There are a lot of parenting books out there. You would think that any parenting issue could be solved by simply following the well charted path as laid out by the professionals in the field. You will have a great relationship with your kid. Homework? Piece of cake. Bedtime? What could be more fun?
Yet, the reality is that raising children is anything but simple or straightforward. People sometimes reminisce about when their children were younger. “What happened to my little boy? How did he become so difficult?”
Good question. What did happen to him?
There are many factors that can impact behavioral issues in children. That being said, there's a really good chance that the nature of the relationship you have with your child is the central issue.
For any parenting strategy to be effective, the child must feel good about the relationship they have with their parent. The only way someone will allow their parents to influence their thoughts, needs, and desires is if there is a genuine relationship between them and their parents. Without that in place, children will not trust that the guidance they are receiving is truly for their benefit, and why should they?
The foundation for any relationship is that two people have to like each other. It is difficult to like someone who gets on your nerves or whose personality clashes with yours. Therefore, when assessing their relationship with their children, every parent has to ask themselves “Do I like my child?”
The reflexive response would be, “Of course!” Dig deeper. Don’t mix up love and like. You can love your child but that does not mean you like them.
Ask yourself, if you met this person somewhere randomly, would you choose to spend time with them? Do you like or dislike their personality and character traits? Do you truly feel happy when you are around your child or are you counting down the minutes to bedtime? If you responded “no” to any of these questions, you may not like your child very much, which will have a really negative impact on your relationship.
A parent may not even be aware that they don’t really like their child (they might be mixing up love and like) but the child is painfully aware. Children have an incredible ability to pick up on the feelings of others. Regardless of how hard a parent may try to hide it, a child senses that they are not liked. That knowledge will lead to hurt and resentment. The child will push the parent away to protect their sense of self-worth. Better to be the one rejecting than to be rejected.
Don't expect breakthrough behavioral changes in your child to break the cycle.
Children also mix up love and like all the time. To a child, not feeling liked by their parent translates into not feeling loved. No matter how many times you tell them that you love them, they won’t believe it. They are getting a different message from you on an emotional level.
If they perceive themselves to be unloved, children will retreat into themselves. Why shouldn’t they? You don't like them anyway, so they do what makes them feel good. They will follow their own logic and emotions.
At this point the relationship is seriously compromised.
Healing your relationship:
The healing process has to start with the parent, the adult. The only way to have a relationship with your children is if you truly, in your heart, like them. A parent cannot just try to convince themselves that they like their child. It has to be genuine.
In order for a parent to like their child, the parent has to get back in touch with their positive feelings for the child. They must revisit the original love they felt for their child. Most parents have felt connected to their child at some point, usually when that child was a baby and toddler.
One way to get back in touch with the original feelings is to simply walk into your child’s room when they are sleeping. You will see that child, without their antics, in their purest form. Remind yourself how much you loved and liked this child when they were little. Hold on to that feeling. Now, ask yourself how you would feel if this child was suddenly taken from you. You want to re-establish in your mind that this is a child that you love deeply and would never want to lose.
Shift from focusing on the negative to the positive.
Identify even one thing that you like about your child. What is something that you can admire and appreciate in them? Look for anything that can get you to start seeing your child in a positive light. From that point on, continue to make note of all the good things you see your child doing. Make a list and reference the list often. The more you focus on your child’s positive traits, the less you will notice the things that bother you. When your child feels that you really like and appreciate them, when they feel genuine happiness from you when they come into the room, you will see a difference. A big one.
If you are struggling with liking your child, outside intervention can be helpful in overcoming the obsticle and fostering positive feelings towards your child. If your child does not seem to be responding to these interventions, or your child knows that you like them and they are still acting out, it would be appropriate to have them evaluated to explore what might be causing problematic behaviors.
Once you like your child and they know it, go ahead and get any good parenting book that resonates with your parenting style. There’s plenty of great advice out there. Now that you have repaired your relationship with them, your child will be receptive to it!
Rachel Rosenholtz, LCSW-R is certified in TF-CBT, a child centered therapy that focuses on helping children overcome traumatic experiences. She has a private practice located in the Five Towns and specializes in treating anxiety, trauma and behavioral related issues in people of all ages. Rachel is available for consultation, inservices, and parent workshops. She can be reached at (347) 673-1953 and Rachel@InvestInTherapy.com. To find out more, visit her website-