More and more in today's society, I look around and see children dictating the methods by which they want to be raised. From the mom in the curtain department having her 5 year old pick out the living room drapes because the child didn't like the blue ones, to the "expert" on-line telling parents that "surrendering" to your child's tantrums is a kinder, gentler way to raise healthy, emotionally validated children. It makes me wonder why people are afraid to be the parent. The answer is we want to be our children's friends and confidants more than their parents. We want to make sure our children "like" us. So we go to lengths to ensure that our children have every need met, every cry answered, every dream realized. We don't make decisions that would cause distress. We make sure their happiness is the number one priority. But by doing so, we are expecting that our children know better than us. That they know what they need to learn and how to best conduct the lesson. We assume that our job is to stand back, provide, care, and make sure the world is a perfect place in which to grow up. When we get frustrated with "bad" behaviors, we seek affirmation and reinforcement from our fellow parents who tell us "you're doing the best you can", "you just need to be there for them and they will come to appreciate you", and "you're such a good mom--you know what's best for your children". We feel better. We feel validated. We feel empowered. But have we really done anything different? Have we solved any problems?
I was once told via social media that I was not a "soft place for my clients to land". This was in response to me voicing my opinion that our children do not need every cry answered and every spill wiped up immediately. I have this unpopular belief that children can learn to solve problems if we let them. I also believe that parents can "over-parent". They can become so focused on their child that they lose sight of actually raising children. In doing so, they let the children run the family instead of being a part of the family. So, no, I am not a "soft place for my clients to land". Instead I choose to give parents the tools to use their own hands to stop themselves from hitting the ground. You don't need me to cushion the fall if you see yourself falling and stop it from happening!
Parenting is hard! My hope is that this blog will offer some solutions to common parenting problems. They are solutions based in science. The science of human behavior, to be exact. You should not assume that because you read an article somewhere or heard someone talk about the science of behavior, that you know what it's about and how it works. Most descriptions I hear about our science are incorrect. So please take all your preconceived notions and leave them behind. The solutions I offer are simple, but they are not easy. Everything I tell people to do is full of hard work. If you do the work, you will see results. If you don't want to work, things will remain the same-- the strategies do not do any of the work for you. Hard work = results. It's that simple.
As you read through these entries, you will become very good at seeing behaviors as "behaviors" rather than becoming emotionally entangled in a negative interaction between you and your child. You will learn to respond to behaviors in such a way that the good ones will get stronger and the ones you don't want to see will dissipate. We can teach you to be a better parent. Make no mistake about it--there are lessons here. You will be required to learn a new thing or two. As such, you will have to perhaps think differently, get out of the usual routine, admit that things are not working as they currently are, and most importantly, realize that you are the parent and you are the one who has to establish what people in your house can and cannot do (not the child).
I read more and more articles and opinions about letting children engage in their tantrum behavior because "they can't control it", "they are having and expressing difficulties, "they are communicating their needs". Any behavior can be excused using these reasons, I am suggesting that you actually "TEACH". As a parent, you are the most important teacher your child will ever have. You need to teach. You are teaching all the time, whether you mean to or not. Make sure you are teaching appropriate behaviors that your child will be able to build on in the future and use for a lifetime.