It’s absolutely true that parenting young children is a task like none other. You have to be willing to live up to it, ground yourself, remember the big picture. There is sleeplessness and trying times of tears and tantrums that can be hard on the nerves, and the daily chores of meals, cleaning, and caring for the needs of children who need you.
As a fellow mother and a virtual friend and a parent educator and coach I do want to share with you something that is essential for you to know because I deeply care about parents and their children and it is heartbreaking to see the pain and the overwhelm that is part of motherhood right now. Mama, if your little one’s behavior is overly aggressive, whiny, demanding, sensitive, defiant, sometimes even cruel to you or siblings, sassy, and in general you find the company of your child not pleasant for you or around others, I invite you to a new way of thinking about their behavior.
I have been diving head first into the work of Dr. Gordon Neufeld, developmental psychologist and author of Hold Onto Your Kids. Dr. Neufeld has an amazing approach to parenting, one that is very complimentary to my work in simplifying with Kim John Payne. I’ll be exploring the content of Neufeld’s work in-depth with the mamas who are attending my Simplifying Summer program starting in July.
However, to give you a sneak peek at that content, I wanted to lend you some support today and an opportunity to improve things with your challenging child. Your child’s behavior is merely a symptom of the relationship between the two of you. It can be baffling for a mom who has worked hard at developing a strong relationship bond with her child to have feelings of anger, resentment, and even dislike of and toward her 2, 3, 4, or 5 year old. The good news is that there is hope! Your little one’s behavior is giving you a clue to a deeper challenge that can be resolved.
What’s helpful to understand is that even when children have been nurtured by a loving mother, there can be behaviors that creep up that you find very difficult. Many times these behaviors are present because the parent is using discipline strategies that are increasing the tension between them.
Neufeld advises parents to stay away from all isolating discipline techniques: time-out on a stair, chair, or in a child’s room. If a child must be removed from a situation, it is best for the parent to accompany the child until the little one is calm and ready to engage in the activity once again.
The goal of parenting a child who is causing you stress is to preserve the relationship between you first. Yelling, threats, isolation – if these are parenting tools that you use when your child is pushing your buttons then they may be the very tools that are creating the difficult dynamic! No, I’m not telling you to be permissive nor allow a child to hurt you or others or to behave in other inappropriate ways without some kind of intervention. You can stop a child from behaving badly without isolating, shaming, or physically hurting your child. Begin by controlling the situation, rather than your child; expect your child’s disappointment, anger, and tears when they can’t get their way, leave the store, or eat their cookie before dinner. Children rarely like or invite limits. When you remain firm, loving, calm, and quietly insistent you invoke an important parental authority and power that is required in order to parent well without damaging your relationship.
These are helpful quotes from Neufeld to reflect upon…
“Our connected relationship with our child provides us the authority to parent.”
“The more power a parent commands, the less force is required in day to day parenting.” (“Power” in this quote refers to your confident authority).
“The less power you have, the more likely you are to resort to force.”
Mama, do not settle for a parent-child relationship that is consistently stressful. It doesn’t have to be this way and you are doing yourself, and most of all, your child a dis-service by not seeking more help to resolve the relationship challenges that can ease the stress that is present for you and for your little one.
I encourage you to register for the Simplifying Summer 7 Week Virtual Parenting Group that starts July 6th. The Early Bird price is still valid. You will be exploring Neufeld’s attachment theory while at the same time making small simplifying changes each week this summer, giving you the jumpstart on re-inventing your parenting paradigm just in time for the Fall!