Breaking Patterns in Parenting

IMPORTANT: This blog is not a substitute for therapy, but provides evidenced-based education for the purposes of self-help, or to compliment the therapeutic process. ​ ​This blog is non-monetized.

By John Foulkes, RP, The Relationship Specialist

Imagine you are spending time with your child and they make an odd comment or facial expression. It seems to suggest they’re angry or maybe depressed. What do you do or say?  In my years of clinical experience and coaching dads (and moms), what I have often heard from loving, but perhaps unsure clients, is that they give their child a piece of advice. OR, the parent dismisses the child’s experience and tells them that they are making a big deal of nothing and to just relax.

​Sound familiar?

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On the surface, this seems like a sound approach; it’s probably the reaction your own parents, or family members might have had to your expression of emotion as a kid. However, in both cases an older child may feel frustrated and disappointed that they weren’t heard, nor received empathy. And a younger child may not yet know how to label that big feeling they are having, and have missed the opportunity to learn.

Given the parent’s reaction, any-aged child may just decide to keep things to themselves the next time around.  Ultimately, your child may think that they can’t be open and honest with their feelings and instead, will shut down and shut you out. It’s also important to know, younger kids won’t blame you for your inability to connect with them – they will blame themselves. 

In time, you’ll start to wonder why you’re struggling to connect with your child, which will naturally make you want to potentially give more advice or downplay that there is even an issue.

DOES THIS SOUNDS LIKE PATTERNS YOU HAVE SEEN PLAY OUT? 

As a therapist and coach, I often hear from fathers especially, how this pattern places a huge strain on all family relationships, especially on their marriage

Here is one tip for breaking the pattern: be sparing with advice and acknowledge your child’s experience. This is just one of several ways to help shift the pattern between you and your child. 

I started to notice patterns in my own practice: lots of parents today are encountering similar struggles, and over time, many of the solutions we work on could benefit a lot more of us. ​

​This is why I have developed the Better Dads System – to help fathers make sense of their parenting challenges and help develop solution-focussed strategies toward being a better dad. If you are interested in learning more about developing your skills as a parent, and ultimately also as a partner to your child’s mother or step-mother, join a small group of dad’s on this journey – starting Monday October 21st in Caledon. 


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John Foulkes

John is a Psychotherapist & Coach at Dig A Little Deeper, Psychotherapy & Counselling in Caledon, ON.

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