Questions and Answers
Question #20


Questions and Answers

Questions and Answers


Question # 20

My 14-year-old daughter was diagnosed with NLD when she was 8 years of age. She and I have been seeing a psychotherapist for the last 2 years. The psychotherapist has suggested that I have "overprotected" her. Does this mean that I am to blame for my child's maladaptive behaviour?

When some psychotherapists see a combination of immature/maladaptive behaviour in a child coupled with very deep concern about the child on the part of the parent, they make the inference that the child's lack of competence is due to "overprotection" by the parent. The rationale for this: The insecure/neurotic parent has been so concerned with protecting the child from harm that the child has never been exposed to the quantity and quality of experiences that would ordinarily be expected to lead to age-appropriate competencies. Although this may be the case for some parent-child interactions, it is rarely so for parents of children with NLD.

Indeed, it is usually the parent who first notices the child's lack of age-appropriate skill-development, and who may be the only one with a full appreciation of this situation. For example, the parent knows that his14-year-old daughter would get lost trying to walk around the block; that she cannot ride a bicycle; that she alienates other children who try to befriend her.

Parents of children with NLD are often told that they should "ease up" in the care of their children; that they should try to be less "compulsive" in their care. It is understandable that parents feel quite bad about this, and begin to accuse themselves of being the authors of their child's lack of competencies. This is a double tragedy, because the parent is often the only one who appreciates the child's behavioural and psychosocial shortcomings and "easing up" on their child will usually have very counterproductive results.

Rather than accusing the parent of being the source of the child's difficulties, the psychotherapist should listen long and hard to the descriptions of the nonadaptive behaviour exhibited by the child since his/her earliest years. This should lead the competent therapist to the conclusion that the parent is trying to compensate for the child's problems. These attempts arise out of a genuine and completely normal/appropriate concern for the child's welfare. The attempts may, however, be appropriate or inappropriate. But, the positive guidance that such efforts offer for the therapist is manifold. For example, such long-standing efforts at intervention by the parent merely need to be altered so that the child will benefit thereby. Encouraging guilt in the parent will not assist such efforts. Indeed, the parent may arrive at the conclusion that he/she can do nothing appropriate to help the child. Nothing could be worse for the child than this very unfortunate outcome.

An Effective Strategy. The objective of therapy in these cases is to discuss with the parent what supports are needed and ways to gradually fade (diminish) these supports to help the child become more independent. Simply "backing off" creates further and unnecessary challenges. The goal is to provide enough support to ensure success while teaching skills so that the supports can be gradually removed. The parent and therapist should collaborate in this process.

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