Are you worried about your child? Do you feel your daughter or son is out of control and you do not know what to do? Would you like to find out the common causes of the problems and the solutions?
As a Marriage, Family Therapist for 27 years, I have learned a lot about the mistakes many parents make that lead to serious problems. I am not pointing my finger at the parents and blaming them. I know that they mean well and are doing their best with the information that they have. Unfortunately, we are not taught how to parent and the children do not come with a manual. That is the cause of the problems.
I have had wonderful success with a process I developed called HART, which stands for Holistic And Rapid Transformation. The following case study will demonstrate major mistakes and wonderful solutions.
Valerie and Jack came to see me because they were having problems with Kathy, their 11-year-old daughter. Jack immediately told me that she was 11 going on 17. He also expressed his concern that Kathy seemed to be very angry, and she no longer wanted to go places with him, or let him in her room to talk. Jack was teary eyed when he described how close they use to be. “She does not want me even to hug her any more”, he exclaimed in a painful voice. “I feel like I am loosing her. Why do they have to grow up so fast?”
Valerie did not know what to do with her daughter. She was upset that Kathy often picked on her 8 year-old-sister, Paula, and constantly rebelled. “Kathy doesn’t talk to me much and after dinner she goes into her bedroom, shuts the door, and won’t come out,” expressed the troubled mother.
I expressed compassion for their situation and recommended that we set up an appointment with the whole family. I suggested that they tell the children that they wanted them to come in to assist the counselor to help them be the best parents they could be.
Kathy looked angry as she walked into the office with her arms crossed tightly across her chest. Valerie had previously called to tell me that she did not want to come, and she said she was not going to talk. I had encouraged her to bring Kathy in anyway. I greeted the whole family and asked the children some questions about school, hobbies, friends, etc. to build some rapport. Then I invited all four of them to take turns expressing in a positive way how they would like their family to be.
Valerie began sharing and almost immediately, Kathy blurted out, “She won’t let me go out with my friends!” When I questioned Valerie about the accuracy of that statement, she replied,” This is not a safe world and she is only 11.” Kathy angrily continued, “She doesn’t knock and she just walks into my room and moves things around, and then I can’t find what I need.” Again the mother agreed that she does that because she likes things neat.
Then Jack shared that he wanted to be able to touch her arm and hug her. Kathy yelled, “I don’t want you to touch me!” He also wanted Kathy to be nice and not so angry. At that point I asked who in the family Kathy was modeling after. Valerie sheepishly admitted that she was often angry. She was working full time and felt overwhelmed by all of her responsibilities.
Later the parents were amazed how much Kathy shared. I obviously had succeeded in making her feel safe to share her feelings. You probably can guess some of the biggest mistakes these parents were making by now. The following is an outline that includes the problems and solutions.
1) Mistake: Parenting from your fears.
Solution: The parents teach Kathy how to take care of herself, and create win-win solutions honoring their concerns and her freedom.
Example: Kathy agreed to wait inside the lobby of the theater (not outside in the street) with her friends until one of them or another parent picks them up.
2) Mistake: Not honoring the child’s space or requests.
Solution: Honor the child’s space and listen to what they want and need.
Example: Kathy will put a sign on her door saying, “I love you and I need space.” Both parents agreed to honor it. Valerie was also willing to stop going into her room to tidy up her desk.
3) Mistake: Parent according to the age and not the individual’s maturity.
Solution: Parent according to the maturity of the child (and the present times).
Example: Kathy is very mature for her age and she needs to be treated accordingly.
4) Mistake: Do what I say and not what I do.
Solution: Be the person you want your child to be.
Example: Valerie agreed to work on dealing with her anger constructively so she can be a better model for Kathy.
5) Mistake: Don’t take care of yourself or balance your life and take out your frustrations on your children by being distracted, impatient, and angry.
Solution: Take care of yourself and balance your life so that you can feel good and be patient and loving to your children.
Example: Valerie and Jack agreed to discuss ways he could be more helpful and even hire assistance when needed.
By the end of the family session, Kathy’s arms were resting on her lap and she was relaxed and smiling. The causes of her anger at her parents and sister (her scapegoat) were being resolved. She was willing to hug her parents and thanked them for hearing her.
A month later, Valerie told me that Kathy had given her the most beautiful poem. It expressed how she appreciated her wonderful mother who was also her best friend.