As parents, it comes naturally to do the best for our children, provide them best possible education, always taking care of them, protect them, be able to provide them whatever makes them happy, burn ourselves out in our jobs to earn the most we can so as to secure their future needs and wants. YES! Parents surely put their heart and soul into giving the best and doing the best for their child. Still is it not easy to identify where do they lack or go wrong, when the child says “you will never get that!”, “you don’t understand me!”, “Leave me alone!”, “I don’t want to talk to you”,” You are bad, I hate you...” etc. The answer to this is something that we collectively lack in our society is awareness of “meeting emotional needs of our children” especially in their earlier years.
This could be because all our energy and intentions behind these efforts are directed be true to our “role” as a parent and unknowingly we miss out of being true to our “relationship” with our child.
It’s nobody’s fault actually; because our society and upbringing has taught us this. But the truth that this generational pattern of conditioning never lets us realise is that parenting is not a role, it’s a relationship.
Children, after coming to this world are just like tourists into a complete foreign land with limited language and skills of socialisation. They don’t know the language to express their needs, they are not independent to take care of themselves and are living inside a body which is still underdeveloped. All they are equipped with their survival instincts and reflexes (which is expressed in their behaviour that parents sometimes try to control). But it doesn’t mean they are incapable of feeling all the emotions and feelings that any human adult can feel. They feel everything; even the complex emotion we feel as adults – be it fear, jealousy, grief, irritation, sadness and anger, disappointment, etc. It’s just they are incapable to understand, identify and communicate their feelings. And when they are in such emotional states, all they can do is shout, cry, throw tantrums, because behaviour (just like game of charades) is all they have which enables them to communicate. They are not being stubborn; this is their language. And, as parents, it’s high time we start understanding this.
To understand this gap of emotional needs better, let us look at 2 different attitudes of parenting: Conditioned and Constricted – This type of parenting attitude is driven from stressed life and agitated moods; dysregulated emotional climate of parents. Here, intention is to raise child to be the “perfect human”, instead of accepting for who they are. To pressurise them to become and act socially desirable (sometimes against their will). These parents may push their children hard to live up to their expectations (sometimes unrealistic) and always expect them to be academically strong, comparing his/her achievements with other children. They have their own standards of how their child should be and want their child to match it. They intend to express love on conditions, rather than whenever they feel to. This type of parenting is “toxic and cold” in nature, in return, re-enforcing the generational patterns causing unhappiness and emotional trauma. This is defined by authoritarian parenting style, emotionally unavailable parents, creating insecure attachment style in their children.
Connected and Conscious – This type of parenting attitude is driven from a relaxed, mindful and calm moods; regulated emotional climate of parents. Here, intention is to raise child to be a “good human”, and accepting for who they are. Here there is space and support let the child be and express their individuality. These parents are mindful and conscious of their expectations from their children. They allow their child with all the freedom to set the bar according to their own interests and capacities. They make sure their expectations are realistic, comfortable and not hurting the child. They intend to express love unconditionally. This type of parenting attitude is “safe and warm” in nature, in return, breaking the generational pattern creating happiness and emotional healing. This is defined by authoritative parenting style; emotionally available parents, creating secure attachment style in their children.
Is your parenting “Conditioned and Constricted” or “Connected and Conscious”?
Conditioned and Constricted
Connected and Conscious
I insist them on following family patterns/rituals against their wishes.
I allow my child to express their unwillingness to take part in any family activity, and also show my regard to it.
I feel embarrassed if they throw a tantrum in public.
It does not bother me when my child throws a tantrum in public as I understand, he/she is feeling hurt or bad, and should feel safe to express that with me, be it anywhere.
I sometimes hit them if they don’t listen to me or keep troubling me.
I have never hit my child, instead I take time-out for myself and comeback and create space for a two-way communication.
It makes me feel agitated or anxious if they don’t stop crying.
I allow my child to express his/her emotion and hold space for them and be with them.
I don’t apologise if I shout or hit them in anger
I always apologise to my child as I understand my anger outburst must have left them confused, scared and hurt.
I don’t know if I make my child feel respected.
I always allow them to express their wishes and tantrums.
I express my love to them on conditions.
I express my love unconditionally.
To shift your parenting attitude from column 1 to column 2, “Compassionate Communication” in a regulated parent body is all it takes. But, sometimes it’s the most difficult skill to execute, especially when it’s much needed – when as parents we ourselves have lost patience or are dysregulated or frustrated.
