On our weekly conference call with my GIFT partners, we talked about the influence our kids choices have on one another. Some of us notice that when one child shines the other frequently implodes—finds himself choosing behaviors that produce dramatic, attention-getting choices. Think of it as a dysfunctional “King of the Mountain” strategy. For them it is not about success and failure, less about jealousy and more about insecurity. It is: notice me, am I still important? What do I need to do to ensure there’s room in parental hearts? In the world?
This subconscious tactic accomplishes two things for the child. First, it shifts the family focus to the child in crisis. He/she returns to the spotlight. Second, it reinforces his/her subconscious self-concept as a “screw-up” and provides him/her with evidence of internalized shortcomings.
Many kids with Tough Start backgrounds believe that parental love is a zero-sum game for which they must compete. An attitude of scarcity that is based in fear and history drives them.In the child's eyes, the distribution of family resources becomes a tangible reflection of his/her value in the family. Similarly when they contribute an idea, offer a recommendation or item, they view the family response as a measure of their value as a person. Reject my contribution = reject me.
As parents, how are you discovering the subtle beliefs that your child holds? As you explore your child’s ideas, listen to their “evidence.” Without denying or negating their proof, validate the emotions he/she experiences as a result. For example, “Wow, I’d feel scared and lonely, thinking that. How do you cope?” Initiate open-ended questions and avoid straightforward denials. After he/she has fully expressed their thoughts, then offer a small, piece of counter-evidence. “I notice that…” Leave it like a seed to take root over time. Avoid debating the point. This will simply invite argument.
Remember connection is the channel for communication. In the absence of connection. Their mute button remains pressed. This rewiring process takes time and patience. We cannot debate them into new beliefs. Change occurs through repetition of new experiences.
How have you connected to your child today? What did you notice in yourself? How did he/she respond emotionally? Physically?