As children, each of us have been exposed to different kinds of upbringing, which has made us the people we are today. Some influences of our childhood are welcome and some have become an obstacle. What if you wanted to redo past influence from your present? The answer: reparenting.
Before leaving home one morning, you took an extra effort in getting your drawing room cleaned, but when you return in the evening, you find it in a mess. What will your response be?
▶ Sigh and clean up again
▶ Shrug your shoulder and leave it as it is
▶ Get upset and cry
▶ Shut out the person responsible
▶ Get frustrated but keep quiet
▶ Get angry and yell at the person responsible
▶ Take it in your stride, let it go and maybe clean up later
Your response to the above situation is a reflection of your inner, self-set pattern of behavior. This behavioral pattern has been formed and reformed over the years, starting from your birth, through reinforcement and suppression, mostly by parents or other significant people, and has now become a part of your personality and self-beliefs. Sometimes, the personality type and self-beliefs of a person may hinder healthy development and lifestyle of the person. How a child is treated affects what he/she thinks and does as an adult. Faulty upbringing need not necessarily be a result of abuse, intentional neglect or wrongdoing of parents. It may be unknowingly done and might not seem of much importance. Yet, certain instances, maybe in the form of discipline, control or conduct of significant adults (especially parents), in a child’s life, greatly influence his/her personality, his/her view of the world and relationships with self and others, as an adult. However, this becomes a very prominent issue when a person has been a victim of child abuse in any form, or has been a part of a dysfunctional family. In most cases though, the way parents treat a child is largely dependent on how they were treated as children. Even in cases where the parenting techniques are wrong, the same parental pattern goes on for generations until someone realizes their mistake. But just knowing the problem is never enough. A solution and remedy has to be found and used. One way of doing this is by reparenting.
What is Reparenting?
Reparenting deals with three aspects of an individual. They are:
- Inner Child
The Adult is the individual, the Inner Child is the childhood stage at which the individual was wronged and the Parent is a therapist (or the individual) who gives the right response the child should have received. Thus, reparenting is nothing but going back to the stage in which the adult was wronged and satisfying or making peace with the inner child hidden inside by giving the response and fulfilling the needs that were required at that time by self counseling or therapy.
Why is Reparenting Done?
It must be noted here that though reparenting is used in psychological treatments, its use is in no way limited to those with clinically diagnosed disorders. Self-reparenting techniques are often employed for personality improvement and to break free from limitations and behavioral patterns acquired from others. However, professional reparenting therapy might be required by:
- Victims of Child Abuse
- Members of Dysfunctional Families
- Victims of Childhood Trauma
- Individuals with Psychological Problems
How is Reparenting Done?
The process of reparenting can be discussed in four stages.
Stage 1: Unfavorable behavioral patterns are formed if a child’s needs are not met in the way they should. These needs may be emotional, social, psychological or physical. These unmet needs require the child to mold his/her thought process and actions. Reinforcement of these thoughts determine the self-beliefs and perception.
- Social outlook
Stage 2: As stated earlier, negligence could be completely unintentional on the part of the parent. Whatever maybe the case, the result remains the same – a needy child. As the child grows, he/she deals with these needs as best as he/she can. Remember the list of probable responses given in the beginning? The child’s coping tactics could be one of those. Few other responses may include:
- Blaming others (being highly critical and harboring unusual dislike towards others)
- Self-blame (feeling guilty or unworthy)
- Self suppression (shutting out others, controlling desires)
- Outward expression (by acting out or throwing tantrums)
More often than not, these coping tactics fail to soothe the child. So this ‘inner child’ remains suppressed and hidden within the adult.
Stage 3: The glimpses of the inner child are seen through the personality and behavior of the adult. Sometimes, they are revealed through the following:
- Fear of abandonment
- Anger management issues
- Relationship issues (commitment phobia could be an example)
- Personality disorders (example: narcissism, low self-esteem)
- Psychological problems (schizophrenia in extreme cases)
The list is unending because coping tactics are unique to each individual and those mentioned above are just some common ones.
