I think so many of us want a better connection and closeness for our relationship with our children, and we all want our children to grow up to be happy and functional adults. Yet, sometimes I think parents think these two things are at odds with one another – like connection and the things required to be a functional adult are separate and almost at odds in a way. Love may be this important but soft commodity and surely children need stronger discipline to make them grow into success, right? I think that’s what people think.
Many of us grew up in punitive if not downright abusive households where we weren’t heard on any level. Many of us know we don’t want that in our families, but then we aren’t sure what else we want and how would that work. Is any level of confict okay? How do we handle conflict without damaging? In order to be a gentle parent, does that mean no boundaries whatsooever? Will I damage the connection I have with my child by setting boundaries?
Secure attachment in the years of infancy and toddlerhood of our children is extremely important and sets a foundation for the rest of a child’s life. However, attachment and connection must change to be developmentally appropriate as a child ages, and this involves boundaries set with love and respect. So if you are wondering how to be a better guiding force for your child and having a peaceful family, it begins with the end in mind. What do you want your family to look like? What do you want your relationship with your child or teen to look like? Do you want your child to be a functional adult, and if you don’t want to work towards that in the school aged years, when will you start helping them be more independent?
Love and respect is the foundation of all of this, but do not mistake respect for equality. In the scheme of things, you are the adult and while the child has input at the points that they can, you have a lot of life experience to hopefully guide them through the things they can’t think through as well for themselves (and you can use your experience to help them learn these skills as developmentally appropriate through your modeling).
Attachment to your child is also not the same as doing everything for them. Attachment is supporting and guiding, and letting them make the small mistakes or the decisions they can handle with the consequences included without you rescuing them as if they are incapable. To do so, takes away their power as an individual. For example, you can help a teenager brainstorm ways to deal with consequences, but you cannot remove the consequence. Otherwise, nothing has been gained by this practice of making smaller decisions.
Gentle parenting means getting a handle on our own triggers, building community so when we are exhausted our children are not bearing the brunt of this without other adults around to help. It means taking care of ourselves, and letting our children know they are okay with trusted other people besides just us. It means not just sucking in our child’s energy and spitting it back at them. If our children are wound tight, we might need to be loose. If our children are angry and frustrated, we might need to be calm. We can empathize and sympathize, but we also need to be the grounded one.
Halloween is in two days, so please share with me your favorite gentle disciple tips and tricks!