亲子关系的最重要一环:双向交流

心理治疗师 菲利帕•佩里 为英国《金融时报》撰稿
2019.06.10 12:00

在我大约12岁时,我父母的一个朋友问我,我的童年是否快乐。我回答,不,我的童年并没有特别快乐。

我父亲听到了很生气。“你度过了一个美好的童年。你非常快乐。真是胡言乱语!”由于他是我的父亲,我爱他,又怕他,因此我觉得我可能错了而且很坏。

父母多么希望他们的孩子是快乐的啊,以至于有时候他们试图教训他们快乐。那时我父亲缺少的是将我与他的童年联系起来的机会,我们现在也可能常常缺少这种机会。在客人走后,我父亲本可以询问我的感受,并决定不把这个答案(不管是什么答案)当作对他的攻击。

了解并确认孩子的感受对孩子来说是非常重要的。我不是说他必须放弃他的观点;经过二战并亲眼目睹一些可怕的事情后,他会认为我的童年是美好的。但这不应妨碍他帮助我说出我的感受并尝试从我的角度考虑问题。

遗憾的是,儿童的不快乐可能会让父母感觉自己很失败,从而阻止他们探寻孩子的感受,反而希望屏蔽他们的感受。父母可能会发现自己与孩子争论的原因是他们无法洞悉孩子们语言或行为背后的感受。

假设你是一位家长,正在赶着做某些工作,上周有一整天你都与孩子们在主题公园游玩,而现在你的孩子却带着不高兴的口吻跟你说“我们从来没出去玩过”。“说什么鬼话!我们上周可是去乐高乐园(Legoland)啦。”如果有家长可以忍住不这么说,他/她就是圣人了。

但假设你找到了自己圣人的一面,回答说:“听上去你感到无聊又厌烦。你想做什么呢?”那么这个孩子可能会感觉自己得到了关注和理解。他们可能会说:“我想再去一次乐高乐园。”接着你回答:“好啊,那里很好玩,是不是?”那时你将会有一种心与心相交的感觉。

当然,我不是说父母可以为孩子提供他们想要的一切,也不是说这么做是可取的,我想说的是,在他们面对人生中不可避免的失望时,要体贴孩子,我们可以教会他们更好地应对失望。得到关注和理解的心与心相交的时刻对于我们所有人都很重要。

儿童对于任何给定情况的感受经常与父母不同,但重要的是他们的感受(不管是什么)没有被忽视。当我们的感受被考虑并得到认可时,这有利于我们的自信,而且随着孩子的成长,这对于他们越来越重要。

作为一位心理治疗师,我曾与那些与童年中经历过或缺失的事情达成和解的人坐下来交谈。让很多人感到失望的是,他们的父母似乎从来不对他们的生活感到好奇。一些人感觉被爱是因为他们的父母认为他们是自己的延伸,但他们从未感觉他们的父母认为他们可爱。如果童年可以重新来过,你希望得到什么?

几乎所有父母都是善良的,然而,他们经常从未真正了解他们的孩子或者他们的世界,这导致在父母与孩子的关系中,太多东西被隐藏起来,驱动他们的经常更多的是责任感,而非爱。

孩子应该知道,他们被优先对待,他们能展示并分享他们的感受,而且他们被认真对待。说床下有怪物并不是傻,孩子只是以这种方式向父母展示他们需要父母的亲近、安抚和接纳。

孩子不是项目,我们可以完成也可能搞砸,也不是我们要做的家务,而是要去建立关系的人。这是父母要谨记的最重要的一点。他们需要有意识地珍视、思考和努力的对象不是他们的孩子,而是他们与孩子的关系。这几乎是一回事,但父母经常在只关注孩子时,看不到他们自己的回应是如何影响孩子的。他们需要把每个孩子当成个体来回应,而不是贴标签,例如“女儿”、“儿子”、“老大”、“老幺”,或者对孩子一概而论。

父母往往擅长思考孩子的未来,以及在选择学校和设定目标时能够为他们创造什么机会,但更重要的是当下与他们在一起,去观察、理解并接受他们现在的样子。如果父母遵循现在适合孩子的东西,那么未来往往也会容易得多。

儿童心理健康的最重要指标之一是与父母关系亲密:一种健康、正常运转的关系。但如何让这种关系对双方都尽可能有益,并且最有可能激发孩子的快乐潜能?

