Wednesday, 16 April 2014 09:16

Parenting with Lorraine

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30-year veteran Marriage Family and Child Therapist and mother of 5 assists parents in acquiring skills that enhance their ability to raise high-functioning and happy children.

Respect

What outcome are we aiming for?

It is almost universally agreed that the most important job in the world is raising a child, and yet, it is often something we undertake without any preparation. Generally, we parent as we were parented and sometimes this leads to a positive outcome. However, we are not always clear about what outcome we are aiming for.

Blind obedience?

Do we want our children to be blindly obedient? In some cases, “yes.” For example when we shout “STOP” when our child is about to step into oncoming traffic without looking. But how about when we call them to come to us when they are in the middle of some task that is important to them? Are we willing to hear “just a minute, I’m playing a video game.” For some, that is a natural and acceptable response. For others it may feel like defiance. What makes for that difference in our reaction? Generally, it is in the tone of the relationship we have developed with that child.

Mutual respect

When we have built a relationship based on mutual respect and trust, we are much less likely to interpret our child’s response as defiance. For many it is a novel idea that “respect” is a quality that goes in both directions. We are likely to believe that our children owe us respect. We are less likely to understand that our children also want respect.

30-year veteran Marriage Family and Child Therapist and mother of 5 assists parents in acquiring skills that enhance their ability to raise high-functioning and happy children.

Respect

What outcome are we aiming for?

It is almost universally agreed that the most important job in the world is raising a child, and yet, it is often something we undertake without any preparation. Generally, we parent as we were parented and sometimes this leads to a positive outcome. However, we are not always clear about what outcome we are aiming for.

Blind obedience?

Do we want our children to be blindly obedient? In some cases, “yes.” For example when we shout “STOP” when our child is about to step into oncoming traffic without looking. But how about when we call them to come to us when they are in the middle of some task that is important to them? Are we willing to hear “just a minute, I’m playing a video game.” For some, that is a natural and acceptable response. For others it may feel like defiance. What makes for that difference in our reaction? Generally, it is in the tone of the relationship we have developed with that child.

Mutual respect

When we have built a relationship based on mutual respect and trust, we are much less likely to interpret our child’s response as defiance. For many it is a novel idea that “respect” is a quality that goes in both directions. We are likely to believe that our children owe us respect. We are less likely to understand that our children also want respect.

Showing respect while staying in charge

We begin demonstrating respect when our children are infants by meeting their needs in a timely fashion. It gets more complicated as they get older and we must become creative to find ways to show our children respect while “staying in charge.” Parents need to be in charge in order to keep their children safe and happy. Yes, “Happy.” Children whose parents are absent or give them too much freedom are overwhelmed by decisions they are not equipped to make. They are then often faced with the negative consequences of making poor decisions

Giving choices, not commands

One way to demonstrate respect for children is by giving them choices that are acceptable to us, as opposed to commands. Finding those choices is sometimes quite challenging, but certainly worth the effort.

For the very young child, we can offer choices non-verbally, such as showing him two different foods. He might respond by pointing or reaching for the one he prefers. If you have a daughter around 3 or 4 years old, you might start out the day by giving her the choice of 2 or 3 different outfits. This early opportunity to make a choice is a very effective developmental strategy.

If the child has a strong opinion that we haven’t considered, it is important that we consider it carefully and allow them their choice whenever possible. When it is not possible, we must be clear and concise in our refusal. Parents often try to justify their refusal with extended reasons. This weakens their authority.

Our greatest challenge comes as our children become adolescents with their own strong opinions and it is more difficult for us to find choices that they might find acceptable. However, it is crucial that we do just that. There will be times when it is impossible. For instance, when your teenager wants to go to a party at the home of a friend whose parents you don’t know, it is your responsibility to talk to those parents and determine the safety of the situation, even though your teenagers may be embarrassed.

As our children grow into their late teenage years, it is often difficult for us as parents to recognize that our children are, in fact, adults. But we must be able to let go with some grace in order to maintain a positive relationship with our adult children.

Until next time....................... tj

This story appeared in Issue 270 of the Tokyo Journal.

To order Issue 270, click here.

 
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