We’ve all heard the phrase “Choose your battles” and no where is that more necessary than in parenting. And when it’s about stopping bad behavior there are so many battles to choose from.
I recently wrote a post for The Good Men Project called Why Men Choose Punishment Over Compassion. The idea for this came from hours on hours of watching parents constantly spending long sessions trying to just get their child to do exactly what they wanted them to do.
The problem often is that the parent is so focused on the wrongs being done that they miss a chance to understand where this behavior is coming from.
Going Beyond Mediation
There’s such an emphasis on stopping bad behavior that even if we sort out a particular situation there’s been no learning for the next time. I become a kind of armchair quarterback if a parent is relating an earlier argument or a reluctant referee during family sessions.
Family therapy isn’t about mediation. It’s about opening new paths that seem to be missing from all those dead ends you’re constantly driving down.
Sure, someone may have done something wrong and there should be a consequence, but more often there’s something about the other person’s situation that we’re just not getting. We know this is true because the other person is usually not getting our situation. Compassion allows for some different kinds of questions and shines some light into these blind spots.
Being Open to New Ideas for Stopping Bad Behavior
They say not to talk in polite company about Religion and Politics (and I would add Parenting Styles) because many people are so invested in what they believe is correct that no amount of evidence can convince them otherwise. And if neither person is willing to be shown that they may be wrong then what’s the point of discussion anyway? (Imagine a presidential debate where the candidates were open to each other’s ideas? But I digress…)
Hopefully, if you’re in a family and you’re coming to family therapy then you’re willing to look at another way of thinking. Yes, most adolescents do not come to family therapy with this in mind. That’s why you get to have the words “grown up” next to your name.
My post talks about how our old wounds of being put in our place by our parents may be getting in the way of our most effective parenting. Please take a read and let me know what you think. You can find it here.
And if you’re thinking about treatment for yourself or your family, please get in touch with me with any questions. I look forward to talking further with you.
Justin Lioi, LCSW is a men’s mental health and relationship expert. He practices counseling in Brooklyn, NY (and online throughout New York State and internationally.) He received his degree from New York University and has been working with men and their families for over 10 years. Justin is on the Board of the National Association of Social Workers and writes a weekly column for the Good Men Project called Unmasking Masculinity. He can be found on local and national podcasts talking about assertiveness, anger, self-compassion, all with the goal of becoming the man you want to be.