We live in a world where it is the norm to call parenting a struggle. To gather our closest friends and pass around a collection of stories about how hard it is to get your child out the door every single time you have to leave the house. What if I told you it does not have to be like this? You can live in partnership with your child in a way that puts adds ease and drops the struggle
I promise I am not making this up. I have been living with my own two sons now for 19 and 17 years and by implementing a few changes to my story, my approach, my time with them I have been able to replace struggle with partnership. Here’s what has made the biggest difference for me.
Before we get to the good stuff I am want to warn you that what I am about to write is simple but please do not mistake that to mean it is easy. I say this so that you will be kind and gentle with yourself as you begin to re-imagine a parenting dynamic without struggle. I also want to let you know that I am not giving you time saving hacks necessarily. In fact, in the beginning you may accuse me of adding more to your plate. Just like when you start a new exercise program, it’s going to take some time to build the muscle memory and it might hurt a little bit at first. Here’s where you are going to have to lean into a bit of trust as these adjustments may feel all kinds of clunky in the beginning but with repetition they will become your go to moves and the struggle will begin to fall away.
- See your child not the behavior. The scenario : you are crunched for time, your child is resisting putting on the shoes required to leave. In the moment, it is easy to slip into looking at the behavior, demanding they hurry up, put on their shoes and stop being so defiant. This is where, a deep breath can come in handy. See that human who is standing in front of you and instead of shouting an order perhaps ask a question, “do you need help with your shoes?” The goal being to connect to the unmet need the child may have. This might not happen in the exact moment but it opens the door for exploration and invites the child into the problem solving. The goal is to uncover what it is the child in front of you needs instead of trying to change a behavior you’ve decided is inappropriate.
- Create solutions outside of the emotion. There is this push sometimes when our children are feeling big feelings to try and reason with them, or find a solution, or quite honestly to make it all stop in the moment. When the truth is a child who is fully engaged in big feelings just is not ready or able to discuss it all. The goal here is to try a few things to meet the unmet need or provide a calm space for the emotions to run out. Then later when you are snuggled up and calm trouble shoot solutions for the next time you find yourselves in a similar situation. A big one for us when my boys were younger was going in to a store. There were so many delicious distractions along the way and things that they simply had to have. So before we even went in we would come up with a plan. A time, an amount of money to spend and the sort. This did not always mean we had a successful trip without melt downs but it did up the chances that we could walk out of the store with less meltdowns.
- Ask yourself will this bring me closer to my child or cause distance between us? This one has likely taken me the longest to transform into muscle memory. I am by nature a reactor and a fixer. This has lead me to jump in and create distance on more than one occasion (truthfully I have fully lost count). The ways to be successful at this are all about listening more and talking less. Referring back to number one and two over and over and over again. The struggle in parenting comes from those places of reaction that cause distrust to grow between you and your child. If your child can trust that you will reliably respond from a place that prioritizes your relationship then they will begin to trust that your requests are reasonable ones. When a request is reasonable and grounded in the wellness of both you and your child the odds of agreement are so much higher then when a request comes from a place of power over and do as I say.
There you have it. Three small adjustments to move away from struggle and toward connection.
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