As children become older, they want and need to become more independent. This turns into a challenge for parents because this emerging independence often means that kids do not want to be told what to do. This separation process can lead to more conflicts and power struggles. It is important to evaluate your current parenting approach now and decide whether it is still going to be effective as your children mature. If not, start making parenting changes now.
Chances are you have read numerous parenting books and attended parenting classes to find answers to your parent-child challenges. If you have tried proposed solutions, such as ways to control your anger, you may be having difficulty making your desired parenting changes stick. The ideas sound good, you carry through for a while and then your old habits take over again and you feel discouraged.
The key to a more permanent behavior change is that the beliefs need to be consistent with the actions. When you only focus on changing your actions without learning the complementary beliefs, success will be minimal. To make changes stick, first understand the underlying beliefs and attitudes behind your current ineffective actions. Then learn what the new beliefs and attitudes are that match your new desired actions.
The Think-Feel-Do Cycle teaches us that what we think triggers how we feel and how we feel influences our actions. Complementary to your side of the Think-Feel-Do Cycle is your child’s Think-Feel-Do Cycle. You can reactively respond to their actions and they can then reactively respond to you. This can be a vicious cycle where you give up personal power and instead feel controlled by your children. You regain power by breaking the reactive cycle through positively changing your thinking side of the cycle first. This in turn brings about more positive changes in your children.
A common misconception about changing kids’ behavior is that parents have to directly change what their child does. You can experience how ineffective this is when you loudly command, “Quit hitting your sister!”, “Turn off the T.V.!” or “It’s time to go to bed!” with no compliance. Your child becomes an immovable object with your attempts at overt parental control.
Here are common parental beliefs behind these commanding statements. These beliefs are often learned in childhood.
- Parents are right because they are the adult and children need to learn how to follow rules. Whether parents and children feel connected isn’t as important.
- Children act badly because they are trying to get back at or manipulate their parents.
- My children need to live up to my expectations of them without questioning and disagreeing with me. My goals are more important than theirs.
- When children start to get out of control, I need to put more controls on them.
Alternative discipline approaches that bring out more cooperation with children are the after-then approach, listening to emotions and stating expectations clearly and problem solving together. To implement these approaches, requires a shift from believing you need to control children to believing you can guide children by working together with them.
Here are beliefs and attitudes that match the positive parenting approaches listed above.
- My parenting actions are based on the belief that “I am emotionally and physically available” for my child as much as possible.
- My child is his/her own person and it is not for me to mold her/him into my own expectations. I will hold in check my judgment and criticism when it is hurtful.
- The relationship between me and my child is more important than being right all the time.
- Children’s basic nature is to love their parents. A feeling of disconnection from others can lead to misbehavior and poor thinking.
I try to view their misbehavior from their perspective to help them meet their needs positively.Take time to write down all the thoughts you are having about your child and yourself during a reoccurring conflict. Are your beliefs creating the relationship you want? Which ones are you willing to discard? Then explore what new beliefs will support your new actions. You may benefit from private parenting coaching to answer these questions.
Practice saying your new beliefs before the conflict occurs again. During the start of the conflict, stop yourself and repeat these beliefs silently. With your new beliefs, the effective and connecting actions will come more naturally. When you falter, just try again. With renewed determination, you will gradually make your positive parenting thoughts and changes stick resulting in greater happiness for yourself and your family.
©2014 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding, has been a Certified Parent Educator since 1994. She works with parents and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children of all ages. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking, classes, and private parent coaching sessions. Cynthia authors the Middle School Mom column for Parenting on the Peninsula magazine. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and speaks at a variety of organizations. Contact Cynthia at bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com, cynthia@bridges2understanding,com, or 650. 679.8138 to learn more about building cooperation with your children.