The Most Important Role of Your Life!
by Ron Huxley
Parenting, without a doubt, is the most important role
anyone can play. Very few parents will challenge that
statement. More often, the questions parents ask include:
"What role do I play in my family?" or "How do I change my
role if I don't like it?" Are you the hero? The sinister villain?
Do you feel like you are just an "extra" in the movie of your
own family?

Most parents are unhappy with the characters they play in
their families because they are too extreme. On the one
hand, they might play the part of the policeman, judge, or
jury in a continual courtroom drama of parents against
children. On the other hand, their parenting may be the
portrayal of a victim or martyr. In either case, these
personifications are unbalanced and unsatisfying roles.

A more satisfying role might be one of a teacher or guide.
The motivation of this part is to run the household with an
authoritative hand versus a strict authoritarian one. The
latter part encourages children to be submissive and do
what they are told when they are told to do it but teaches
them nothing, in terms of inner discipline. The former role
teaches children to be self-responsible and follow the
example of the parents in attitude and action. There is no
"Do what I say, not what I do" lines in this play. Wouldn't it
be fun to enact a drama where supporting characters, in
the family, are truly supportive and give one another
respect? Sound like a fairy tale? It's not! Here are three
techniques that directors (parents) can use to redefine their
roles and help their little actors (children) achieve the
performance of a lifetime.

"Rewriting the script"

Parents can ask themselves how they can change their
roles in the negative scripts they are playing with their
children. What are the issues that create the most negative
interactions? What are occasions that negative interaction
take place most frequently? What are the places that seem
to invite family members to make the most negative
interactions? Who are the people most likely to be involved
in the negative script? And, what are the times that these
problem behaviors occur most often? If parents are not the
first one to start a negative interaction, what role do they
play in responding or reacting to the other person?

"Acting As If."

One way to change a parent's role is to challenge their
belief systems about what it means to be a "good" or "bad"
parent. Another way is to change the behavior that goes
along with it. Parents may feel they cannot change their
beliefs or are still unable to identify their role. In this case
study, parents will find it easier to change their behaviors
by "acting as if."

"Acting as if" is a way that parents can change their
parenting roles into that of a teacher or guide by acting as
if they are a teacher or guide. Even when they do not feel
like they have anything to teach or that they are not a
suitable guide, they can "act as if" they do. They do not
have to believe it to act like it. The reality is that parents are
already teaching their child something. "Acting as if" is
simply doing what parents are already doing but in a more
positive manner. For example, when a teenager gets upset
at their parent for not getting to stay out later then the
parent feels is reasonable, the parent can "act as if" they
are not upset by their teenager's tantrums and act firm and
consistent instead of getting into a verbal battle. Likewise,
when a two year old throws a tantrum in the store, the
parent can "act as if" their child is not embarrassing them in
front of everybody, and perform their balanced parenting
duties in the way they need to - with love and limits.

Children will not expect this change in behavior. They will
expect the parent to act in the familiar ways that they have
always acted in the past. They view the parent much like a
robot. Wind mom or dad up and they will respond in the
same fashion every time. Right? Not anymore! At least not
anymore now that parents can "act as if" things are
different. What they will find by doing something different,
from what the child expects the parent to do, is that they
have changed the script they continually play out with the
teenager or the two-year-old. By "acting as if" parents can
rewrite their roles as well as the sequence of events in the
negative scripts they act out with their child. As a result,
parents will create a different ending to their parent/child
scripts to one that is more positive and balanced.

"Doing a 180."

Parents who find themselves participating in negative
interactions, whether they started it or not, can reverse this
trend by "doing a 180." Another way of saying this is "do
the opposite" of what parents are currently doing and not
finding very effective. If, for instance, the parent discovers
that they raise their voice with a particular child over a
specific issue during a peculiar time of the day, then that
parent can try "doing a 180." Instead they can strive to
lower their voice, change the issue, or discuss it at a
different time of day. Or, if a parent finds that they tend to
be more tired and grumpy at the end of the day or their
child more moody in the morning, try reducing the overall
interaction with that person during that time. Use humor by
putting up a storm warning sign on the refrigerator or a
grumpy person crossing sign in the hallway. Parents can try
doing the opposite of what they would normally do in a
given situation and break the stronghold that the negative
scripts have on the family. "Doing a 180," like "acting as if,"
introduces a novel stimulus to a negative situation and
thereby reverses its negative course.

While these three techniques won't change every family
story, they will redefine the roles parents are playing on the
stage of their own life and allow them to find more enjoyable
parts to play. Taking the lead role in the family is crucial if
parents are to rewrite their family scripts. A bit part or
standing on the sidelines is not the place for parents who
want more than a small part in a comedic tragedy called
"My Family." Take direct action and change your roles and
your family story.
Anger Management Groups
led by Dr. Lyle Becourtney, licensed psychologist
Anger Management Groups
led by Dr. Lyle Becourtney, licensed psychologist
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