Parenting the inner child

photo of Gwen Randall-Young

by Gwen Randall-Young

The concept of the “inner child” can be very useful in understanding our feelings and behaviors

Essentially, the concept refers to that aspect of our personality that still operates from the perspective of the child we once were.

There are many other aspects of our personalities, such as the inner critic, judge, competitor, nurturer, controller, fixer and so on. Different aspects come out at different times and in different situations.

The inner child can be problematic when we do not recognize his or her presence in our feelings or behaviors. Young children are egocentric, seeing the events in their lives only from their own perspective. If they don’t get what they want, for example, they may conclude that we do not love them or that we are being unfair. They are unable to see much beyond their own needs. The same thing happens for us when something triggers our inner child. The adult part of us may understand that our partner cannot spend time with us because something came up at work, but the inner child only sees that work was put ahead of him or her. The reaction may be one of anger or withdrawal, and attempts to make the partner feel guilty.

The adult part of us may understand that someone else received the promotion due to superior skills or experience, but the inner child feels that the boss likes the other person more, and feels personally rejected. If we can think through these situations and realize that the inner child is operating, we can often put things back into perspective. However, sometimes the inner child has remained such an integral part of our personality that we do not see how it is operating and creating difficulty in our relationships.

If you felt constantly criticized as a child, you may interpret any suggestions or feedback as criticism, and instantly become angry. If you felt rejected or abandoned as a child, you may become intensely anxious if a partner goes out for a while to cool off during an argument. If you felt a lot of rivalry with a sibling, you may find yourself feeling competitive with friends or neighbors. If we are coming from the perspective of our inner child, it is difficult to solve problems because upset children rarely hear what adults are trying to say.

If two people are dealing with an issue and both of their inner children are activated, things become heated and irrational very quickly. If we can recognize the voice of our inner child, we can take the time to calm that one down, and try to reconnect with our mature, adult self.

Trying to solve a problem from the perspective of the inner child generally creates more problems than it solves.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. To read more articles, or to order books, “Deep Powerful Change” Hypnosis MP3s, or MP3s for Creating Effective Relationships, visit or check out her Facebook inspirational page.

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