One Parent’s Story A – Part 2: Observing and Learning as a Parent Rather than Worrying

  • Blog
  • 07/06/2017

Joe was beginning to see how his best efforts to help his daughter and family to have happy times together were actually contributing to a lowering of Chloe’s resilience.

This is the next instalment in the story of one parent, Joe, as he worked to figure out how he could be a resource to his defiant 13 year old daughter Chloe. Previously Joe described in detail the interactions of all the family at a recent outing to a pizza restaurant (see blog May 10). Having clearly laid out the different family responses during this typical problem interaction with Chloe, his next effort was to think back over his interactions to consider if:

  • His responses were contributing to his daughter building her capacity to manage her strong emotions OR were they feeding an expectation to be rescued by others?
  • Is Chloe just reacting to others OR is she getting practice at managing her reactions?
  • Is she learning skills of independence OR are the interactions increasing her dependence and expectation that others will make her feel better?

In looking back at the Pizza restaurant blow-up, Joe noted how much he tried to get Chloe to be pleasant and co-operative by appealing to her with his positive voice. He was putting his energy into trying to manage her mood and it was backfiring. The more he tried to convince Chloe to be co-operative the more she would retort with her complaints. Joe noticed that this would pull his wife into being tough with Chloe which he would respond to with even more effort to calm Chloe down to avoid a bigger outburst. Chloe was not learning to manage her reactions at all. Joe was trying to do it for her. As other family members (Mum and brother) started to give Chloe a piece of their mind about her behaviour, Chloe was being given even more emotional opposition to react to. Joe acknowledged that he then moved into more drastic efforts to calm Chloe down by giving into her (allowing her to only order gelato) and offering her incentives ( a phone upgrade). Joe saw that this was contributing to his daughter expecting that others would make her happy rather than learning to tolerate not getting her own way. Chloe was becoming increasingly dependent on others to remove her frustrations. On the surface her defiance sounded like a kind of rebellious independence from her family but Joe was coming to see that this was actually a picture of a very dependent child who hadn’t learned to calm herself down when she didn’t get her own way.

Joe was beginning to see how his best efforts to help his daughter and family to have happy times together were actually contributing to a lowering of Chloe’s resilience.

If the child/young person is beginning to calm themselves down and be more thoughtful and reasonable during or after the interaction, they are growing in resilience. If the child is agitated and either leaving the parent to work things out for them, or leaving the parent equally agitated, they are NOT growing in resilience and independence.

The pattern of both parents rushing in to smooth things over for Chloe had been happening for many years. Over this time her defiance gradually increased. This was now being amplified by the hormone charges of early adolescence alongside the stressful transition to high school (junior high). Joe couldn’t find anything in his pizza restaurant interaction with Chloe that was promoting her growth in responsible independence.  He accepted that changes for Chloe would be slow but that the first step he could make was to stop calming and bribing Chloe. He had some more work to do to figure out what to do instead but his stepping back was the beginning of him becoming a more hopeful parent. Joe was starting to shift his focus from trying to change Chloe to a focus on what he could change. He felt hopeful that he could make a contribution to his daughter growing in responsible relating.

One Parent’s Story A – Part 2: Observing and Learning as a Parent Rather than Worrying

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