Do you have a child who ignores you when you give directions, or argues with you like an attorney trying to change your mind, or refuses to talk to you other than with a few words or grunts? If you do, then Ally Parenting – The path from conflict to cooperation is for you. Each of these challenges creates a painful wall between you and your child that can melt away with an Ally Parenting approach.
Ally Parenting is the synthesis of twenty-two years of teaching parents through private parenting consultations, classes, and speaking engagements. Each chapter is an answer to questions parents have asked about how to get more cooperation from their children, or how to make them more responsible, or how to get their child to talk to them more. Parents who had tried many common strategies such as taking things away, isolating, yelling, pleading, threatening, shaming, questioning, commanding, etc. until they couldn’t stand it anymore.
These common authoritarian strategies create an adversarial relationship in the family. Therefore, parents are unable to influence their children and often feel like powerless victims. They want their children to view them as an Ally who will listen to them and discuss problems with them. At the same time, they want to be respected as the final authority in the family. The parents in this book weren’t ready to give up on their families, so they reached out to me to find an alternate parenting approach that would work with their children.
As I worked with these parents, I was also raising a daughter of my own with a strong-willed mind. I realized early on that a controlling parenting approach didn’t work with my daughter either. I read about one strategy on how to get kids to bring over their dishes after mealtime The strategy taught that each time she forgot to take them over, I would take the dishes over instead and she would have to pay me as if I was her maid. When I told my daughter what we were going to do, she burst into tears and said, “I’m never going to have any money.” She knew she would constantly forget.
This threat wasn’t going to work because to her it was a punishment which would only leave her feeling discouraged. So, we never implemented it. Instead, we used more respectful strategies referred to in this book such as short reminders, “Your dish”, or the “after- then strategy,”(i..e. “After you bring over your dish, then you can watch TV.” These Ally approaches were much more effective in getting the dishes to the kitchen!
As parents and I worked together, it became clear that they needed to know exactly what to say word for word. Since they didn’t experience respectful parenting as a child, they didn’t have a reservoir of words to use. They needed to know what current words and actions were building the walls so they could stop using them. Parents also needed to know not only what to say instead, but how to listen so they could emotionally connect with their children. Without connection, advice on how to direct their children or do problem solving together would be ineffective. Parents who had already tried controlling their children, with damaging results, were finally willing to learn how to guide their children based on an emotional connection first.
As a result, Ally Parenting was born in contrast to adversarial parenting. Parents need to focus on how to communicate so that walls and barriers melt and bridges and connection between parents and children are built. Because parents and I collaborated to find solutions, I consider each parent a co-author of this book. Their questions brought forth my inner wisdom based on knowledge, experience, and intuition of how we interact with one another. Then, they took my suggestions, tweaked them to fit their family, and reported back the successes and continual challenges they experienced. Thank you to the hundreds of parents whose quest for solutions on how to melt the walls has been the great impetus for creating this resource for parent-child cooperative communication.
My parenting philosophy is strongly influenced by Michael Popkin, PhD, who created Active Parenting. I was fortunate to begin my career as a parenting educator while being trained and teaching a 6-week Active Parenting class and seeing the positive results parents were experiencing.
Michael has graciously given me permission to use several of his parenting concepts in this book. His in-depth understanding about the change process, communication, goals of behavior, respectful limit setting, and problem solving resonated with me and continues to be the foundation for Ally Parenting.
I was also privileged to assist Patty Wipfler, founder of Hand in Hand parenting, in developing her Parenting by Connection parenting education program. She is a master at understanding how to listen deeply to children which is an integral part of my work with parents and my own family. Thank you, Michael, and Patty for your dedication to creating happier families and thus a happier world.
My goal is to build a more peaceful world through each family learning how to communicate respectfully and cooperatively regardless of the parents’ childhood experiences and role models. As parents, we can change the next generation and create a happier world. Here is a story of how a mom used the tools in Ally Parenting: The path from conflict to cooperation to build greater harmony with her daughter.
Mom Wins Cooperation Through Soft Power Rather Than Harshness
I started working with Cynthia because I wanted to reduce the conflict in my home with my two teenagers. I knew I needed to change how I approached situations and the way I was giving instructions or making “suggestions.” I was suffering and I didn’t know what I was doing wrong, but whatever it was wasn’t working.
We worked on my beliefs and attitudes. What I thought was a normal way to interact, I came to realize, was sarcastic and hurtful. I was trying to “force” my kids to change by making them feel bad. It was hard realizing this, but as a result I changed.
Here is an example of my change. My daughter was going to church with me. When I saw what she was wearing, I knew it was not appropriate for church. In the past I would have said things like, “What are you thinking wearing that?” or “Are you kidding? You look too skanky. You’re not going looking like that.” This would be considered hard power which is being forceful to try and get what I want. This approach led her to being angry with me and we would end up in a fight.
Instead, I thought about the impact of my words and I tried a gentler approach, a soft power connecting approach where I would have greater influence and not get resistance. I was amazed at the results!
Instead I said, “Your outfit is cute. I think, though that it would be good to change your boots to shoes for church.” Her response, “Okay, Mom” and off she went and happily changed. No argument at all. I’m determined to keep watching my words and win my kids cooperation through offering suggestions in a manner that isn’t a putdown. Thank you, Cynthia for your insightful suggestions!
Mom of two teenagers
I feel confident that you can make these suggested changes work for you because I and hundreds of other parents have as well. I was motivated to change by a deep desire to create a close relationship with my teenage daughter. What is your motivation to change?
The stories are true and the dialogue examples have been successfully tried by parents with children ages five to twenty-five, adjusting them to fit the child’s age. Thank you for joining me on your journey to creating greater harmony in your home. When you feel a wall, just know that you can melt the wall like every other parent I’ve worked with. You will feel wonderful when you learn how to guide and support your children in a respectful and connected way as their Ally. I look forward to having you contact me and share your stories about how Ally Parenting has created greater connection, cooperation, and harmony in your home.