Before having kids, I was going to be warm and loving and have my children listen to and respect me. Unfortunately, that is the role of a best friend, not a good parent. As parents, we must hold our kids accountable and teach them how to navigate this world. We are the authority in the relationship, but we can be a kind authority.
Use these inclusive tips by Sharon Eshmade, a counsellor, parenting coach, teacher, author, and mum-of-a-teen with behaviour and learning difficulties, to help you confidently parent consciously, gently, and positively.
|1. Being open to change|
If what you are currently doing isn’t working and you are tired of the negativity in your home, then a leap of faith in trying something new may be just what you need. Take a deep breath, open your heart and read on.
My parents smacked and punished me, so I decided to be a kinder parent. Because I was still a traditional parent, I diluted their parenting style, so I still found myself yelling and punishing my kids too.
Punishment, in the form of shouting and smacking, are a few of the tools one uses in traditional parenting. You cannot stop using punishments unless you stop being a traditional parent.
When my kids’ behaviour deteriorated as we headed for the teen years, I made a significant and positive change that works!
|2. Why punishments backfire|
Punishment can often work quickly but result in our kids being fearful, masking their feelings, becoming sneakier with their poor behaviour, lying and developing into perfectionist people-pleasers, often developing challenges in self-esteem and mental health.
“Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first, we have to make them feel worse?” – Dr Jane Nelsen
|3. Shouting is ineffective |
Because we are not taught how to do it better, we communicate poorly. When we speak to our kids passively they ignore us so we revert to being verbally aggressive but they still don’t do as they are told, because kids quickly learn to ignore yelling and nagging, so in frustration, we revert to punishing them by removing privileges or being physical. This is how traditional parenting works.
Just like me, you may recognise how your relationship with your kids is deteriorating and your role seems to be surviving one negative interaction, and telling them off, to another. I promise there is a better way forward.
|4. I am scared of being indulgent|
And so, you should be! Research confirms that permissive parenting does not result in well-adjusted and responsible adult children. Indulgent parenting doesn’t work!
Fortunately, being a kind authority does not mean you are permissive. I promise, you can hold your kids accountable with a firm conversation, as this approach works successfully in healthy adult relationships.
|5. Finding the balance|
In all our relationships, we want to steer away from being passive (in parenting terms, indulgent) or aggressive (in parenting terms, traditional), as these are ineffective communication styles. So, if punishing our kids is out, how do we get them to listen and do what they are told?
The best communication style is being assertive, where we balance being kind while also meeting our needs. Is this a quick fix? Absolutely and definitely not at all.
Unfortunately, there are few quick fixes in good parenting. Being a good parent means we have confidence in our balanced and assertive communication approach.
|6. Be a role model of kindness|
We cooperate less when someone is mean, and we must accept that punishments are mean. The opposite is also true because we cooperate more when someone is kind.
Think of kind authority figures, such as teachers who treated you firmly but fairly, that you worked hard for. I strongly recommend you work hard at, and trust in, your relationship with your kids. The long-term benefits are enormous!
|7. I get so annoyed and can’t help it!|
I used to be so reactive too. Use the template ‘How to Self-regulate Your Emotions’ so that you process your feelings. We are often conditioned to suppress or act out our feelings, which is mentally unhealthy and unhelpful in our relationships.
Please be self-compassionate too. We never decided to be a parent who would shout and punish our kids. We landed up being that way because we were following a traditional model that is no longer fit for purpose. Remember, criticised children, usually develop into self-critical adults.
When things go wrong, and I promise they will, let go in the moment. Walking away from conflict, when emotions are high, or when you want to tell them what they should or shouldn’t be doing and you know they won’t listen, is always a good idea.
This is astronomically hard when you first start but, when you experience how well this approach works, it will become second nature. You are not being permissive, you are choosing to not engage, yet.
Later, when everyone is calmer and you have their full attention, explain your feelings and make an agreement. Kids are far more likely to listen if they agree beforehand.
Once agreements are made, you can more easily hold your kids accountable in the moment by saying, “We agreed that you would brush your teeth at 7.30 am. I am holding you accountable. Go now, thank you.”
|9. Proactive and assertive meetings|
In our family, we meet daily, so that I can hold my kids kindly accountable. I might say, “I feel disrespected and annoyed when you ignore me and do not brush your teeth when asked. We have an agreement. In future, can you listen and follow through?”
If your kids repeatedly don’t follow through then there is a problem with the agreement, not your kids or you. They might say they agree but they aren’t listening in the moment so there is a breakdown in communication.
You may need to explain your perspective as to why they must brush their teeth so early or agree to being more flexible and changing the time. Kids perceive this flexibility as kind so are more likely to listen the next time. You can also remind them of how accommodating you are being in your next meeting!
Behaviour changes, especially with children, take time so calm repetition is necessary if a change is going to happen. Parenting is work!
|10. Ask for help|
Thank you for being open to contemplating a different way of parenting. You may not agree, yet that positive parenting works. I know it’s a challenging transition, but it does work long-term. Please risk trying. Your relationship with your kids depends on it.
Visit me on social media, go to my website, http://www.crashtestmummy.net or email me at email@example.com for support. Confident parenting is closer than you think.