In my journey as a parent, I experienced the short-term, immediate, gratification of being an easy-going permissive parent –liked by my kids—just going with the flow. This resulted in an artificial, short shelf-life version of family peace & harmony with an inevitable expiration date. The peace & harmony dissolved as my children became pushy, whiny, demanding and unhappy. I became freaked out by their disrespect, discouraged by their immediate need for gratification and disheartened by their obvious unhappiness. Over all of us hung a cloud of dissatisfaction, everybody seemed to be “losing”.
My Dictatorial Reign and My Kid’s Guerrilla Resistance Movement
Can you guess what came next? I thought that getting back in total control of my children and myself was the way out of this mess, I swung in the other direction. I became a dominating, authoritarian, controlling parent in order to get my life back on track and in turn my children’s. I wanted to rein them in so their annoying and unlikeable behaviors would end. My not-so-benevolent dictatorial reign had them go underground in a guerrilla resistance movement. We had a total breakdown in communication, adversarial relationships almost overnight and sneaky, covert maneuvers on both sides. On my side, I was out “to catch them in the act” and on their side they were out “to get away with it.” We were not in a state of being our best selves. The cloud of dissatisfaction was back, everybody was “losing” AGAIN.
An Exhausting, Unworkable & Unsatisfying Way of Parenting
I wish I could say that I made a course correction in my parenting right then and there. Unfortunately, I had to cycle through this pattern of behavior a few more times…I would get panicked, I would be afraid of having been overly permissive, and my anger and frustration would implode. I would become that authoritarian and dictatorial parent to gain control.
This “permissive parent/authoritarian parent” cycle was exhausting to me. Some of you parents out there may recognize this “pendulum swinging” style of parenting. I suspect over coffee we could share about how exhausting, unworkable & unsatisfying it is to parent this way. We could talk about how our parental self-confidence became trashed, how our kids stopped trusting us, and perhaps our parenting partners as well. We could talk about how our breakdowns with our children lacked respect, eroded our children’s trust in us and served to benefit no one. Oh yes, we have all experienced family moments when nobody was being their “best self’ and honestly, sometimes we parents would rather forget about those moments than learn from them.
When My Behavior Shifts, So Does My Child’s
This “pendulum swinging” parenting behavior helped me see that my children’s behavior shifted in synch with my own. Shifting my behavior and seeing my children’s behavior shift, didn’t happen overnight, or in a week, and sometimes it took a few months, but it always happened. Shifting my parenting attitudes and behaviors made all the difference.
An Attitude Shift
I recognized that consciously listening to my kids made me a better parent. I started to parent my kids respecting them for who they were, and who they said they wanted to become, not necessarily who I wanted them to be. This attitude demonstrated my respect for them and they noticed.
I committed to consistent behavior. I had to really practice following through on those significant course corrections in my attitude, behavior and actions. Practicing letting go of a negative, frustrated or annoyed tone of voice and replacing it with a calm, interested tone of voice did not happen overnight! Practicing with my children, getting feedback from my children, husband and friends, and following through on that feedback had me succeed at being consistent.
A Parent Who Can Handle Whatever Life Throws Their Way
Shifting my attitude and being consistent were two practices that allowed me to feel confident as a parent again. I was able to handle the tough family problems that inevitably came along with more humor, calmness and certainty. Let me help you feel less stress and more confidence when handling your inevitable tough family problems. In an hour and a half counseling session we will come up with two specific strategies that suit your parenting style. To book a session go to the counseling page.
In the comments below, I would love to hear from you about a practice of yours that helps you be a parent who can handle whatever life throws your family’s way.
Did you ever have a moment when you thought, “I have to reach down for something more and I feel like I’ve just used up everything I’ve got?” “ What was the key that unlocked that door?”
And even if you haven’t experienced this yet, I still would love to hear from you about what you imagine you could practice to become that parent who can handle anything.
Be as specific as you can in your comment. Concrete examples can really shed light on an issue and help us all learn and grow faster — and your share could really make a difference for someone right now.
Thank you, as always, for reading and getting engaged in the discussion!
By Jill Valenti