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The Inner Parent Voice


Brad Washburn, Do the Dad Thing bloggerPrepare to be metaphysical!

Sometimes adults will come in for marriage counseling or to work on an individual issue.  I’ll quickly figure out that their ‘backstory’ includes some really horrible or absent parents; and as a result, they have some . . . ‘issues.’  I’ve had guys come in with low self-esteem, and women come in with fears and anxiety, and husbands that don’t know how to treat ladies and ladies that have no confidence – or any variation of such.

Many times part of the solution is to develop that inner parenting voice.   That voice to parent themselves in the attributes they missed growing up.

Now here’s where I throw in the metaphysical:

In session I’ll ask people to imagine:

Imagine that we are going to adopt a kid and raise it to have great self-esteem.  What will you do so that this imaginary kid will have great self-esteem?  How can you get your spouse (if applicable) to help you?

So, then the person starts brainstorming on how to help this little fictional kid develop self-esteem.    Then, of course I turn around all those great ideas as something the person can do to themselves to develop great self-esteem.

The idea is that all of us have a little child version of ourselves inside us.  Many times it’s what gives us our passion and motivation.  This little person, this younger version of you, sometimes needs some inner parenting talk.

If I had a kid that needed some encouragement, I’d start out telling them how important they are to God – that if you were the ONLY person left on Earth, Jesus would still die for you.  That God considered each of us, and planned our whole lives before we were even born.  That we are “Fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

Then I’d tell them how much they mean to me, and how their identity isn’t based on success, but that they have learned a lot in life and the only failure is when you quit trying.

I’d point out their successes and how they’ve learned from their failures, and that the failures are never that bad.

. . .  and that’s all great stuff that our inner selves need to hear too.

Not just that, but I’d do some things for any fictional child that needed encouragement.  I’d send them to bed a little early one night so that they catch up on sleep when they were sleep deprived.  I’d limit their use of electronics to give their mind and their eyes a break.  I’d take that kid out for a walk outside in nature so that they could clear their head.   I’d play their favorite music, I’d lay out their special underwear, and I’d buy them a drink at the local gas station.

. . . and that’s all great stuff that our inner selves need to experience also.

If I were skeptical . . . and I actually am quite skeptical; I’d wonder how an adult is supposed to come up with a great inner parent voice when they’ve had horrible parents growing up.  That is a good question.

The reason this little metaphysical exercise works is because God created us to be His children.  God parents us and has parented His people throughout history as recorded in the Bible.  Each Dad has all the parenting skill at their disposal.

  • It’s innate:  You have the perspective of what you WANT to develop and usually know what you’re lacking.  Also, as an adult we know better how we want others to treat us.  That gives us a lot of parenting insight.

  • You have the resources:   Additional resources on parenting come from the Bible and other, solid, Christian parents.  Even if you don’t find a fellow dad that ‘has it all together’ (hint: none of us have it all together), then you can at least find another dad that is good at the skills you lack.  We all share with each other in the great dad-dom.   Or, at the very least we all steal from each other.

  • This blog:  Or really anything on CWAHM website is good.  I’m available if you want to share your parenting angst – drop a comment for the fellow dads to chime in.

I have to add a little disclaimer.  Even if you want your child, or your inner child, to develop great attributes, that doesn’t mean that you never let bad things happen to them.  God disciplines us.  God lets bad things happen to us.  God sometimes hurts us so that we develop some of the character and resilience we all crave.  In other words, helping your kids develop fully doesn’t mean shielding them from all hurt and disappointment.

If you were going to raise a kid to have great [fill-in-the-blank] . . .

Wait, we are raising our kids to have great [fill-in-the blank]!

It all starts with you developing that inner parent voice on yourself to help the ‘little you’ continue to develop.

As an ending note, if you were raising a kid to have many positive attributes (we are), then you wouldn’t sit by and let them tear themselves down.

Here are some good things to say to yourself to help you develop a good positive identity:

You are making a difference

You have many things to be grateful for [think of those things for a moment]

You are important

You can try again

You are unique

You matter to God, and your friends, and to your kid(s), and to me.

It’s too early to give up

You can accept yourself for the person you are

God is still working on you

You should speak kindly to yourself

You can forgive yourself

Also, if you like metaphysical parent interventions, try meditating on this:  What is the sound of one Dad’s hand clapping?

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