We get it!
We not only understand the benefits of therapeutic parenting, but we now have plenty of first hand experience of it working, of it regulating our son with Reactive attachment disorder in a way that ‘normal’ parenting simple does not.
We can see that he does indeed respond to the empathy and understanding that we surround him with when we are dealing with him therapeutically – we can see that it works!
So why do we struggle so much with it?
Firstly, we find it difficult to tune in to his needs ‘in the moment’, we find it hard to be the therapeutic parent when we are angered (and my goodness he can get us angry), which is when we instinctively fall into the parenting that we were brought up with, imitating our parents and indeed the parenting we have witnessed around us.
We are pushed and pushed and we start to ‘lose it’ and then we raise our voices and then we scold and then inflict consequences and threaten even worse ones – when pushed to the extreme we have both found ourselves reaching out and slapping our son’s legs before we have even realised what we were doing, which therapeutic parenting aside is just something that neither of us agree with and of course simply resulted in our son faltering for the briefest of moments before screaming our own words back at us ‘we do not hit in this house’ and then carrying on exactly as he had been, – no, understandably worse than he had been.
The shame it brought about in us and the realisation that it achieved nothing has prevented both of us from repeating it, but even so we hear the voices of our parents in the back of our minds saying ‘it worked on you’.
So we know the right way and we know the wrong way – and we still fail so very often, however the silver lining is that we both feel that we are slowly improving.
Even so there is still one niggling issue that we can’t shake…are we not doing exactly what others are so keen to tell us we are doing and ‘making a rod for our own backs’?
By parenting therapeutically we may well be helping our son regulate in a way he finds impossible alone, but are we actually addressing the behaviour in a way that is teaching him ‘right from wrong’ and which will result in it not being repeated?
When we get it right we feel that we have some control over our son, we can see that it prevents him from reaching a heightened state (where there is little hope of returning from for some time), we can reconnect with him, we can make him feel secure again and as a result – we can help him make the choices that are not self destructive. All good!
However, we have not actually dealt with the bad behaviour that started the episode – the rudeness, the swearing, the aggression, at times the total lack of respect. We have dealt with his emotional state and we have restored calm, but then sometime in the future we do inevitably see a repeat of the behaviour.
And that worries us, it worries us a lot.