Because there are so many parenting styles at our disposal, it's hard to know which one is "right".
No one in his or her right mind can deny that parenting is a very stressful undertaking. It seems like there's always something to worry about: your child's health, having enough money for their day-to-day needs, their success in school and their overall future.
And all of that is a stressor BEFORE you actually have to get out of bed in the morning.
So it's no surprise that we are more high-tech and fear-driven than we are connected to our heart and souls. This disconnection not only feels bad, it impacts our parenting and increases stress in our kids.
How does a parent know their child is experiencing stress?
It isn't rocket science, but we could do with a refreshed understanding of child developmental needs, and what happens when children are stressed or have experienced some type of traumatic event. This will better equip us to calm their stress and decrease any detrimental or disrespectful behaviors we tend believe they do on purpose — just to get on our last nerve and cause a problem.
The problem is that the traditional fear-based techniques (from lectures to the silent treatment) just don't work. What I have seen is that children who experience these kinds of punishment endure it during their childhood (as they have no choice) but by the time they are teenagers, they have little to no respect or trust for adults.
And that's when they actually need more adult guidance than ever.
I am a firm believer in a more love-based perspective. Before I lose you, I'm not talking about letting them do whatever they want.
So what is love-based parenting, anyway? The first step involves slowing yourself down and taking stock of your lifestyle. We live in a world that is going too fast for us as adults, and we forget that our children are also along with us on this ride.
If we are stressed out, then how can our children not be? When you're in a constant state of stress, you're not a calming influence on anyone — especially your children.
By parenting the love-based way you will:
- Stop feeling guilt for self-care.
- Make a heart-connection with your child
- Learn realistic developmental needs of your child.
- Learn to set healthy boundaries with your child
- Guide your child to make choices
- Guide them through the emotions of living with natural consequences of their behavior.
- Create an emotionally safe and secure home.
The last 30 to 50 years of research on the brain and child development show how, without even meaning to, a parent can stress out his child. Now, everyone agrees that our children are important — and we need to do whatever we can to help them.
However, even as we say this, we are running on empty and in a place of denial, which leaves us with nothing in our emotional reserves to give our children. Many of us group up in an emotional desert without enough to sustain ourselves, let alone others.
Without our heart and soul guiding the rational and logical part of our brains, we are emotionally empty and our children feel this. Children need to feel they are truly supported by their parents and other caregivers. Feeling nurtured and cared for gives them a sense of safety and security.
Without that security, they stay in an ongoing state of stress, which then manifests into psychosomatic problems like headaches, difficult concentrating and focusing at school and home (plus a weaker immune system so they get more colds, viruses and allergy issues).
The next step for you as you take stock, is to make sure that you are doing parental self-care so that in the evenings you can be more than the "Get-things-done drill sergeant". Children need connection time with their parents, a time of feeling your love — not you just thinking you love them.
As a start, try hugging them often.
When children feel supported by their parents, their stress will calm and they will be able to open their hearts and minds to the guidance they desperately need. Don't be ashamed if you feel room for improvement: Most of us need some guidance to upgrade our parenting skills.
By doing this you will be modeling a healthy, positive way for your children to parent their own children someday — and that is the greatest gift you can pass on.