Q. I am really trying to parent my two kids, 5 and 7, differently than the way I was raised. I am good at telling my husband and my friends that I want to parent with connection. But when they say what does that mean, I’m lost. I get about as far as – ‘Well, it just doesn’t feel right to parent the old way.’ And of course I have my days when I lose it and do everything wrong. I wonder if you could help me think thru why I want to do a connective approach and what I can say to my naysayer friends.
A. This is a common conundrum for many parents who want to parent differently but who haven’t yet absorbed the principles of why or experienced the results of a connected relationship yet. It takes time to incorporate a new method before you can explain to others why you are doing what you’re doing.
It also requires a certain amount of child development knowledge not well understood in traditional parenting to know what can be realistically and appropriately expected for a child to succeed at meeting those expectations. As well as a trusting understanding of your child’s unique temperament.
The following statements may help explain why you want a connected approach:
- I choose to be a connective parent because flexibility and self-direction are the two critically important competencies needed to succeed in the 21st Century.
- I want to connect instead of direct my children so they do not grow dependent on someone else making decisions for them.
- I choose to connect instead of punish because I don’t ever want my children to be motivated to behave out of fear or to ever think they aren’t good enough.
- I want to connect because I know that making my children feel worse about themselves is not the way to get them to behave better.
- I choose to empathize with my child because understanding her point of view is the best way to establish a good relationship and accept her unconditionally.
- I don’t choose to be the boss and enforce ‘my way or the highway’ because who is to say my way is right for my child?
- I connect and empathize because that is the best way to influence my child.
- I connect so that my child trusts that I have his back no matter what.
- When my child feels connected, he knows I will listen instead of telling him what to do. That way I ensure that he comes to me with problems.
- I don’t want to engage in power struggles with my child because a win/lose model never wins.
- I don’t use time out because I don’t think it’s right to isolate a child who is having a problem.
- I don’t spank or hit because I don’t want to teach my child that using physical force is a way to get what you want.
- I don’t take away privileges because intentionally provoking my child’s anger or resentment is never the way to gain cooperation.
- I don’t ground my child or take away what is important to him because it won’t feel fair, will break connection, and he will learn that I don’t understand him.
- I choose to problem solve instead of punish or dole out consequences because it is important for children to express their feelings and opinions and to work through a problem to find a solution that incorporates the needs and wishes of others.
- I choose to problem solve instead of direct and punish so that my child’s prefrontal cortex gets a strong and regular workout.
- I allow my children to argue with me and negotiate because I want them to have the benefit of developing their own opinions and strong voice.
- I don’t fix my child’s problems because I want to instill in her my trust that she is capable of solving her own problems, knowing I will support and help her if needed.
- I allow the natural consequences of his behavior to be his most effective teacher. Sometimes that means he must fail to learn resilience.
- I don’t blame my child for making a problem for me or disrupting my life because I take responsibility for my own problems and emotions.
- I don’t take responsibility for my child’s feelings and desires, but I take full responsibility for everything I say and do. (These last three are what constitute strong boundaries)
- I treat my children respectfully even when setting limits because that’s how I want them to treat others.
- I take care of myself because my job is to model the type of person I want my child to become.
- I work toward never screaming, yelling and blaming because I don’t believe that is the way to conduct relationships.
- I consider myself my child’s authority figure and guide but not his boss or director.
- I take my child’s unacceptable behavior as a sign that she is having a problem, not being a problem—and then connect with the emotion provoking the behavior.
- I don’t blame or criticize my child because I don’t want him to react defensively.
- I choose relationship above and beyond all else because in the end that is what matters most.
These are only a few reasons for using a connective approach. Please add your own as you learn and grow as a connective parent.