So what do we mean when we talk about family dynamics? Families can be extremely complicated. Where you are in the family may well determine some of your behaviours. You may have heard of ‘middle child syndrome’. The eldest child will initially get all your attention. They are the only one. However, they also get all your nervousness. After all you were new parents. This is very scary. Then another child comes along and they can often be more placid. Part of that is because you have experience and so don’t react to everything. You have learnt what is important and you are more relaxed. Then you may go on and have more children. Eventually the last one will be your baby and will stay your baby for far longer than any of their siblings.
It’s important if you are having difficulty with one child, to think first where they sit in the family. Then think about your emotions at the time of their conception and subsequent birth. What was going on for you? Was it a difficult time in your life? Did you have support and was it appropriate?
Our children develop labels given to them by us from the minute they are born. We don’t realise we are doing it and we may have never considered the labels our parents gave us. It’s important that we do, because subconsciously we maybe passing those labels on.
Think back to the sorts of things your parents said to you. Was there a theme? It may not have been so much as what they said but how they said it, or, how they looked at you. It can leave children feeling left out. Of course, the opposite could happen, where a child is always being praised and so they get the feeling that they are very important. It’s back to balance. Too much negative and a child will feel sad and angry. Too much praise and a child will constantly need acknowledgement in what ever they are doing and may not be able to cope with failure.
Where patterns of behaviour have been set for a while as we have seen on the Channel 5 programme My Violent Child, it means family members have developed a place for themselves in the family. The child that is hitting probably has a label as the ‘naughty child’, or ‘violent child’. Other children may have the labels as being the ‘quiet child’, ‘the good child’, ‘the helpful child’.
So what happens when parents change their behaviour as we have seen through the last two programmes? The ‘naughty, violent child’ is becoming more reasonable, less reacting. It’s great to see the change and just how desperate the children are for a better relationship with their parents. But what happens to the ‘good children’ in the family? Suddenly their position is being threatened.
What we often see is that when change occurs it can happen at every level.
What we didn’t see behind the scenes on the programme is how the ‘good children’ may have been winding up the ‘naughty child’ knowing that they have a short fuse. Once lit they sit back and watch the sparks fly. The positions within the family stay firmly in place.
Parents find it easier if they understand what may happen. Things may get worse before they get better. We often hear from parents, ‘we tried and things got worse so we stopped doing it’. Although difficult, if you understand why you need to stick with something you are more likely to effect change. Being told what to do only works for as long as the person supporting you is there. Once gone there will be a tendency to go back to how you normally behave.
Understanding what is going on for all your children will give you the confidence needed to sustain change.
Our book Parenting a Violent Child will give you the insight you need. It doesn’t just focus on the child you are having most difficulty with; it will help you to work out what is going on for all your children.
There is a reason we started the book with a quote from Anthony De Mello’s Awakenings:.
“There are those who think that problems are solved through effort. These people merrily succeed in keeping themselves and others busy. Problems are only solved through awareness. In fact – where there is awareness – problems do not arise”.
The more you understand what is going on the less problems arise. It’s true. Things that happen no longer take you by surprise. You start to notice the patterns that are being played out in your family. You then have a choice, of doing something different or not.
Be brave and be less critical of your self. Allow the opportunity of changing the way you view your children. Look for the evidence of whether your labels are correct and if not then ditch them. Be careful of the labels you give your children. Be aware of what is going on.
‘Where there is awareness – problems do not arise’.