From Theory to Application... A Tribute to the MC Family
Updated: Sep 28
The “nuclear” family is a tired construct.
What makes you say that?
The concept's illustration of family fails to capture so much. The dynamic that exists between family members is as unique as a fingerprint. I do not believe in this thing we call, “familial norms.”
A point that requires emphasis: Members of your family are the single most influential people to shape your development — in their presence or in their absence.
Whether you are, or are not, a moderate to high-functioning adult, who has any sense of autonomy and direction, you can largely thank your family for how you‘ve fared.
[Cue heated debates now].
The degree of importance that I attribute to family is one of the revelations that I owe to the “MC family.”
Who is the “MC family?”
The individuals that allowed me the opportunity to bridge theory with application, by allowing me into their home and into their lives.
PARIS DE MES RÊVES (PARIS OF MY DREAMS)
I arrived to Paris with a pocket full of dreams and ambitions, adamant that I would only invest my energy in areas that I was passionate about. I also came to Paris with a project weighing heavily on my mind.
I needed hands-on experience to gain credibility and to really bring my project to life. I reached out to a childcare agency and let them know that while I was unable to commit as a full-time employee, since I was recruiting for full-time roles with various consulting firms, I still wanted the opportunity to work with children. I wanted to get a sense of the impact that my program might have on a child’s overall development. They agreed and the journey commenced.
In the months that followed, I had never invested so much emotional energy into the well-being and cognitive development of another human. “The little guy” was power. I would come in to work with him, harnessing every cognitive behavioural theory in my arsenal. The theory, however, when manifest in reality, gave a flavour and a colouring that no textbook could provide.
As I used methodology after methodology, theory after theory, to help orient his behaviour and sometimes even manipulate his behaviour, I realized very quickly that I was out of my element. I would go home completely drained from the amount of energy and effort that moulding and shaping his development required.
I started to get the sense that my theories and academic know-how were not chalking up to my expectations… I started to feel that I lacked core competencies when it came to real life childcare. My progress felt incremental. I felt real remorse for the hypercritical, judgmental commentary I had made to my sister regarding her childrearing abilities - I only worked with "the little guy" a few hours a day and I still felt like I was drowning.
Instead of admitting defeat, I broadened my scope to include his parents. I leveraged their insight to help me to reorient and support their son. I knew the “what,” but they unlocked the “how,” in terms of what I could do to more effectively engage and interact with “the little guy.” Which is a crucial point.
MOMENT OF CLARITY
Psychology, cognitive behavioural or otherwise, is a soft science. There are no hard rules when we reference the general psychology of an otherwise healthy demographic. All of us “normal” people have some maladaptive behaviours, or certain degrees of social deviancy – it doesn’t mean that we’re two stops off to the looney house. It’s just the way of life.
People fail to recognize the degree of relativity that is involved when trying to identify and support someone‘s shift from one behaviour pattern to another. Establishing someone’s baseline to then decide how “healthy” or how “normal” an individual’s behaviour might currently be, is a huge amount of responsibility. Snap judgments are not allowed.
I believe and know that for real change, for a truly effective intervention, you need to establish a connection. The trust and ensuing disclosure provides professionals with a real sense of an individual’s baseline, what is necessary to help them shift. You need to know the person.
The “little guy’s” parents had a power that I did not, in that they knew their son, and therefore held the key that helped me to identify where my tools were effective, within a limited period of time.
All the academia in the world would not help me know the “little guy” specifically. To reach him in the way that I needed to for the impact to take place. That takes time, iteration, experience and intuition. Only once I created an alliance and partnership with his parents, did I see a shift in his behaviour and in my interactions with him.
Working with his parents helped me to recognize the deep-level significance that the support of his parents played into his receptiveness, responsiveness, development, and his overall sense of well-being.
This was a real moment of clarity.
Intentionally or otherwise, a lot of societal norms have downplayed a parent’s role in moulding and developing their own children. The experts and professionals somehow think that their knowledge and years of academic research make them better qualified than the parent, to intervene on a child’s behalf. This is false.
Project Purpose is built on two fundamental principles that I have applied in practice:
1) You must establish a connection and foster trust in a relationship for any hope of a successful and sustainable intervention
2) The parent’s involvement is absolutely necessary
A parent’s individual orientation toward their individual child isn’t explicitly detailed in academia, because at the end of the day, parent’s orientations to their children are human orientations to other humans. We codify and classify as much as we can, but we can’t always get the dynamic perfectly right.
Also, there isn’t always a parent-child dynamic interplaying the interactions between parents and their kids. Sometimes it’s just the personalities in the room interacting, both parties forgetting who’s the child and who’s the parent. Families are an assembly of flawed people who are committed to each other, whether it be by love, blood, genes, or legal ties.
How someone you consider family treats you, impacts you. How a parent treats you, shifts the very core of who you are, or are meant to be.
The degree of influence that your family members have on your development and wellbeing are grossly overlooked and undervalued.
To have the impact that I’m hoping the program will create, we need to put the family back on the pedestal.
Check out my thesis: ADHD Does it have a Neurophysiological Basis or is it a Social Construct?