As a part of my efforts to increase the accessibility of my website, I am re-posting articles from my old Parenting 101 page as stand-alone blog posts on the main site.
July 24, 2007 – “Ingredients of Ideal Parenting:
Calmness, Connection, Consequences, and Authority”
Q – So many parents today feel at a loss for how to “get their children/teens to behave,” feeling like their kids are growing “out of control.” What message do you have for parents who are feeling this way?
A – Give up!!! Give up trying to control them, that is. Even from a very young age, children have a mind of their own and will make their own choices. Rather than attempting to control their behavior (an essentially hopeless endeavor), I want to encourage and empower parents to be the best influence you can possibly be in the lives of your kids.
Q – So, what’s the difference between control and influence? And what’s important about that difference?
A – It is easy as parents to focus on the immediate behavior of your children, doing anything you can to get them to do “the right thing” at this moment. And it can be so frustrating when they don’t! This is what I mean by trying to control them. The goal of parenting should be to actively raise your children toward becoming healthy, moral, responsible adults who make right choices for themselves. And this is best accomplished by influencing and guiding them, without trying to control them.
Q – OK, so what does this different type of influencing look like?
A – First of all, it means letting go of the emotional burden we can unintentionally place on our kids of how they reflect on us. Staying calm and learning to avoid emotionally reactivity is crucial to the challenging and rewarding and priceless task of raising children (See “ScreamFree Parenting” by Hal Runkel). It also means entering into their world to understand the pressures, needs, desires, and challenges of their lives – A VERY DIFFERENT WORLD from the one in which you and I grew up (See “Hurt” or “Disconnected” by Chap Clark). And it means making the most of meaningful consequences to help them learn their lessons. Often times, the best consequences to teach our kids lessons are the ones that naturally follow from their (poor) choices. The trick is not to intervene and rescue them from these consequences to spare them hurt and disappointment – let them learn their lessons, and be there to instruct and encourage in response to their consequences.
Q – What else would you encourage parents to do to influence/lead their children in the right ways?
A – Along with calmness, connection, and consequences – it is essential to parent with authority (See “John Rosemond‘s New Parent Power”). Many parents give up their natural authority out of a desire to please their kids, an effort to keep the peace, or they simply give up in frustration. All organizations work best with strong, clear, caring authority. And this is certainly true in the organization of family life! Even seemingly rebellious teens have a deep need for parents who will exercise clear authority in their lives, hopefully with a calm and deeply caring manner.
Q – What resources do you recommend for parents who may be feeling overwhelmed, or just need some additional guidance?
A – Of course, I am always glad to work with families directly in my counseling practice. Other resources I highly recommend are:
www.rosemond.com (John Rosemond)
www.cpyu.org (Center for Parent/Youth Understanding)
“John Rosemond’s New Parent Power” and other books by John Rosemond
“Disconnected: Parenting Teens in a MySpace World” and “Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers” by Chap & Dee Clark