This post is part of the 30 Days Towards Connected Parenting series.
“Our children are learning every moment of every day. If we want them to learn to think before acting, we need to let them think before acting. If we want them to learn to make wise choices, we need to let them practice making choices. If we want them to learn to think like adults, we need to explain our adult thinking.” – L.R. Knost
It makes sense doesn’t it? We should encourage and accept the qualities in children that we would like them to have as adults. No one would argue with that. And yet, sometimes the expectations we put on children don’t send this message.
We expect obedience.
It’s easier for us when our children do what we say without question. But is that really something we want to encourage? What would you think about an adult who was described as ‘obedient’? You wouldn’t see that as a favourable quality. Instead of expecting obedience, perhaps we should aim for greater connection and communication. When children feel like they have a say and they know that their voice is valued, it is so much easier to problem solve together. It’s much less stressful too! Instead of having to be the one always in charge and enforcing the rules, you are a partnership working it out together.
“Disobedience is not an issue if obedience is not the goal” – Daron Quinlan
We take away choices.
We apply arbitrary rules instead of allowing children the freedom to decide things for themselves. We tell them when to sleep and when to wake up, when to eat and how much, what to wear, when they can play and when they have to stop, where they can go, and to ‘be careful!!’. Imagine if someone required you to live on their timetable. How frustrating that would be. I know it’s controversial to say that things like bedtimes aren’t necessary for children. But instead of reacting negatively to the idea, assess why you feel that way. What has led you to believe this? Could you give it a try? Your children just might surprise you with how capable they are of listening to their own bodies.
We minimise feelings.
Society seems to be less than accepting of children’s feelings. As soon as a child cries there’s someone there to distract, or shush them, or tell them ‘you’re ok’. Sometimes you don’t feel ok and you just need to cry right? Imagine if at those times your partner told you, ‘shhh…you’re fine, oooh look some chocolate!’. Ok I’d probably eat the chocolate, but I wouldn’t be too impressed with my feelings being dismissed like that. It’s uncomfortable to hear a child upset, of course, but it does them no good to gloss over it. Let them feel what they feel.
We expect perfection.
“So often, children are punished for being human. Children are not allowed to have grumpy moods, bad days, disrespectful tones, or bad attitudes, yet we adults have them all the time!” – Rebecca Eanes
Nothing will ever be perfect all the time. In fact, sometimes everything will go wrong! No matter how you parent. Let’s give our kids and ourselves a break.
What is the goal of parenting? Is it to have a perfectly obedient child who does what you say, never makes a fuss, is always quiet, polite, and never talks back? If so, parenting is going to be a struggle. These goals are not only unrealistic but actually contrary to bringing up the kind of adults that we want. I don’t know about others but I’d prefer to bring up children who are not afraid to speak up, who know their voices are powerful, who have had lots of practice in making their own decisions, who are intrinsically motivated, who are confident and happy. I feel like a lot of the traditional expectations society puts on children are in direct opposition to these goals. And also to nurturing a close and positive connection with your children. I don’t want to be fighting against them, I want to be working with them. So I’m letting go of these expectations. I’m showing a lot more trust. These little humans are amazing and very capable when given the chance.
What expectations do you have of your children? Are there any that you’re still holding onto that might be negatively affecting your relationship? What are you working on letting go of to allow a deeper connection?