Who Should Adjust?

Problems people encounter in parenting can often be summarised as follows; how can I get my child to need less of me.

How can I get my child to self settle? To stop comfort nursing? To play independently? To be less upset when I drop them off at daycare or school? To follow commands the first time? To tidy up after themselves? To use the toilet independently? Parents are constantly chasing a reality to become less.

But what if we are asking the wrong questions.

What if instead we could become more? What if we asked what we could do so that we can be more of what our children need. If something feels unmanageable, what if we figured out how to make it more manageable; looking at the what we as the adults in the situation could change, internally and externally, to support the reality of what our children are needing.

What if we took on the responsibility, instead of expecting our children to shoulder it for us. How can we be what our children need instead of requesting they cease needing it?

There are always multiple ways of resolving the same conflict…

You can try to force change within the child by punishing or shaming them until they ignore their own needs (you could even reward them when they do so) or simply refuse to meet the need until their trust in you is so diminished they give up asking.

And/or you can change within yourself by identifying your fears and triggers and processing your conditioning; engaging in introspection and healing.

And/or you can change the circumstances by creating an environment that supports addressing the present needs of everybody satisfactorily by those involved’s standards.

So say, if multiple children are needing you at a similar time of night for rest, it can feel like an impossibility to meet each of those needs and the solution seems to be well, those needs must end. A parent cannot be in many places at once!

Ah true but what if you invited the children into the same space? A family bed/room opens up the possibility of meeting all the children’s needs, together.

In the end, what is more reasonable; for a child to adjust their needs prematurely or for the parent to create circumstances where they can meet those needs until they are authentically no longer necessary?

It is not an exercise in transferring the pacifying of self from child to adult or a call to quietly endure suffering but of looking beyond our children and how they could change for different ways to address conflict.

I want to shift my focus away from what society says we should expect of children to what children should be able to expect of us and how we can better be that.

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1 Comment

  1. I love love this – thank you so much for putting it into words. I would love to see more support for parents, more resources to make parenting less stressful. So many of us did not have our deep care needs met as children and so we struggle to offer it to our children. It is so hard to offer what we have never had. Even when we really want to.

    When we get support we can find more capacity, learn new ways of being with and seeing our children. I completely agree that the way forward is to understand that children’s needs are valid and important. When we respond to their deep need for connection we help them build a solid foundation for the rest of their lives. What an investment, and so much more enjoyable than the more adversarial approach that is so common in our culture at the moment.

    Thanks for your beautiful writing and urgently important advocacy for children.

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