Where does your child turn first when they feel bad about something?
If she was called a name in school, would she tell you?
If he feels ashamed because he stole something from the school supply closet, would he let you know?
What if your child has serious questions about religion, sex, or politics—would they come to you?
Or are you the last to know?
These questions may not seem relevant now if you have a toddler, but you’ll be facing them soon enough.
And if you’re already well into the teen years, you already know how easily your kid can start confiding in sources outside your home.
You want your child to have friends and be social, but you also want to be the preferred sounding board.
How would you react if your child told you she feels ugly?
Or that he’s wondering about his sexual orientation?
As people, we can listen closely and objectively when a friend tells us that her marriage is falling apart.
But as parents, we have a much harder time listening without reacting, giving advice, or judging.
Because when the situation has to do with our kids, the stakes are high. Your kids are the most important thing in the world to you, and you also see them as a reflection of you.
You can’t help it: you want to step in and make it all better.
But often our best attempts to do just that end up feeling like judgment to a child.
“How could you do that?”
“Why would you ever think such a thing?”
“Why don’t you try x, y, or z?”
Do you remember when you fell in love?
In order for you to feel truly safe beyond the honeymoon stage, you and your partner would have had to get real with each other.
Pretenses and early romance aside, sooner or later true colors would start to show.
As you each reveal your “not so attractive” parts to each other, the relationship either progresses or implodes.
If there is continued acceptance despite conflict, safety develops. You risk showing a little bit more of yourself, and so does your mate. And when you realize that nobody’s going anywhere, that’s when real love and trust bloom.
It’s no different in the parent-child relationship.
Your child can only feel truly safe with you if he is truly known—and still accepted—by you. Warts and all.
You may be familiar with Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist who is known for his work on “the shadow.”
Essentially, your shadow side is the part of you that you’d rather keep hidden—the parts you’ve deemed unlovable and unfit for public consumption.
Maybe your shadow side consists of being greedy, vain, or even a jerk sometimes. Maybe you have addictions, phobias, or compulsions.
Everyone has a shadow.
And your child is keenly aware of his, although he’s not sophisticated enough to know what it is.
So, when he feels something he thinks is wrong, or does something that’s not quite right, he thinks that HE’S wrong.
If he internalizes this feeling, and does not have a loving, accepting, non-judging adult to confide in (you), he will try to find that acceptance somewhere else. This is a dangerous, downward spiral that can lead him into hanging with the wrong crowd or engage in self-destructive habits.
When you love and accept ALL of your child and listen without judgment, your child will never have a need to confide elsewhere, AND you’ll be building up your child’s self esteem and self love.
There is no greater gift you can give your child.
This desire for love and acceptance is universal. And you as a parent are in the privileged position of being able to give exactly this to your children.
If you learn to do this, you’ll also be rewarded with a joyful, harmonious household, because when your child feels truly loved and accepted just as she is, she will naturally WANT to cooperate with you. She will no longer need to act out—overtly or passive aggressively.
In my program Parenting Without Bargains, Battles or Bribes, I’ll teach you an important exercise for “being known” that will tell you how safe it is for a child to tell you what he really feels.
From toddler to teen, you’ll learn how to be the natural sounding board for your child—the safe haven she automatically feels compelled to turn to.
As you go through the program, you’ll realize the subtle ways you may have come across as judgmental or non-accepting toward your child, without even knowing it. I’ll give you mini “course corrections” you can do in any moment, and in even the trickiest situations, that will allow your child to feel closely bonded to you.
You’ll see why your child has an inborn need to have YOU as their confidante, and I’ll teach you specific ways that you can be the confident, in-control “Captain of the Ship” your child will feel safe with:Become Your Child’s Safe Haven
Years from now, when your child is no longer under your roof, the bond you develop now will prevail. Do whatever you can now to make sure your child always feels they can call you home.
P.S. Think of how wonderful parenting feels when you’re having a connected moment with your child. You can have more and more of this, and it’s what your kid wants, too! In my program, you’ll learn a “love flooding” exercise that will deeply strengthen and sweeten the bond with your child:The Most Important Gift A Parent Can Give