There are hundreds of books out there about how to be a better parent. Parenting is a billion dollar industry and just think about it –
We have turned a noun “a parent” into a verb “parenting” which means being a parent is not just a label for a relationship, it’s an action.
Just think about how strange that is! We’ve never done that with the word “friend”. We don’t have millions of books on “friending”. No one is concerned about how they are impacting the lives of their friends enough to buy a book on the topic (in general). We all just trust that we will know how to be a good friend, and our relationship will flourish if we trust those instincts.
The main difference between being a friend and being a parent is that, as parents, we are caretakers, teachers, and friends. We have a bigger responsibility because our impact can be greater on a child then on a friend, which makes so many parents feel stress and great pressure to be perfect.
In truth, we only have so much control over how our children turn out, so for a way to reduce some of the pressure we put on ourselves,
I want to suggest trying to think about the parent/child relationship like we do a friendship.
This allows us to focus on being kind, generous, and loving to our children, or more like a counselor or guide than commander. Then, we can then more easily let go of making everything negative our children do mean something negative about what kind of parent we are. I mean, we know that trying control our friends or think of their actions as a reflection of ourselves, is not appropriate or useful, because we know they can make their own choices, and that’s not our business.
So how can use this idea to help us parent better?
I’m not suggesting that we stop holding our children responsible for the actions, or set loving limits or put boundaries on how they act, we can and we should. But we do that for our friends too. We don’t let them abuse us, or yell at us, or take advantage of us. We set boundaries, and we even take a break from being around them if needed. It’s the same for our relationship with our kids. If they are throwing things at us or yelling in anger, we can walk away, into another room, if they are safe, and take a break. If their bedtime routine is bleeding into our alone time with our spouse, we can put up a boundary and say when we are leaving their rooms, and then stick to it. If they don’t take responsibility for their actions, we give them less independence until they can earn our trust back, just like when a friend betrays our trust.
One of my clients, a dad, was struggling with being patient with his children’s behavior on a daily basis. Everything his child did, he thought to himself, “why can’t this just be easier?” or “why does my child have to act like this?” or “why can’t they just brush their teeth when I ask them to?”. Well, do you want to know why?
It’s because what we think is important as adults, kids do not naturally care about.
We have to teach them why they should care. It’s normal that they don’t think about how clean their room is, or that they shouldn’t eat the treat before dinner, or that brushing their teeth will prevent pain down the road. Children are operating almost solely from their lower brain, or the part that is emotional and instinctual and loves pleasure and avoids pain. We have to teach them that living from the higher brain (the more logical part) provides more pleasure in the long term, and that instant gratification isn’t going to make them successful or happy. These lessons are tough to teach and take patience and consistency.
Some adults haven’t learned these lessons yet!
Now, let’s go back to thinking about how we treat our friends, and let me just ask you, how would it work out for you if you spoke in mostly commands to your friend, and then when they didn’t do what you commanded, you punished them or became exasperated, or critical? Would they stick around? Would they listen to you? What would your relationship be like? This is usually how we talk to our children – commanding them, yelling at them, punishing them, talking down to them for making mistakes.
And it makes sense why we would take this approach, because it’s our job to teach them, and they need to listen to us, right?
But what if you could get the same outcome that you wanted (getting your child to listen and follow directions, let’s say) while treating them as you would a friend or co-worker? How would you change your tone and words?
I am offering below a few suggestions on ways to speak to your child with respect, so that they will listen:
Say, “would you mind”, or “would you consider” when making a request of your child. For example, “Would you mind bringing your plate to the sink when you have finished eating?”
Use enforceable statements (meaning saying what YOU will do or let them do if a request is met) instead of commands. For example, “Yes, you are welcome to have screen time once your bed is made.” or “I would happy to take you to your baseball game once your homework is completed” or “Feel free to play outside once your plate is in the dishwasher.”
Use thinking words, not fighting words. For example, “I wonder what would happen if you went out with your friends and they started drinking. What do you think you would do?” Or “I don’t feel comfortable walking into your bedroom when there are so many toys on the floor. I wonder what would happen when it’s bedtime and you want me to read you a book and I can’t get to your bed.”
Pile on the empathy. For example, when your child receives a consequence, say, “this is really sad, but we’re not going to be able to go get ice cream because your room wasn’t cleaned in time, what a bummer.” Or, “I know it’s tough when your friend says they don’t want to play with you, how sad.”
Don’t fight a battle you can’t win. For example, when they say 25 times that they want a cookie, and it’s dinner in 5 minutes, you say, “You’re welcome to have a cookie after dinner.” and then don’t repeat yourself again, just go brain dead, and repeat, “mmm-hmm”, or “I know”, “yeah…”, until they stop.
Stop nagging. The old adage is they will only need as many reminders as they get, so once the request was made and you’re sure they heard it, let the natural consequences work for you if the request isn’t met.
Now, I love these suggestions, and I try to use them daily, but the trouble is that it is super tough to be consistent with these ways and to speak to your child this way without first checking in with your own thoughts and being conscious of your own emotions.
This is important because if you have thoughts like my client, where you think things like, “why can’t this be easier?” “why does my child have to act like this”, etc., you will struggle to implement these ideas and so up more impatient and more irritated than loving and supportive.
This is why I became a life coach for parents.
I want to help parents like you who want to be kinder, and more loving with their kids, and want to use more gentle techniques to raise great kids, but are hitting roadblocks because of their thinking and emotions.
Parents are usually operating from the lower brain when they are stressed and are letting their emotions take over, which makes it difficult to keep their cool and use these techniques.
The good news is that once you realize what thoughts and emotions are preventing you from being the parent you want to be and you can learn how to change them so you can feel confident and more patient with your children. You can better access your higher brain in stressful situations and remain logical so you can remember how to speak to your child with respect and love.
The combination of using these techniques outlined above to talk to you child lovingly and managing your mind through life coaching is the key to immediate and lasting change in your life.
Are you ready to have be more patient and loving to your children, while also effectively guiding them to be successful adults?
Schedule a FREE 20 minute mini session with me over the phone to learn how to create immediate and lasting change in your parenting.