最初,孩子为对话做好了准备。父母和婴儿会自然而然地用面部表情和声音交流。这种互动通常是自发的,甚至都不用思考。这是对话、表达以及互相影响的开始。

这些互动模式至关重要。我们太容易形成只为婴儿或儿童做所有必要事情的习惯,例如清洁和喂食,而不是理解他们并受到他们的影响。哪种关系会让你更沮丧呢?或许是在让你感觉你做的事情什么也改变不了而且感觉自己不被倾听时。

孩子的感受是一样的。如果父母不接纳孩子,不让自己因为孩子的观点而改变,那么反过来,他们的孩子就不太可能接受父母希望影响他们的方式。

个人来讲,作为父母,我不认为心心相印做起来是一件容易的事情。或许这是因为对我来说,在我成长过程中被倾听和被考虑并非我的日常体验。我好像经常感到我的小宝贝的需求让我筋疲力尽或者太费力。我必须调整自己以符合婴儿的方式来回应他们,而不是把他们看作某种麻烦。

我觉得我有一种下意识的看法,认为成人必须是“施与者”而孩子是“接受者”。我们往往会按照我们被对待的方式去对待孩子,在一些情况下,我们与生俱来的对婴儿和儿童做出自然回应的能力似乎被一种文化减弱:这种文化似乎对婴儿发出的正常的哺乳动物哭声感到怀疑。同样遗憾的是,有一种想法竟然变得常见,这种想法认为,如果父母自然而然地、本能地对孩子的哭声做出回应,我们将引来某种灾难。

如果我们在婴儿和儿童时期没有得到互相、双向的自然回应,这可能会影响我们日后对外界的本能回应能力。已故的精神病学家罗纳德•大卫•莱因(RD Laing)把这种没有能力受到他人影响的现象称为“对话恐惧症”(diaphobia):害怕对话、双向交流和被影响。

对于婴儿、儿童而言(实际上还包括成年人),被回应是一种需要,与其他人的关注相比,父母的回应对一个人的意义往往要重要得多。如果父母习惯性地未能对孩子的哭声、眼神或轮流玩的游戏做出回应,那么这就有可能让他们形成一种关于如何建立依恋关系和保持关系的扭曲模式。

如果你是一位家长而且认为你可能患有“对话恐惧症”,不要自责或者否认它或者感觉羞耻。当你意识到,你在与孩子交流时阻断了给予与接纳的自然过程时,你可以做出改变,让自己朝他们调整,就像我不得不做的那样。

发现其他人的“对话恐惧症”比在自己身上发现更容易,但在父母不愿与他们处于婴儿、儿童、青少年或成年阶段的孩子接触时,他们应该试着去留意。如果父母往往只是单方面地对孩子说话,而不是与他们交谈,他们应该试着去留意。他们应努力练习保持开放并给孩子说话或示意的空间,同时把更多的精力放在观察和倾听上,而不是思考他们的反应会是什么或者他们“应该”说什么。

如果父母犯错(我们都会如此),说声抱歉是有帮助的。你或许还能记起在你自己与父母的关系中,父母不相信你或者突然责骂你的那些时候。想想道歉的力量吧,即便道歉可能在多年以后才到来。从某种程度上,孩子自然会将父母视为偶像,因此,如果孩子被父母误解,他们经常会责备自己,丧失自信。

当我讨论这个问题时,一位家长问我:“但在孩子们面前不是必须永远正确吗?这样他们会感觉安全。”答案是否定的。重要的是父母是真实的,这样他们就不会干扰孩子的直觉。

孩子会知道什么时候父母与他们不在一个频道上或者不了解正在发生的事情,如果父母假装了解,他们就会损害孩子的直觉。直觉是信任、能力和智慧的重要组成部分,因此最好不要去扭曲孩子的直觉。

我们都很忙碌,现在,不仅父母二人可能都在工作,而且他们甚至不得不都做一份以上的工作。人们有一种被落在后面的感觉,必须追赶。对于多数孩子而言,你确实可以把一些照顾孩子的责任交给亲戚或保姆,但对于所有孩子而言同样确定的是,你不可能把每天他们需要从主要依恋对象(也就是父母)那里获得的爱交给其他人代办。孩子不会像幼苗那样自己成长;他们的成长依赖于与他人的关系。

