Exercise: Who Do You See When You Look at Your Child?

Father to Son Communication

One of the biggest challenges for us as parents is remembering that our children are not us. In spite of the fact that they came from us, that they share our genetic makeup, and that they are shaped by the emotional environment that we are raising them in, they are not us. Our children are separate people having their own experience of life, just as each of us is a separate person having our own experience independent of them.

Our over-identification with our children is practically second nature. For example, as a child, I moved often and was perpetually the “new kid” in school. Each first day in a new school was traumatic for me: would the kids stare at me? Would they make fun of me? Would they play with me at recess? Who would I eat lunch with? When I dropped my daughter off on her first day in a new school, my heart was aching for her. I wished I could be there with her, sheltering her from the horrible experience. But that afternoon, when I picked her up, she came bounding up to the car bursting with excitement about the kids she had met and the fun she had had. Obviously, she wasn’t me.

It feels good when someone compliments your child and then adds, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!” Nonetheless, that apple has the seeds for a completely different tree within it. The responsibility of a parent is to nurture those seeds and facilitate the growth of that different tree. The problem is: how can we tell if we are over-identifying with our children? How can we make sure that we are seeing each of them as their own person?

The question we have to ask ourselves is: How well do I really know my child? What are the specific interests, passions, qualities, quirks, idiosyncrasies, and flaws that make up this particular person? The following questionnaire is designed to help you answer these questions.

Instructions: Think about your child and answer the following questions. Do not discuss the questions with your child or ask him/her for the answers. The answers must come from your observations of the child. If you don’t have an answer, then observe him/her more carefully.

Think about these questions before answering them. Don’t give an automatic answer (like: She’s so defiant! He’s unappreciative!). Don’t just answer from your experience with him or her. Don’t answer from the experience of your own childhood. Try to imagine how he or she is experiencing life; what it must be like being him or her. Don’t rush through the list of question; take time to ponder whatever thoughts are stimulated by them. Allow yourself to wonder about why your child feels a certain way. Allow yourself to feel for your child in his or her life.

A Baby, Toddler or Pre-schooler:

Child: Name, Age, Sex

What are your child’s favorite activities?
What makes him/her laugh?
What is his/her favorite book?
What is his/her favorite song?
What is his/her favorite movie?
What is his/her favorite toy?
What is his/her favorite game?

How does your child feel with the members of your family?
Who does he/she like?
Who does he/she go to easily?
Who does he/she shy away from?
Who is he/she jealous of?
How does he/she feel with your partner?
How does he/she feel with you?
Does he/she prefer one of you over the other?

How does your child feel about him/herself?
Is he/she critical of him/her self in anyway?
Does he/she feel self-conscious in any situation?
Does he/she ever feel shy?
Does he/she ever feel afraid?
When he/she has nightmares, what are they about?
What are his/her thoughts about death?

Write a description of your child.
When describing this young child, think about the traits that you are enjoying seeing emerge in his/her personality. To maintain objectivity, don’t refer to him/her as your son/daughter or child. When you are writing this, just refer to him/her by his/her name.

A School-age Child:

Child: Name, Age, Sex

What are your child’s interests?
Which interests are the same as yours?
Which are different; interests that you couldn’t dream of sharing in a million years?
Which are the same as your partner’s interests?
Which are different from both yours and your partner’s; unlike anyone else’s in the family?
Which interests do you feel good about?
Which do you feel uncomfortable with or disapprove of?
Do you consider any to be a waste of your child’s time? If so, why?

How does your child feel in the family?
At what times in his/her childhood has he/she been happy?
What were the circumstances that made him/her happy?
At what times has he/she been sad, withdrawn, depressed?
What were the circumstances that made him/her unhappy?
How does he/she seem to feel now?
What are the circumstances that are causing this today?

How does your child feel with the members of your family?
Who does he/she like to hang out with?
Who does he/she joke around with?
Who does he/she confide in and talk personally to?
Who does he/she get into fights with?
Who is he/she jealous of?
Who does he/she feel uncomfortable with?
Who does he/she avoid?
How does he/she feel about your partner?
How does he/she feel about you?
How does he/she feel about your and your partner’s relationship with each other?

How does your child feel outside of the family?
Does he/she have friends? Are they nice to each other?
Does he/she like school?
Does he/she feel comfortable with his/her peers?
Does he/she feel self-conscious at school?
How is he/she doing academically?
What subjects does he/she have trouble with?
What subjects does he/she like?
Are there any subjects that he/she has a special enthusiasm for?
Are there any situations at school that are bothering him/her?

If this applies: How does your child feel with girls/boys?
Is he/she dating?
Does he/she feel comfortable with girls/boys?
Does he/she feel self-conscious and ill-at-ease with boys/girls?
Is he/she in a sexual relationship?
How does he/she feel about him/herself sexually?

How does your child feel about him/herself?
Does he/she feel insecure in any way?
Is he/she critical about any thing about him/herself?
What are his/her self-attacks?
What are the personal limitations that he/she struggles with?
What are his/her thoughts about death?

Write a description of your child.
Try to write it as an objective, compassionate observer. Don’t refer to him/her as your son/daughter or child. When you are writing this, just refer to him/her by his/her name.

About the Author

Related Articles

Tags: , , , , , ,

One Comment

Darrell Cushenberry

Very interesting blog post thank you for writing it I just added your blog to my bookmarks and will be back 🙂 By the way this is a little off topic but I really like your web page layout.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *