Tag Archives: individuation

The Dangers of the ‘Mini-Me’

On Individuation
“I don’t know where she gets it from…” “He is just like me.” Familiar phrases I hear from parents.

Two year-olds have to learn to say “no” before they can say “yes.” The “no” of the 2-year-old is a crucial component of the development of self. When their “no” is accepted, it makes it possible for the child to begin feeling authorship of their “yes.”

“Yes” is a nod to the self, to one’s desires, needs, and drive toward autonomy. The period between leaving childhood and entering adolescence is an interesting time fraught with many hurdles, successes and challenges. In this mix is the desire to express individuality. According to Jungian psychology, this is individuation, and relates to the individual’s personality differentiating from others. Specifically, it is related to the ‘separating’ or individuating from one’s parents, and during adolescence it takes on particular importance. This means the child is given space to question and even change the rules, as they move toward “yes,” i.e., developing their identity as autonomous adults.

According to clinical psychologist Dr. Shefali Tsabary, the conscious parent understands that children are not possessions; they are expressive, free-thinking individuals with their own spirit and interests. “They are not ours to possess, to control and dominate, and to act as if they are our puppets, our minions, our products,” Dr. Shefali says.

Pitfalls in individuation:
Parentification is a role reversal where the parent gets the child to take care of the parent. The parent raises the child to care for the parent’s physical and emotional needs, rather than exploring the child’s needs.
Instead: The importance of self-care, balanced with being able to accept the care of others.

Criticism violates a sense of worth. It can lead to kids who second-guess themselves and constantly seek the approval of others.

Instead: Having positive self-regard and liking who you are.

Possessiveness violates a sense of autonomy; a possessive parent undermines the natural desire to explore who the child is, away from the parent.

Instead: Making personal choices and decisions and understanding the consequences, both positive and negative.

Dependence violates a sense of agency. A child needs to learn they have self-advocacy, a capacity to create change in their lives, no matter the struggle.

Instead: Being your own advocate, which includes asking for help as needed.

Unpredictability violates a sense of security. When you can’t trust your primary caregiver, it teaches you that you cannot trust anyone else, which makes the world seem dangerous.

Instead: Taking responsibility for and living with one’s own choices, the good and bad ones alike. 

Rescuing violates a sense of healthy collaboration. The parent indulges and “saves” a child from any form of pain. Instead of teaching them how to process the reality of limits, the parent encourages their child to see themselves as someone who needs rescue or indulgence.

Instead:  I take care of myself, and also enjoy working with others.

We cannot really change a child to be more like us, or more like we want them to be. We can lead them, guide them and encourage them to a degree, but we must allow for the part of them that we may not recognise, or even understand. So, the next time you feel that your child is behaving in a way that ‘you just don’t know where they get it from.’

They get it from themself.

Embolden Psychology

Embolden offers the ADOS-2, the gold standard assessment for kids on the spectrum.

Combined with psychoeducational testing, it helps provide comprehensive information and recommendations to help children and teens six and up.

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