Child and Family – The Importance of Our Early Life Experiences

Child and Family - The Importance of Our Early Life Experiences

When psychological needs are met healthily we develop the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that enable us to feel CONNECTED, that we belong and have a bond with others. When we are born we have this need in order to survive, later this need connects us to our family and wider society giving us a sense of how we fit in and of our self-worth.

We need to feel CAPABLE, that we are competent. It is an important part of parenting to help a child feel they can do something, to build on their confidence, enabling the child to take responsibility for both their achievements and failings. We need also to feel that we COUNT, that we have value and that we can and do make a difference, we are significant!

Finally, perhaps the most important psychological need is our ability to develop COURAGE. When people encourage us we learn to be hopeful, resilient and willing to try and yet have the “courage to be imperfect”* when things are difficult and don’t go right for us. With the right encouragement we can build the ability to handle difficult situations and overcome our fears.

Dr Betty Lou Bettner and Amy Lew (1990), simplified the basics of Alfred Adler’s Individual Psychology into these CRUCIAL C’s that I have just described.

They sound so simple, and yet as parents we struggle sometimes to impart these gifts of living on to our children. We may not have received them all ourselves or we are desperately trying to survive in our adult lives that we miss our own children’s needs. No one expects parents to be encouraging and imparting these things all the time, indeed, children need to know that their parents are not perfect. As children and young adults we develop our own ways of behaving in our efforts to find a role and feel secure within our group or any that we join. We strive to feel that we belong and in this sense of belonging we can develop a good, healthy sense of self and can co- operate and contribute in a positive way to the good of others also.

So you see, when a child perceives their world where one or more of the “crucial c’s” are lacking, it can affect their long-term view of themselves, others and the world around them. This naturally affects a child’s behaviour. Lew and Bettner spoke about the

Lew and Bettner spoke about the goals of misbehaviour or patterns of behaviour likely to be displayed when the Crucial C’s are unmet or even when they are felt to be unmet. When we feel we cannot connect, we are likely to engage in attention seeking; when we don’t feel capable, we are likely to seek power; when we do not feel that we count, we may seek revenge and hurt others in the ways we’ve been hurt; when we feel discouraged, we assume disability and seek to avoid life’s demands.

Misbehaviour is a child’s solution to their feelings of inadequacy and insignificance. They come from the disparity between the striving to belong and early life experiences. It is never too late to encourage a child or adult. In later life we can still develop our feelings of self-worth and belonging through the genuine friends and people we engage with who encourage us to be ourselves.


About the Author: Isobel Harries (BSc(Hons) Psych(Open))

 

Isobel is a qualified and experienced psychotherapeutic counsellor. Her work with clients mental health problems spans many therapeutic areas. She works in a holistic way, looking at clients physical symptoms alongside facilitating exploration of their early life experiences that have gone to form the ‘blue print’ of the beliefs they hold about themselves, others and the world.

Given the difficulties people have accessing counselling in her rural area, Isobel decided to address this issue and created her on-line counselling service ‘Mind Wellbeing

She divides her time between administering her on-line service, fund-raising for The Mind Wellbeing Charitable Trust and caring for her family in rural Wales in the UK. She also loves hill walking with her dog Diesel, the sea, reading, gardening, cooking and meeting new people.

Find out more about Isobel on her website www.mindwellbeing.co.uk or on  Facebook.

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During adolescence, our teens are more likely to pay attention to the positives of a situation over the negatives. This can be a great thing. The courage that comes from this will help them try new things, explore their independence, and learn the things they need to learn to be happy, healthy adults. But it can also land them in bucketloads of trouble. 

Here’s the thing. Our teens don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to go behind our backs, but they also don’t want to be controlled by us, or have any sense that we might be stifling their way towards independence. The cold truth of it all is that if they want something badly enough, and if they feel as though we are intruding or that we are making arbitrary decisions just because we can, or that we don’t get how important something is to them, they have the will, the smarts and the means to do it with or without or approval. 

So what do we do? Of course we don’t want to say ‘yes’ to everything, so our job becomes one of influence over control. To keep them as safe as we can, rather than saying ‘no’ (which they might ignore anyway) we want to engage their prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) so they can be more considered in their decision making. 

