When you matter to someone, and they matter to you there is a mutual influence such that each person’s actions will be symmetrically responsive to the other. So, what happens when a parent no longer believe they matter to their child? This question is addressed by authors Beckers, Jakob and Schreiter (2021) who identify this as a crucial dimension when working with children and families using principles of Non-Violent Resistance. This approach, originally proposed by Omar in 2004 uses a set of practices derived from social activists’ movements which coaches parents to apply the methods with an enhanced socio-relational network to support them. However, the authors suggest a fourth connective dimension is required for therapeutic success. This is ‘the parent’s felt need to engage with their child in a caring capacity within a reciprocal process, referred to as a caring dialogue’ which requires ‘rekindling’ for many parents and children. Without this interpersonal connectedness derived from an assurance of relevance to a child it is hard to exercise the ‘parental presence’ necessary to exert appropriate parental authority. ‘When the child shows reduced responsiveness to parental care efforts, and the parent no longer experiences reciprocity, their sense of mattering or relational agency in the relationship will become eroded—and with it, a significant aspect of the parent’s sense of self’.
The authors suggest imaginary methods using embodied visualization and future time orientation where the parent experiences themselves as needed by their child. This is a co-imagining process where the practitioner opens space for the client’s imagining while also offering their own imagery to create a richer dialogic process. The invention of positive expectations can create a virtuous cycle whereby a parent becomes more attuned to the child showing vulnerability and responsiveness to caregiving efforts and responds to these, which in turn makes it more likely that the child will generate more of this behaviour. This only requires a shift in the parent to support them to transition to a mindset in which they feel a stronger sense of mattering to their child and in doing so more effectively raise their presence, feel emotionally connected and eventually engage in dialogue.
Willem Beckers, W. Jakob, Schreiter, M. (2021) Mattering and parental presence in systemic therapy using nonviolent resistance: The utilization of imaginary methods Family Process https://doi.org/10.1111/famp.12694