Every one of us wants to set our children up for success. Cruelly, however, there’s literally no chance of us not messing up our kids at least a little. In fact, without messing them up a little we won’t give them what they properly need to successfully launch from the comfort of our respective bosoms. So I’m proposing some simple steps a parent can take to assure that his/her child has the right level and style of dysfunction to be a compelling listen for even the most disinterested therapist.
The feeling of satisfaction you receive from making your therapist giggle or smirk or simply stay awake for the entirety of countless 45 minute sets of your best material is indescribable. I have never been cheered by throngs of devoted fans living just to be in my presence, but I have to imagine it feels exactly the same as getting a hard-won guffaw from your therapist. I owe it to my kids to provide them with enough hangups and dysfunctions to experience this tremendous feeling of accomplishment.
By my reckoning, there are an infinite number of ways that good parents–even the best ones–can go about messing
with up their kids without truly impinging upon their chances for success. Let’s start from the start:
1. Hold On Desperately – How else will they know you love them without the smothering attention of desperate people unwilling to let go of anything? Example: Force feed pacifiers for months after they naturally want to let them go. Pro Tip: Sneak it in while they sleep. They’ll appreciate it comes from a place of love. By starting early, you won’t have to change directions later when they want to start dating or drinking coffee. It’s a precedent setter.
2. Potty Train When You KNOW They’re Ready – Like, 4 or 5 years old. Sure. It’ll be a pain, but just think of the material they’ll be able to give that shrink when they have actual memories of lying in the back seat on warm summer days having their diaper changed. I should note, we have not employed this method. Don’t ask me how I know about this.
3. Stare At Your Phone While They Yell – We live in magical times. This strategy is one our parents couldn’t employ without the help of company or a truly, grippingly inappropriate program on the television. I do this one on a daily basis. And I don’t ignore them forever, I just let the volume rise until I have to shout at them that I hear them, despite the obvious fact that I’ve been ignoring the escalating screams to read Facebook updates for as long as three minutes. It’s this kind of unfair overreaction that will garner them the empathy of their future therapist. This empathy is the foundational building block of transference, which is the real goal of every therapeutic relationship, right?
4. Throw Out Every 10th Art Project – This one’s pretty obvious. Let’s face it, they’re not all keepers. This will be hard to do the first time around but will become remarkably easy. You don’t even have to draw attention to it. Your casual dismissal will be even more effective in making them crave your approval in a way that you can never fully satisfy. That’s a job for future shrink. Be on the lookout for pattern recognition. Switch up the interval of your dismissal when you change your clocks.
5. Express Unconditional Love at Unexpected Times – At the threshold of every life transition (Graduation from kindergarten, first grade, second grade, etc. through college) remind them that it’s okay to fail. That they can choose to stay right where they are, not evolve or challenge themselves and you’ll love them just the same. This is just the kind of confusing response to success that will both reinforce that they are loved and that there are no expectations on them, running counter to every message you and anyone else ever sends!
These are little things you can do to ensure that your child has the ability to keep their therapist not just awake, but filled with validating, life affirming mirth as the transference they build together eventually fills the holes that are left in everyone who has made the treacherous journey from child to adult.
Trust me, they’ll thank you for it in the end!