Parenting is the most challenging job you will ever have and can truly be the most rewarding. It is often those things that push us to question our perceptions, thoughts, and our own values that help us grow into stronger and wiser human beings.
As humans we are cursed and blessed with the ability to reflect on our thoughts and feelings, unlike animals. As a result, we are often able to make changes for the better and improve our relationships with others and ourselves.
In raising our children we have the opportunity to develop new insights and perspectives, if we take the time to reflect on and consciously choose our parenting strategies.
I have come to question everything I have learned before becoming a parent, as it started to make less and less sense to me. Those ideas that I had once accepted because of “proof” that they work are no longer accepted by me, as I see that a change in a child’s behavior on the surface is not necessarily helpful in building my relationship with my child.
I now choose trust over all else.
There is misunderstanding though, around honoring the child and building a trusting relationship. Some people take it to mean that you must help your child be happy at all times by giving them what they wish.
This in fact is not honoring the child or building trust, since a child depends on an adult to provide them with safety and guidance. This is such a challenging point for many parents as they often go between being rigid and firm or soft and overly flexible.
Part of building trust is helping our children understand their emotions and cope with them because they have not yet developed this ability at such a young age.
For example, after having given your child adequate warning that bedtime is nearing say something like, “I know you are upset that playtime is over. It is time for us to rest, so that we can be ready to play again tomorrow. Would you like story time or songs while we cuddle tonight?”
There are a couple of things happening in this example:
- You are not budging on bedtime
- You are providing hope and assistance to ease coping with this transition.
Depending on the age of the child this statement may look different.
Sometimes parents feel the need to raise their voice or repeat themselves when children have difficulty in coping. This does not serve the relationship of trust you want to build with your child, as there is no clear guidance.
Keep in mind, the brain does not fully develop until about the mid-20s and some say even age 30. Thus, we cannot expect for a child to not show their emotions in a dysregulated state. That is part of their growth right now… with our help they learn to self-regulate. We are helping them wire their brain to understand how to cope.
Some people grow up learning to shut off their emotions and this often pops up in some unwanted way later in life.
On the other hand, consistently adjusting boundaries we draw shows the child that we are unsure of ourselves and makes them less likely to feel safe with us.
Would you feel safe if your guide through a wild animal camp was not sure which way to go? You may wonder if this example is too extreme, but truly for a young child we are talking about if they perceive the world and their caregiver as safe.
I am glad to see many new sources of parenting strategies that are in the form of parents guiding their children through life, so that they do in fact learn the skills needed for lifelong success.
It is important for parents to also remember that there is no “perfect” parent. I say this often to parents that I work with because we often feel the pressure to respond in the best possible way, but we are at times not our best selves.
Luckily, we can practice stopping ourselves in that moment, reflect on our thoughts and feelings, and go back and repair our connection or discuss our mistakes openly as they come about so that we can model how to be perfectly imperfect.