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Permissive Parenting – A Spirited Child – Does Your Child Rule the Roost?
There are indeed many approaches to parenting. Most of us raising children now grew up with authoritarian parents, you know the “do as I say, not as I do” and “because I said so” type of parenting.
As new parents, we look back on those years of frustration at what we thought was thoughtless parenting. As adults, we read all the parenting books, subscribe to parenting magazines, want to be the best parents we can be. We are ecological, natural – alive, flexible and easy to control. What’s not to love? We will show the world (and our own parents) that parenting is about peaceful, loving kindness and that we have all the answers before we have children.
A child is coming, maybe several. If you have a calm, bubbly baby, they easily fit into the normal parenting boxes that all the books talk about, and permissive parenting works quite well. Positive parenting books will give you great examples to follow that work perfectly with docile children.
But what about a spirited child? What about that rebel who seems adamant about pulling out every hair on your head? That kid makes you think “what did I do wrong” because it’s so hard. You never thought parenting could be so hard and sometimes you feel like you want to run and hide from it all. You can be in tears daily and you can ask God “why?” You never signed up for this!
You don’t see any parenting errors. You are a great parent, letting Johnny have the freedom to think independently as humans should. You give an explanation for everything you do to live democratically; and yet you feel like your baby’s energy could overwhelm you at any moment. He drags you around the shops and play dates. You run ragged, you’re at your wits end and you want it to be different. But where are the real answers? How are things changing?
If it sounds like I’m speaking from experience, I am.
I knew it when he was six months old. This was no ordinary child. I recognized it when I was called to the principal’s office day after day for a short stay at Kindergarten. I knew this when I constantly held a slight fear in my heart about how my child would behave in the family and in public. Would he choose to listen today? Could I ‘drive’ it today?
Once you practice what I call the loving discipline of parenting, your family will be transformed. At some point, when you have a natural tendency to be indulgent (due to your flexible personality), you will have to realize that a healthy parent-child relationship means having a strong sense of personal power. If your child is bubbly, you can certainly see that he has no problem with his own sense of personal power, so why should you? Temperamental children can teach us a lot.
My journey to a peaceful, stress-free household was a long one. But we arrived. Once I started implementing the basic principles of loving parenting, life turned 180 degrees and everyone is now happy. Our family bond has never been tighter and we love every day. Now I will share with you some of the basic aspects of loving disciplined parenting.
1. Redefine your idea of who you think your child is. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. What you think of your child becomes the role they play. Think about and honestly describe your relationship with your child. Let it all out. It’s okay for things to NOT be okay. In order for healing to begin, we must acknowledge the current situation. Now start thinking about what results you want to see. Keep this image in your mind as you continue to implement new ways of parenting. Describe your child only positively to others and start looking at the positive aspects of your child’s character. This begins to set the standard for your new relationship with your child. It amazes me how often I see parents unknowingly (perhaps) commenting on how hard their kids are having it right in front of the kids. What message do you think this sends to the child? Children will not be disappointed. Change the way you look at your child and your relationship with the child and then you will see the changes.
2. Set limits and stick to them. This is especially difficult for those of us parents who are so open and free-spirited. We don’t like limits ourselves, why would we push them on our children? In fact, children desperately need limits. To feel safe, they need to know that you are ultimately in control. They need to know they can count on you to step up and step up to defend something. What are you advocating for laissez-faire? You need to set an example of strong self-confidence so that your child understands the true meaning of it.
3. Give your child responsibilities. For us, it meant a table of responsibilities for beginners, for the whole family, not just for children. Now we let it go and my children understand that we are a community, a family living together and everyone has to get involved and help for the good of the community. Giving children responsibility promotes growth and maturity. Children, whiny as they may be, are then able to understand the value of a hard day’s work. Teach them the importance of helping family and community. Helping the family is expected and required. But none.
4. Get rid of food dyes and unhealthy junk food. I cannot stress this enough. Many children have behavioral reactions to food dyes and preservatives. You may not realize this, especially if your child tends to eat this type of food on a daily basis. Maybe you just think your child has a personality problem and is rebellious or refuses to listen. Food dyes and preservatives are strongly associated with ADHD symptoms. Itchy eyes, inattention, lack of focus or concentration: these are all related to allergic reactions to food dyes and preservatives. My son has made huge strides in removing these on his own.