Years before formal education begins, children learn from words, tone of delivery and body language used in their family environment while talking with them and with each other. Especially when it comes to little ones, all of these elements of communication carry a lot of power which allows us to create a healthy environment in a family. It helps child to feel safe in their emotional experiences and co-regulate. As words act as the foremost and quickest tool to communicate for our little one who lack the intellectual capacity to pick behavioural cues or proficiency in language entirely to make sense about cause and effects of if and why the environment is so unsafe and threatening.
Every moment is a learning experience for the child, so as parents, it’s our responsibility that we make most of them worth it.
The way we speak to our children becomes the way they speak to themselves. Behaviour is all they know how to communicate, so when we understand their behaviour as a “form of communication”, we will not punish or reward them for it. If we control what our child communicates to us, how will the child will learn and feel safe to express himself.
Some Ways that can guide parent to better connect with their child and help them to emotionally co-regulate
1. Respect to their Nos
Understand that when a child says “No”, try to think about
- They are listening to their inner voice.
- They know what they want and don’t want. Let them trust themselves.
- They are setting their boundary clearly.
- They are learning that they can say NO to friends, co-workers, family members, etc.
- We can love someone and also say No.
- They are being authentic.
- They feel comfortable enough to say no.
2. Empower, Not overpower
Provide your kid with the environment where their attachment drive is directed towards you not against you. Instead of showing loud and clear that you, as a parent, consume entire control, initiate the conversation by giving them a little control at first place.
It’s high time we realise and keep reminding ourselves that yes, they are our children, we brought them into this world, but this does not make them less of a separate individual.
And as a separate individual, be it of any age, one likes to have a little control with themselves.
This will also ensure avoidance of stubborn and aggressive behaviours.
E.g.: Instead of saying You have to ask permission from me to go out or watch television,
you can just start by “What are your plans for today evening? Would you like to go to your friend’s house or call them here? Or watch television together?”
3. Convey clearly and politely what you expect from them
As children, we all have grown up to listening “papa se pucho (ask your father)” from our mothers and “mummy se pucho (ask your mother)” from our fathers, while seeking permission for our plans. Well! This is one of old school generationally passed on parenting technique to indirectly deny their request. It does nothing but creates ambiguity in a child’s mind, and sometimes frustration. It may also end up making him/her feel “less important and respected of his wishes”. Instead, be direct with your intentions, but in a supportive and considerate way- “I understand how badly you want to do this…/go there… but we can’t allow you (justify your reason)”. This way the child at least gets the message that their wishes/desires are equally respected and it’s just the circumstances that
4. Teach self-regulation, not self-suppression
Don’t Shut-Down on their feelings.
Ever wondered why should parents be threatened by their stubbornness and anger and call them naughty? Kids are just being themselves.
If a child is surrounded by the environment filled with household fights, or is shouted at whenever they express their needs or desires, etc, little ones will receive the message that “maybe they are causing it, or they should not do anything to aggravate Mumma’s anger, and they learn self-suppression, not self-regulation
Let your children feel welcomed at home. The child will not emotionally feel safe and instead prefer to hide or lie whenever they feel the need to express next time. This further creates distance b/w parent and child.
Instead, our little ones should feel that this is the place they belong to and not that this is the only place because they have nowhere else to go to.
5. Hold Space for their tantrums
Make their comfort, happiness and security your primary goal, not their academic achievements, or trying to create suffocated perfect versions out of them.
Babies are not blank slates. They just don’t have their own chalk to write on them – parents help baby to first form their own chalk and give words how to write.
If you want your child to listen to you, teach them what “listening” actually is, show them what has been expected from them, by listening to them first. This may take more than regular time in resolving the situation or calming a tantrum, but it will create a foundation of emotional safety and discipline.
6. Regulate yourself
Being there for kids when you cannot be there for yourself, makes you miserable and disables your from expressing the best parent version of yours. When you get restless and stressed on your kids, they get a message “it’s about them”. Because they lack the information and intellectualisation to comprehend why you behaved the way you behaved.
“A greatest gift a parent can give to their child is their own happiness”.
One of the techniques parents can practise is Time Out – If you are losing it, time-out. Step back from the situation, calm yourself and come back to the child.
Children are not born into this world by choosing their parents, but parents can definitely make a choice in how to raise them. Every choice made in our parenting will act as a filter to stop generational patterns passing forward. Yes, a thought may come to our mind that “This is how I was raised and I came out okay!”. We may think we are okay, but can it be that we simply don’t know any better? We may think like this because this is what feels most familiar and we may have become comfortable and accustomed to it. The fact that we feel okay in growing up with those manners doesn’t mean we are truly okay.
Your greatest accomplishment may not be something you do but someone you raise. Andy Stanley
Add kindness to their world so that they know what power, virtues like kindness and empathy carry.
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