Three Amazing Ways You Can Re-Parent Yourself

The First Way – Compassionate Responsibility

In my office, I’ve heard from clients stories of broken phones, punched walls, and even bent steering wheels. All in the name of anger.

At themselves.

For making a mistake.

What You Didn’t Get

When a parent sits down with a child who has behaved badly, used poor judgment, or made a mistake, and says, “Let’s figure out what happened,” that parent is teaching her (or his) child Compassionate Responsibility.

e833b5092cf0013ecd0b470de7444e90fe76e6d21db7124997f2c3_640_parents-and-childBut many parents don’t know that it’s their job to teach their child how to process a mistake; how to sift through what happened and sort out what part of it belongs to circumstances, and what part belongs to the child. What can we learn from this? What should you do differently next time?

There is a balance between all of these factors which must be understood. The parent holds the child accountable, but also helps him (or her) understand himself and have compassion for himself and his mistake.

What To Give Yourself

If your parents were too hard or too easy on you for mistakes, or failed to notice them at all, it’s not too late for you now. You can learn Compassionate Responsibility today. Follow these steps when you make a mistake.

  1. Remind yourself that you are human, and humans are not perfect. Everyone makes mistakes.
  2. Think through the situation. What went wrong? Are there things you should have known, or realized, or thought about? Those are the parts that you own. Those are where you’ll find the lessons for you to take away from this. Take note of what you can learn, and etch it into your memory. This can be the growth that results from your error.
  3. Have compassion for your humanness: Your age, your stress level, and the many factors that contributed to this mistake.
  4. Vow that next time you’ll use your new knowledge to do better. Then put this behind you.

The Second Way – Self-Discipline

We are not born with the ability to manage our impulses. Self-discipline is not something that you should expect yourself to have automatically. Self-discipline is learned. In childhood.

What You Didn’t Get

When parents have rules, and enforce them firmly and with love, they are naturally teaching their childre how to do this for themselves. Do your homework before you go out to play. Fill the dishwasher, even though you don’t want to. You are not allowed to have a second dessert. Balanced, fair requirements enforced with care by your parents teach you how, years later, to do this for yourself.

What To Give Yourself

If you struggle with self-discipline more than most other people, it does not mean that you are weak-willed or less strong than others. It only means that you didn’t get to learn some important things in childhood. Never fear, you can learn them now. Follow these steps.

  1. Stop blaming yourself for your struggles with self-discipline. When you accuse yourself of being weak or deficient, you make it harder to get a foothold on making yourself do things you don’t want to do, and on stopping yourself from doing things that you shouldn’t do.
  2. If you are too hard on yourself at times, chances are high that you also, at other times, go too far in the opposite direction. Do you sometimes let yourself off the hook when you don’t follow your own rules? This, too, is damaging.
  3. Use the Compassionate Responsibility skills you are building by applying them each time you fall down on self-discipline.

The Third Way – Learn to Love the Real You

We all learn to love ourselves in childhood; that is, when things go well. When we feel our parents’ love for us, it becomes our own love for ourselves, and we carry that forward through adulthood.

What You Didn’t Get

We tend to assume that if our parents loved us, that’s enough. But it isn’t necessarily, at all. There are many different ways for a parent to love a child. There’s the universal type of parental love: “Of course, I love you. You’re my child.” Then there’s real, substantive, meaningful parental love. This is the love of a parent who really watches the child, really sees and knows the child, and really loves the person for who he or she truly, deeply is.

What to Give Yourself

Most people receive at least some of the first type of love. Far fewer receive the second type. Do you feel that your parents truly know the real you? Do they love you for who you are? Do you love yourself this way? Truly and deeply? If you sense something is missing in your love for yourself, it may be because you didn’t receive enough genuine, deeply felt love from your parents. But it’s not too late for you to get it. You can give it to yourself.

  1. Accept that it’s not your fault that your parents couldn’t love you in the way you needed.
  2. Start paying more attention to yourself. Who are you? What do you love and hate, like and dislike, care about, feel, think? These are the aspects of you that make you who you are.
  3. Pay special attention to what’s good about you. Make a list and keep adding to it. Are you a loyal friend? A hard worker? Dependable? Caring? Honest? Write down everything that occurs to you, even if it’s very small. Re-read the list often. Take these qualities in and own them. They are you.

