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The Fantasy of a Good Relationship | Parent Coach | MegAnne Ford

The Fantasy of a Good Relationship


We will explore the fantasy of what it takes to have a good relationship from both the adult's and the child's perspectives.

A client of mine, Tischa, shared a meme that resonated with me, emphasizing the importance of alignment. The meme depicting two paths—one filled with twists, turns, and money, and the other leading to a house—reinforced the idea that the process is crucial for achieving the desired result. Tisha's meme reminded me to focus on the process rather than solely on the end goal, as it's the process that aligns us with the outcome we deserve.


Focus on the end results or the process?

You'll often hear from me the advice to focus on the process, not just the end result. The journey can be daunting and filled with uncertainties and financial concerns, but embracing the process is key to achieving the desired outcome. In our discussion today, particularly in the realm of relationships, it's crucial to shift our focus to the process rather than fixating solely on the product.

When parents seek my guidance, they often present challenges related to their children's behaviors. However, my approach isn't about directly altering the child's behavior but rather about transforming the beliefs and perspectives of the adults. By realigning our beliefs, we naturally see changes in behavior.

Instead of dwelling on the potential difficulties of the process, we should ground ourselves in the knowledge that challenges are part of the journey. Embracing the highs and lows, the twists and turns, and the occasional fears and anxieties are what ultimately lead us to success. It's about trusting the process and staying committed to the journey despite its complexities.


Beliefs Surrounding Relationships

So, let's delve into our beliefs surrounding healthy relationships, aiming to pinpoint areas that feel challenging or stagnant. By exploring these aspects, we can uncover where things feel constrained. It can be particularly difficult when we fixate on controlling our children, which is why I want to redirect your focus toward what truly matters. In the context of relationships, we've often been presented with an idealized fantasy.


Includes exercise with Be Kind Coaching clients


The Fantasy of Good

We've been sold the fantasy of what's considered "good." Think about the idealized images of a perfect home, a perfect life - the American dream with a white picket fence, a two-car garage, 2.5 kids, a dog, or, for me, a hammock.

This product is constantly marketed to us, even in business strategies like "sell them what they want, give them what they need." It's enticing, but the reality often falls short.

When faced with the actual process, many people quickly lose interest. They feel like they were promised something easier, and the reality is much harder. It can feel like a bait and switch, leaving us wondering if we are a bad parent or why it's portrayed as so simple when it's anything but. It becomes apparent why mom guilt is present in our culture.


Grounding Back into the Foundation

Let's settle in and refocus our attention. Instead of chasing shiny details, let's redirect our focus to the foundation. By doing this, we can establish security and create a strong, stable platform upon which to build.


Assess your parent-child foundation.

When considering the foundation of your relationship with your child, it's crucial to assess its safety.

A quick assessment involves noticing how swiftly you react with anger, such as yelling or taking things away, and how often you interpret your child's behavior as wrong, leading to punitive responses.

Just as we'd repair cracks in our home's foundation, I'm here to assist families in strengthening their relational foundations. By addressing these cracks early, we can prevent larger issues like estrangement or divorce when external stresses arise. This work ensures that your family has a secure space to weather any storms that come your way.


Belief in a picture-perfect family

The fantasy of a good relationship often evokes images of;

Instinctual Connection
Rewarding moments
Celebrating successes

However, this idealized image can also lead to feelings of inadequacy when real-life struggles and challenges arise, causing doubt about the strength of the relationship.

The gap between fantasy and reality highlights the importance of addressing foundational aspects of parenting, such as building respectful connections and navigating through difficulties, which may not be as glamorous but are essential for long-term healthy relationships.


Building Real Relationships

The unsexy part is the struggle, the aspect we avoid discussing because it's not glamorous.

I've been told numerous times that parents don't work with me because I'm not palatable enough, but what I hear is that they prefer fantasy over facing the reality of challenges.

My aim is to help parents understand and navigate these challenges so they become less daunting, allowing them to access their rational minds, make better decisions, and experience genuine growth through the process.

Good relationships aren't devoid of struggle; they acknowledge and resolve conflicts in healthy ways.


