Parenting Using Internal Psychology

Effective? Yes. Easy? No. BUT worth every grey hair

Raising children is not an exact science. It is a delicate dance between caregiver and child that sees a swaying and flexing on both sides to make the relationship work. From the very beginning we are communicating and teaching the skill of negotiating. If a baby’s needs are met, the baby will learn to trust. That sets the stage for healthy negotiating between caregiver and child.

Parenting does not have a strict set of rules that works for everyone. A parent has to be aware of their child’s individual needs and respond as supportively as possible to encourage healthy mental, emotional and physical health.

Each child comes with their own personality traits and may have different wants than another child. It is important to be in tune with what they want and attempt to satisfy these by meeting their needs.

Everyone has common needs for survival, love and belonging, fun, freedom, power but parents will discover that the degree to which you meet these will vary with each child depending on their expressed wants.

Since we, as parents have the first influence on our children, we do have a huge responsibility to set the tone for the development of healthy esteem.

Many of us have been raised with a psychology that says ‘father/mother knows best’ where the power balance is fully weighted on the parent’s side. Well internal psychology teaches us that individuals know what is best for them so we need to constantly inquire with our children to understand what they want.

To some degree we as parents do know what keeps a little one safe but you will be utterly amazed how quickly a young human being can make safe and appropriate decisions if you give them the information they need to do so.

If the caregiver can relinquish control and allow the child to have some power in decision making, this will increase the likelihood that the child will have success in achieving their own goals.

Children who are taught from a young age to make decisions and accept the consequences of their actions usually become teenagers who recognize the relationship between their behaviour and the resulting consequences.

The common strategies of disciplining with coercion and punishment are somewhat effective in the short term but will not work in the long run. Children become frustrated and will resist the constant control, just wait until adolescence. A child raised with external control will loudly and clearly show their resistance to the imposed authority.

This may sound very permissive and lacking in control but the truth is none of us control what anyone else does anyway. When caregivers dominate and exert control they encourage power trips between themselves and their children. Threatening and punishing disconnects people and sets up power struggles.

Example 1 – Early Years:
Child likes the nurturance of the bottle and/or soother. The parent feels they shouldn’t use it anymore and sometimes this becomes quite a battle.

If the parent can recognize the baby’s need for soothing himself, then they can teach the child appropriate use of the bottle/soother. If they are concerned about speech development for eg when soother is in the mouth of a toddler, then the parent can tell the little one that if they feel the need to use the pacifier when others are around, then they could go to their room and do so. You can acknowledge to the child that you understand their need and then together with the child set bottle/soother times like bedtime, quiet time, in the car for eg.. Giving the child permission while also teaching them the concerns or risks will allow the child to understand and make good choices.

If anything, we all should be able to understand a child’s desire to nurture themselves. Look at our national obsession to coffee to start our day. We all have vices to comfort us so we should help our children discover what comforts them and allow them to do so.

We teach our children well when we model calm and honest communication.

Through satisfying the needs of children they get a sense of their own worth and because they get a sense that they matter, they see how important their needs are as well as others. By consistently communicating with your children, asking them what they want and discussing ways to achieve this, children learn they have a role in meeting their own needs. This negotiation is critical to developing healthy esteem in children.

Sometimes children, like all of us are faced with the reality that they cannot satisfy a want they have. These experiences provide the opportunity to teach children how to handle frustration, disappointment and anger effectively.

The behaviour one chooses when faced with dissatisfaction can either improve or deteriorate the relationships they are in.

Example 2 – 9 years old:
Child dealing with a divorce of his parents. Child wants family to stay together.

Child cannot control what the adults choose to do but child does control how she reacts. If child chooses anger, acting out and disconnecting.

Explain to child that you understand what they want but their behaviour is not going to satisfy that need. They can be taught that these behaviours actually take them further from what they want which is a feeling of love and belonging with parents.

On the other hand, if the child chooses to discuss her pain, loss and disappointment with the parents, they may still feel loss/pain but their connection with those loved ones is not severed further.

They are negotiating and attempting to meet their needs as best they can under the circumstance.

These 2 examples are only a couple in what will be millions of interactions caregivers and children encounter.

Parenting can be very challenging but rewarding. Using internal psychology as a parent will teach a child from a young age that what they want is okay even if it conflicts with what the parent wants for the child. Not all parents would be comfortable with this philosophy but it is incredible what kind of responsible and reflective person develops from these childrearing practices.


(Bonnie is wife to Coach Bri and mother of their 4 beautiful kids.)

4 responses to “Parenting Using Internal Psychology”

  1. Suzana says:

    Great article!

  2. Lisa says:

    Being a strict parent is tough, but the rewards are worth it.

  3. brian oeilly says:

    This is the common thinking of most people to be a good parent means you have to be strict! What we have to learn is not to be strict but help each child to understand relationships,choices,and their part in the world that leads to indifference and conflict. Rewards are also part of our external conditioning revealing that we have identified with what the child does or doesn’t do. If we help a child fine their path not direct them down what we think it should or shouldn’t be we are not concerned with our reputation and our respectability,but what is best for the child. When Children get their need met , they find their place in the would and with it comes love intelligence and compassion.


  4. Coach Bri says:

    Being a strict parent creates a difficult challenging relationship with your child especially in teenage years be very careful you’re not practicing external control

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