This post is part of the 30 Days Towards Connected Parenting series.
Everywhere I look I get the impression that parenting these days is about doing something to your child. There’s books and articles on how to manage a range of different behaviours. Tips and tricks for anything you might come across in your parenting journey. Society seems to assume that children need to be strictly controlled lest they take advantage of you or turn into ‘brats’.
This feels like such a pessimistic way to view children. I imagine it also becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you expect parenting to be difficult, parenting becomes difficult. When you view children as defiant and manipulative, children may become defiant and manipulative. If you feel like you must maintain strict control of your children to shape them into ‘good’ human beings, then parenting must seem like a fight. No one likes to be controlled and will naturally fight against it. How tiring!
What if we viewed children more positively? What if we shifted our focus from ‘doing to’ to ‘working with’? What if we treated children with the respect we show adults? After all they are real people. What if instead of focusing on preventing bad behaviour, we noticed the good? What if we showed our children a lot more trust and freedom?
Children are so very capable and trustworthy when given the chance. Often though, they are not afforded that. We take away choices and options in an attempt to prevent things going wrong before we’ve even given them a chance. We say ‘no’ automatically without considering why. We tell them ‘because I said so’ as if they don’t deserve an explanation. And then when they react badly to our controlling tendencies we reaffirm our beliefs that children are troublesome. We think the answer to our problems is more control, when in fact that will never work and only serves to drive a wedge between us.
The answer is connection. And we can start by challenging society’s assumptions about children. Instead we choose to respect them, treat them like people, let them make choices about their own bodies, allow them as much freedom as we can, be there to guide and support them, keep them safe, view them in a positive light, work through problems with them, and love them unconditionally. Imagine how different so many relationships could be if people changed the way they thought about children. And when you have a stronger relationship, children want to cooperate.
Parenting needn’t be a fight. It’s a relationship between you and your child. If you were in a romantic relationship where you were constantly fighting or felt controlled you wouldn’t want to stick around. No amount of quick tricks would be able to fix it. You would know you needed to work on your relationship and connection. And so it can be the same for the parent-child bond. When your relationship is not based on power and control, guiding them comes easily. You don’t need the latest method for every different behaviour. You work things out together. And the best part? The connection is always there. Your relationship grows stronger with every challenge you face together.
What outdated assumptions about children do you need to let go of?
In which areas can you give your kids more control over their own lives?