Our teens are very capable of making good decisions, but because the rational, logical, thinking prefrontal cortex won’t be fully online until their 20s (closer to 30 in boys), we need to wake it up and bring it to the decision party whenever we can. 

Do this by first softening the landing:
‘I can see how important this is for you. You really want to be with your friends. I absolutely get that.’
Then, gently bring that thinking brain to the table:
‘It sounds as though there’s so much to love in this for you. I don’t want to get in your way but I need to know you’ve thought about the risks and planned for them. What are some things that could go wrong?’
Then, we really make the prefrontal cortex kick up a gear by engaging its problem solving capacities:
‘What’s the plan if that happens.’
Remember, during adolescence we switch from managers to consultants. Assume a leadership presence, but in a way that is warm, loving, and collaborative.♥️
Big feelings and big behaviour are a call for us to come closer. They won’t always feel like that, but they are. Not ‘closer’ in an intrusive ‘I need you to stop this’ way, but closer in a ‘I’ve got you, I can handle all of you’ kind of way - no judgement, no need for you to be different - I’m just going to make space for this feeling to find its way through. 

Our kids and teens are no different to us. When we have feelings that fill us to overloaded, the last thing we need is someone telling us that it’s not the way to behave, or to calm down, or that we’re unbearable when we’re like this. Nup. What we need, and what they need, is a safe place to find our out breath, to let the energy connected to that feeling move through us and out of us so we can rest. 
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But how? First, don’t take big feelings personally. They aren’t a reflection on you, your parenting, or your child. Big feelings have wisdom contained in them about what’s needed more, or less, or what feels intolerable right now. Sometimes it might be as basic as a sleep or food. Maybe more power, influence, independence, or connection with you. Maybe there’s too much stress and it’s hitting their ceiling and ricocheting off their edges. Like all wisdom, it doesn’t always find a gentle way through. That’s okay, that will come. Our kids can’t learn to manage big feelings, or respect the wisdom embodied in those big feelings if they don’t have experience with big feelings. 
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We also need to make sure we are responding to them in the moment, not a fear or an inherited ‘should’ of our own. These are the messages we swallowed whole at some point - ‘happy kids should never get sad or angry’, ‘kids should always behave,’ ‘I should be able to protect my kids from feeling bad,’ ‘big feelings are bad feelings’, ‘bad behaviour means bad kids, which means bad parents.’ All these shoulds are feisty show ponies that assume more ‘rightness’ than they deserve. They are usually historic, and when we really examine them, they’re also irrelevant.
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Finally, try not to let the symptoms of big feelings disrupt the connection. Then, when calm comes, we will have the influence we need for the conversations that matter.
"Be patient. We don’t know what we want to do or who we want to be. That feels really bad sometimes. Just keep reminding us that it’s okay that we don’t have it all figured out yet, and maybe remind yourself sometimes too."
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 #parentingteens #neurodevelopment #positiveparenting #parenting #neuronurtured #braindevelopment #adolescence  #neurodevelopment #parentingteens
Would you be more likely to take advice from someone who listened to you first, or someone who insisted they knew best and worked hard to convince you? Our teens are just like us. If we want them to consider our advice and be open to our influence, making sure they feel heard is so important. Being right doesn't count for much at all if we aren't being heard.
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Hear what they think, what they want, why they think they're right, and why it’s important to them. Sometimes we'll want to change our mind, and sometimes we'll want to stand firm. When they feel fully heard, it’s more likely that they’ll be able to trust that our decisions or advice are given fully informed and with all of their needs considered. And we all need that.
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 #positiveparenting #parenting #parenthood #neuronurtured #childdevelopment #adolescence 
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"We’re pretty sure that when you say no to something it’s because you don’t understand why it’s so important to us. Of course you’ll need to say 'no' sometimes, and if you do, let us know that you understand the importance of whatever it is we’re asking for. It will make your ‘no’ much easier to accept. We need to know that you get it. Listen to what we have to say and ask questions to understand, not to prove us wrong. We’re not trying to control you or manipulate you. Some things might not seem important to you but if we’re asking, they’re really important to us.❤️" 
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#neurodevelopment #neuronurtured #childdevelopment #parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting

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