Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this post free of charge,from Penguin Random House, for blog posting purposes on this blog. No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it, all opinions are my own.
Many well-intentioned, loving parents follow conventional parenting advice that leads to a disconnection from their children’s hearts. I know, because I was one of those parents.
Feeling that I must be stern and consistent in my discipline, my boy spent many minutes in a time-out chair. I also tried counting to three and then sending him to his room. I even made elaborate behavior charts. My days were consumed with getting the upper hand in our constant, exhausting power struggles.
He wasn’t a naughty child.
He was a disconnected child showing his inner sadness and discomfort in the only way he could at the delicate age of three. My highly sensitive boy had a tender heart of gold, and that tender heart became bruised and distrustful more and more each time I withdrew my own tenderness in the name of discipline. Though we still had plenty of laughter and play, the level of trust and connection we once shared was noticeably absent. It seemed every time we had begun to rekindle our attachment, it became weakened again by my misunderstanding of his behavior and my desire for control.
I had become trapped in the net of societal expectations, ensnared in the idea that if I didn’t control my child, he would try to control me.
Those are the messages we hear about children, after all. They’re out to test us, push our buttons, and run amok in our homes and supermarkets without the swift and heavy hand of a disciplinarian. Yet, this trap left us all broken-hearted, and eventually, I decided I’d had enough.
I wanted our connection back. I wanted to be a happy mother again. I longed for days filled with joy and laughter, not time-outs and tears. So, I began searching, and that’s how I found Positive Parenting.
The first task in ending the power struggles and recapturing the joy and peace in our home was to rebuild the trust we had lost and to reconnect heart-to- heart. Below are the steps I took to accomplish these very important tasks.
Look Behind the Behavior to Shift Your Reactions
It is important to understand that behavior is communication. It is a clue to the internal state of a human being. We behave based on how we feel and think about ourselves, and so a child who is behaving badly is feeling badly at that moment. When we can learn to stop judging the surface behavior in terms of punishing or rewarding their actions and look beyond their behavior to their hearts, feelings, thoughts, and experiences, we are better able to remain tender and connected as we guide them toward feeling better and consequently toward behaving better.
Become a Light Reflector to Build Connection
Children are full of light. There is so much good in them, and yet like all humans, there is also the capacity for darkness. Negative thoughts, feelings, and behavior are part of the human experience as much as the positive. The question is what will we choose to shine a spotlight on? Whatever we give the attention to is often what buries itself in the child’s self-concept. By constantly pointing out and focusing on the negative our children express, we give them the message that they are bad, naughty, or flawed.
After all, children first see themselves through the eyes of their parents. We must be careful what they see reflected in our eyes. Let us show them the light that we see. This is what it means to become a light reflector. While correcting improper behavior is a parental duty, a much more important responsibility is to see, protect, and reflect the light within our children. Notice and voice the good you see often.
Affirmation builds connection.
Be a Tender, Empathic, Strong Leader to Build Trust
Children are going to experience a range of feelings and emotions, and some of them are going to be hard for us to witness. We want to end crying and tantrums immediately because they cause us discomfort or inconvenience. Our “suck it up” attitude is a defense against the uncomfortable feeling their upset triggers within us. When we show our children empathy, we build trust. When they know that we are strong enough to hold their sorrow, their anger, and their grief, they begin to trust us with their hearts.
We have this idea that, when we remain tender and connected when our children misbehave, we are rewarding and reinforcing the misbehavior, but our tenderness and unconditional love is not a reward but a lifeline. When I learned that I did not have to withdraw warmth or attention for my son to learn his lesson, but that, in fact, remaining warm and attentive opened his heart to receiving my instruction and rules, our whole world changed. Once he knew that nothing could separate him from my love, trust was rebuilt.
Finally, being a strong, competent leader builds trust. Positive parenting is sometimes confused with permissive parenting, and this is a gross misunderstanding of the philosophy of positive parenting. I believe children deserve parents who care enough about them to set boundaries, correct them, and guide them, which are things permissive parents do not do. When children know what we expect of them and what they can expect from us, this provides security and builds trust.
Reclaiming the joy you once felt in parenting is possible. Cultivating a peaceful home filled with loving, connected relationships is within your grasp. All it takes is a decision to change your story and the knowledge and support needed to do so.
Stay tuned for our review about Rebecca's new book!
About the Author:
Rebecca Eanes is the founder of www.positive-parents.org , creator of the popular Facebook page Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond, contributing editor to Creative Child and Baby Maternity Magazines, and author of The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parenting.