Conscious parenting is not about controlling your kids… it’s about guiding behaviour in such a way that everyone (including you!) gets their needs met and feels like they’re winning. Here’s how:
Control is a funny one isn’t it? It’s like the more tightly we try to grip this notion that we are in control, the harder it is to hold on to.
Control can bring up lots of our own emotions from childhood. Most of us were raised in a society where its normal and expected for adults to have control and power over a child. Even if you weren’t aware of it at the time, these experiences caused you to have emotional reactions. Perhaps you felt small, powerless, afraid, rage or anger and if you didn’t process these things at the time (as most of us didn’t) they will still be trapped in your body to this present day.
These experiences cause you to see things through a ‘lens’ that you’ve come to believe is truth. It means that any time you experience similar feelings to what you experienced as a child you’re going to have a reaction based on your past experiences. So perhaps you feel a complete sense of rage when your child refuses to listen to you at the grocery store, because you’re feeling powerless and out of control in that situation. Your childhood feelings are being triggered.
It’s really important to know that you can’t break this cycle with more power and control. What you need is more connection and love.
Let me explain a bit more…
Behaviour is always a form of communication and your child’s unwillingness to cooperate with your request is communicating an underlying need. There’s a whole range of needs. It could be physical: hunger, cold, thirst, tired. It could be emotional: a need to connect or feel close or process emotions. When you can separate your ego out of the equation, you can get curious about what your child is actually trying to communicate and you can help to solve the problem, rather than exacerbate it!
How do you go about this?
What normally happens when people feel powerless is that you might try to regain your sense of inner power and control through using your greater force and size over your child in the form of physical force, threats, shouting etc..Children experience powerlessness everyday as others who are bigger and stronger than them use power over them.
- Didn’t want you to change their nappy
- Didn’t want to get in the trolley at the grocery store
- Didn’t want you to buckle them into the carseat
- Didn’t want you to turn the tv off
- Didn’t want to go to daycare
Interestingly, when kids are feeling powerless they will try to regain their sense of inner power through controlling the environment around them (just like us!)
This might look like:
- Not listening
- Being uncooperative
- Snatching, not wanting to share, acting very posessively
- Demanding, shouting at you or other children
- Hitting, pushing and other forms of aggression
These are your kids’ ways of using power over you and others when they are feeling powerless in an attempt to regain their sense of power and control.
Your powerless behaviours (using force, shouting, threats etc) and your children’s powerless behaviours (not listening, shouting, hitting etc) are really versions of the same thing.
So when you’re met with uncooperation, you need to get curious about what this behaviour might be communicating to you. Is there a physical reason your child is refusing? (Tired, hungry, cold etc)
Secondly you can start looking at emotional reasons, and get creative with how you can return your child’s sense of power so that you BOTH win.
It might be that you offer a simple choice such as “would you like to play with animals or Octonauts in the bath?’
It might be that you consider your child’s sense of autonomy. As an example, this morning my boys were engrossed in a making a cubby house. If I had called them away to do school work it would have been met with lots of uncooperation!! So instead of using my power as a parent to force them, I looked for another solution where all our needs could be met.
(pic taken of the view from inside the cubby)
Another common example is screen time. If your child is in the middle of a game and you force them to turn off it’s going to clash with their sense of autonomy and what they’re wanting to achieve in that moment. It’s going to cause them to feel powerless and out of control. Another way around this particular situation might be to first ask what your child is doing on their device. Let them know your needs. “We need to leave in ten minutes/ I need you to start getting ready so we can go to/ you game time has nearly finished… how can you finish off?” Most likely your child will be much more agreeable and cooperative. Perhaps they’ll let you know that they want to finish the level or have one more life etc.
So for me, the goal is not controlling our kids. It’s about guiding behaviour in such a way that everyone (including you!) gets their needs met and feels like they’re winning.
Do you have questions or would like to know more about this – I’d love to hear from you! You can get in touch through my Facebook page or via the form below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. And if you’d like my support to create more balance, ease and flow at home with your children, you can book right here.