It’s amazing how much parenting is talked about, written about, and stressed over. My understanding in the last eight years of parenting (since the birth of our daughter) and the twenty before (working with kids as a teacher) has undergone many shifts. I hope some of these insights might help you come to terms with your parenting and maybe make a shift that could benefit your family. When we take this time to understand our parenting and why we do what we do I think we get a chance to more deeply understand ourselves. Happy exploring!
Many of us just had Monday off. Labor Day was first celebrated on September 5th, 1882. The Fair Labor Standards Act came much later in 1938. This act assures that when young people work that the work is safe (dol.gov). It was less than a century ago the main job of a parent was to keep the arms of their children from being caught in machinery (as if they could even control that, since they were not with their child at the time). Our worries over “helicopter parenting,” feeding our children only organic food, and making sure they are able to get into the “right” college beginning in preschool are a far cry from the worries of parents 100 years ago in the U.S. Of course, there are still children in our world that are not safe, yet on a whole the trend is toward letting children have their childhood.
The psychologists that created the foundation of Positive Discipline (Dreikurs and Adler) worked around the turn of the century and understood the plight families faced. If we delve into the difference between sending a kid to a factory and sending a kid to school, we see our parenting approaches have to make huge shifts. I used to wrestle more with these shifts. When we parent from a democratic and positive stance it’s not always pretty. Why can’t I get my child to “behave”? Why does she tantrum in public? Why does he talk back at home? Why can’t I control this kid? I think to myself "I would have never acted like this". Why? In part because my parents came out of depression era families, in part because I lived in a authoritarian culture.
This shift is a slow one and I think our generation has a real opportunity to make a change. While there are so many ways to redirect these unwanted behaviors, more and more I think it’s positive that we let children have their emotions. Let go of the control and let them be. This does not mean we let the limits go. There are rules and we must show and teach children how to be a part of society. As our world has evolved so has our focus with how to guide children though childhood. Of course there are different ways of parenting and your house is just that, your house, yet I see this shift toward a more positive and disciplined approach to be just that...positive!
How does this related to what you do right now? First, if you are already on the path toward a more democratic form of parenting and you are feeling under supported in your peer group you are not alone. I find this all the time. In our house we aim not punish or reward. We deal with misbehavior and treat it as and “misguided behavior”. We look at the belief behind the behavior. See my linked resource of the “Mistaken Goal Chart”. My husband had gotten increasingly good at this, which at times can frustrate me, as a most devoted advocate of positive discipline. Sometimes, when our daughter misbehaves, I do want to hurt back because I feel hurt, yet that is not the most skillful adult choice.
So what do we do? #1 we have a weekly family meeting. We have been doing this on and off for four years and I can say it’s made a huge difference. See more guidelines at this link. #2 we talk a LOT: What happened today? What were the highs and the lows? Oh, you seem quite upset right now maybe we all need to have some time to relax. #3 we try not over schedule (for the most part). We respect that our kid needs a lot of down time “just” to do Legos. I am very inspired by blog posts and parents who also walk this path like Rachel Macy Stafford, Dr. Laura Markhman and Glennon Doyle Melton. In short I reach out for help on the Internet or with my friends. If you want to deepen your parenting goals reach out. If you have a question for me reach out. Or if you are so inclined to pass this blog along to a friend I would appreciate your support. And lastly something to say to our selves from Rachel Macy Stafford:
“Be kind to yourself. You are doing the best you can”.