Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Re-Posting With A Question: Why Is This Post So Popular? ‘Advocating For Kids’

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on June 4, 2012

“I can’t deal with that one,” a father says to me as I cringe at the expression “that one”. “You mean Samantha,” I say naming their nine-year old daughter so as to point out that the phrase “that one” conveys tremendous hostility and resentment. “Yes, Samantha has made my life a living hell. She is all I talk about in my therapy. She has made me more crazy than my parents, than my wife, or my work.” This father, Liam, explains to me, causing me to feel for Samantha and wonder how Samantha integrates her father’s resentment of her into her budding self-esteem. I am caught between wanting to explain how his resentment might be deleterious to Samantha’s sense of herself and wanting to support Liam in expressing his feelings about raising what he perceives to be a very difficult child. Having known Liam for ten years, I feel our relationship can tolerate me taking what I imagine to be Samantha’s point of view. “It must be hard for Samantha to feel that she has caused you so much grief,” I say, conveying that Liam’s attitude could be hurtful to Samantha. Liam gets angry and hurt. “Are you saying that I am hurting my child?” he says as tears roll down his face. “I am saying that all parents hurt their children unwittingly, and the job of parents is to become aware of that when that happens so that one can straighten things out, as best they can.” I explain, trying to say that parenting is challenging, resulting in both positive and negative outcomes, always. Liam seems to calm down. “Today might be a hard day,” I say as we close our visit. “You did not do anything wrong,” he says. I needed to hear that.

5 Responses to “Re-Posting With A Question: Why Is This Post So Popular? ‘Advocating For Kids’”

  1. Shelly said

    It depends on who is your patient here, Liam or Samantha. If Liam is your patient, then I would assume then part of your job is to support Liam while also advocating for Samantha. I imagine it is hard for you to hear how Liam calls Samantha (“that one”), knowing the effects it would have on Samantha’s self-esteem, but Liam comes to you for advice and an outlet for his frustrations and anger. As you say you have a 10-year relationship with Liam, I am sure that he can take criticism from you about the way he thinks and talks about his daughter, however, don’t you feel Liam would harbor some resentment (even if he says, “You did not do anything wrong?”) towards you or feels that you judge him?

  2. This is a very tricky discussion. First, I agree that Liam harbors resentment despite the fact that he said “you did not do anything wrong.” Second, Liam is my patient, so my job is to help him. The delicate balance comes in the fact that Liam does not want to hurt Samantha, and to the extent that he is doing this unconsciously, he wants to know that. On the other hand, he does not want to feel criticized for his parenting style. The dilemma of all parenting models is how to talk to parents about helping their children without making them feel guilty and bereft for their past behavior. This is a never-ending challenge, which no parenting book can adequately address because the issues are so individual and specific to the parent-child dyad. Thank you-as always-for your thoughtful comments.

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  4. Shelly said

    Maybe because it resonates with all of us parents, that inside, we all try to be the best parents we can be, but there are some children that challenge us and make us feel like failures. While it is your job to act as the child’s advocate, it is only in the safe confines of your office that Liam can give air to his real feelings about Samantha (we hope).

    • Shirah said

      Thanks, Shelly. This post has jumped to the number two position (after the ADHD vs. Asperger’s post) and that is very curious to me. As you said, the honesty in my office might resonate with my readers, although at the same time, this post has not generated a tremendous amount of comments. Thanks Again!

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