Growing up with mostly Type 1 Love has a far more serious impact than you think. It’s highly correlated to not learning Compassionate Responsibility and self-discipline. If you see yourself in this article, read more at and the book, Running on Empty.


Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
kate - June 10, 2019 Reply

you write:
“Think through the situation. What went wrong? Are there things you should have known, or realized, or thought about? Those are the parts that you own. Those are where you’ll find the lessons for you to take away from this. Take note of what you can learn, and etch it into your memory. This can be the growth that results from your error.”

HOW can I learn WHAT I need to learn? Clearly I don’t know whatever caused the mess I’m in – assuming my departing mate is correct about how awful I’ve been to him, without having any conversation with me about it, just giving an edict. As far as I can tell I’d have to have been smiling all the time, not showing negative emotions – let myself be subsumed into serving him?
He’d never let me talk about my needs, only tell me that I’m doing wrong, not satisfying him. All that tells me I could learn from is – what? He’s an inappropriate partner? I’m an awful person? I don’t know how I’m expressing myself? My unhappily genuine “resting bitch face” is the liability it feels like? It was a relationship, but you can’t MAKE a partner (or anyone) talk with you – how to understand? On what knowledge would I base decisions about what to learn? It’s a major boggle, not knowing what you don’t know, nor how to decipher clues – nor how you present yourself, how people see you. I’ve even been blatantly discriminated against because I’m perceived to be Jewish, and am not – so I know perceptions matter, I know that how one appears – both visually and emotionally – is critical, but I have NO idea how I come across, how others see me. They see me well and happily when I am doing/giving to/for them, giving gifts and doing favors, but how can I learn to be “just” me and find some companionship/group to be with? It’s a quandry – oh, and I’m a late-middle-aged straight, female, only child who didn’t grow up feeling loved; I felt always on the defensive – sadly, I expect those are factors in all this . . .

Nathaniel - October 2, 2016 Reply

Dear Dr Jonice Webb,
It has always been a great honor learning about new “emotional skills” and opportunities to integrate the new learning into my relationships and my professional work. You offer your readers opportunities to be better persons and to me, this is great contribution for which you could not be paid enough for by any single individual. Thank you.

moti - September 30, 2016 Reply

i read your book running on empty, and i find my self reading your newsletters with great interest.
this article is not different, once again you are touching in the core of the human being. giving love, real love, is the most important thing parents can give to their children and i wish there was a way to let any parent understand it.
thank you for letting many people hope and much more, tools to do moves in the right direction to be much more better people and better parents.
thank you,

Dan - September 28, 2016 Reply

I grew up in one of these crazy environments with parents who were absolutely incompetent and undermining; the last thing they wanted was to be beneficial and aid in the individuation process, they did not want competent and confident children, they wanted rather to dominate, dictate, and have them under their thumb, basically, they wanted non existent entities they could manipulate at will, so any signs of independence, individuation, or a distinct personality were routinely ridiculed, mocked, and crushed. At a very early age I could sense that I was in a very troubled environment, my first thought was that the stork must have made a mistake and delivered me to the wrong household, that is how young I was when I realized had wrong things were. My father kept a very negative focus on me, and while I was quietly wondering what in the hell was going on, he would cast a sharp eye on me and tell my mother that “something was wrong” with ME, that I was not “right”, and later on that I was “retarded”. All the while I was thinking to myself that nothing was making any sense, that the household environment was crazy, that the personalities, interpersonal relations, and emotional existence were absolutely being stifled. Whereas, my parents were bent on making me nothing but an empty automaton, an absolute an unquestioning servant, who was supposed to read their minds and moods, and anticipate their every needs, and to not exist as a human being in my own right, but to see myself as worthless and to feel blessed at being within their presence, as I was told that I lacked the competence to survive in the world, when their game was to keep me dependent on them, so that they could exploit me for as long as they saw fit, and to discard me when I no longer served their interests.

