Conflict happens when your kids are young. The difference is that your young kids are more moldable, like playdoh, when they get older it is almost like chipping away at rock!
When you start parenting youths, the parenting style you’re used to becomes ineffective and so you question why the strategies you used before are not working and if it is too late to change how you parent. You also think of all the ways you were raised as being "just fine" (but somehow they are not working very well with your kids now/ but you recognize there are things you want to do differently with your own kids.) Before jumping into shifting parenting styles, we need to take a look at what is the current parenting style. Ask yourself “How do I parent?” “What kind of parent do I see myself as?” and “Is it working? Think back to our first blog (if you have not seen it, click here to check it out) we talked about kids’ counter-will resistance. The more you push or direct them, the harder they resist. When you are experiencing a lot of counter-will, it might be a sign that a shift in parenting style is needed. Other questions to consider are “What has worked for YOU growing up and what did not? What would you like to do differently?” These questions can give you clues into what kind of shifts you might want to make. It is never too late to make changes in how you parent, but how to make those changes can be challenging. Here are some tips on shifting your parenting styles to fit what your kids need.
Give more space as they grow older
If you like houseplants, then you’ll get this analogy. We purchase plants in small pots and eventually the roots beneath the surface need to stretch and grow for the plant to grow bigger or it might stay stunted in size. Well, think of your family in this same way. They are trying to grow and your parenting style can be compared to the smaller pot. They need to be replanted! So, set some realistic expectations for space. You do not need to give them the full details but try explaining to them what your intentions are and how you want to approach this change. If you frame it as an “experiment”, your kids might be more susceptible and appreciative when they know what is going on. And this will take the pressure off as well for you to always need to perform. “Hey, Sally, I want to try something different now you’re older. I’m willing to drop you off at the mall to walk around and pick you up when you guys are done.”
If you expect your kid to be extremely grateful and “became the greatest kid on earth” because you changed one thing, it is probably setting yourself up for disappointment. Expect your kids to be hesitant about the changes. Changes often bring discomfort because it is unfamiliar so walk into the conversation expecting some hesitancy or even boundary-pushing. Know your own limits of space too!
Normalize fears and mistakes instead of getting mad for not being “perfect.”
Focus on one thing at a time for you to embrace. Write this goal down and think about situations where you can put this into practice. For example, a science project presentation is coming up, they’ve been practicing a mock presentation with you and you notice they keep fumbling on words or losing their voice. Try giving more gentle prompts instead of yelling at them out of frustration, here is where you normalize the feelings they are having because they are so scared about presenting. “Hey, Sally, I know presentations can be scary. When I have to present at work, I also get nervous. It is okay to be scared and it is normal to make mistakes. Something that helps me to get less nervous is to practice. You’ve been doing a good job practicing with me, how about we try it a few more times.”
Avoid making comparisons between your kid and their siblings or peers
Every kid is different and deserves to be recognized as such. When we compare them with their siblings or peers, it increases their insecurity and pressure that they need to be “better than others.” Often parents are so busy dealing with the content issue that they do not realize the comparison can backfire on them. When you compare your kids to others, you’re telling them that they are not good enough which decreases their self-worth and creates unnecessary triggers and anxiety. This is especially age-related in finding autonomy. For example, for your two-year-old, making a comparison of your kid to their sibling might make them motivated to perform a task because they are not looking for autonomy at that age (they look for belongingness). However, if you use the same parenting style for your 14-year-old, it will likely be met with “well... I am not them.”
Show your love by being flexible
It is not about changing rules, values or morals as a parent to let your kid do whatever they want. It is about how to navigate your parenting journey to fit the landscape of your family. There is no “one size fits all” approach! If we take a “one size fits all” approach, we may run into situations that prompt us to blame our kids for being not “good” or “obedient” enough. How you convey your unconditional acceptance and love to your kids will need to shift as they age.
These parenting skills can work well to keep them safe and growing as they become independent beings. Being flexible and adaptable as a parent (as you know) will be key to navigating this parenting journey.
Happy Parenting - J.C.