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 not only day-to-day needs, but also for buying all of the "things" they "need" to stay up with the rest of the high-tech world, their success in school and other extracurricular activities, their future... And all of that is a stressor before you actually have to get out of bed in the morning and juggle getting ready and getting out the door, so everyone is where they need to be on time. (Of course, you're simultaneously dealing with your own work pressures and relationship issues). 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 children.
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.
My idea for an upgrade has come through working with children and families in the trenches over the last thirty years using methods that works well for many kids. As the years progressed I found the old, traditionally used fear-based techniques more and more ineffective. Techniques such as:
- Star charts
- "Spare the rod, spoil the child"
- Withdrawal of affection or attention
- Going to bed with no supper
- Banished to their room
- Washing their mouth out with soap, hot sauce, or something else
- Standing with their nose in the wall for hours
What I have seen is that children who experience these and other kinds of punishment endure it during their childhood (as they have no choice) but by the time they are teenagers (when they actually need more adult guidance than ever), they have little to no respect or trust for adults.
Happily, I have also found that even when a parent has used punishing techniques it is never too late to upgrade their parenting skills to a more love-based perspective. Now, before I lose you I'm not talking about letting them do whatever they want; I don't see that as loving. And as a matter of fact, the children who are indulged tend to grow up feeling entitled to anything and everything without earning it. This is not a love-based parent, either.
So what is love-based parenting? The first upgrade to love-based parenting is for the parent to s-l-o-w themselves down and take stock of their life style. 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 a person is in a state of stress, she is not a calming influence on anyone — especially her children.
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, manifesting in psychosomatic problems like stomachaches, 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 your love and touching and hugging them. I give parents homework: They have to make sure they give each other at least three 20-second hugs a day. It has been found that a twenty-second hug triggers the calming and bonding neuro-hormone of Oxytocin. Children need this, too.
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. Parent coaching, which can be done over the phone, is a cost-effective and efficient way to get the upgraded information and support to create a more calm you. Why is it important you pursue a parenting upgrade? 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.
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.
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