Is your Relationship with Your Child reaching an Emotional Bankruptcy?
Raghav’s parents were really fed up. They had no clue how to manage their ten-year-old son. He was becoming defiant, aggressive and lately they had caught him lying about his schoolwork. When they came to meet me for the first time they were seriously considering sending Raghav off to a boarding. Raghav sat in angry “I don’t care” silence through most of the session. Only time he spoke was when his parents mentioned the boarding. In an emotional outburst Raghav accused his parents of wanting to get to rid of him.
So what had gone wrong? It was obvious that Raghav parents were very committed and loved their son but, unfortunately, their emotional bank account with their child was heading for bankruptcy. In the rat race of bringing up a perfect (read mythical) child they had taken to constant criticism and nagging. From the time he got up till the time he slept Raghav’s every moment was being micro-managed. “You are always late for school”, “Your room is like a pigsty”, “Why can’t you be like your sister?” These were the withdrawals from the account. On the other hand, deposits, which are essential for building a healthy account, were dwindling.
Therefore, I asked the parents to do an exercise for me. Every night before bed they had to check their emotional bank account with Raghav. For that they had to write down all the deposits and withdrawals they made in their relationship through the day. They came back to me after a week looking really excited. It had taken Raghav’s parents a few days to realise the pattern, As his mother told me, “We found that our withdrawals totally outweighed the deposits ”. Last time I met Raghav’s family, they had just returned from a family holiday where they had a great time. Raghav told me with his sparkling eyes, “In terms of emotional bank account, we were the richest family in the hotel”.
In my experience, I have found that majority of the children with so called “behaviour problems” are just basically reacting to this low grade of negativity that keeps eating into their sense of self worth day after day. Show me a child who is defiant, rebellious and mutinous and I will show you a depleted emotional bank account.
Emotional Investment Banking Tips
- Keep track of your daily withdrawals and the “hot buttons” that bring out your critical parenting approach. Withdrawals would be every critical or sarcastic comment/look, show of anger or disappointment, negative comparison, put down, or a heavy demand.
- Make regular deposits in terms of the hugs, kisses, praise, fun times, laughter, smiles, intimate moments, and demonstration of nurturance.
- Reframe your child’s struggles as somebody who is still learning and is quite inexperienced in this world.
- Be a coach to help your child become more responsible and independent. Like a good coach you will need all the patience in the world to train her.
- Loosen up and scale down your expectations. It’s OK if she still ends up spilling most of the food on the floor during meal times. Put on a smile and joke lightly about it (Buzo is getting fat on all your left-overs)
- Keep a sense of proportion as we cannot be perfect as parents and there will be times when we will make withdrawals. However, as long as the list of deposits is longer and richer than the list of withdrawals then your relationship will stay on track.