Parent, Adult or Child?

Who are you today?

Is that your INNER CHILD responding? Or the CRITICAL PARENT? Or the mature, considered ADULT?

Transactional Analysis

The theory of Transactional Analysis (T.A.) (and it’s only a theory so only use it if it’s helpful to you) says that at any given time we are operating in one of our three ego states. These are Parent, Adult, and Child. All three are perfectly appropriate in the appropriate place!


Parent can be critical or nurturing, either a little inner voice encouraging us or a nagging critical one, i.e. ‘You’ll never amount to anything!’


Child can be free and happy, expecting and used to getting praise, or adapted, in that our inner child is fearful of making a mistake, and will always seek to please adult figures in their lives. Naughty child is the one that deliberatly pushes at the boundaries, for example, sitting at the back during meetings and passing notes to colleagues! If you’ve ever found yourself doing that you were probably in your Inner Child ego state! (At least in T.A. terms you were).


Adult behaviours are mature and direct and deal with the here and now, looking at the situation in front of them and making an appropriate response.


Here’s an example of how all three states can reveal themselves in a few minutes.
Imagine you are driving happily down the motorway. A car suddenly undertakes you and you are forced to tale evasive action to avoid a crash. You do so competently and immediately and avert a crisis. Adult.

Then your naughty child emerges and you think ‘I’ll show ’em’ and you begin to increase your speed until you are driving a very dangerous few feet from the bumper of the offending car, flashing your lights and making obscene gestures (I guess most of us know what I’m talking about here!) Child.

Eventually you pull back and start muttering that the driver should not be on the road at all; people like them are all idiots and where are the police when you need them etc. You may even find yourself repeating phrases that your parents have actually used. Critical Parent

Whether you subscribe to the T.A. theory or not,  I think it’s useful model to grasp when you sometimes find yourself behaving less than professionally at work. Just ask yourself, “who’s the adult here?”

Click here for another article on T.A which featured in my regular newsletter.


Posted on September 3rd, 2009 by

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