This post is part of the 30 Days Towards Connected Parenting series.
Connection with your children begins and ends with treating them like a human being. This includes involving them in everything you can. When it comes to problem solving, this means working together.
It’s seems so simple but it is such a shift from the conventional thinking surrounding children. Children are often treated so differently to other humans. But the shift has a massively positive impact.
So often tantrums, disagreements or ‘bad behaviours’ stem from children feeling misunderstood or not heard and respected. As parents we can help create a family culture where we work together. We can nurture this by working on:
I find parenting is often seen as something done to children. The most important distinction you can make is to come to realise that parenting is a team effort and is something done with children. Children deserve a say in what impacts them. Children need to feel like a powerful part of the family team. They have the right to feel involved in life, in choices, and with problem solving.
One of the most important ways children learn is by doing. This isn’t limited to academics. Children learn to resolve conflict by actually actively resolving conflict. They learn to make good choices by having the chance to make choices. Children simply can’t be independent, helpful or thoughtful without everyday chances to practice doing just that.
Your job is to provide appropriate choices so that you’re not struggling with their decisions. Obviously there are a few times – like with safety, hygiene or appointments where there are ‘non-negotiables’. However, you can give children clear reasoning and reinforce these ideals without punishment or yelling.
Self Respect & Confidence
I think one of the most important things to encourage in our children to help with problem solving is self respect and confidence. This cannot happen without children feeling respected. Does what you do and say as a parent show your child that you respect them? Do they feel ownership over their bodies? Do they feel heard? Do they get a say in the things that affect their lives?
Kids have a right to body autonomy – their bodies are their own and they should get to make any and all choices about it. This is obviously important with safety and knowing no one else can touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. But it should also include who they kiss or hug, if they cut their hair or pierce their ears, when and how much they eat and sleep, and appropriate clothing choices. Giving kids control of their bodies at a young age will build a foundation for them creating healthy personal boundaries later in life.
In order to nurture self respect and confidence in children, they have to see you practicing those attributes and they have to hear what that means. It’s important to talk to your children about respecting their bodies and show that you respect their big emotions.
Respectful and connected parents still enforce limits and boundaries. The difference here is that we explain them thoroughly (no “because I said so”) and we give them the freedom to make age appropriate choices in other areas.
Often you have to repeat your explanation. Often, you have to help them work through emotions that come up because of these boundaries. That’s okay. Through this work you are showing your children that you care enough to explain, re-explain and help them deal with the things they feel are difficult. Working as a team to establish personal boundaries and handle each others boundaries is something that we need to involve in daily life. This comes naturally with a family culture of respect and cooperation.
When people (and children are people too) feel like part of a team, they’re more likely to help that team! Ask yourself:
What areas of your child’s life do you think you can work with them with?
What ways can you help involve them?
What aspects of your child’s life do they lack choices with that you could alter?
What boundaries do you need to explain better?