"I’m gonna make a change, for once in my life its gonna feel real good, gonna make a difference, gonna make it right…" - Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson's concept of making change aptly applies to our approach to parenting; because if we as parents want to make a real change and make things right, we need to first look at the "Mom in The Mirror" (or dad- but that did not fit as well). Many parents believe that in order to change a child you need to focus on the child. The old parenting approach that many of us grew up with was focused on doing to kids- figuring out ways to make them do more of something, make them stop doing something and using bribing, punishing, negotiating as a means of achieving this.
New evidence based parenting practices from the last decade focus much more on the relationship we want with our children and the type of human beings we hope to raise. Many of today's parents, like myself, were raised with fear or control based parenting that included messages like: "Children are to be seen and not heard," "My rules, my house," "You'll do it because I said so," and "When I say jump, you should say how high". They also included practices like: soap in the mouth, spankings and standing with your nose in the corner. Sounds pretty humiliating and degrading, doesn't it? Yikes! What were these practices teaching kids? To hate, fear or resent their parents? Often the lessons learned were "I better do it or else...,” "They don't trust me to make good decisions" or "I better be more stealth the next time I try to get away with…".
The truth is that the parents of previous generations were doing their best parenting and doing it from a place of love. I had my fair share of the wooden spoon on my bottom, being sent to my room to "think about it" for many hours, and being put in the corner until I was told it was okay to come back. And, I can honestly say my parents truly loved me and also scared the crap out of me. Unfortunately, this fear based controlling parenting style also sacrificed nurturing a relationship based on mutual trust and respect. Many children of the 70's and 80's resented, feared, and did not respect their parents. They could not wait to grow up and leave home. In addition, many lost out on gaining valuable skills in building relationships, making good choices, and listening to their internal locus of control. They were more focused on what was going to happen to them externally than what they might learn from their mistakes.
The fact is that all children deserve the right to self-respect and to live without fearing their parents. In order to parent from a place of love and respect where the focus is connection and the relationship with your child there needs to be a shift in the lens in which you view your role as a parent. We need to move from a place of control, judgment, punishment and conditional love to a place of shared control, respect, coaching, guiding, and trust. It requires that we let go of the fear or worry about what others think, about the kind of child we had hoped for and/or the perception that we are failing as a parent. We are all going to make mistakes, but those mistakes are beautiful opportunities to learn what feels right and what works for our family. We need to focus on our role as detective, guide, and coach. These are parenting skills that need to be learned, practiced, and honed. This does not happen over night and everyone has their own journey. And, you do not need to go that journey alone. There are so many ways to get support to help you become the parent you want to be - classes, workshops, books, lectures, parent coaches, support groups, etc.
I invite you to continue to commit to and invest in your parenting, your family, and the future success of your child. This is not a one or two day course. This is an 18-year commitment. One that requires an investment of time, energy, and sometimes a little bit of money. But will this investment in your parenting pay off? From the hundreds of families I have worked with over the last 20 years, I can honestly say yes it does! I would love to hear what you have done in the past to get support and also what you might be willing to try to get even more clear and confident in your parenting this coming year.
In the comments, please share how you are going to "Make A Change!"
To get some ideas check out How to Use Empathy to Create Connection, Calm and Greater Ease