Parent-Child Relationships
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26. Parent-Child Relationships

Little Girl PaintingThe Personality Traffic Light terms the early childhood as an ego state in examining parent-child relationships. The child's reaction is, however, significant in the personalities of both adults and children. Dr. Eric Berne (1910-1970), who developed this analytic tool, wrote, "The child is in many ways the most valuable part of the personality, and can contribute to the individual's life exactly what an actual child can contribute to family life that is charm, pleasure, and creativity." When Jesus first met the woman at the well, he employed the child ego state in the parent-child relationship to open the conversation in John 4.7 with the simple question, "Give me a drink of water." Interestingly, the natural child's spontaneous expression sometimes appears in a drunken adult or someone high on drugs. "Usually, excessive alcohol decommissions the parent first so that the child is freed in the parent/child relationship and changed into the natural child." So the intoxicated adult tries to do tricks, cries or laughs uncontrollably and doesn't care what people think about them. People who drink excessively or use drugs often have a deep desire for Godly satisfaction in their own life, yet cannot seem to work this out logically. No counseling chain of Bible verses will help them; they have to come to God as a little child as in a loving parent/child relationship.

Good Shepherd

Jesus the Good ShepherdParenting actual children means developing significant relationships with a child. To the child in all of us, Jesus becomes a friend, a parent, a healer, a comforter, even a life partner when we become a Christian. He becomes at different times a Good Shepherd, the Bread of Life, the Vine, or the Living Water depending upon our need. Jesus said in Matthew 11.28-29, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Some of us may have a logical grasp on the way of salvation, but unless we gain something of the child as well, it could turn out to be merely a cold intellectualism. Didn't Jesus say that unless one became like a little child, one could not enter the kingdom of heaven?


Person teaches two childrenThe "parent" in each one of us has two primary and different functions. First, the parent enables an individual to raise actual children, thus promoting the human race's survival. Secondly, the parent in us saves us a good deal of time and energy by making many automatic responses in everyday experiences. When we tell someone loudly and firmly, "Don't touch!" they instinctively pull their hand away from whatever it was that was a danger. God has given us parenting skills to free up a person from the necessity of making innumerable trivial decisions over and over again. It allows them to use either the more productive logical Adult functions or emotive Child functions more fully.

Subconscious Level

Power SwitchThe logical parent trait comes to bear in the human personality at the subconscious level in the parent/child relationship. The logical parent trait can present problems in a Christian witnessing situation. Their parents have taught some people never to discuss religion. When anyone mentions faith, their "logical parent traits" mechanism shuts down the thought patterns and emotions to automatically change the subject or switch off their minds altogether. This block prevents the "adult" or the "child" response and is an objection to thinking through a topic. The best approach is to search in the child's area for an emotional response to God and work with that. There is always the danger of the fuse blowing once you mention God, but the Holy Spirit can break through subconsciously when human resources fail.

Adult Response

LogicWe may see the three responses of child, adult, or parent quite clearly in how people relate to God. The "adult" is seen in the verse to verse counseling chains and Bible exposition and appeals to the logical parent traits in all of us. The "child" comes out in the emotional hymn or the quietly repetitive or meditational prayer. The "parent" is evident when someone says, "But our parents always taught us to do it this way," perhaps because a minister or parent had said so! So we can see that by understanding our natural responses more clearly, we may be better able to lead someone to faith who would otherwise not find it.

"Parent-Child Relationships"
by Ron Meacock © 1982-2021

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