Parents are often presented with two options when it comes to raising their kids, and neither of them are very appealing...
Method One -– The parent must take control and win at all costs. The adult makes sure the child knows who is in charge - and it's not the kid. Ever. Parents are a "united front" against their kids. Parents do not let the child misbehave; they punish the child if/when they do "act out" (regardless if it's an age appropriate behavior).
When we use this philosophy as parents, it can be exhausting. The constant policing, being the "bad” guy, always having to find a solution and make sure it gets implemented...– it's just not a very enjoyable way to spend time with our kids.
News flash: the kids don't really like it either. Always being on the losing team wears a person down. Being frequently reminded that they have no power has a negative impact on the relationship. After a time, the child may simply explode. They don't have the opportunity to develop problem-solving skills, as they are only expected to obey the adult's solution. Being around resentful children isn't very pleasant, either.
Then there's the other side of the coin. Let's call it... Method Two. This is where the parent abdicates power (and often responsibility) and lets the kid run the show. There may be fear about hurting the child's feelings, or simply a lack of energy on the parent's part. Sometimes this is fueled by feelings of guilt on the part of the parent.
This, too, can be exhausting. It's demoralizing being around a selfish child. We can only fake our acceptance for so long before we blow in big melt downs or little passive aggressive jabs. The children are more likely to become selfish and demanding making friendships difficult. They won't know how to act around others who are not permissive; teamwork skills will be underdeveloped. It's not doing anyone any favors in the long run.
So what's a parent to do?
Well... what if this dichotomy was false? What if- stay with me here - just what if there was another option? What if there was a way to work together instead of taking sides? A way that:
- didn't force someone into the loser role?
- encouraged the child to problem solve to learn valuable life skills?
- provided an environment where everyone is invested in making the solution work so you don't have to be the bad cop?
- acknowledged all members of the family - parents and children - are people deserving respect?
- helps strengthen relationships and decrease arguments?
It exists. It's called - you may have guessed it - Method Three in Parent Effectiveness Training. It takes practice. It utilizes listening and communicating skills that aren't common in our culture. It takes a bit more time in the beginning. It may be a huge shift, and it may require some trust building for all parties to participate. It takes effort. But it works. And our kids (and our sanity!) are worth it.
Conflicts are inevitable. Power struggles are not.
Melissa and Ellen are birth doulas, childbirth educators, placenta encapsulation specialists, and Parent Effectiveness Training instructors serving the Denver, CO area. They are passionate about pregnancy, birth, baby care, and parenting. They bring over twenty years of combined experience to their premium childbirth classes, doula support, parenting classes, and placenta encapsulation services in the metro Denver area.