Knowing your Parenting Style

When using the permissive parenting style ways where I'm going to solve the conflict by saying,

"Come on, you're fine, I'll just fix it, give it to me, come on, come on, come on, give it to me, I'll do it."

That's a permissive strategy; it's my job to fix it for them, to remove all uncomfortableness from their life, and to ensure they are happy and comfortable at all times. That's a permissive mindset.

An authoritarian parenting style is,

"You're fine, you're being too sensitive, come on, you're fine, hop up, no big deal, shake it off, go on, get back to it."

That's an authoritarian mindset. Both are from the adult's perspective; they leave the child alone in it, either learning to outsource struggles or feeling like they must solve all problems on their own.

When we remove or shut down the struggle, we remove or shut down the opportunity for recovery. When we ignore or minimize the struggle, we're removing the opportunity to navigate through it together.

When we see the long process ahead and try to take shortcuts, we're missing the value in the process. Strong relationships involve the song and dance of rupture and repair, where I'm not scared of the rupture anymore because I understand it and know what to do with it.


Embracing the Rupture and Repair 

When you embrace the rupture and repair, it leads you to say,

"I'm no longer scared of the rupture; it's not a threat to me anymore. When my child cries, it's not a threat; when my child says no, it's not a threat; when my child says, "I don't like it when you talk to me,"

It's no longer a threat—it's actually an invitation to step into repair. I know what to do here; now, I'm able to have a secure foundation through the elements where I'm empowered, and I'm empowering them. This song and dance influence the quality of attachment, through the lens of attachment theory.

Attachment is the bond between a parent and child where the child can come to the parent and have a safe place to land, and they can also launch back into the world from the parent, where the parent is the person who is safe, seen, soothing, and secure. So, the child can bring stress and struggle to the parent, and the parent helps work with the child in a collaborative process, in a sensitive, soothing way, so then the child has the confidence to launch back into the world.

The image that comes to mind is the playground: if you've ever been on a playground where a child runs, falls down, gets a hug and a kiss, and then goes back to playing—that's what I'm talking about, where the child knows that you are the safe person for them to come to, you're going to meet their needs, be sensitive to their needs, and then they can go back out with confidence.

Dr. Dan Siegel is quoted as saying,

"How loved or unloved we feel as children deeply affects the formation of our self-esteem and self-acceptance. It shapes how we seek love and whether we feel part of life or like an outsider."

What I have found is that people who feel like a part of life understand the process, understand that ruptures and repair are part of the process, and understand that my goal is to get on the same page as you, not to control you.

Your behavior is not a threat to me but an invitation to connect with you.

I know that people who are feeling part of it and confident in it are people who value the process as opposed to a more product-based approach. People who value that product, "Once I get this job, then I'll be happy," or "Once I get this car, then I'll be happy," or "When we go on this vacation, then that means we'll be happy," when we value the product, and we ignore the process, that tends to leave us feeling more like an outsider.

I see this running rampant in the parenting space, I see it in back-to-schools, I see it in first-day-of-school photos, I see it throughout the year when we're talking about honor roll and accomplishments. I see it when parents come to me feeling like, "I've had another negative parent-teacher conference." My private one-one console calls start to go up when parents feel like the outsider. They are feeling like, "Oh my gosh, I've been trying my best, I need something else." It's when we are valuing the product. 


Taking into practice a good relationship

It is cold out, and your child wants to wear shorts.

It's wintertime, and your child wants to wear shorts. It's a very common grievance, right? Or they don't want to wear a coat, or they don't want to carry their umbrella, and it's raining. Or they want to wear a winter coat, and it's summer. We could substitute in so many different details, but essentially the story that we're going to stick to right now is that it's winter, and your child wants to wear shorts.

So, I want you to picture the piece of paper, and on the piece of paper are two stick figures. On the left is the adult, and on the right is the child.

The adult is saying, "It's cold; wear pants."

The child is saying, "But I'm not cold."

This probably happens a lot of times. "It's time for dinner; I'm not hungry." "We're going to the park; I don't want to go outside." It's all of these times, right, where I'm telling, and you're telling. We're going to take this through both perspectives.

The first perspective I'm going to take this through is the adult's.

