Parenting is one of those jobs where the hours are long, the pay low, and the learning curve immense--yet the rewards are surely worth the effort.
I don't mind the hours or the "pay," but I have an issue with the learning curve. As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for the past 15+ years, I'd like to believe I know how to effectively parent my children. However, I struggle and make mistakes.
Several years ago, my then-toddler son experienced the kinds of behavior problems prone to toddlers. To discipline him, we thought it would be wise to take something important away from him.
So we stole Cuddles.
Cuddles was a stuffed animal dog.
Cuddles seldom left my son's arms.
Cuddles was his best and deepest friend.
In our parenting wisdom, we thought taking Cuddles away from him for just a day or a night would be effective discipline.
You know where this is going because you may have tried the same thing with your child and her blanket or his favorite cap.
It took a therapist friend of mine to tell me what I needed to hear. Amy Allen Meyer was blunt: "That's the worst thing you could have done." Now, she didn't mean that taking something away from my son was a bad idea for discipline. My choice of what to remove was the bad idea. Her next words stuck with my wife and I for years.
"Scott and Crystal, you can take away what's meaningful, but never take away what's comforting."
Amy had swiftly reframed our reality. For me, it felt like when you're watching a movie and assume one thing about the story only to have that assumption drastically changed by one specific revelation toward the end of the film. Images flashed through my mind of the doting way my son cuddled Cuddles every night in bed, how he sought out his fake puppy whenever he was sad, and, of course, his wailing tears when we wrested it away from him.
I hadn't just stolen something meaningful from him.
I'd stolen his comfort.
And all children need comfort, even more than adults.
For info on relationships and freeing yourself from anxiety, pick up a copy my book The Stories We Tell Ourselves. Click here to ask questions or make comments. Feel free to email Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org