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May 3rd, 2021

Finding a relational balance with any person or persons can be a struggle if one side of the relationship dyad has a strong need for a gain to feel safe or whole. For example, a parent in a poor quality marriage or with significant childhood wounding may turn to the child for happiness and love when it is missing otherwise. A child in turn being young will often, out of filial love, try to meet the needs of the parent. These types of relationships can take on many forms and can become dysfunctional over time.

I remember a parent child dyad from many years ago that was a budding enmeshed/codependent relationship between a mother and her son.

Mom was absolutely unable to draw boundaries with her son as she felt all of his pain and reflected all of her childhood trauma onto the child's life with boundary-less smothering love and control. She simultaneously would restrict any behavior that she perceived as unsafe controlling his environment while drawing zero boundaries with regard to his behavior toward her and others within this controlled small world. He was a holy terror by 4 years of age. His mother was crying for help while being indignant that he was sweet and well meaning while she enabled every choice that he made. Her fear of drawing boundaries because of her own childhood restrictive parenting wounding left this child completely attached to her yet abusive because he felt completely out of control. The psychological pathology was exhausting for all in the room. Recommendations for therapy and interventions were met with scorn.

What do we know about relationships? We know that to be in a healthy relationship of any kind is to maintain a level of mutual respect, boundaries, independence, love, trust, support and communication. The unhealthy version is the antithesis of each word, disrespect, boundary-less, codependence, animosity, deceit, undermine and withhold thought.

The key to each relational situation is to gaze into the mirror of self need, self action and outcomes. If you and your child are heading in the wrong direction relationally, first ask yourself the question, what is my goal? If your goal is to raise an independent, grounded, loving, honest and communicative child, then you are on the right track. If your goals are not as such, then stop here and look at your goals and why they are not aligned with your child's best outcome. This is a hard stop point where you should get professional counseling. If your goals are aligned with the proper goals, then ask question number two, how are you attempting to achieve these goals?

Are you invested in your child's outcome to the point that you are pushing too hard? Are you putting all of your eggs in your child's basket for your happiness within your social/culture sphere? A sign that this may be the case would be a parent in a troubled marriage posting constantly on social media about a child's accomplishments looking for praise and feeling great about the likes, pings, etc... Are you putting undo pressure on your child to fill an ethnic, religious, family, sport or other goal of your design? Are you leading by example or driving their train?

An appropriate relational parent child experience is one that is guided by the parent with appropriate boundaries for the child's intrinsic desires to learn and live. We lead by example but are not meant to control the outcome so much as guide them. Mistakes will be made everywhere and as they are made by either the parent or the child, we will daringly discuss them with apologies as necessary but above all the courage to be vulnerable and communicative.

We, as the parents, will look to the motives for our decisions to try and tease out the selfish wants for self over the best outcome for the child.

We, as the parents, are the only ones capable in a child's world to be grounded and adult like. If we abdicate this role, we leave the child without a healthy adult and that is scary. We must address our individual childhood needs and wounding in order to be present moment as an adult for a child.

We, as the parents, can always lead with love as our primary mode of communication even when our children are way off base.

Let us look at three words:


Each word in and of itself is a window into healing any relational problem whether it be a spouse, child, parent or friend.

I find that I get much farther in life when I practice these ideals. I find empathy to be the hardest, however, it may be the most important. To be vulnerable is to show your truest and most authentic self which then allows your child to realize that we are all on a journey to be our best selves and that mistakes will happen and we will own them as parents for their and our own benefit.

When it comes to parenting, “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”
Marcus Aurelius , Meditations

With my children, I have often defaulted to stating that I was neither present for nor interested in the particulars of a transgression so much as I wanted to help the offending and offended parties find a common ground where they are speaking their truth in a way that is neither inflammatory nor lawyering. It is truly their opinion of the events, not fact. The solution process and feelings afterward are more important than the event itself. It is up to our children to learn compassion, empathy and vulnerability in each relational experience. We can show them how.

I will leave you with this idea. We all make mistakes and ponder the would have, should have and could have's of life. Do not ruminate here. Learn and move on. We all want balance in relations.

Parent better next time.
Love harder tomorrow.
Listen more ardently.
Forgive faster and deeper.
Above all, live better tomorrow than you did yesterday!

Guilt and regret kill many a man before their time.”
― Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights

Go for it - find balance,


Dr. M