Re-Parenting And Healing

You must have heard these as a kid or yelled at for asking questions – “why are you asking silly questions” or “Don’t waste my time. I don’t have time for your questions.” You are stupid” or “you cannot do anything right.” To make you do things, did you hear this: “It’s my way or the highway!”? How could you cry? You will never have a good relationship because you are not good enough.

The above list can be endless. These are a few of the myriad statements most of us heard as children and during our growing years. Sad, if you did listen to them! Over time, we have normalized these statements and are now saying the same to our children. These are essentially damaging lines that can scar anyone for life.

If you think you have undergone the above, please observe your behaviour towards your children. At times, we subconsciously incorporate toxic parenting styles due to the neglect and abuse we faced/suffered as children. The same statements are repeated in déjà vu mode to our children and get transferred to every generation.

Before you label yourselves as “bad parents,” you must know that recognizing toxic patterns is a sign of a sensitive parent and that most of us subconsciously do it. Hence the need to Reparent ourselves. Treat yourself with lots of love and care.

A child’s self-esteem, confidence, and personality are crucial early years. The adult version of the child has a lot to do with what they are ingrained in their young years. So, parents must be cautious in their speech, body language, and non-verbal communication. The child’s brain catches these sensitive things quickly, and they will end up normalising them as adults because their parents or caregivers did it. Society often mistakes authority as ” ideal,” and social conditioning happens in that name. Hence it is vital to “Reparent us” using professional help.

What is Reparenting? According to the world wide web’s definition: Re-parenting is a state of psychotherapy in which the therapist actively assumes the function of a new or surrogate parental figure for the client to treat psychological disruptions caused by inadequate, even abusive, parenting.

In my earlier article on Cycle Breakers,” I mentioned how vicious cycles need to be broken. Unfortunately, a parent can have an equally abusive relationship with the child. Gaslighting and emotional abuse are normalized in most families. The questions/statements that I listed above are examples of toxic parenting. Reparenting is one way of helping a damaged adult heal. 

One reason toxic parenting continues to date is the abuse of authority, encouragement of toxic gratitude, and forced apologies in families. Older generations think it is good to “teach” kids to say “thank you” and “sorry” without the children feeling it. I am sure all of you, at some point, have told your children to “be respectful” towards adults who visit your home or relatives who visit too. “Beta, come and say hi to XYZ uncle/aunt” – is extremely common. Children who don’t do it are labeled “bad” kids or “mannerless.” This is just one of the few examples that happen when you are a child. We carry forward these when we are adults and do the same to our children. Some cycle breakers like me will be labeled as “bad parents,” too, since we do not teach our kids to be “good” to everyone! 

The worst is hearing the “bad kid” label aloud from the visiting adult and the parents instead of speaking for the child and agreeing with the person. It can affect the child the most since the innermost voice tears up thinking: “oh, my parent doesn’t love me.” It is the worst you can do to any child at that time. Even if you do not hit the child, this inner child is “hit” virtually for life!

The concept of Reparenting came about in the 1960s by an unconventional psychotherapist Jacqui Lee Schiff. She and her husband pioneered a therapy based on the transactional analysis theory in psychology. It is a form of treatment that involves assessing and analyzing an individual’s social interactions as a Parent, Adult, and Child. Social interactions were considered “transactions,” The therapist generally empowers the client to become more robust and independent in their approach towards life, minus blaming the caregivers or guardians in their life. Schiff and her husband called the therapy (that they formulated) Total Regression Reparenting. They claimed to have cured Schizophrenic patients using regression. The patients were in their care for years till they got fixed entirely. Their therapy was, however, rejected back then by leading psychologists and psychoanalysts. This concept is coming back, though, and is being termed “New Age Psychotherapy.” There were many variations of Reparenting introduced by psychologists after Schiff. 

Modern Transactional Analysis or TA includes elements of “psychoanalytic, humanist, and cognitive ideas.” It uses a person’s “ego” state to heal them. It helps the person to alter the ego state (Parent-Adult-Child) and learn new life skills to move away from “pity” mode, mind games, compulsive behaviours or OCDs, poor problem-solving skills, and other issues affecting an individual. The therapist sort of dons the role of a parent and helps the “inner child” in you to deal and cope with the problems mentioned above in an improved way. 

Once we identify our behaviour towards children – how we react to them in various situations, we will get a fair idea about our parenting style (no need for a quiz). But yes, do examine the statements right at the beginning of the article. 

Activity: 

Consider doing a role play with your children and ask questions to them. For instance, ask your child to imagine themselves as a parent and you as a child. Give hypothetical situations to them:

  1. I spill milk on the table. What will you do?
  2. I scream and sing at the top of my voice. What will you do?
  3. I get low marks on my tests. What will be your reaction?
  4. What would you do if I did something wrong and refused to apologize?
  5. What would you do if I did something for you and did not say “thank you”?
  6. What would you do if I watched TV twice a day without your permission?
  7. How would you react if I went out with my boyfriend and came back late?
  8. I lie to you and go out for a movie with friends. You come to know later that I lied. How will you react?

The sample of questions you can set for your children. Be open to hearing their responses and answers. Keep an open mind.

Remember that you will get honest replies and must be mentally prepared for them since they will await your reactions too. I will not predict the answers for you here. But this is an exercise I practice with my 8-year-old regularly and keep checking for my behaviour from time to time. 

Disclaimer: These are not indicators that you are a terrible parent. You need not be obsessive about doing this all the time. But may give you an indication that you need to re-examine parenting. It may give you an idea of the primary signs of parental neglect you may have faced based on the answers your children give. You may also revisit your childhood voices, who may have heard these statements above at one point.

Sending healing vibes to all unhealed parents out there. Signing off with this thought: “A happy parent means a happier child and a joyous childhood”!

Follow Priya Rajendran

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