为人父母是一份耗费时间的工作。在可能的情况下,最好是在问题发生之前就主动投入时间,而不是在问题出现之后被动应对。当父母走得太快以至于孩子的脚步跟不上,而不是尊重孩子的交流节奏,当父母太关心未来以及需要做的事情,而不是在当下陪伴孩子,他们就可能埋下隐患,将来会需要更长时间解决和修复。

孩子是我们最重要的资源。我们应该为他们投入时间,陪在他们身边,进入他们的世界,让他们成为我们的一部分。毕竟,孩子与父母的关系会决定他们余生处理关系的方式。理想的情况是,这些应基于互相信任与尊重、真实、合作、相互协调和爱,而不是操纵、输赢以及责任,这些既是为了现在也是为了我们的未来。

本文作者是一位心理治疗师、作家和广播主持人。她的著作《你希望父母读过的书(如果你读过,你的孩子会很高兴)》(The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will be Glad That You Did))由企鹅生活(Penguin Life)出版。

译者/梁艳裳

原文:Philippa Perry: the most important thing for parents to know

By Philippa Perry

When I was about 12, one of my parents’ friends asked me whether I was having a happy childhood. I replied that no, I wasn’t having a particularly happy time of it.

My father overheard and was furious. “You have an idyllic childhood. You are very happy. What nonsense!” And because he was my father, my beloved but scary father, I felt I was somehow wrong and bad.

Parents so want their children to be happy that sometimes they try to scold them into it. What my father missed back then, something we can often miss, was an opportunity to connect with his child. After our guest had gone, my father could have asked what I was feeling and decided not to take the answer, whatever it may have been, as an attack on him.

To understand and validate a child’s feelings is invaluable to them. I’m not saying he had to let go of his perspective; after living through the second world war and witnessing terrible things, he would have seen my childhood as idyllic. But that would not preclude his helping me to articulate what I felt and trying to see things from my point of view.

Unfortunately, a child’s unhappiness can make a parent feel like a failure and therefore discourage them from exploring the child’s feelings, wanting to close them down instead. Parents can find themselves arguing with their children because they cannot perceive the feelings behind their words or actions.

Suppose you are a parent catching up on some work after spending a whole day the previous week with the kids at a theme park, when your child says to you in an unhappy voice, “We never go out”. It is a saint of a parent who can resist replying, “What rubbish! We went to Legoland last week.”

But suppose you found your saintly side and said instead, “You sound bored and fed up. What would you like to be doing?” The child might then feel seen and understood. They might say, “I’d like to go back to Legoland again.” You would then have a moment of connection when you’d reply, “Yeah, that was fun wasn’t it.”

Of course, I’m not saying that parents can give a child everything they want, or that it is desirable to do so, but in being kind to children as they face up to life’s inevitable disappointments, we can teach them to cope with frustration better. Moments of connection, of being seen and understood, are important to all of us.

Children will often feel differently than their parents might about any given situation, but it is important that their feelings, whatever they may be, are not dismissed. When our feelings are considered and validated, it helps our self-esteem and this is even more important for children as they develop and grow.

As a psychotherapist, I have sat with those coming to terms with both what they experienced, and what they didn’t, in childhood. A lot were frustrated that their parents never seemed curious about their lives. Some felt loved because their parents saw them as an extension of themselves but never felt their parents found them likeable. If you could redo your childhood, what would you wish for?

Almost all parents are good people, and yet too often they never really get to know their children, or their worlds, resulting in relationships where too much is hidden and where they are driven more often by a sense of duty than by love.

A child should know they are a priority and that they can show and share their feelings, that they are taken seriously. Monsters under the bed are not silly — they are a way of children showing their parents that they need them close, calm and accepting.

Children are not projects — something we get right or ruin — or chores to get through, but people to relate to. This is the crucial, most important thing for a parent to hold in mind. That what they need consciously to treasure, think about and work on is not so much their child, but their relationship with their child. It is nearly the same thing, but too often by focusing only on the child, parents cannot see how their own responses affect their offspring. They need to respond to each child as the individual they are, not to fall back on labels such as “the girl”, “the boy”, “the oldest”, “the youngest”, or generalisations about children.

Parents tend to be good at thinking about their children’s future and what opportunities they can create for them when choosing schools and setting targets, but it is even more important to be in the present with them — to see, understand and accept them where they are now. If parents go with what works for their child in the present, the future is often a lot easier.

One of the most important indicators for the good mental health of a child is a strong bond with their parents — a healthy, functioning relationship. But how do you make that attachment as rewarding as possible for both parties, and one that is most likely to create the capacity for a child’s happiness?

