Change the Parent… Not the Child
Ever make a mistake? Of course you did! We all do. As parents, we don’t want our kids to make mistakes. We want them to learn from our mistakes. Did you learn from your parents mistakes so you could avoid making mistakes? No, not totally, for a number of reasons. You are not your parents. You did not live their life. We do not learn that way for everything. We are human beings and we need to make out own mistakes.
If your child is acting out, getting angry, or making bad behavior choices it may be because they feel so over whelmed by their world. If you had a very controlling boss constantly telling you what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and why; you would soon start getting short and snippy and maybe even walk off the job. Well, growing up is our kids job. They know we won’t fire them though, so they take advantage of us. They act out. Then they feel bad. If you or they tell themselves they are bad, they will repeat the cycle over and over, in varying directions. Alarmingly, for the rest of our lives. Those messages become internalized maladapted core beliefs about ourselves and despite how uncomfortable they are, they show up in times of weakness or temptation and we behave in ways that confirm they are true.
Learn How to Empower
So, if you want them to feel better about themselves, you can help them by giving them choices. Empowerment is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? Don’t you love it when you feel like you are in charge of your world and things are going well? So do the short ones! They want to feel empowered. Lets face it, a kid has a whole world of adults telling what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and why. All the time! All the time!
Allowing your kiddos to make choices will teach them decision making skills, empower their sense of self, and reduce their stress levels. We need to teach them how to make choices and how to make good choices. Evaluation-situations come naturally to humans, even kiddos. Your task is to help them evaluate the information and look at short and long-term rewards and consequences. That’s our goal as their parents is to teach them how to make decisions when we are not around. While they are around, give them opportunities to make decisions! Help them. Discuss their choices and why they made that choice.
You can help them by asking them questions:
- Why did you do this? (because I like candy)
- Why did you have to do this now or in this way? (because I didn’t want my brother to eat it; because I had it with me; because I didn’t want to wait until tomorrow)
- What actually happened and is that what you intended? (I got a stomach ache)
- What other things will happen as a result of this choice? (I might get sick; I might get a tooth ache; I won’t have any candy left for tomorrow)
Would there have been a better option? (…)
It is important to not make a bad decision be a reflection about who they are as a person. If they get stuck in shame, they will continue the cycle. So, let them make mistakes. Not dangerous ones, of course but mistakes. Then talk to them about what it was like to make that mistake, the decision making before knowing it was a mistake, and the feelings afterwards.
Making good decisions takes time and practice. Invite them as often as possible to make choices. Offer various choices and circumstances. Make the options meaningful. Being invested in choosing does the following for your child:
- it gives your child ownership over their decisions, actions and consequences
- it allows your child to start differentiating between “good” and “bad” choice
- it gets your child in the habit of thinking through their choices before they makes them. It honors your child autonomy and ultimately empowers them.
Lets compare Enabling parenting to Empowering parenting.
It is clean up time, why are just sitting there? Rhetorical
All of your friends are helping. I wonder if you are a baby and not a big girl? (shaming)
Pick up the toys now or you will sit on the chair instead of joining for lunch threatening
I am going to set a timer for 3 minutes and these better be picked up when it dings. (implies or else-threatening or fear)
We go through this every day! I am tired of it. (Hopelessness)
If you don’t want your toys thrown away you’d better pick them up right now threatening
- I have seen you pick up toys before. I know you do it. Shows faith and a reminder they can do it
- You were really having fun! It is hard to stop playing and clean up. How about I pick up the squares and you pick up the rectangles? Acknowledges feeling first, team work.
- Gentle touch. Do you want to put away the big blocks first or the small ones
- What ideas do you have to get the toys picked up?
- What is supposed to be happening right now?
- Is it more fun to work together?