Listen folks, our kids do not come with handbooks, for the attached ones or otherwise, so you are in for the ride of your life. Buckle up. It’s bumpy out here in parentland.
When you come to the edge of all that you know, jump. And, I don’t mean over the cliff. I mean jump into the kind of parenting that is not what you were raised with; the kind that scares you; the kind that has to face the fact that you are not, never have been, and never will be in control of your children.
Your child is on a path s/he is trying to figure out, too. Your parenting job is to help him find a middle ground: the path between cannon-balling into the deep end without a life preserver and diving head-long into the shallow end. Neither of those hardwired paths is a good choice for your attachment challenged, traumatized child. The middle way is the only way with hope for a better life. If you are having trouble figuring out what the middle way is, let me help. It’s for your child to have enough time to learn how to swim.
So, what is that scary, non-controlling, love-based form of parenting that can support your child into the middle way of a productive life? It’s called non-traditional, therapeutic parenting that relies on relationship over compliance, and love over fear.
Traditional parenting is full of cause and effect, logical consequence interventions that make so much sense to attached people who were raised by biological parents. Therapeutic parenting puts logical parenting with imposing consequences away for another day when your traumatized child has a brain that can make sense of that kind of intervention. Traditional parenting registers one way with attachment challenged children–I am bad and my parents are bad. Therapeutic parenting registers a different way–I am safe and my parents are loving. Which model makes the most sense for a child who came into your life believing at the core that s/he is bad because s/he was abandoned and parents are not to be trusted or even worse, dangerous?
If nothing is working to guide your child toward the middle way, you might check your parenting, then jump into something new, something untried, something less power and control oriented. Are you putting compliance in front of everything else that matters–like love, relationship, safety? If so, you are the one who has the brain power to change, not your challenged child. Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result is, you know, insanity. If you are feeling more and more insane, try 100% therapeutic parenting. Over time, I promise the middle way will seem more and more possible for your child. Swimming happens.
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
The Attach Place supports The Wounded Warrior Project by providing free neurofeedback to veterans. Feel free to send a soldier our way for an assessment and 20 session course of treatment.
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Read about therapeutic parenting in a number of books. Beyond Consequences by Heather Forbes and Bryan Post is a start. There are many others.