As parents, we hear much these days about entitlement. We talk about it, think about it and read articles/books/posts about it because lets face it, NO ONE wants to raise an entitled kid. Quotes like the following leave us quaking in our boots lest we end up the parent of the sniveling brat who will never learn to take out the trash, tie his shoes or appreciate the world around him:
“A lack of discipline is apparent these days in just about every aspect of American society. Why this should be is a much larger question, one to ponder as we take out the garbage and tie our kids’ shoes.” – Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker
The truth is fear sells, and the parenting information and analysis we’re taking in often comes wrapped in misinformation and fear-based messaging like:
“Love your child, but don’t love your child too much.”
“Attachment and connection are important, but be careful or you might spoil your child.”
And one that was just offered to a friend of mine by her pediatrician no less: “It’s time to show your 13 mo old who’s boss before she decides she is!”
Wanting to do the right thing, many parents come away from these mixed messages doubting their parenting instincts:
Wanting to respond to their newborns cries but fearful of spoiling, they instead delay picking baby up.
Wanting to hold their “needy”/clingy toddler but fearful of spoiling, they refuse to “coddle” their seemingly demanding child.
Wanting to teach/redirect their curious child who’s gotten into some sort of trouble or another as they explored the world around them (you know the kind – five thousand cheerios all over a newly cleaned kitchen floor, a chair that is not to be climbed being climbed anyway and tipping over, brushing the family dog with mom’s hairbrush of course, etc) but fearful of spoiling, they sternly respond with a “NO!!!” and gently slap their child’s hand/bottom.
Out of societal pressure to avoid permissive parenting at all costs, parents can easily be left doubting the more respectful, gentle parenting approaches available to us. Redirection. Positive reinforcement. Teaching and guiding by example (with our actions and words, not words alone). Because of a societal fear of spoiling, sadly, some parents, unsure about how to best respond, default to scolding, yelling, shaming, and even hitting. And as negative reinforcement generally breeds more negative behavior (not less), these same parents are left scratching their heads and wondering “Where is this bad behavior coming from?”
Over time these frustrated parents at times conclude that their child is bad and/or that they are bad. They think things like “If I was a better parent my child would not be acting this way!” “Something is severely wrong with my child” and/or “I’m embarrassed to be out in public with my children.”
But the truth is much simpler and far less anxiety provoking. The truth can save us from this downward spiral. The truth invites us into our power— our center. The truth builds up our confidence as parents even as it pulls us ever closer to our children and our families. The truth doesn’t come from fear or guilt or push our buttons like so much of the sensationalized parenting stuff we’re reading. What is this simple truth that can save us for unjustified societal pressures warning us that being kind and parenting from a place of empathy will warp our kids??? Simply stated it is this:
Children who experience empathy and connection grow up to empathize and connect.
If you feel led to hold your child, hug your child and/or teach your child from a patient, forgiving place, this is ALWAYS okay to do. If you feel led to get down on one knee and make eye contact with your kid as you seek to understand where they and their big emotions and even their misbehavior is coming from, this is always okay to do. If your child displays perplexing behaviors, instead of taking it personally, explore the many different causes that may be driving this behavior before assuming it must be due to some misgiving of theirs or yours. Diet. Sensory integration. Personality types. Fears, worries and past experiences. Inherited tendencies. All of these factors come into play when it comes to understanding our children and meeting them where they are.
Teach and guide your children. Be clear and consistent, respectful and firm even as you chose love over fear. Let go of parenting advice that does not resonate truth for you (this post included!!!). Any day. Every day. Let go of fear. Tune in and trust your heart to guide. Allow yourself to parent from your center instead of from expert advice or societal pressures and worry.
Love. Always. Wins.
ps: No matter what parenting challenge is before you today, trust yourself. You’ve got this mama. Join with me and other moms here. The manual is ours to write but we don’t have to write it alone. Let’s connect on twitter, facebook and pinterest too. And thank you for passing along anything you (I hope and pray) like. It’s a big-fat-lovely compliment when you comment and share, so again, TIA. xo