Do you sometimes feel terrorized by your child? Are you plagued by the belief that your child acts like your ex?
When my son criticizes or berates me, I am triggered big time. The words he says are manageable. The problem is what I make these words mean. If I am not deliberate in my thinking, my brain goes to “he is turning into his father”. Here is the model that plays out:
Circumstance: Ben came in last night while I was watching TV and told me I was being lazy.
Thought: He is (critical) just like his dad
Action: defend me, tell him that he is being rude, engage with him, turn off the TV, if I’m not careful tell him he reminds me of someone we used to live with
Result: I am being critical of my kid (and creating disconnection).
Not my most stellar parenting.
Why is this happening?
I am not a psychologist, this is just my hypothesis of why your child acts like your ex:
- this behaviour was modelled by your ex during your marriage
- you tolerated it during the marriage and perhaps still tolerate it
- all young kids are codependent and narcissistic to some extent
- exposure to trauma may be responsible for this dysfunction
What you can do about it
- Do everything in your power to shift out of the trauma, powerlessness, anger and fear. For me, this was yoga, Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program and it is still a work in progress. The idea here is to heal the unhealed childhood wounds of not feeling loved and respected so that external circumstances – namely other people’s behaviour – do not trigger you.
- Let go of your over-involved and controlling tendencies as a parent. Stop fixing and cleaning up after your child. Let them slip, fall and do the time. Let your kid make their choice and face the music. Step out of their path to learn how to be a mensch.
- Don’t engage with your child unless s/he is speaking to you decently. No need to get angry, just detach. No need to engage with shame, blame and hostility. Set loving boundaries that prioritize self-respect.
- Have faith and belief in your child and let them hear it. Hold love in your heart for them regardless of their behaviour. You cannot shame and blame your child into better behaviour (like our parents did).
Co-generate healing from trauma
The trauma that we suffer from the experience of an abusive relationship gets passed to our children until we heal. This is well established by the children of Holocaust survivors.
We cannot force our children to do the work to deal with trauma and become healthy. In fact, the harder we try, the more they will push back. The key is to hold space for them and focus on your own healing. Where our energy goes as a parent, the children often follow. You are the example and the barometer of the house. The healthier you become, the more likely your children will become.