What was your motivation to write this book?

I wrote this book to help counteract how overwhelmed and stressed parents are these days. I wanted to help parents feel more calm and confident and less worried and stressed about parenting. My goal was to help parents understand that the relationship they have with their child has more of a lasting impact on their child's long term development than anything else they do as a parent.

Can you recommend a strategy for combatting feelings of inadequacy in parents who have trouble doing what other experts recommend?

Remind yourself that there is no one right way to parent and there is no one right solution to the problems you face. There are many different and equally good ways to parent and there is always more than one solution to every problem. In fact, the parent-child relationship is stronger when there is a balance between a parent doing it 'right' and doing it 'wrong.'

 

Remind yourself that all expert advice must still be taken with a grain of salt. Any advice you decide to take should make sense to you and fit with who you are as a person. Parenting is a two-way street. It has to be adjusted to the needs of your child and to your parenting style.

 

All parents have areas of strengths and weaknesses. Children don't need you to be perfect. They need a real person and all people have flaws, things the can do and things they can't. What children do need is for you to be honest about who you are as a parent—by acknowledging your strengths and accepting your weaknesses. I call it authentic parenting.

What's something a parent of an emotionally-sensitive, vulnerable child should keep in mind?

Some kids are just born more emotionally-sensitive and vulnerable than other kids. So, first and foremost don't blame or judge either your child or yourself for the fact that your child has these traits. Blame and judgement will only make it worse. Only acceptance for who your child is can allow you to help your child reach their full potential.

 

I always say, "Raise the child you have, not the child you wish you had." That means don't compare your child to other children. Don't try to turn your child into someone who is less sensitive and vulnerable. What you should do is adjust how you parent to the needs of your child. Emotionally-sensitive and vulnerable children need more soothing, comforting, empathy, acceptance, and understanding than the average kid. They also need more help and support in learning how to cope with their sensitivities and vulnerabilities. Even an emotionally-sensitive and vulnerable child can become more resilient if you are empathic, accepting, and also teach them coping tools.

 

Being an emotionally-sensitive and vulnerable child will not get in the way of your child becoming a successful and fullfilled person, as long as your child feels you support and accept who they are as a person.

How can a parent prevent misunderstandings with his or her children?

The truth is you can't prevent misunderstandings with your child. Misunderstandings are natural and inevitable in ALL relationships, even the parent-child one. This is because what we each mean by what we do or say is inside the mind, hidden from view. 

 

You can try to reduce misunderstandings by trying your best to see the world from your child's perspective as well as your own. But the beauty of reflective parenting is that it acknowledges the reality that misunderstandings are common and normal. This does a lot to reduce the stress on parents that typically occurs either from feeling guilty, blaming their child, or thinking something is wrong if a misunderstanding occurs. The only thing a parent can or should do is to try their best to understand their child and help their child in an appropriate way to understand them and if a misunderstanding does occur not to panic or worry. Simply try to clarify the misunderstanding if possible.

 

Strong relationships are like a rubber band. That enables tension and coming back together. Strong parent-child relationships enable parents and children to be out of sync then get back in sync. They allow room for parents and children to misunderstand each other and then to be able to clarify those misunderstandings so they can better understand each other.

What's the most important thing a clinician will take away from this book?

Clinicians will learn why it is so important for parents to learn how to think more for themselves when it comes to parenting and will learn the tools for helping parents be better able to do that.

 

Clinicians will also learn tools for working with parents that will also improve their therapeutic skills with all the people they work with.

What's one practical point from this book that a clinician will be able to implement in his or her practice?

I like to say that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder and so is everything else." We are constantly and unconsciously making assumptions about reasons why people do what they do. And it turns out we respond more to what we assume is their reason for doing it than to the actual action itself or the person's actual motivation. Only if we are aware of this phenomenon and work to try to self-reflect on what our assumptions are will we be in a better position to understand and get along with other people.

Do you have questions about The Reflective Parent?

Send your questions for Regina Pally to nmh@wwnorton.com!