Parenting Assumptions: Helpful or Harmful
There is one basic premise that renders parenting easier, less stressful, and more enjoyable. If you are sick of feeling overwhelmed and like a “failure” at this job, stay tuned.
First, let’s consider some of the assumptions we make about parenting as a general rule in society.
It’s a parent’s job to teach their kids right from wrong.
It’s a parent’s job to keep their kids under control.
A child’s behavior is a direct reflection of their parenting.
Any problem behavior is a parent’s fault and they are tasked with fixing that behavior immediately.
A general sense of, “My child would never…”
Or a long-held story of, “If I’d done that when I was a kid…”
So number 1 is true. More on that in a bit. Number 2-6 are largely or entirely false. These are the assumptions S.U.R.E. Parenting makes instead:
It’s a parent’s job to love and guide their children, meet their needs, keep them safe, and teach them right and wrong through their own modeling as well as clearly and calmly held boundaries.
A child is a full unique human being with their own thoughts, feelings, and needs. No human has full control over another human, nor should they. Some things we *do* control - ourselves, the environment, the expectations we set (for better or worse), and again US!
Some types of parenting, such as spanking, screaming, or otherwise scaring a child, (known as authoritarian parenting) *can* result in certain undesirable behaviors like aggression, lack of empathy, bullying, and anxiety or depression. However, a wide range of behaviors are developmentally normal and part of having a brain that hasn’t finished maturing yet, and as such, time and understanding are key in addressing those behaviors.
ALL behavior is communication and most of the undesirable behaviors we see from kids are their effort at informing us of their developmental, mental, social, or emotional needs in that moment. Meeting those needs, particularly those outlined by Drs. Dan Siegle and Tina Bryson in The Power of Showing Up, being Safe, Seen, Soothed, and as a result Secure, are the best way to mitigate unwanted behaviors.
Never say never. ;-) Many a parent with an Easy-going child has been humbled by the birth of their 2nd or 3rd Enterprising child. Different kids are different. This “My child would never,” thinking is what Brene Brown calls “creating otherness” and is the opposite of connection and humanity. If you must think about someone else’s situation, find gratitude you don’t currently face that particular struggle, and wish that parent and child the best as they journey through that challenge together.
Much of what we now know about the brain wasn’t known when we were children. Your inner child may still hold some resentment or shame or old stories and breaking from those can feel painful and conflicting. Loving your parents does not mean you have to do everything the same as them. Knowing they love you doesn’t mean they knew what we know now or had the tools to parent in a more informed way. They did the best they could with their brains and knowledge and assistance at that time. And you know more, your information is backed by thorough scientific study, and you don’t owe your parents justification or convincing. Your only job is to do the best you can for YOUR child.
On to the last and most important assumption to change your family culture:
Kids do well when they can! (So do parents.)
When your kiddo is “bad”, they aren’t bad. They are struggling. Having a hard time. Trying and falling short. In need of your calmness, wisdom, and support. We are fortunate to have fully formed brains and perspective and life experience and hopefully outside support - they don’t have any of those things. It’s ok, normal, natural - even GREAT, for them to borrow from us while they learn and grow.
The questions change when you adopt this foundational belief.
Instead of, “How do I make him…”, it’s, “How do I help him…”. Instead of, “What punishment/consequence should I give?” It’s, “What tools does my child need to better handle this problem next time?” or “What can I learn from this to better set my kid up for success next time?” It’s, “What’s getting in her way of success?” It’s, “What unmet need is she trying to show me?” It’s even, “What do *I* need so I have the stores of calmness, wisdom, and support to give this child?”
These questions point us to better long-term solutions. They prepare us to put our relationship first. They set us up to work WITH instead of AGAINST our child. These improved assumptions and, therefore enhanced questions, change parenting for the better!
What assumptions about parenting have you changed over the years? What assumptions have helped you achieve your parenting and relational goals?