After spending the better part of a year learning about and practicing respectful parenting, I’ve started to realize there are many ways to approach it, but it’s easy to forget that it’s okay to have your own way.
Something that’s been difficult for me to wrap my head around is all the language and the idea that every word you say will either impact your kids negatively or positively and if you choose the wrong word or tone, your kids will be effected forever.
Of course, I understand that we are going to effect our kids. We are going to effect them more than anyone else in the world and sometimes it’s going to be negative. No matter how hard we try, how much we study, we are going to mess up. Even if we never messed up (which is not a realistic expectation) our kids will still be negatively effected by something. They are humans with feelings and we are humans with flaws. There is no way out of that no matter how hard you try.
So moving on from that defeatist reality, I still believe that trying and learning is the best thing we can do for our kids. Attempting to effect them as little as possible is something I stand behind.
Acknowledging the whole child, treating them as human beings, being respectful, I agree with all of it. But I also agree with showing our children that we are whole humans. That we also need to accept our flaws and our humanity.
Each of us is a unique person with unique way of communicating. Personally, I’m very direct. I don’t like to beat around the bush or sugar coat things and I don’t like hiding how I feel. I don’t think respectful parenting is ever about hiding yourself, but I do think that it’s so easy to get wrapped up in language and tone that it can become unclear what the true point of all this effort really is.
MY QUICK TIP
When you dive into respectful parenting, it’s easy to feel like you have to be more than human. Like you somehow have to control your emotions and put all of your needs and wants aside in order to be who you need to be for your kids.
This isn’t truly what respectful parenting is demanding of you. But the specific wording and tones that are suggested can feel a little overwhelming and a little fake if you treat it as a script to follow. So I wanted to simplify this. I wanted to find a way to make it less about the script and more about the intention.
ACKNOWLEDGE THE GOOD STUFF…
I think this is something every parenting style can get behind. We all want to see our kids be good as much as possible. It give us a boost, makes us feel like we’re doing everything right and you know, I think it should be celebrated when your child puts a dish away all on his own or decides to be sweet his brother “just because.”
A genuine acknowledgement of the good things your child is doing is always appreciated. The more detailed and specific you can be on your feelings towards the situation, the more meaningful it will be. (i.e. rather than just saying, “great job!” saying, “You kicked the ball to hard! You must have felt so strong!” Something that shows your genuine acknowledgement.)
I believe that any child appreciates being seen. They don’t necessarily want to be acknowledged for negative actions, but they will turn to that if they are finding that their negative actions are the only ones that bring genuine feelings out of you. By making sure you’re acknowledging the good stuff, big AND small, in a genuine way, you’re making sure that your child knows they are seen. Always.
The only thing I will caution against is using this as a TOOL to try and get your kids to always do good things. Children of all ages can see right through manipulation and it can backfire in the long run. Simply work on looking out for those tiny acts that bring genuine appreciation to you and use that to fuel your compliments. Manipulation is a one way ticket to a lackluster relationship full of resentment. And besides, should the love and appreciation you have for your child really be used as a tool for getting what you want?
…AND SUPPORT THROUGH THE BAD
This one is a bit more tricky. It’s one that I struggle with constantly. When I see my son doing something less than great, my defenses go up. I feel like I need to be the consequence by yellow or lecturing which never truly gets me the results I’m looking for.
I think this is the part that gets tough for anyone hoping to be more respectful in their parenting. Most of us were raised to believe that a child who is “misbehaving” MUST receive a consequence or else they won’t learn their lesson. I know I feel this instinctual need to pounce on any negative behavior I see from my kids. It’s SO HARD to move past those instincts. Especially when you read posts and books that give you such specific language and timing and tone to use. When you’re in the moment, it’s impossible to remember all of that.
So I want to simplify it.
When you see that little spout of misbehavior arising in your child, just be there. No, I don’t mean help them to act out this misbehavior. Just, stop what you’re doing and be there. Be authentic. Don’t follow a script. Just actively work on resisting your learned instincts to correct and just be there with them.
Be ready to grab a hitting hand. Ready to receive a much needed hug. Ready to fully listen and attend to the desperate screams your child is using to try to communicate however they can.
You may say the wrong thing, you may not do everything perfect, but you are doing the most important thing a kid could ask for: you are fully present.
Will this prevent future bad behavior? no. Will this encourage future bad behavior? I don’t think so. Will you walk away feeling closer and more confident in your parenting skills? absolutely.
You don’t need to walk away analyzing everything you said that wasn’t “in the book.” You just need to walk away asking yourself, “Were they seen? Was I there?”
ALWAYS BE YOURSELF
Respecting your child isn’t going to look the same in every family. Our personalities need to show. Our genuine thoughts need to be expressed. Our kids need to know they are getting their specific parent, not a carefully curated mom-bot.
It can be so easy to dive into the rabbit hole of Respectful Parenting and feel like you just can’t get it right in the moment. I’ve fallen into this trap far too often. I’ve walked away from confrontations feeling like I did everything wrong just because I didn’t say every single word exactly right. Because I said it my way instead of THE way, I really believed I did it wrong.
But I think our kids need us to be ourselves. If you’re like me and you prefer a light hearted “uh.. no” over “not right now, sweetheart” or “daaaaang, check that out! Look at all the colors!” over “oh! I see you used red in this drawing!” your kids need to see that. Otherwise, they may feel like they are treated differently than others or like they don’t get to know the real you.
I think the practices in Respectful Parenting are so valuable and I could not be more thankful that I’ve found this approach to parenting. But I also think it’s helpful to simplify it. Make it less about the words and more about the actions.
The basic principals are amazing to follow, but the most important thing to remember is to make it your own. Make it authentic. Make it uniquely you.