We Can’t Control Our Children, but We Can Control How We Respond to Them

Child-friendly parenting is about being responsive to our children.  In an effort to acknowledge that we truly cannot control our children (because we are not them), it is important to understand that we can control how we respond to them, interact with them, and invest in them.  This culminates into a much richer kind of positive influence that we have over our children than the mere control or general parental power that many of us feel we need to have with and exert over our children in order for us to feel “in control.”

The truth is that we already have the authority that we seek, by nature of being the parent.  If our children aren’t listening (or whatever) it’s not because they have forgotten that we are the parent.  It’s because they are children, and children are going to be children.  How we respond to their not listening (or whatever) is what makes the difference between parents who get it and those who do not.

Patience, understanding, gentle firmness, fairness, and general kindness go a whole lot further than anything else.  I think a lot (if not most) parents know this in their heart, but sometimes it can be so very difficult in the moment to switch our brain from reactive to responsive.  Even if it’s hard for us to do, every little effort that we put towards being responsive, proactive, and collaborative parents (instead of reactive, punitive, or adversarial) will make it easier the next time (which might only be moments away) to choose to be responsive (and proactive and collaborative) instead of reactive (and punitive and adversarial).

As our confidence grows, we will begin to see that the healthy, positive cycles that we are putting into motion create more healthiness and positivity in our relationships with our children.  It’s a win-win.  We become better parents (which feels good and is the primary goal, whether or not our children respond the way we would prefer that they would), and our relationships with our children are also becoming stronger (which also feels good and is also what we are hoping for in the end, that our children would grow stronger as their bond with us grows stronger).

Even if it’s hard at times, we must know that the effort is worth it and that anything we give up in the process (like our freedom or our pride or our right to be right or our need to still be somewhat of a child ourselves) is also worth it.  We are growing something far more important than perpetuating old (i.e., ineffective) habits.  We are shaping the very life that came from us.

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