    uranium - July 24, 2017 Reply

    oh god. I just found out this is what’s going on with me at age 37. I had no idea they have been gaslighting me for 3-4 years. It destroyed my relationship and then my business as i gradually became so unable to focus that I couldn’t function on other peoples problems anymore.
    and I live in a house I built near them, they still own the property and I’m fighting to get the title for my house at the lowest point of my life. As soon as i started telling everyone I wanted to in the family my strength began to return and crippling anxiety lessened. Found out my mom has been gaslighting me about family members and who they are most similar to in order to prevent me from seeing who she really is behind the facade. And who is who in the dysfunctional family roles.
    So weird. I feel like I’m in a movie that never ends. But at least I don’t feel trapped anymore. She’s horribly sick with all of these autoimmune diseases and I keep telling her to stand up with me so we can solve this with honesty and fairness before they die and my brother rushes to cash in on my work. She tells me i’m the one who is mental, but its all a smokescreen. Even now that I’ve deconstructed all of it and explained to her there’s no point in continuing the game, all she has been able to say to me is that I was ‘smart’. Then tell me I need help for my ‘mental condition’. I fear that she’s gone, and i inadvertently went very low contact for 7-8 months last year and this sudden state of permanent denial of reality is the aftermath of that. She went to this therapist and i don’t think the lady knows she most likely has narcissistic personality disorder. The therapist interrogated me in front of her and didn’t know anything about me or the unique situation but knew the exact points that my mom has been repeating from her greatest hits bag of reasons why I don’t deserve to own my home. I explained to this woman that they say these things ad nauseum to pretend that they are “supporting” me and have been giving and generous time and time again. They have given me nothing but a life of self-doubt, fear, depression, guilt, shame, etc. I was naive to ever trust them. All of the things they pay a portion of have been to prop up a rental agreement that i only was able to get a copy of about 6 months ago. Their self-serving list of contributions only exists to protect them from me being able to easily take the title because of how long i’ve lived here and been the owner by intent. Then, exasperated, she said “do you have any idea how much money your mother has spent on therapy?”
    I read that people who have this get worse if the therapist isn’t aware of it. She seems like she’s turned into my grandma. But that’s what she’s been trying to hide all these years. Planted little things in my head for a long time about my aunt and grandma being alike. My cousin and I talked and he confirmed its my mom that is like grandma. I’m pretty sad about this. Years ago she told me she endured the abuse and worked hard to not pass it on.
    when you said “I was told that I lacked the competence to survive in the world, when their game was to keep me dependent on them, so that they could exploit me for as long as they saw fit, and to discard me when I no longer served their interests” i gasped in horror, because that is what it appears happened to me. They told me they would die someday and have withheld information to keep me in the dark and paying them “rent” on something i should own outright by now. It’s bled me dry and i was about to self-file for chapter 7. Then the eviction theater that never ends started up again. 60day notices came with a second page attached…basically a list of demands about me and how often i need to come check in at their house and inform them of my progress in meeting these demands. They hired some woman to “serve” me and i took their envelopes and threw them down direct return to sender on their floor. They went silent and wouldn’t say if they filed or not. Isolated and alienated from all my brothers and their families and told I can’t be helped because they would have to help everyone the same way. Said they were trying to prepare me for the real world. They made a lot of money off of this property by tricking the old man they bought it from, their next door neighbor. He died and they mocked him and pretended he was the crazy unstable one till his death. Then tricked their daughter into signing a rental agreement (they took out 100k on my house and i agreed to pay off that 15 year loan then get another 15 year loan for the remaining 150k. all for just one acre of land and the privelege of paying them rent while we built the house. over 80k just to rent something that would have been torn down and work on it over 7 yrs. 100% our money all the materials and labor. Monsters. Absolute monsters.
    Fighting every day to keep them from selling it. Not interested in ever giving them another nickel after i discovered what they were trying to do with this rental agreement. And now discovering i was used as a useful idiot to build them a free house then pay for it twice until i am one day ejected. Dad says mom keeps watching it rise on zillow and its over 400k. They own like 7 other properties mostly rentals. Sell one of those! ffs
    I always thought i was barely able to take care of myself let alone handle having a child. Doing anything other than this to a child, just loving a child for who they are and not inflicting this upon them seems so easy to me now. Never thought that this is what they were offering when they offered us a chance to own a home. Didnt even know people like this existed.

