We have previously talked about the importance of love and attachment in parenting; the enormous influence that these aspects have on the child will then help them when they become adults, interpersonal relationships, and even their perception of reality. There are many studies that support and prove the importance of both aspects in human life.
Deepening into this point, Bowen’s attachment theory on emotional connection shows us that the family functions as an organism, where everything that happens to one member will affect the others. In the case of children whose parents are not present enough or do not give them enough attention, the children will go into despair and develop an insecure attachment.
But I do love my children unconditionally!
Parental love is inexhaustible, that is how God wanted it and that is how it is. However, love does not imply or guarantee that you will be a good mother or father. In my talks with my patients, I see this all the time, fathers and mothers who would give their lives for their children, but still have children who lack attention and who have an insecure attachment.
Why is this happening to you? You may need to dig in your own past to understand the reason for your unconscious behaviors. The emotional dynamics that you experienced with your parents, will be the same one that you will replicate with your children. If your parents always gave you attention, love, and care, it is most likely that in a natural and unconscious way that is what you are giving to your children, without plans or purposes.
On the contrary, if you were a boy or a girl who did not experience that, then, how could you give something that you do not know? In this case, you will be clueless about how to provide a stable emotional connection. Besides, if you do not get help regarding this matter, chances are that you will repeat the story.
Exploring your memories
Our past influences our present, and unresolved issues do it as well. Regarding this matter, a reading that I recommend is the book “Parenting From the Inside Out” by Daniel J. Siegel and Mary Hartzwell. Through this book you will be able to understand how your own childhood has made you who you are today.
Since most of our responses are related to our memory, our brains are able to respond to experiences by altering the connections between neurons, as well as the brain structure that will fulfill a function and create memories, those that will shape our identity. In fact, memory is the way the brain responds to experiences and creates new brain connections. At the same time, those brain connections will be implicit or explicit.
Implicit memory generates responses to behaviors, emotions, and perceptions. This is a non-verbal memory that will be there throughout our entire life. It also involves non-verbal models. For example, if a baby is comforted by his mother when he is distressed, he, while growing up, will associate comfort with his mother. This is the reason why the mother is considered a figure of well-being and security. When experiences occur repeatedly, they will be embedded in our lives. The most amazing thing about implicit memory is that the person does not have the feeling that he/she is remembering something when resorting to it. He/she will not even be aware of it.
So, when you experience a certain behavior towards your children that you cannot explain, you need to explore your memories and make connections. Emotions, beliefs, perceptions, all of this may be getting in your way without you even realizing it.
Authoritarian parent’s vs permissive parents
Do you feel the prevailing need to over demand your children regarding their studies or hobbies? Then, what were your parents’ demands like when you were a child?
Another situation, do you think that physical punishment is the right way to change your children’s misbehavior? Then, how did your parents reprimand you?
We are capable of breaking the cycle of this type of behavior. But first we need to find a balance between giving and not giving. There are two opposite types that are not appropriate, controlling parents and permissive parents.
Women tend to be more of the permissive type, giving excessively. While men tend to be more controlling, they do not give excessively. Both authoritarian and permissive parents are more alike than you might think. These parents choose for their children when they are the ones who have to teach their children how to choose according to their age.
The 4 strategies our children use to get attention
Children are able to analyze and develop their games in relation to the way you respond to their actions. After all, you are their biggest role model. Parents are the main role model to follow, so children will be making notes in their heads on how to get what they want, whenever they want.
They also know how to use the perks or advantages and how to push buttons whenever is needed. That is why, as a parent, you cannot lose the advantage and you need to get the most out of it. Children react according to the social environment in which they grow up. Regardless the type of the environment, they will adapt to it.
Turning to the teachings of Alfred Adler, his student, Dr. Rudolf Dreikers, organized the four goals children set when they manifest bad behaviors. For each objective, a series of misbehaviors are shown. Also, all of these goals are sequential, that is, if one is not addressed, the next one will follow.
Every child wants his/her parents’ attention. But the problem with this kind of attention is that it needs to be gained no matter how. Their mantra is: “I only count when others notice me and serve me”.
How do you detect children who just desperately want your attention? Simple. Those are the children who do not let their mother talk on the cell phone demanding her time, or the girls clinging to their parents’ legs without letting them focus on something else.
They are also the children who are constantly grounded at school for mischief, over and over again. They know it, but it is inevitable for them to continue with this type of behavior. They may stop for a few moments, but then they will come back even with more strength. If you are a permissive parent, you will most likely ask for more time so you can finish your phone call. If you are authoritarian, you will scold him/her due to his/her misbehavior.
If your child cannot get your attention, he/she will try to do it through power. His motto this time will be: “I only count when I dominate and control, when others do what I want them to do and when I want them to do it”.
How do these little ones act when seeking power? They are the children who throw tantrums, refusing to obey their parents; they are the children who yell at their parents saying offensive words or tell them that they are not their “bosses”.
The thing with these children is that when they are repressed, that will only stimulate their desire to have more power and overcome this. If you tell them not to do something, they will do it to your face, because they want to win, at any cost. Whatever you do, it will increase their response. Angry responses are very common when trying to face these attitudes, but they are not helpful either.
If as a parent you do not respond the way they want you to respond to their need for power, their mantra will be: “I only count if I can hurt others the way they have hurt me”.
They already know that they have no real power, so they try to get their revenge with negative behaviors.
Since it is a stage that needs to be reached, these are preteens or teenagers who take “rebelliousness” to another level. They are those children who create fake accounts on social networks to hurt other people; or the son who stole and crashed his father’s car because this was more important to the father than his own son; even the children who threaten to hurt themselves to make others feel bad. This stage is characterized by wanting to hurt others.
If you are a permissive parent, your will either feel a victim or extremely guilty. While authoritarian parents want to show their power or revenge, making the cycle go on, and the only way to stop it is when parents do something that favors the healing process.
Showing not being enough
When as a parent you continue to feed your child’s thirst for revenge, he/she will get tired. At this point, he/she will realize that what he/she does will not be enough to get your attention, and he/she will have already internalized how “stupid or useless” he/she is.
Furthermore, he/she will understand that he/she does not belong anywhere, or that there is no purpose in his/her life. Their mantra will be: “I am not good. Nobody believes that I have any value. I cannot do anything right, so why bother doing anything? I give up”. This stage is characterized by wanting to hurt themselves.
These are the young introverts who are unable to socialize, work in a team, and who prefer solitude over company. They are those adults who grow up with no attachment to their parents, away from concepts like love, understanding, and from God. Parents do not know what to do, and they end up giving up. The bond is broken, and it only remains there as a reminder that this situation can happen again at any time in the next generation.
These 4 aspects constitute mechanisms of interest to us as parents. It is not easy to analyze our memories, to delve into past experiences, but if we do so, we will start on the right foot in our way to heal our relationship with our children and we will be heading towards the possibility of enjoying happiness in our family bonds. That is the plan that God has for us as families, that we enjoy love and happiness with those around us.
Did you know these 4 goals that children use to achieve the attention they crave so much? Have you ever felt their effect on your relationship with your children? I invite you to share your experience and your opinions with us in the comments section of our post. God bless you.