Posted by: coachingparents | September 4, 2007


By Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D.

Last night, my wife and I became grandparents…again.  Born to our
son and daughter-in-law was a healthy 7 lb.-11 oz. baby girl named
Alexandra.  Her parents will spend the next 48 hours alone (without
their 2 other young children…both boys) with her.  The purpose was
to strengthen their marital bond, their parental bond, and the
emotional bond with their new baby.  A great idea!

Most of the psychological/behavioral malfunctioning in families
comes from the notion that “children should always come first.”
Perhaps this sounds like heresy, but during the past 30+ years of
working with troubled families, I have come to believe that making the children the center of a family, creates a general atmosphere wherein nobody emotionally thrives.

Some of the difficulties resulting from viewing the children as the
center of the family are:

  • Children are blamed for family-troubles.
  • Parents develop the expectation that the children should address the emotional needs of the parents rather than vice versa.
  • Children are given responsibility beyond their maturational
    capability and thereby feel guilty when they can’t fulfill that
  • Parents react to their children, rather than acting out of what they judge to be the best interests of the family.  Their lifestyle becomes based upon accommodating the children.
  • Parents punish children for their behavior (usually what the child does in imitation of the parents), rather than teach them by example,to behave in acceptable ways.
  • The parent/child relationship develops into an adversarial one, rather than a cooperative one that would develop a sense of teamwork
  • Obedience of “the rules” becomes the primary target of parent/child interactions, rather than the emotional health of the child, or the skill-development of the child to fulfill her own hopes and dreams.
  • Conflicts become power-struggles, rather than the crucibles for
    creative new habits to develop.
  • Conformity to parental wishes is the object of discipline, rather
    than the welfare of the child, or the child’s best interests.

The list of difficulties could go on, but I want to propose some
alternatives to the consequences of having a child-centered family.

Psychologically healthy children, and families, come from healthy
parental relationships.  When the relationship between the grown-ups in the family is emotionally satisfying, the children within the
boundaries of that relationship develop healthily.  This does not mean
you stop caring for the needs of the children if they, in truth cannot
care for themselves.  It does mean that the best thing you can do for
your child’s emotional health is to make certain of your own
psychological health within the co-parental relationship.  When you
love each other, the child feels loved as well.  When you invite the
child to join your fulfilling relationship, the child feels secure,
develops a sense of belonging, and will want to behave in ways that
are approved of by the parents.

When a family is marriage-centered, children are shown where they “fit” into the relationships of the family; learn to trust the
parents; can count on parent dependability; learn and practice the
skills they see in their parents’ relationship; and feel free to
become truly “themselves.”

In a parental relationship-centered family, parents expect emotional fulfillment from their partner rather than from the children; take responsibility for the well-being of the family, rather than lookinto the children to determine it; develop and demonstrate the behavior they wish their children to learn, rather than talking about it without doing it; and the list could go on.

Learn how to be a good spouse first.  Then design a parental
relationship that is enjoyed by both partners, and then invite the
children to join you in that lifestyle.  Do all that, and you have
created a very happy, healthy family.  Alexandra, welcome to the


Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D. has 30+ years experience as a Life Coach and
Licensed Psychologist.  He is available for coaching in any area
presented in “Practical Psychology.”  Initial coaching sessions are
free.  Contact him: (970) 568-0173 or E-mail: or

Dr. Thomas is a licensed psychologist, author, speaker, and life
coach.  He serves on the faculty of the International University of
Professional Studies. He recently co-authored (with Patrick Williams)
the book: “Total Life Coaching: 50+ Life Lessons, Skills and
Techniques for Enhancing Your Practice…and Your Life!” (W.W. Norton 2005) It is available at your local bookstore or on

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Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D.
3421 Polk Circle West
Wellington, CO 80549


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