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On Repeat

For those of us who have raised children you may remember the times as toddlers when they delighted in repetition. Asking you the same question over and over, playing the same song they loved and never getting tired of hearing it, reading the same story night after night. It is the way that we are wired to learn new information and create pathways in our brain of how we think and behave.

Yet when we shift into the stage of adolescence these repeated patterns of relating can become unhealthy conflict cycles that have you feeling like you are sounding more and more like your mother, who you may have sworn you would never imitate. Well it certainly was in my case. My exchanges with my belligerent teens extended into long winded lectures that by the very response of my tuned out teens had me stupidly repeating myself louder or in a more exaggerated story of a worse case scenario if they continued in the behaviour. Their body would tense up and eyes look to the sky, they often took a deep breath knowing if they attempted to defend themselves, then they could be there for another 30 min. 

Reactive cycles of ranting rarely produce a good outcome that lasts long. Like a fool returning to the same error of their ways, I remember the days of being on repeat. Gone were the days of my little girl or boys running and telling me stories, asking me to watch them do something new, asking me how to do something or to come and play with them.

The same patterns repeated over and over will only get reinforced and often the way to break through, just like when we are training our bodies, is to mix it up. Disturb what is familiar and begin to create a pathway to peace. Conflict is two opposing forces where one needs to win over the other, as the parent, it is not the goal to win over our teen, but to parent them with wisdom, communicating our own set of principles that we live by and teaching them blame, accusations and manipulation are not part of the weaponry that we will use.

The problem arises for us if we did not experience this ourselves as teens and our emotional maturity got stuck in the trauma of our own shameful years. Shame by its nature is about hiding something, mostly in these years it is linked with the pain of rejection or abuse of someone we trusted or what we have done to others in our immaturity. Parenting in compassion and grace calls out the behaviour as unacceptable but embraces the child in training who is making mistakes on their way to maturity. Just like a well grown vine is unaware that all the energy going into the branches will take away the ability to have abundance of fruit, cutting off excess growth will produce more fruit. Cutting away the embarrassment to protect the dignity of the child preserves the relationship for future lessons to be learnt.

If this is not a way that you are familiar with and find yourself on repeat and repeat, one of the best choices you can make is to not get stuck in the shame cycle yourself. Good psychotherapy is about moving you toward self reflection and into your own maturing, no matter your age. So is it time for you to get unstuck and reap the fruit by cutting away what is not serving you well?

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