From the beginning, children are primed for dialogue. A parent and baby will naturally take turns with facial expressions and noises. This sort of interaction usually happens spontaneously, without even thinking about it. It’s the beginning of dialogue, of speech and of being mutually affected by each other.

These patterns of reciprocity are crucial. It is too easy to fall into a habit of just doing all the necessary things to the baby or to the children, such as cleaning and feeding them, rather than relating to them and being influenced by them. Which relationships frustrate you more than others? It is probably those where you feel you make no difference and feel unheard.

Children feel the same. If parents don’t let them in, don’t allow themselves to be altered by their children’s views, then their children are less likely to take in how the parents, in turn, want to influence them.

Personally, I did not find reciprocity as a parent an easy thing to do. Maybe because being listened to and considered was not an everyday experience for me as I was growing up. It was as though I often experienced my baby’s needs as a drain or too demanding. I had to work at reprogramming myself to respond to them in an attuned-to-the-baby way rather than seeing them as some sort of assault.

I think I had an unconscious belief that the adult had to be the “doer” and the child the “done-to”. We tend to do what was done to us, and in some cases it seems that our innate ability to respond naturally to our babies and children has been deadened by a culture that seems to be suspicious of the normal mammalian cries of an infant. It has also unfortunately become normal to believe that if a parent naturally, instinctively responds to their cries, we will invite some sort of catastrophe.

If we are not responded to naturally in a mutual, reciprocal way as infants and children, it can interfere with our innate responsiveness later in life. The late psychiatrist RD Laing referred to this inability to be affected by others as “diaphobia” — a fear of dialogue, reciprocity and being influenced.

For babies, children and indeed adults, being responded to is a need and the responses of a parent tend to mean a lot more to a person than attention from other sources. If parents habitually fail to respond to a child’s cries, glances or turn-taking games, there’s a danger of handing down to them a distorted pattern of how to form attachments and maintain relationships.

If you are a parent, and feel you may be diaphobic, do not admonish yourself, or be in denial about it, or be ashamed. When you recognise you are interrupting the natural process of give and take in your exchanges with your child, you can make the changes that will allow you to attune to them, like I had to.

It is easier to spot diaphobia in others than it is in ourselves, but parents should try to notice when they are avoiding contact with their baby, child, teenager or adult child. They should try to notice if they tend to talk at them rather than with them. They should try to practise being open and leaving space for them to talk or gesture, and concentrate more on observing and listening, rather than thinking about what their response will be or what they “should” be saying.

When parents slip up — and we all do — saying sorry is helpful. You can probably remember times in your own relationship with your parents when they didn’t believe you, or snapped at you out of the blue. Think of the power an apology would have — even perhaps if it came years later. It is natural on some level to idolise parents, so if children are misunderstood by them, they often blame themselves at the expense of their own confidence.

When I was talking about this, one parent asked me: “But isn’t it always necessary to be right with children, so that they feel secure?” The answer is no. It is important instead that parents are real and authentic, so that they don’t interfere with their children’s instincts.

A child will know when their parents are not in tune with them or with what’s happening and if parents pretend otherwise, they are dulling their child’s instincts. Instinct is a major component of confidence, competence and intelligence, so it’s a good idea not to warp a child’s.

We are all busy and, these days, not only are both parents likely to work, they may even have to do more than one job each. There’s a feeling of getting left behind, having to keep up. It is true for most children that you can delegate some minding of them to relatives or paid helpers, but what is true for all is that you cannot delegate the everyday love they need from their primary attachment figures, also known as parents. Children won’t form on their own like seedlings; they form in relationship with others.

Being a parent is time-consuming. Where possible, it is better to invest that time positively by pre-empting problems rather than negatively after they have arisen. When a parent goes too fast for the pace of their child instead of respecting their rhythms of give and take, when they live too much in the future and what needs to get done rather than being with them in the present, they risk storing up trouble that is going to take even longer to untangle and repair.

Children are our most important resource. We should invest time in them, be present for them, enter their world and let them be part of ours. After all, a child’s relationship with their parents is the blueprint for how they will form relationships for the rest of their lives. These should ideally be based on mutual trust and respect, authenticity, co-operation, collaboration and love — rather than manipulation, winning and losing, and duty — both for now and for the sake of all our futures.

Philippa Perry is a psychotherapist, author and broadcaster. Her book “The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will be Glad That You Did)” is published by Penguin Life

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