Read

Treats and Tantrums: Is your inner child running your life?

I like to think of myself as a mature adult. However, I know I make decisions and have reactions that are shall we say, are not the most mature option available.

I have come to understand how all too frequently it is either my inner child or inner teenager actually ‘running’ parts of my life like my dating and relating, or my finances. 

Play and fun

Of course the smaller voices, the vulnerable as well as joyous, playful parts of the child are present within all of us. There is great beauty in the innocence and even some of the scheming of the inner teenager who really just wants to have fun!

I don’t want to stifle these parts of myself, but I do want to know they are not making critical decisions in my life. Therefore, it is useful to have some awareness and discernment of when they have the ‘wheel’ steering my life at any moment. Otherwise, a crash is usually just around the corner no matter how much hooning along my child or teenage parts think the rules don’t apply to them and they can ‘get away with it’.

Treats, tantrums & relationships 

Any time I catch myself deciding I need ‘treats’ or deserve a reward, I am guaranteed that my inner child is all up in it.

In dating and relating you may find yourself throwing a ‘tantrum’ (inner child), being sulky (inner child),  storming off (inner teenager) or feeling and more likely saying it is all so ‘unfair’ (inner teenager) when you don’t get your way.

I know my inner child is always looking for the unconditional love of a parent, which is great if I can offer that to myself and very problematic if I expect my lover, friends or colleagues to always provide it.  If your inner teenager is doing your dating and relating then you may find you have very unrealistic and often unspoken expectations about how your lover should treat you like a ‘princess’, and instead complain about how they are failing to meet your needs.

Does your inner teenager have your credit card?

If my inner child or inner teenager is managing my budget, then I am guaranteed to be spending big, overspending and not putting things away for that ‘rainy’ day’. After all to my inner child a rainy day sounds like play!

If any part of you looks at your credit capacity or thinks credit is ‘free money’, then it’s probably your inner child managing it. If your relationship with credit is that you know you will have to pay later (awareness of how credit cards work), but really want that dress now because you deserve it, then it is highly likely your inner teenager is feeling very entitled to a spending spree.

When you make decisions from these younger parts within, you may find yourself avoiding your adult responsibilities, or become overwhelmed feeling life is too hard! And for these younger parts of you it is too hard.

So what does a mature adult look like?

The great thing about operating from your mature adult is that she/he has the power to make responsible decisions and has a lot more options. The mature adult knows when to ask for help, who can help or at least how to find someone to help. Life can in fact become a lot less stressful because you are no longer ‘hiding out’ or using old coping mechanisms to manage your relationships and indeed your life.

Here are some quick tips to identify who is driving and at the ‘wheel’ of your decision making.

Firstly, in any moment it is good to simply pause and ask “How old do I feel?”. 

The inner child:

  • looks to negotiate treats for any task
  • is often looking for and expecting unconditional love
  • worries about being abandoned or feeling neglected in relationships
  • worries about getting in trouble.

  The inner teenager 

  • feels ‘entitled’ to things or having their way and often schemes about how to get their way
  • blames others for ‘how they make you feel’
  • wants to win the argument, rather than accept we all have different views
  • puts up a wall (i.e. withdraws, punishes or argues vehemently) rather than negotiating a boundary in relationships

  The mature adult 

  • has robust and healthy boundaries with others which are not overcome by other people’s tantrums
  • can handle other people having different views without needing to be right and arguing to ‘win’
  • can set a boundary and be considerate of others but not make decisions based on whether they will be liked or not
  • can hold someone accountable for their actions and be responsive to others but not try to ‘manage’ them, or dominate them

What to do?

Pay attention when you find yourself in any of these loops and ask:

  • Do I need to take better care of myself?
  • Am I over-working, over-eating, not getting enough sleep, not enjoying enough play in my life?
  • Do I need to be a bit more mature and just do the things that need to be done?

The mature adult within might be the least the familiar to you because your inner child and teenager have been making all your decisions. You initially find it difficult to identify your inner adult. Like real children, your inner child and teenager can be very noisy, boisterous and demanding of your attention. Your mature adult can often be the quiet still voice of reason. You will be able to talk to these smaller parts within, with care, attention and reason. The mature adult within can make the big decisions and reassure our smaller selves that they will be safe, loved and cared for.