Parent-centered vs. child-centered parenting and adoption

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Parent-centered vs. child-centered parenting and adoption

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Many times when families go to a therapist the therapist notices the child's very much in control of the environment. The parents are worried about saying, “Please do this or please do that” because they don't know how the child's going to respond, so we really want to change that around. We want to have parent centered families that are child focused so the child can relax and be a child. Children shouldn't have to be worrying about what time dinner is and what they’re going to eat, and are you going to turn left or right, and how long is it going to take to get there. They should be able to get in the car and assume that mom or dad know how they're getting there and when they're getting there, and they don't need these adult worries. Hyper-vigilance is the result of early trauma and trauma always produces that and kids who remain hyper-vigilant miss out on much of what childhood is about because they're worrying about things that children shouldn't have to worry about. So, if we see parents who are stuck in following the child's lead we need to do some work with them to remind them that really this is your family, you're in charge of the family, and the child needs to start to follow your lead. At that point when that happens the child's going to feel much more secure and grounded, and be able to go outside and play, and not have to sit inside and follow you from the bathroom to the bedroom to the kitchen to make sure that you're doing what's going to be good for them later on that evening. We really discourage responding to kid's ridiculous questions about, “Is that a chair? Is this a tree?” and we see many kids who just become central, do all kinds of behavioral things to draw the parent in and we really want to help the parent not get drawn in to the child's stuff, but we want the parent to become a magnet and draw the child to them. Children who have had abuse are very hyper-vigilant and so often they believe they have to be in charge of what the family's doing. And we want the parent to take the lead of the family, to draw the child to the parent as opposed to the child drawing the parent to the child. A parent centered family should be parent centered with the parents taking the lead drawing the child to them yet be focused on the child. A child centered family would be child centered but the parents would also be drawn into the child so it would probably be child focused as well. So, the parental role is diminished in terms of importance and we don't want that to happen. We want the parent to really be important in the family and for the child to be drawn to the parent, and to have a level of comfort and safety with the parents so that they can stop worrying about adult things that they learn to worry about when they were being traumatized and can play outside with their friends, and have the parent come retrieve them for dinner as opposed to them going to the parent constantly checking is dinner ready.

See Gregory Keck, PhD's video on Parent-centered vs. child-centered parenting and adoption...

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Gregory Keck, PhD

Founder & Director, Attachment & Bonding Center of Ohio

Gregory C. Keck, Ph.D., is the founder and director of the Attachment & Bonding Center of Ohio. He is an internationally known psychologist and trainer who addresses the issues of trauma, adoption, and post-adoption challenges. He and his staff provide attachment therapy for adoptive families whose children have experienced serious early childhood maltreatment prior to adoption. In 2012, he received the National Association of Social Workers State of Ohio Lifetime Achievement Award. He is the parent of two sons who were adopted in adolescence.

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