How aware are we of our style of parenting? We can all practice postive parenting by using the right kind of limits

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If you are a parent or had a parent (which basically takes care of 100% of the population you may find the video below as funny and enjoyable as I found it. I’ve watched it many times and forwarded it to many of my friends and family members. However….

The more I watched it, the more I started to be bothered by certain aspects of it.

I started thinking that even though it is very funny, too many people can identify with it. The main aspect that started bothering me was the fact that this is actually how so many parents interact with their kids. It’s not abusive most certainly, but is it positive parenting? Does parenting like that create a climate of mutual respect, caring and loving between parent and child?

As a mom of 6 I have spent many years making many mistakes and learning from those mistakes.  I say learning from my mistakes, because I did not rest on my laurels and claim to be using my mothering instinct. No matter what anyone says, almost no one is born instinctively knowing how to parent. It is the most important job in the world, yet we need no degrees or any kind of education to become mothers.  We are enjoined to take these pure souls that are entrusted to us and to bring them up to be functioning, functional, contributing members of society. How do we know what to do?

                                                                                                                   Source: via D on Pinterest


There are some lucky people who grew up with extremely functional, warm, loving parents and parenting for them will be a lot easier than for those who did not have those experiences. However, most of us grew up with very human parents who made many mistakes (as we all do) and as a result we are often lost when it comes to understanding  these complicated little individuals who are our children.

As in any field, the best way to learn about positive parenting and parenting in general is the way we learn any new, unfamiliar topic, we go to the experts.

I remember a woman I knew when my children were young, who as I remember it, was an awful parent. At one point I tried to have a conversation with her to try to get her to go for some counseling or to try reading some parenting books. Her response was that she uses her mothering instinct to mother.

Now I am all for mothering instincts, and hopefully this translates into parents wanting to do the best for the children and not damaging them. There are unfortunately, so many parents that are instinctively mothering, ruining their children without any idea that they are even doing anything wrong.

Wise parents will know when they don’t know and will seek out help be it parenting books, programs, classes and private counseling to help them navigate through this most difficult and most important of jobs.

Positive parenting through positive discipline

Parents has a lot of  components to it. We give our children various messages through all of our interactions with them. Since so much of our interactions as parents are about getting them to do what we need them to do, it is vital that we learn how do discipline them in a positive fashion. No, it is not an oxymoron at all to discipline children positively, but it is the best way for us to develop a caring, empathetic relationship with our children while teaching them limits that will allow them to grow into functional human beings.

As I was struggling through parenting my older children (it was so much easier with the younger ones as the older ones really got used as guinea pigs)I read many wonderful books and spoke to many wise people that helped me along in this most difficult task. I learned that parenting is almost like banking. The more deposits we make, the more money we have in the bank and a few withdrawals will not hurt the bank account.

This translates into not getting hysterical if we do something wrong with our kids once in a while. As long as they are getting more deposits than withdrawals they will have a full love tank.

As a parent I read many wonderful parenting books. One of the best books I read about child discipline was called Setting Limits: How to Raise Responsible, Independent Children by Providing Clear Boundaries by Robert McKenzie.

My oldest child who is now a wonderful mother to three of her own children was one of my more difficult children. The truth is that when I think back, I don’t k now if it was that she was difficult or I just didn’t know how to handle her. Probably the latter.

I well remember going into my bedroom, closing the door and reading the instructions in McKenzie’s  his book on how to deal with a time out. It was my bible for a while and I want to discuss some of the important things he discusses in this vital book that will help you become a more positive parent through positive discipline.

How children learn the rules that parents are trying to teach

There are basically three types of parenting:

  1. Punitive parenting– Harsh, not respectful of their child’s feelings, very authoritarian, lots of grounding and limits without freedom. (sounds pretty much like that funny video doesn’t it?)
  2. Permissive parenting – Basically freedom without limits.Children are allowed to do whatever they want.
  3. Democratic parenting– Freedom within limits.

Its a tough world out there and we must learn to pick our battles with our children. If we are punitive parents because that’s all we know or that’s what we believe in, we end up with angry, rebellious children who learn that the way to power is to inflict harm on others.

Permissive. parenting is usually  a reaction to punitive parenting. Parents may remember what it was like growing up under punitive parents and want to do better. What this does however,  is create narcissistic, self centered and disrespectful children.

Democratic parenting, which should not be confused with permissive parenting, is when we teach our children through proper discipline and firm limits, that  we are aware that are actions have to be consistent with what we say as we provide our children the the right limits. Children are concrete learners. They ignore our words and base their actions on what they are actually experiencing.

Children are researchers. They collect data by testing and act accordingly. Difficult children, need more data. Kids will learn from meeting consistent behaviors from adults what to expect and how to act. When parents learn to recognize what they are doing and how their children are collecting the data from that, than they will be able to act as more effective parents by giving them firm and not soft limits.

What are some examples of soft limits:

  • When no means yes, sometimes or maybe.
  • Ignoring misbehavior(even though there is a time for planned ignoring).
  • unclear directions (don’t stay out foo late, or you’re playing rough).
  • Ineffective role modeling (you hit and tell them not to hit)
  • Bargaining.
  • Arguing and debating over rules.
  • Bribes and special rewards (which are OK once in a while).
  • Inconsistency between two parents.
  • Ineffective follow through.

And what are  firm limits?

  • When No really means No (but make sure you really mean and are not just being reactive)
  • Keeping your focus on the behaviors itself
  • Be very specific what you don’t like (I need you to make sure there is nothing left on the floor of your bedroom)
  • Use a normal tone of voice as yelling indicates loss of control
  • Specify consequences if necessary (If you ride in the street your bike will be taken away for today)

Some other examples of consequences may be

  • Time outs for kids who hit
  • Removing food from kids who ignore where they should eat it
  • Removing toys if they don’t get cleaned up
  • Don’t wash clothes if not placed in hamper

One of the most important part of firm limits are the use of consequences, not punishments or severe groundings.

Why are consequences so important

It must be pretty obvious why consequences are so important but if not I’ll tell you.

They stop misbehavior!!

You may argue that grounding your child for a week or sending a three yr old to his room for 2 hours will also stop the misbehavior, and it may. However, if you are looking to raise confident, happy, functional children with good self esteem the less punitive the consequences are and the more age appropriate, the closer you are to meeting your goals.

Is it more work? Is it worth it? Most definitely.

My daughter recently had an incident with her 3 yr old that will clarify this point.

It was bedtime and her daughter was not interested in going to bed. My daughter told her that she must stay in bed now as it was time for her to go to sleep. My granddaughter was not impressed.My daughter could have handled this in a few ways. She could have yelled at her, smacked her and warned her that if she comes out she is going to be in big trouble etc. etc. It probably would have kept her in bed. It also would have made my granddaughter feel like a bad child and would have engendered negative feelings in her to her mother.

She also could have let her come out and do what she wanted for a while, which would have taught her that her mother is a patsy and she could do what she wanted. Not a very secure feeling for a 3 yr old.

What she did do however, was stand at the door to her daughters room and just kept calmly putting back into her bed each time she came out and repeated to her, “I am sorry but it is bedtime now and you must go to sleep”.

Before she did this she said to herself. How many times can I realistically put her back into her bed without my losing my cool, and she gave herself a limit of 30 times. It was far less then 10x before my granddaughter got the message that no matter how many times she came out her mother was going to put her back in, she got the message and went to sleep.

The point here is looking at the long term view as opposed to the short term. The goal was not only to her her daughter to sleep, but to keep her cool and make sure her words got listened to in a calm, rational manner. How lucky are children that grow up in a home that respects them and understands what they need at what age.

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