what the child brings to the situation and; to determine if there are other factors going on within the home influencing behavior.
In the end, the child doesn’t live with the therapist or counselor, but with the parents. As such, it is up to he parents to figure out how best to manage and influence their child’s development. Counseling can surely help, but parents go first.
Parents go first not out of blame, but to develop an understanding of what might work best for their child and then to develop the skills necessary or the most appropriate approach.
The issue isn’t one of blame, but to explain.
Parents go first.
I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.
Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.
If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.
Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships