Often in my practice I am contacted by parents who are in crisis. They have “tried” everything but can’t get their children to do what they want them to do. They are angry, upset, frustrated, and annoyed by their children’s failure to obey them.
These conversations call for a parenting “re-frame.” Children have the right to bodily autonomy. They also have the right, as humans, to have their feelings and wishes considered and appreciated. While we cannot always indulge children’s desires, their dreams are what childhood is made of and we should do everything as parents not to crush them but honor them.
One way parents harm children physically and emotionally is through punishments like hitting, slapping, yelling, withdrawal of law, time-outs or denial of privileges. Even though time outs and denying privileges is seen as not abusive, they are still punishments that send the child the message that love is conditional and the parent is unwilling to meet the child’s unmet needs. No good parents wants to destroy their child’s self esteem but, without the tools and knowledge of how to raise happy, healthy kids, many parent revert to these methods because they don’t know what else to do.
The Natural Child Project provides 22 Alternative to Punishment (http://www.naturalchild.org/jan_hunt/22_alternatives.html) that you can put in action today with your child.
Whether you are empathizing with your child or taking care of yourself to think through some of the reactions you have to your child’s feelings, these tips are designed to strengthen the bond and not fracture it.
My personal favorite is to have my child sit with me on the bean bag chair, holding her and singing her a soft song. After she has calmed down (and I have calmed down), we can talk and move forward.
Keeping your own cup filled is important. Making sure you have your own emotional needs met helps keep emotions in check when children are freaking out. Aim to be the calm one in the room who your child can look to as their rock in a storm. Calm is contagious so be that bug.