Latest update: June 4th, 2012
In training foster parents I often ask them these questions. However, these questions are major considerations for all parents. Research has shown that when we personalize our children’s negative behaviors, we become more easily frustrated, overwhelmed, stressed and angry. All these feelings lead to negative behaviors on our part and subsequently on the children’s part. I have addressed the anger circle in past articles. This is the phenomenon whereby anger is actually contagious. That is, when someone becomes angry with the other person, the second person reactively becomes angry at the first person, merely because of his or her anger. (Look around and you’ll see this happening all around you). Anger management is, in essence, learning how to break the anger circle.
I believe that the lack of relationship building is a key to much of the turmoil and many of the problems we have with our youth. So, back to the question, why do kids do what we ask of them? Why do foster parents think that once they take a needy youth into their home, the anti-social behavior will cease? Why they wonder aren’t their biological children acting this way? Yes, the foster child comes with all kinds of baggage, though the biological child might have their own issues also. The answer is the relationship. The biological child has hopefully grown up in an environment whereby the parents and child know each other on a deep level – a level where a true, meaningful relationship has developed over time. They know what the other person is doing and thinking and can predict the other’s behavior (for better or worse).
However, just knowing someone, living with someone and being related to someone is not enough. In fact, for a child or youth to develop into an individual with good mental health, capable of caring and loving, he needs to learn more than just obedience. A child doing what is told does not ensure his capacity of developing into a person with meaningful relationships. In a meaningful relationship one feels as if they are a part of the other individual. It’s more than just sharing. I do what you ask of me because I am a part of you and you are a part of me. Of course, that does not mean that parent and child will always agree on things. This does not preclude the child or teen testing the parent, wanting their own way and even thinking they know what’s best. Nevertheless, there has been instilled in the child that true sense of who they are in relationship to the parent.
Now, how many parent-child relationships do you know that can be defined this way? In fact, do you, dear reader, believe it’s even possible? The problem with accepting this type of relationship is that very few people understand it, and thus very few parents can transmit this over and teach their children in this manner. It is truly a unique way of seeing meaningful relationships and relating to our children. It is a challenge to each of us with our children and grandchildren.
Why are we seeing so many children turn away from the roots and go off the “derech?” I would like to suggest that you could reread the above theory again and in a different light. Perhaps instead of reading “parent” read “G-d.” I find it’s very unusual for children to be taught that they are truly created b’tzelem Elokim. That is, they truly have a part of G-d inside of them in the form of their neshama. We should ask our children what they really understand their neshamos to be. If G-d is truly inside us, if we (children and adults) really have that kind of relationship with G-d where He is part of us and we have a part of Him inside us, wouldn’t that present a different picture and relationship with different behaviors and different outcomes?
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