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4 Positions to NOT Put Your Child In

By Natalie Berthold

These days, it seems most parents shy away from their main role, which is, well, to parent. It is invaluable to the child to know that you are in control, you are the leader, and you set the boundaries. Of course, there is a fine line and this does not have to come with corporal punishment or any of the other fear-based tactics used in history, but it does mean you need to step into your authority.

There are four main roles or positions that can sneak up on us if we are not careful, that we can put or allow our children to take on. These roles can be detrimental to our child's emotional development and can even limit their ability to build and maintain healthy relationships later in life. Unfortunately, I see these role-reversals all too often in my personal and professional life and it is important for us to recognize them early on and put these responsibilities in the right place.

Children naturally want to please us. They adore us and will do anything for us--they are, after all, indebted to us for giving them life. Additionally, their survival depends on your well being, so selfishly, they will do whatever it takes to keep you emotionally and physically healthy--even if it means volunteering for or agreeing to these unhealthy roles.

Here are 4 positions that you should never put your children in:

1. Your Partner. Now, I'm not referring to a physically incestuous relationship (which is obviously inappropriate), but so many parents overlook the fact that a type of emotionally incestuous relationship is happening. When a mother or father has a spouse who is not present physically or emotionally, it is not uncommon for them to turn to their children for that support. Boys often feel the pressure to become a man before they are ready and girls become the woman before they are ready, fulfilling responsibilities and roles that a partner would, such as housework, protection, guidance, etc. Make sure if you have an absentee partner, that you are not tempted to either put, or allow, your children to fill that place. Please affirm to yourself and your child "You're not my partner, you are only my child" and act accordingly.
2. Your Therapist. I see this all of the time. A mom or dad is feeling stressed, tired, vulnerable, or physically ill and turns to their children. Frequently, a child goes up to her mother and pats her on the back and says, "are you ok mommy" and mom turns to her child and tells her all of her woes. Additionally, I have clients who tell their children all about their marital, sexual, health and financial problems and even ask for advice. This is a huge no-no. It is not your child's job to console, nor counsel you. Please affirm to yourself and your child "You're not my partner, you are only my child" and act accordingly.
3. Your 'Gal Pal' or BBF. This is WAY too common between mother and daughter these days. The daughter is always along for the mani/pedis, the shopping trips, the girlfriend brunches, etc. I often hear women and teens say "my mom is my best friend". This sounds warm and fuzzy,and is certainly okay from time to time, but in excess, it really creates an 'equal' dynamic which can limit the ability to parent and set appropriate boundaries when necessary. The child has enough friends and so do you. Please affirm to yourself and your child "You're not my "bestie", you are only my child" and act accordingly.
4. Your Parent. This is a HUGE one and unfortunately, quite prevalent. Most of us didn't get all of the care and TLC we needed from our mother and father, but this does not give us license to turn toward our children and expect them to take care of us. This can manifest in many ways such as asking our children for money, or emotional and physical support. Again, this most definitely is not their job. It is YOUR job. Please affirm to yourself and your child "You're not my parent, you are only my child" and act accordingly. Parenting is tough and so is life from time to time.

It is really important that we take an honest assessment of our relationship with our children and make sure that they are NOT taking on the role of our spouse, therapist, buddy, or parent. If you think about your own relationship with your parent, you may find you have a similar pattern with them.

It is time to break that pattern and allow your child to be just your child. Seek out help from therapists, friends, partners, support groups, chat rooms or meet-up groups, etc. if you need extra help and nurturing, but don't lean on your children. In addition, your strongest, most life-affirming role is to be a parent...don't rob yourself of that gift! 

Natalie Berthold uses a variety of modalities, particularly Family Constellation Therapy, to get to the root of the issue. Natalie works in a loving and compassionate way to efficiently and effectively disentangle patterns that have been passed down trans-generationally, and restore the natural order of love, allowing the individual to finally be free from lifelong limitations. Natalie works with all issues, but specializes in disordered eating and limitations with health, career and finances and relationships. When not working, Natalie is most likely found frolicking in the park with her two adorable rescue mutts, Argos and Athena. She is also excitedly awaiting her first child, coming this spring! Permission granted for use on
Tags: Behavior, Motherhood-Fatherhood, Parenting, Personal Responsibility, Teens
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