My mind wanders back to the time period when our
then third grade son experienced anxiety that interfered with
his and our family’s everyday life. I rejected the gentle prodding
of his counselor to look at my role in this troubling dynamic. I
preferred to make my son a scapegoat. This was his problem.
I wasn’t ready to own my part.
The reality is that in a family, we are all intimately
tangled up together. The way that I as a parent respond to and
approach the world affects my children, their felt safety, and
the way that they respond and behave in the world. If I adhere
to an a+b=c formulaic parenting method and one of our kids
isn’t jiving with this formula, the temptation is to cast blame
onto them. How can I ask a child to own responsibility for her
own behavior if I am not willing to do so myself? I am the
adult. The burden is on me.
Over the years as different members of our family
moved in and out of the offices of various mental health
professionals, I heard a recurring term - the “identified client.”
This is a code word for “the kid whose behavior is wreaking
havoc within the family and got this family into my office.”
One child therapist told me that with most families, once she
begins to gently push on the idea that the parents are also in
need of professional counsel and change, they disappear. As I
began to comprehend the subtle message that the therapists
were communicating, I felt defensive. “Is she saying that I am
making my kid a scapegoat?” “Do I need to be the client?”
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