Today’s blog post is submitted by our featured guest contributor, Esther Schiedel. We hope you enjoy the post and look forward to part 2 of this post from Esther.
“I’m on your side” is a message we want to convey to our children (and to any other people we love).
Parents want their children to grow up to be happy, healthy, and competent adults. Children want to be happy, healthy, competent—and grown up! Same ultimate goals.
However, parenting tends to bring up lots of oppositional situations. Children are driven to explore and experiment to learn as much as they can as fast as they can. Parents are trying to keep children safe, (and fed and clothed and educated and socialized…) and to meet their own needs. There are bound to be some conflicts. It is extremely easy to slip into thinking your child is out to get you–and for your child to feel the same way about you. But acting like opponents can be dangerous as well as unpleasant. Here are some hints on how to avoid or escape from the stalemate.
- Take care of yourself. It’s not your child’s job to make sure you get enough rest or the right foods or that you learn how to handle stress—you’ve got to make that happen (by yourself, with the help of other relatives, friends, and professionals).
- Enjoy, respect, and celebrate your child’s wonderful qualities and activities. Have fun together. Listen. Play. Express your love for your child every day.
- Clarify to yourself and to your child (at an age appropriate level) what your job as the parent entails: to protect, to provide for, and to guide. You don’t have to control everything (indeed you can’t!). But you do have a responsibility to your child that is different from his or her responsibility to you. To be on your child’s side means having your child’s best interests at heart.
- Being on the same side as your child does NOT mean that you always agree. (The same holds true for your relationship with your spouse or your best friend). You have your reasons for disagreeing. For example: I used to stop my son from plugging or unplugging cords in electrical outlets when he was a toddler. I was acting in his best interest—I was on his side—even though he adamantly opposed my intervention at the time. He had his reasons for wanting to explore his environment.
- When you need to intervene, do it with respect and understanding (when possible). Author Mary Sheedy Kurcinka suggests a helpful phrase to use: “The rule is —–. I will help you follow the rule.”
- Explain the WHY behind the rules and/or behind your intervention. WHY isn’t always obvious to children. Your explanation will not necessarily convince your child—but it is still important to give it.
- Work together with your child(ren). Be willing to negotiate. Family rules can be made—and modified—by the whole family. Children are constantly growing. Situations change and some rules need to evolve to fit the new circumstances.
Ultimately your child will be responsible for his or her behavior. You may not agree on everything as adults, either, but you can still be on the same side.
Esther Schiedel is parent to three adults, grandparent to two boys, and a Certified Family Life Educator. She provides parenting education through classes and workshops through LBCC and through her business, Sharing Strengths. She became interested in parenting education when she became a parent and had a need for more information and support.