Raising children can feel like you’ve stepped into another dimension – one where time, cleanliness and rules don’t quite seem to jibe with reality. It seems like children and teens just need someone to step in and fix them! While it feels nice to be acknowledged as an experienced child-fixing ninja, this is the furthest from the truth. Yes, we can often have even the most cranky, irritable, destructive kid act kindly and politely during session… but how does that help with the rest of their interactions the other 10,030 minutes that week? Instead, we believe that we need to help the family as a whole grow closer together. Everyone needs to pitch in to work on their communication, negotiation and above all, kindness skills.
Most parents have a hard time understanding the need for the adults in the family to do the majority of the work. We get a lot of push-back to that belief. ‘But my kid is the one that’s causing all the disruptions!’ ‘I know how to parent, it just doesn’t work with them – they’re messed up!’ What we realized is that adults might get a little fixated on their point of view on seeing the problem in the family. So, we decided to explain the ‘why’ behind including the family in creating lasting change.
Let’s imagine you just got your dream car. It’s beautiful and perfect. You feel a warm sense of delight every time to get to drive your car. It even brings a smile to your face when you even think about driving it! Then, one day you notice a small scratch right by the driver’s side door. It’s small, but it just BUGS you! You can’t stop thinking about the scratch. Each time you get in and out of the car you have to look at it and touch it because the scratch annoys you so much.
Over the next few months you think about bringing the car in, but you realize the scratch really is minor and does not feel worth the time and money it would take to repair. But it continues to draw your eye and touch Every. Time. You. Drive. The. Car. You even start to obsess about it at work, with friends, in your dreams. Gradually you realize that the scratch is actually getting worse. It’s much bigger and lots of paint is peeling off. It feels like the end of the world! You worked so hard to finally get your dream car and this is how you get repaid? Your frustration and irritability mount – now you don’t even want to drive your car because it just reminds you of the ever-increasing scratch. UGH!
One day you look down and realize that the scratch has now grown to almost the entire side of the car. All of those days of looking at the scratch and touching it have made it so much worse. You finally decide to bring in an expert to fix the situation. They spend the time patching and repainting the scratch until you can’t even see where it was. And yet, you cannot stop yourself from looking at the spot it was and touching that spot every time you get in and out of the car. Soon, you have a mark on your car that gets bigger and bigger every day. Why won’t this end?!
So you take your dream car to another expert. This time, they take their time and try to understand how such a tiny scratch became something so big. First, they work with you about retaining your habits to not look so hard at the spot and not to touch it at all. In fact, they spend time asking you to appreciate ALL the other areas of your car that you’ve neglected because you were preoccupied with the scratch. You find that you completely forgot how awesome the dashboard was, how cool it felt to zip around on the highway, and refound your joy in going through the car wash. One day you realize that the scratch and mark were fully repaired. It almost seemed miraculous, but in looking back you realized that the relationship between you and your dream car just needed to be worked out so it could become something even better.
When we work with families, our goal is for the adults to remember the depth of love and support they have for their children; and for their children to experience an adult that sets limits and loves them even when they mess up. Children and teens can change…once their adult also makes the effort alongside them.