Willow Grove Counselling, Inc. - Specializing in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)

Treat Kids like Birds and They’ll Fly the Coop!
Gentle and firm handling helps children mature

Each of us campaigns for the role we play in our first family. Sometimes it is a battle to achieve a particular position and it may take years of rehearsal and practice to ensure this position is well-established. Other times, we are acclaimed to this position by other family members because of some special qualities we bring to the role. Once established, this role is often stuck in time.

Have you ever returned home from a family visit feeling annoyed (even angry) because your parents and relatives still relate to you as if you were still 14? Stories, jokes, and reminiscences are all based on the far distant past – not on who you are today.

This, or course, also applies to communication systems within families. It is as if time has stood still for some family members because, as you listen, you hear a response from an over-protective parent that might be appropriate for a young child, however, the listener is in her late teens, or as in some cases, is a young adult.

For some young (and older) adults, they just listen to their parents, participating in this ‘invitation’ to play the time-warp game, thus masking the anger for not being respected and appreciated for who they have become.

So, how does one avoid getting caught in the time-warp game? It is begins in childhood. A wise parent knows that young children and adolescents need different structure. A young child’s parents need to provide the firm support and very directed guidance in order to create a healthy and safe climate for growth.

However, what is often seen is younger children expected (or allowed) to make decisions that are beyond their scope of understanding. This reduces the safety a young child deserves from the outside world.

In the case of adolescents, structure is still required, however, a much more flexible approach is necessary. The pressure to support an adolescent is similar to holding a bird. If you squeeze too hard, you will the bird. If you hold too tightly to the adolescent, you kill his/her spirit.

A young bird is not ready to fly on its own, nor is the adolescent able to make all the decisions on their own. However, the bird needs to feel the power of his wings as it tries to fly – and the efforts of flight will be marked by some false starts and even some fails.

The adolescent needs to feel the shift of the structure of your parental role in the gentle opening and closing of your hands as you allow him/her to grow into their own person. Being tuned in to developmentally appropriate roles (whether yours or theirs) results in families being able to avoid getting into that annoying time-warp game.


Originally published in the 'Tri-Cities News' as a voluntary contribution to the community from Arthur (Art) Rathgeber.

Willow Grove Counselling, Inc. - specializing in CBT.
Art Rathgeber, EdD., R.Psych, Certified Cognitive Therapist and Alexandra Rathgeber, M.Ed., RCC provide Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Depression/Anxiety.
With an office in Port Coquitlam - easy access from Coquitlam, Port Moody, Maple Ridge, Burnaby, New Westminster, Pitt Meadows, and Langley.