The question is, what are we focused on, and are we aware of where we're focusing? So, in this example, the adult's focus controls the adult's behavior. And when we are not aware of where we're focusing, we're not aware of how our behavior and our parenting methods are impacting the person in front of us.

So, here in this example, the adult's focus is, "I know what's right for you." When we're focused on the "I know" lens, then we're starting to root there. When we take that lens and focus and apply it to being in the relationship with the child, now the adult's focus is, "I must get them to listen to me." So, that naturally guides our behavior.

When we say, "It's cold; wear pants," and the child says, "I'm not cold," what does that naturally lead us to do? It invites us to double down. We start then trying to convince the child, and we say things like, "Well, it's 32 degrees outside; you're going to catch a cold. You can't go outside dressed like that; you're going to be so cold; you're going to freeze." We're doubling down; we've missed the cue; we've missed the opportunity. The child advocates for autonomy, and then we double down. We say, "You're going to be cold." We're trying to convince the child.

So then, what happens?

The child follows the adult's lead. The child says, "Oh, we're doubling down? Cool, I'll double down too." And even if they're cold, even if they're shivering, even if they go outside and they're like, "Nah, I don't like how this feels," they're going to come back, and they're going to say, "No, I'm fine; this is great, actually. I'm hot."

You know what this brings up? Have you ever watched the movie "Bridesmaids" with Kristen Wiig? Do you know the story with the Jordan almond, where everyone has food poisoning, and here, the other woman, I forget her name, the brunette, she's like, "Are you okay?" to Kristen Wiig's character, and Kristen Wiig's character is like, "Yeah, I'm fine I am actually hungry," and she's visibly sweating and looks like she's going to vomit everywhere, and then the other character holds up the jar of Jordan almonds Kristen Wiig's takes it and eats it you just watch her painfully eat it because she's holding on to – she's in full defense mode; she's in activation; she's like, "You're telling me 'no' because you are not a safe person."

That's what this reminds me of, where the child now follows the adult's lead, and the child is just pretending to not be cold. The child always has to be in control, the child is advocating for themselves, the child thinks that they're the boss.

And maybe these are some thoughts that have come up in your mind during these moments: "Oh, why are you being so difficult? Why is it always like this? Why can't you just do it? Your sister does it fine; why can't you do it right?"

Our behavior as adults is focused on our beliefs, and if we believe, "I must get them to listen to me," then it would make sense that the child is just pretending. I said, "I'm going to challenge that thought. I'm going to challenge that thought." It's easy from our perspective when we stay in the adult's perspective; it's easy to think those things. But when we switch it and start seeing things from the child's perspective, it tends to paint another picture. But what keeps us blocked in these moments is that we see that defiance, we see that power struggle, we see them not listening to us, not doing it how we would do it or not how we want them to do it, and we interpret it as a threat – a threat to our authority, a threat to our power, a threat to us leaving on time, a threat to our resources, time, energy, money.

We see an initial threat, and then we start responding to that threat response. Why? Because our brain perceives that threat and it naturally activates those defenses.


What behavior is communicating

The behavior that we see is always a reflection of our thoughts, our feelings, and, more importantly, our beliefs.

That's why a lot of my content, a lot of my work, is helping parents get below their beliefs.

I can give you behavior changes. I can give you behavior swaps. A member of my community once said, "MegAnne probably knows the answers," and she was right. I do. I know the answers. I could tell you X, Y, and Z do this. Here's the prescription: go follow it to a tee, and you will do it. It would be great.

You wouldn't know how to do it without my help. You wouldn't know how to do it if I wasn't telling you. How do I know that? I've done it because I've done it before. I've played the "ear bug" in the ear; I've literally been on consults when their kids come into the consult call with me, and we're listening through earbuds, and I said, "I'm going to tell you, I'm going to feed you lines right now, I'm going to tell you exactly what to do," it's like I'm directing their body. And you know what they say to me? "Holy, that worked," and I say, "Yes, of course, it worked because I'm operating from my beliefs. My work is to help parents realign their beliefs so that their behavior reflects their beliefs."

That is why I became a parent coach: to teach parents effective parenting using positive parenting strategies and tools with online parenting classes

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