5. For every fault you find in your child, find its opposite (eg, how can persistence be useful in the real world?) When we’re frustrated, we tend to see more negatives than positives, even though we’re generally positive people. Realize that this special child you have will help you grow spiritually and emotionally if you allow that growth to happen.
6. Just as you respect others, demand that you be respected and that your child respect others. This includes communication, choice of words, mutual listening, respect for the welfare and property of others. You must not give up. Children who do not respect their parents and others often end up in very bad situations.
7. Sit down and talk with your child – Explain the changes Your child will need an honest explanation of the changes that will occur. Your child is smart. He knows things are out of control, he feels it, and yet he has no idea how to make things better. He has long felt rejection in one form or another from others and even from you (those frustrated looks, those tears, those sighs). You and your baby are a team, there is a lot of love deep down and you will make it. Your relationship will improve and life will be much better for everyone. Let your child know exactly what changes are going to happen and that it’s because we’re trying something new to make everyone happier.
8. Know that you must continue your consistency after the novelty wears off. Parenting is like that. If you surrender and return to your tolerant ways of being, life will return to the way it was. Your child will go back to being out of control and so will you. Just like healthy eating, new habits need to be constantly maintained in order to reap true lasting benefits. But the good news is that you can always start over. Children will be angry, they may say things that hurt you… but as long as you continue to use loving discipline in your parenting, things will calm down and turn into the family life you’ve only dreamed of.
9. Respect naturally comes from a close, loving bond. If you don’t currently have a close bond with your child, chances are that respect is also lacking. Get close to your child emotionally and you will see that suddenly your child is eager to do the things you ask him to do and happy to help and listen to you. He does this because he loves being close to you, and we naturally want those we love to be happy. Bonding with your child includes things like reading stories together every day (regardless of age), sharing experiences and retelling past experiences, taking a genuine interest in what your child is doing and where his interests lie, and taking his feelings and thoughts into account (but don’t let it control you).
10. Make your family and your children’s education the highest priority in your life. Parenting can be the standard or it can be a fulfilling journey to true self-discovery. You want the latter. Why pass up this opportunity for personal growth and enrichment? Keeping an emotionally healthy family at the center of your life means truly balancing your life, increasing your meaning in life and your own well-being. Consistency in your child’s education is at the heart of parenting. Don’t shy away from your responsibility as a guide and educator.
Loving Kindness Parenting means that you allow your child freedom, but your child respects the freedom of others, including your own. You are not a slave to your child’s desires, just as he is not a slave to yours. Your child must respect you as much as you respect him. Kids test themselves every once in a while and you have to get on their level (literally) look them straight in the eye and calmly tell them “I don’t talk to you like that, please don’t talk to me like that.” The best thing you can do when when emotions run high, is to lower your voice, even almost to a whisper. Stay calm and speak softly. This does not mean that you lack power in your voice with what you say. You must show power… but speak softly. This calms the emotions and it lets your child know that you are comfortable with your own sense of inner strength and you don’t have to yell at them to know they hear you. It’s an invaluable tool that has served me well from Maria Montessori’s methods. It’s a staple in my life.
By implementing these simple steps, you will see drastic changes in your relationship with your child and in your child’s behavior. However, you must stick to these methods. Part of the Parenting Permission Supplement is exactly NOT to adhere to any type of strictness. That’s the only thing that needs to change to change your situation. You may fear that you will make bad decisions and harm your child in some unknown way. We all make mistakes; it’s the nature of parenting. But the result is nowhere near as catastrophic as borderless children and miserable, tired, worn-out parents who are on the verge of giving up. Ultimately, you are responsible for your child and their well-being. If your child is out of control, they don’t feel safe or loved. Lovingly enforced rules and boundaries really help a child know that they are loved and deeply cared for. You shouldn’t have all the answers, but kids respect people who have beliefs (even if those beliefs aren’t always correct) more than people who wish. So gather that inner strength my friend and stand up. Be that proud, loving, gentle but firm parent who is a true nurturer! This is your life and you deserve to enjoy parenthood for the joy it can truly be. Why suffer when the answers are right here in front of you?
In Joyful Parenthood, Mellisa Dormoy
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