Stage 4: The final stage includes making appropriate response, fulfilling the unmet needs as far as possible and resolving the issue logically. There are many ways to do this. Some of them are:
- Self-discovery: This means knowing who you truly are and finding the God-given purpose for your life.
- Reasoning: Use your logical head to know what went wrong. Remember, humans are bound to fail, but this is not an excuse for those who knowingly wronged you. It merely requires you to make sense of the circumstances and the state of mind of those concerned, at that time.
- Forgiving: Let go of the hurt and grudges – hating is harming. Don’t let the people from your past dictate your life in the present by influencing how you live.
- Build Healthy Relationships: Being with people allows you to use your skills and talents. However, don’t let others overwhelm or intimidate you. Be independent and assertive without going over the top.
- Love Unconditionally: This is not possible to do at all times, by yourself, yet the effort is worth it. Life will be more beautiful, easier and simpler if you give without expectations. Live without the burden of inappropriate expectations from self and others.
When an adult recognizes certain personality traits that are a result of faulty treatment in their childhood, acknowledges what would have been the right response, and then makes requisite changes in the affected personality trait, he is merely self-reparenting. Stages for self-reparenting are the same as those for reparenting. The only difference is that there is no professional therapist in the picture. Given below are some of the questions that can help you in reparenting yourself. Keep in mind that each question is related to the corresponding stages of reparenting explained above.
▶ Do you think you had any unmet needs as a child? If yes, what were they?
▶ What do you think was your coping tactic for the unmet needs you identified?
▶ What, according to you are the issues you are facing now as a result of your coping tactic?
▶ What would your response be if you were faced with the same need today? What effect would this new response have on your personality and behavior?
Make the necessary changes in your personality trait and behavior pattern. You can also use, all or some, of the methods given in Stage 4. Maintaining a journal or diary to note down the past response, present response, change needed and progress observed, is a good way of knowing the influence that self-reparenting is having on you. For those who think therapy would be more useful, there are many to choose from. But before that, be sure to take help of a professional therapist you can trust.
Reparenting therapies have been extensively used worldwide. A gist of two of the most famous therapies has been given below.
Transactional Analysis: This theory was mostly propagated by Eric Berne and Thomas Harris. The famous work of “I’m OK, You’re OK'” was made by Harris. According to them, people create a script based on the stimuli and response they receive and then live by it. Psychological disorders are just a manifestation of wrongly written scripts. So, in order to effectively get rid of these disorders, the life script of a person has to be rewritten. This can be done by first finding the mistakes in the script with the help of what they called ‘transactions and strokes’. Transactions are psychological interpretations of strokes which refer to response given by one person to another. A number of transactional games and techniques are then used to change the script. The popular book, All My Children written in 1970, is a self-account of how transactional analysis can be used in reparenting. The author of the book, Jacqui Schiff believed that in reparenting, an adult must be treated as his inner child in every way, including the age. It requires parental cuddling, control and response.
Schema Therapy and Limited Reparenting: It is a type of psychotherapy developed by Dr. Jeffrey Young in treating individuals or couples suffering from chronic depression, personality disorders, etc. Here, the therapist reaches out to the Vulnerable Child Mode or the inner child and then gives parental response as needed. Parental response includes affirming authority, boundary setting, providing an outlet for suppressed anger, frustration and demands. The treatment is given to the different schemas or modes of the child within the patient.
Reparenting is a very useful tool for both individuals and professional therapists. Studies have proved the effectiveness of reparenting in personality development and treatment of psychological issues. Believing in God as Maker and Creator goes a long way in the process of self-reparenting or reparenting therapy. It makes a person realize that he/she is valuable enough to be created and has a specific purpose for his life. At the same time, it takes away the need to always be in control. However, reparenting is not something that can be quickly done with. It is a long process which can go on for years, proving beneficial at every step.