Child parenting and education are topics with rich literature behind. My parenting style sources several philosophies, mostly conscious parenting, but not only:
– conscious parenting focuses on the relationship between you and your child rather than on rules or the consequences for breaking them. It emphasises the importance of being aware of your own emotional hurts and parenting yourself, first and foremost.
– RIE (resources for infant educarers – promoting trust, respect and connection)
– attachment parenting (focused on building healthy attachments and physical connectedness)
Just like we care and nurture the physiological needs of a child, they have also psychological needs. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. in the book Self-determination theory: basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness (2017), talks about 3 such needs or the 3 C’s:
-connection: stay calm and present, understand the need; safe attachment between 0 and 6 years is based on consistent availability and the simplest methods to connect involve:
(1) empathy, play and humour
(2) asking open ended questions rather than giving orders from the tree
(3) unconditional love (correct the behaviour, separate from the person)
(4) underlie his uniqueness (refrain from labelling, reframe the uniqueness in your child: eg. Stubborn – you have very high standards, messy – likes a creative environment, picky – knows what he likes, bossy – natural leader, etc)
(5) involve him in the household and family life
-control (autonomy) -Contain with limits (rules / set boundaries) and satisfy the need for autonomy (what he can do freely – choose how he plays, choose what he eats, dresses – sometimes from given limited choices); accept where they are in the journey and don’t make it about yourself;
Understand that how he behaves and how he feels may not be the same. For example its okay to feel fury and it’s not ok to insult. Try to model for them the desired (sociably acceptable) behaviour: expressing the emotion or what bothers them but without hurting. Sometimes offloading the energy of a negative emotion requires the same way of loading it in the first place. Help them understand what is in their control (how they behave and care for themselves, their goals and efforts, who they are friends with and how they learn from their mistakes), and what not (what others say, think or how they behave, the weather, sometimes being sick or the things to do)
-competency as with everything, the more we teach them competency the more the self-esteem and empowerment increase. That involves anything from getting dressed to brushing teeth to other more soft skills such as increased tolerance to frustration and managing emotions:
(1) ask them how they feel and what their opinion is
(2) teach them methods of positively calming down – teach them about their ‘’thinking’’ brain and their ‘’felling’’ brain and how to re-engage from a calm space. Emotions have a message and they shouldn’t be avoided or suppressed, but co-regulated (somebody is there to see, hear, understand) and whilst promoting lifelong grounding tools: belly breathing, safe space and hugs, proposing movement such as jumping, dancing, yoga, taking a walk, other soothing activities such as listening to music, meditating, reading, rocking, using sensorial items, relaxing with pets, gardening, alternatives to screaming such as punching pillows.
(3) develop responsibility – teach them about honesty, statements that start with ‘’I’’ rather than ‘’you’’, owning their mistakes with honesty, using mistakes as opportunity to learn and model desired behaviour
(4) within the set boundaries, offer alternatives and teach them the capability of finding a multitude of possibilities and solutions to a problem (mental flexibility
First years of life and first years of school are years to build attachment, ideally safe attachment, building confidence and self-esteem and integrating mistake as an organic part of growth; development and teachings are around developing bodily motricity and expressivity, developing language, obtaining operating modes that include structure and procedures without losing enthusiasm, discovering nature, working in teams, verbalizing needs and cultivating the mindset if asking questions and discovering on their own. Your support as a parent is critical ito address his age appropriate developmental needs with connection and availability and respond to his interests and curiosities with enthusiasm, modelling calm and positive appraisal.
When these needs are not met, you encounter tantrums and disrespectful behaviours. Children however with unmet needs are mostly in distress: hungry or tired, they may have developed anxiety or they feel powerless in front of overcontrolling parents, disconnected, they model your own dysregulation and haven’t mastered their own emotional regulation – (hold the space, give them power/ control/ worth – connect and empower with choices).
The more you use punishment or threat to attempt to regulate the behaviour, the more they feel excluded and isolated in their pain, which is likely to be expressed even more angrily; punishments don’t make them more disciplined, but rather more sad and hurt; the more you use reward or giving in, the more they will feel their world is unsafe, chaotic, lacking structure and feeling lost. A parent is a leader that needs to define the ‘’playground’’, the limits and boundaries where they can freely play. The children that needs the most love are those that are somehow hard to love, the more aggressive, the higher the need for attachment and care.
1. Parent fighter, too rigid (authoritarian) – creates a controlling and unsafe environment – the child has no choice but to be disrespectful. Punishment seems like the only solution, but you do that only because you feel overwhelmed and with chaos inside. Solution: connect and see what’s happening to you child, make it about him not about you and create a healthy boundary. You may want to teach them how to manage their emotions as well
2. Parent fixer or pleaser (too permissive)- allows things in order not to lose love and connection, child feels though unsafe as he is looking for limits and boundaries. Solution: work on your own self-esteem, learn first how to be aware of your own emotion and manage them, giving also time to the child to model after you, self-regulate and understand his needs
Disconnected children and where control and competency have not been instilled tend to have riskier behaviours as adults. A 3rd option called ‘’neglectful’’, according to the name, we are not even attempting to describe it here anymore (see below). And the best option is an authoritative version, good mix of care and love but with healthy limits and boundaries.
⁃ Build uniqueness (Labels become identity) and model positive self-talk
– ask for their advice and opinion, point out when they make good choices, remind them and celebrate past successes – create a wall of fame / confidence jar
-create a gratitude practice in the evening before bedtime
-provides constructive feedback and praise positive character traits (strengthen behaviours you want to be carried forward, identify non desired behaviours and explain impact whilst asking for co-created better alternatives); -explain that Behavior is a choice in their control
– Teach them to get what they want in a cooperative, assertive, respectful ways, model for them
– Managing the conflict with calmness and dignity, looking for solutions together to win for both
-teach them to stand up for themselves. Encourage to use ‘’stop’’ when other children behave in an unacceptable manner and to express what they don’t like. ”I don’t like being called that way, I want you to use my name.” ”I see you are upset but don’t let you treat me like that.” (credit ‘’BigLifeJournal – https://biglifejournal.com/)
-Keep your promises
⁃ Postpones the gratification of the impulse
⁃ Develop long-term performance and encourage physical activities to boost a sense of competence; involve them in healthy competition
⁃ Leverage internal motivation
Some resources I have come across over time are below, you may need to use google translate as appropriate or check for the ‘’idea’’ in your mother tongue language.
Books embracing several parenting aspects (dedicated to a specific parenting style) many aspects:
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