Kimberly - September 28, 2016 Reply

I enjoyed reading this article because it provided information that I need to be able to help myself, after just finishing 8 years of therapy. I was having such a hard time letting go of my therapist, and I figured out one reason was because sometimes I don’t “see” myself or really know who I am. There are other reasons as well, but I am hoping to put into practice what you have so gracefully shared so I can start to move on with my life, and not be so consumed with thoughts of my therapist. I appreciate the tenor of this article which was written with a stance of compassion, and giving the client the ability to be in charge of their own therapy.

I think one of the ways that psychotherapy can improve as a field is to provide long term clients with more skills about termination and learning how to let go, with education, information, and practicing. I feel that was a weak point in my own therapy, and that I am paying for that now in feelings and emotions that are rather difficult to navigate by myself. I did have a gifted trauma therapist, but the ending was not therapeutic in any way. The rest of the therapy, however, was truly life transforming, and a precious gift.

CEN talk - September 25, 2016 Reply

Nice article. For those of you interested in discussing this article, and other CEN issues, there is a new forum created just for you. Pop over and have a look, and perhaps we can work through this together 🙂

Cate - September 25, 2016 Reply

Daily humiliation & the monitoring of my every move were typical behaviors. She’d get mad at me over why I wasn’t smiling, (she never smiled) and would ask the air why she didn’t have a ‘sweet’ daughter. She was absolutely unbearable. She wore people out bec nothing was ever right or enough. I am now thinking that I need to write about my childhood. That may be the only way I’ll heal is if I tell my story. As I recall various incidents, I find them shocking. This is a sure sign of healing – because I am no longer numb. How on earth did my brother and I survive?

Brenda - September 25, 2016 Reply

Thank you so much for this article.

You give so much hope and power to learn to self correct. I also appreciate how you are not venomous towards parents who didn’t know or do enough. Your method teaches to move past blame, accept what is, and begin the real transformative work on self correcting with love. It occurred to me while reading the article that the real power lay in our hands, we are not perpetual victims, but can move forward to happiness and fulfillment in life.

Such a powerful article as usual.

    Jonice Webb PhD - September 25, 2016 Reply

    Exactly Brenda! I’m so glad you have come to the conclusion that the real power lay in your hands. I couldn’t agree more. I wish you all the best in your CEN recovery.

Nancy - September 25, 2016 Reply

Thank you again for a thoughtful article. I hope this makes sense but how can you tell, really tell what your positive attributes are when you have no real gauge. For some nothing is ever enough. I don’t know if it’s really an attribute or if I’m just fooling myself.

    Jonice Webb PhD - September 25, 2016 Reply

    Dear Nancy, your attributes are right there for you to see and own, and always have been. Try to start taking the positive feedback that you get from others into your heart. Pay attention to yourself in a different way than you have before. A therapist can help you if you find it’s too hard. I assure you that you have many good reasons to like and love yourself.

Laurie - September 25, 2016 Reply

Hello Dr Webb,
I just want to thank you very much for your website and the wonderful e mails i recieve. You write with love and your teaching is gentle and kind. Im learning to love my true self and parent self and also re….parent my children. Be honest with myself as a Mom. My oldest son is homeless and addicted to drugs. He is 21 years old and has not yet grown from the angry 16 year old. He is stuck at age 16, angry, blames me, verbally abuses me at times, breaks my things and steals from me. He now survives by stealing from everyone he meets to trade for his drugs. He denies everything and wont get help. You give me hope that maybe i Can help my adult child by learning and re parenting if he will let me. Thank you again, God Bless, Laurie

    Me - September 29, 2016 Reply

    God be with you!!! He will come home and be new again praying for you

      BK - June 17, 2017 Reply

      Er… what does that mean??? :/

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