Our attachment challenged kids do some despicable things. If any one of us did them, we would be nothing short of mortified. Yet, our children often angrily blame others for their actions or deny culpability or insist it didn’t happen at all. The feeling of living in crazy town gets magnified for parents during these times. Dysregulation zone ahead.
I know it doesn’t always seem like it, but our kids feel like they are evil to the core. They don’t understand themselves or their behaviors. They just do stuff. They feel shameful.
Our kids are busy as bunnies trying to fill-up the holes they often feel inside their hearts. If they just had that one thing, got to go to that one place, got to wear that one see-through dress, got that one girl, got someone to have sex with…the list goes on. They are constantly doing things that they feel will do the trick, ease their nagging emptiness. When the first thing doesn’t fill it up, they try the next and the next and the next. Rarely do they have the insight to stop and say, “Maybe I am chasing the wrong things.”
It is our therapeutic parenting task to unfold with our children their fierce drives, their survival modes, their repetitive patterns. We must do that with intensely accepting empathy for their feelings, their behavior, and their true infantile needs. Above all, we must not shame them for despicable behavior in a misguided attempt to make them change their behavior. They already feel ashamed and it hasn’t stopped them yet. Another dose of shame will not be the answer.
Up the empathy.
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
Next Trust-based Parent Course is planned for March 14th and March 15th, 10am to 3pm each day, in a new back-to-back, two-day format. Save the dates.