The parent-child relationship is often filled with dreams of parenting better than the last generation, intentions of continuing shared values, and the unintentional replaying of past behaviors.
Parents sometimes find themselves thinking: I can’t believe I just said to my child the very thing my parents used to say to me!
Am I destined to repeat the same parenting as my parents?
Drawing upon neuroplasticity, epigenetics and attachment research, Child Psychiatrist Daniel Siegel, MD and Early Childhood Expert Mary Hartzell, M.Ed. in their book, “Parenting from the Inside Out,” explore the extent to which our childhood experiences shape the way we parent.
“Children are particularly vulnerable to becoming the targets of the projection of our nonconscious emotions and unresolved issues. Our defensive adaptations from earlier in life can restrict our ability to be receptive and empathic to our children’s internal experience. Without our own reflective self-understanding process engaged, such defensive patterns of response can produce distortions in a child’s experience of relating and reality,” Siegel and Hartzell wrote.
Parenting indeed comes from the inside out. This statement underlines the reason for integrating reflective practice parenting.
Benefits of reflective practice parenting include:
1. Increased awareness of assumptions and perspectives.
2. Motivated a commitment to change.
3. Integrated new learning into decision making, enhances feelings of confidence as parents learn to cope, problem solve and develop conflict resolution skills.
4. Explored reasons for behavior
Four aspects of reflective practice parenting entail:
1. Reflection-in-action: “Thinking on your feet” that occurs during the parent-child activity while thinking about how to reshape the activity or conversation while it is taking place in the present moment.
2. Reflection-on-action: Takes place during a break in parent-child interaction for instance, when your child spends the weekend with relatives, when full attention can be given to analysis.
3. Reflection-before-action: Occurs during proactive planning of the parent-child activity and involves taking time to think about a situation before responding to it.
4. Reflection-on-assumption: “Thinking about our thinking” takes place during a significant pause such as summer camp, in parent-child interaction and is used to explore perspectives, interpretations, assumptions, and to shift, change or deepen thinking.
Reflective practice parenting fits well within a strengths-based approach as the strategies used are most successful when the parent believes in their own capacity to find their own answers and build needed skills.
“Being a parent gives us the opportunity to reparent ourselves by making sense of our own early experiences,” Siegel and Hartzell wrote. “Our children are not the only ones who will benefit from this making-sense process: we ourselves will come to live a more vital and enriched life because we have integrated our past experiences into a coherent ongoing life story.”
For more information, read “Parenting from the Inside Out” by Daniel Siegel, MD and Mary Hartzell, M.Ed.