Yesterday dh’s back was feeling sore from having been in one position for too long, and since his regular chiropractor couldn’t see him until Monday, he got an appointment with a chiropractor we know in the neighborhood. After his appointment, he was describing to me the differences between the approach of the two chiropractors. His regular chiropractor said that when there’s pain in the muscles, it’s because there’s something underneath it which is the problem, and the muscles are protecting the joints below. So he deals with the underlying joints and once the deeper physical issue is resolved, the muscle pain will clear up on its own.
This is exactly how I feel about parenting. There are often the external symptoms that something is wrong in the relationship – the child is disrespectful, won’t listen, doesn’t help, etc. Most parents, when asking for help, want specific suggestions how to improve a particular issue. But my approach is to look at what is at the heart of the matter, what is really causing the problem. If we try to fix just the symptom, the problem will recur because the underlying cause of the symptom is still there.
What it always seems to boil down to is: relationship and connectedness. I know this seems simplistic, but my experience is that when I deal with my child’s deepest need (which is for attachment) by spending time with them and actively building our relationship, the topical problems often just melt away on their own. The child doesn’t need to misbehave anymore because the underlying need has been met.
(That doesn’t mean that just love alone is the answer. Part of loving our children is having the courage to appropriately guide them. But disciplining children before addressing the heart doesn’t work.)