It is so often true that the child who needs the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways. Relational trauma leads to them careering chaotically through life, seeing themselves as unloveable & the world as an uncaring & dangerous place. Let’s not be drawn into this chaos. Let’s act as caring containers, promoting healing, & not as reinforcers of fear & isolation.
This quote, on Charles Dickens birthday, from ‘The Pickwick Papers’, speaks to the power of an attuned, caring relationship in relieving distress.
When a child is at their worst, struggling to manage their emotions and behaviour, if we meet them with acceptance, empathy & kindness, what a valuable gift we give them. We communicate that we care for them, unconditionally, whether they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’. When we stay open and engaged, even when they are trying to push us away – when we aim to connect before we correct – we are offering messages of comfort & safety. Exactly what distressed hearts & minds need to bring them back to a calmer state, where they can think more effectively.
This relational approach, one based on unconditional positive regard, is not permissive of bad behaviour, rather it reduces shame, encourages self-reflection & promotes cooperation. When a child feels that we ‘get it’ – that we understand what has led them to behave this way – then they are able to think for themselves about how to do things differently next time. A child who is in a good relationship with us is more likely to want to be like us – we can lead by example & not by reward or punishment.
Happy birthday to Charles Dickens, a prolific writer & a tireless campaigner for the rights of the poor & disadvantaged. His novels shone a light on abuse & inequalities & were influential in bringing about social change.