If you are a parent, have you ever thought about what your long-term goals are for your child? Or put another way, what are your hopes and dreams for your child? I’m often asked to talk about discipline in parenting classes and when that topic comes up I always start by asking parents to reflect on the two questions above.
Then, I ask parents to think about their interactions with their children and weigh what they do with their kids against their own long-term goals for them. For instance, is what we say or do to them when we are trying to get out the door in the morning consistent with helping them become…(fill in your hopes and dreams for your child here)? Is what I just said to my child in the grocery store contributing in some small way to her becoming…(once again, think about those hopes and dreams)? Or is it possible that the way I just handled that situation makes those outcomes less likely?
And then comes the big question for us to think about…
Do we sometimes act as though obedience or compliance are the long-term goals we have for our child?
These questions aren’t meant for us to start berating ourselves as parents. For if we are to be gentle and kind with our children, we must first learn how to be gentle and kind with ourselves. Rather, these questions are intended to help us learn how to build deep connections with our children and move our families forward.
When we start to parent with our long-term goals in mind, we see that we shift our focus from “doing to” our children to “working with” our children. As a result, the base of our power shifts too and rests in the relationship and connection we have with our children opposed to resting in our ability to control them through punitive measures.
We start to see how beneficial it is for the emotional growth of our children when we work in partnership rather than in resistance to them. We learn how every challenging moment with our child presents us with a choice to either step into dominance, power and control or to focus on understanding what is going on underneath the behavior and work with our child to help him become a thoughtful, empowered person who learns how to regulate his own behavior.
To begin to parent with our long-term goals in mind, it can be helpful to reflect on the following question during difficult times with our child…
In this moment, do I most want to be right and in control or connected?
This simple question can transform the dynamic we have with our child. And most importantly, when we parent from this perspective we develop an awareness that it is in our families that our children discover who they are.
“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.”