Simple statements define your child. How are you defining your child today?
1. My child is valuable
Johnny sat on the floor in front of his mom, pushing his trucks under and around the pillows. Mom exclaimed playfully, “those pillows are big mountains.” She asked, “are you able to push your truck up the mountain?” Johnny looked at mom and smiled as he drove his truck over the pillow. She applauded!
Safe haven and secure base are two defining components of the parent’s role in attachment. When safe haven and secure based are present, a child cycles between exploring away from the parents and, when distressed, returning to the parents for comfort. During this cycle, healthy parents enjoy and supervise their child’s journey from exploration to return. Being with the caregiver and sharing experiences, the child experiences the parent as safe and builds a healthy sense of self based on the parent’s perception of the child. Thus, Johnny was defined as “valuable and competent.”
2. My child is a problem
Sally sat on the floor in front of her mom pushing her trucks under and around the pillows. Mom angrily asked, “why do you have to be so noisy?” She declared, “all you do is make noises that keeps me from sleeping. You don’t care that I have a headache.” Sally hung her head and pushed her trucks away from her and laid down on the pillow.
Sally did not experience safety with her mom. She did not have her mom’s support to explore her world nor did she experience being valuable. She moved into self protection and withdrew from play. She could not turn to her mom for comfort, since it was her mom who showed contempt towards her. Her world became smaller and less rich as her confidence diminished. Thus, Sally perceived that she was not good in making decisions, was too noisy, was uncaring, and a bother to her mom.
3. My child is bad
Jane sat on the floor in front of her mom pushing her trucks under and around the pillows. Mom angrily yelled, “why do you have to be so noisy?” She declared, “all you do is make noises that keeps me from sleeping. You are so stupid, you don’t even care that I have a headache.” Using the back of her hand, mom slapped Jane across the face. Moving away quickly, Jane rubbed her face and hid behind the sofa.
Not only did Jane’s mom not support Jane’s exploration or need for comfort, she taught Jane that she was bad and mom was dangerous. Jane had to instinctively protect herself from mom. Her world was terrifying which consumed any energy needed to explore the world.