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When Pleasing Others Hurts You

David Hawkins

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From chapter one, "Getting Lost Growing Up," of the book, When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You, by David Hawkins.

A Child's Needs
No individuals are perfect, so no families are perfect. But we can do a better job of raising our children than we have done. Creating an environment where a child will prosper takes a great deal of love and effort. Many people seem to think that children will be fine if they are given a modicum of affection and attention, but this may not be true. A child needs certain essentials in order to develop in a healthy manner. Let's review some of the basics that a child needs in order to become a healthy adult, free from the difficulties of codependency.

Time
Many busy parents leave their children to raise themselves. Most families are two-income households, and the children often become latchkey kids. They do not receive the time with their mother and with their father that they need to develop a healthy sense of self esteem.

In my work with families, I notice that parents offer their children bits of time, but rarely are they devoted to the child's individual needs. Parents are so tired and preoccupied that the time they offer to their children is diluted. If children sense that their parents are tired, they may adjust their needs accordingly. They may act out in order to get the parents' attention-even negative attention. Or they may disappear, becoming "the lost child."They sense that the parent does not really have the time to devote to them. When this happens, they will look elsewhere for attention.

Parents who accept their responsibility to "be there" for the child are refreshing. They may be weary, but they summon the energy to allot valuable time to the child. They are emotionally present and able to enjoy watching the child flourish under their watchful eye.

Attention
Parents must give not only their undiluted time but also their undivided attention to their children. Watchful parents notice the subtle nuances in children's behaviors, moods, and thoughts, and then they express loving concern for those things that are important to the children.

Developmental psychologists teach us that parents can "mirror" their children's emotional lives to help children articulate what they are feeling. In this way, parents can help children navigate difficult encounters with their peers and move beyond painful moods. When we notice our child sitting quietly after learning that she was not invited to a friend's party, we might say, "Sally, it looks like you are feeling kind of sad about not getting invited to Lucy's birthday party. I'll bet that really hurts, especially after you had already thought about what to give her for a present."We are mirroring her feelings and helping her find words to express them.

Obviously, giving undistracted attention is a rigorous enterprise. It requires that parents set aside their own agenda to enter the child's world. This requires focus and intention. Nothing is as important or as effective as giving the child undivided attention.

Affection
We know that children are desperate for affection. When they don't receive affection from their parents, children will seek out destructive substitutes.
A healthy, loving touch doesn't cost. To see a child sit with a loving parent who offers touch generously is to see a child wrapped in an affirming presence.

Just as time is required to offer attention, time is necessary to offer affection. Hurried affection does little for the child.

Reflection
As you read this book, you may be stirred emotionally. Perhaps you remember situations when you did not receive the time, attention, and affection that you deserved and needed. By recognizing these places of hurt, you can allow the healing to begin. You can identify the destructive patterns that were set in motion long ago, and you can alter faulty beliefs. With an adult mind, you can make choices that are healthier for you and your entire family.

Begin by identifying the destructive beliefs you learned long ago. As you come to understand these beliefs, you will be prepared to replace them with healthier ones. You can learn to...

  • talk openly about your thoughts

  • share your feelings with someone who is safe

  • trust others who will be there for you emotionally

  • create a new, loving family with healthy rules

God has given us a model for healthy family functioning. He designed an order to the home in which children are protected, loved, and nurtured, free from the weight of codependent urges to protect others. However, this design is not always followed. Let's learn more about what happens when children are raised with codependent tendencies.



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