In my therapeutic practice and consultation with parents the topic of how to handle ongoing 'requests' is a recurrent theme. Incessant demands from our kids can drive us parents crazy. The more we seem to give the child, the more the child seems to be asking for, demanding. The demands of the child never stop. This can be very frustrating for the parent as the parent feels that the things he gives the child with so much love, are not really appreciated and valued. It can go so far that the parent himself feels not valued, appreciated, 'used' by the child.
This unfortunate situation has something to do with a profound misunderstanding between adult and child. The parent becomes exhausted by the demands of the child, because he or she takes the demand at face value. He or she thinks that the child 'really wants' the object he demands. Then why is he or she not satisfied when I give what he asks for... However, what we ask for is not necessarily what we want.
I think of the mother of a teenage girl who came to me exhausted and hurt by the demands of her daughter. She had sacrificed so much for her daughter, had given so many things to her that she could not really afford, and still the daughter was not satisfied. In the treatment the girl was able to tell the mother that she actually wanted her mother to say no, when she asked for yet another new gadget. A 5 year old girl who was doted on by one of her parents told me: 'When it is given to you, you don't want it anymore.' Often, the asked for object, once received, turns to waste and we need a new thing 'to want.' What our children 'really want' from us is to be supported in this dimension of 'wanting.' More than 'being given' things they want, they want to be supported in developing 'their own desires.'
This is why a child can be much more satisfied with a 'conversation' about a desired object, than with being given the object. The conversation 'sustains' his or her desire, humanizes it. It allows for the gratification to be postponed, In the course of the conversation the child will feel 'recognized,' 'valued.' And the connection with the parent deepens, to great satisfaction of both.
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