Children Can Mirror Our Behavior

Date: February 21, 2013

Recently, I have been coaching a mother whose six-year-old daughter has a lot of control in their home. Due to the nature of their personalities, both parents were allowing this to go on because they saw it as being better than any conflict that ensued when Meg was not given her way. Naturally, life had gotten very uncomfortable for all three of them. To start with, we worked out a plan to help get Mom and Dad back in charge of the situation. Things like not arguing with Meg, setting a limit once and following through with a consequence, not minding when Meg got really upset with them, all helped tremendously. And while both parents were thrilled with the improvements and new-found harmony within the family, Mom was still puzzled by Meg's almost constant attempts to control her mother.

Our work together then went on to the next layer of the onion, and here is what popped up. Mother was making very sure that Meg didn't make many mistakes. Being the loving person Mom is, she doesn't want Meg to make a wrong choice or suffer negative consequences. So she does a lot of things for Meg like pack her backpack each morning putting everything in it that is needed for that particular day, bring a snack in the car if Meg doesn't eat much for breakfast, carries her coat if Meg walks out the door without it and it is a bit chilly, makes sure she gets her homework done, makes sure Meg turns it in, strategically arranges play dates so that Meg will be included, makes sure Meg acts nicely so she will be invited back, etc., etc.

Today this mother and I had a huge breakthrough. Her daughter is striving to get control because her mother is taking control of areas that belong to Meg. Meg doesn't realize why she has all of this anger toward her mom or why she tries to boss her around all the time. But it is obvious to us that Meg is mirroring her mother's behavior in an attempt to balance the situation.

Lots of things are about to change for Meg and her mother. Meg is going to get to own all of the things in her life that won't cause serious damage to her if she doesn't get it right. And her mother is going to have much more time and energy to spend on herself. And I expect that soon Meg will stop ordering her mother around and trying to gain control because she will have the control that is rightly hers and won't need to try and take someone else's.

Do your children have any irritating behaviors? Could they be mirrors for you? Don't answer this right away. Take a few days to really observe the relationships you have with each of them. See if there is a behavior that they are reflecting back to you. It could be a life-changing moment!