This post is part of the 30 Days Towards Connected Parenting series.
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As a new parent, I felt an unspoken pressure. It grew as my child grew and it made me uncomfortable. This pressure came in many forms but the underlying thought was that as the parent, I had to be The Boss.
Society expects parents to control their children, you’re expected to be in charge lest your children become wild brats. The typical ways this is achieved is through punishments (spanking, yelling at, giving time outs, removing possessions or ‘privileges’, & shaming), and rewards (praising, sticker charts, bribery, getting possessions or ‘privileges’).
More often than not, this pressure isn’t explicit. It’s implied with a raised eyebrow when a child is noisy in public or said in many little ways which say “Are you OK with that?” In many ‘subtle’ ways, our society says you as a parent are superior, your job is to raise them ‘right’ and by right they mean quiet and obedient. But if you’re a quiet, obedient adult – you’re boring and no one wants to be around you.
“Unconditional parents want to know how to do something other than threaten and punish. They don’t see their relationship with their children as adversarial, so their goal is to avoid battles, not win them.” ― Alfie Kohn
Moreover, it’s reinforced by the popular culture to belittle children. So we as respectful parents are shamed for aiming higher. We are told to stop judging. We’re called names for not punishing them, actively trying alternatives and treating our children with respect. I don’t want to be seen as a ‘good parent’ by a society that thinks so little of children. And I assume you’re similar since you’re reading this.
I say we need to release this pressure and embrace the power in working WITH children. Parenting is honestly so much easier when it’s not seen as a battle. When we realise that discipline does not equal punishment, the resulting relationship is so much more peaceful and enjoyable.
You can be a great parent and be gentle. You can be a great parent and be your child’s friend. You can be a great parent without mainstream techniques. In fact, I think you can be a great parent because of these things!
I have been asked how I handle these external pressures and judgement. I think that the key is finding the power in knowing what you’re doing feels right to you. When you’re confident in your choices; it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
Sure, I explain why and how I do things if people are genuinely interested – but I see no need to defend myself or get into arguments about it. Let people know it’s not up for debate.
It’s understandable to have fears then when straying from the norm. Especially when many assume that parenting respectfully means passive parenting. But we know that connected parenting isn’t passive. Connected parenting takes work! It’s about mindfulness, cultivating a relationship based on mutual respect and trust. It’s about guidance and helping little people understand the world around them.
Ultimately, I feel it’s important to take back your power and release the pressures set on parents by society. Let go of the judgement, get rid of the expectations that don’t align with what you feel is right and do what is going to cultivate a more connected relationship with your children.
What is your biggest pressure either implied or otherwise? Voice it below and begin to let it go!
Thank you for reading!
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Hi Rachel would love to receive your emails, I home school, co sleep, natural/attachment parent and find now (as I have found in the past) others don’t understand (family also!) So would love to keep in the loop and feel connected as I know I am doing what is right for my daughter and I would love to hear about another mama flowing and following her heart X
That my child should ALWAYS do what I want her to do. I try to listen to her and allow her to make decisions if they are not harmful or inconvenient for us at the time. Believe or not I was told by her nana that she was a “little shit” for not wanting to wear shoes one morning to school. I actually thought that seeing as it was a warm morning and school was a 2 minute walk away, and the kids wear barefeet in class and at lunchtime that I would let her walk barefoot. I find it necessary to keep my distance from my own family who make it very clear that they disagree with my parenting. (I will not smack and they scoff at that too). Thank you for your wonderful article. It gives me strength.
Stay strong Mama. I’ve had to distance myself from my family too, who would much rather control through authoritarian parenting (yelling, hitting, shaming). I won’t let them near my son.
I, too, let my son go barefoot (he loves it!) as often as he would like. There are days I wish he’d wear shoes (I perceive it as too cold) but I am learning to trust that he knows his limits better than I do & I carry some socks & shoes & a jacket for when he feels cold.
Calling your child a “little shit” for not doing what she wanted is such a red flag. Good for you for staying strong & cutting that out of your child’s life. It’s not easy but know there are others out there like you. Solidarity! ❤
I got publicly shamed last week for allowing my children to play with a cubicle door. A lady shouted at them that’s they should ‘be careful they will hurt their hands’ then shouted at me ‘are these yours? Are you going to control them? They’re going to hurt their hands?’ I did respond rather ungraciously with ‘it’s none of your business’ and I then said ‘it’s not my job to control my children they can control themselves’ they were just playing and I had no concerns they are capable of playing with a door without hurting themselves and if they do then we help them through that and learn how not to hurt themselves. The last put in a complaint about me to the swimming manager and then in front of a large group of parents shouted at me ‘you’re not fit to be a mother I will call social services’ all this hoody her two children were stuck to her side gripped by her hands on their arms. I didn’t know what to say and although i am firm in my parenting choices it really effected me and made me doubt so much. Reading this has helped me process and confirm I want to be the gentle parent and I don’t want to control like society expects me to. Just really rattled my confidence.
I have never had an encounter that extreme but I have had a few that have caught me off guard in a similar way. My encounters have often had to do with the fact that I let my small children play with sticks (none of them ever got hurt on said sticks, not even once). It is always hard to come up with a good response in the moment, and it always left me rattled as well. I think a good response for the future may be something like “Thank you for your concern, I am keeping an eye on them.” Keep it short and simple. You don’t have to explain your actions unless the person asking is genuinely and politely curious about your parenting style.
By the way, my 1 year old enjoys playing with the locker doors at our local indoor swimming pool while his brothers take lessons. He will even open them up and sit inside the locker. Even at that young of an age, he never once got hurt even though he did it almost every week for a year.
RJ Smith says
My 3 year old daughter is active and we spend lots of time outside…parks, playing soccer, etc……..when we are for example in a restaurant or other place when she needs to sit…..the looks, the comments about how active she is or wiggly she is. OH MY…..really!!!!!