I learned very early on it was not worth pushing my children into a conflict—force always created push-back.
This happens with people of all ages, especially children with behavioural disorders. Taking a hard and fast position easily pushed them into defying me just to prove a point. Children don’t just know how you want them to act, they have to be shown as well as told.
We decided to model calm, and the behaviour we were asking for as much as we could, in hopes that this would reflect in their behaviour and mannerisms. Sometimes it did, and sometimes it didn’t.
We can all set reasonable expectations and enforce them in a manner that encourages their age appropriate agreement and ownership. I am against trying to break a child’s spirit or force them to comply with our views all the time. Even with learning difficulties and diagnosed medical conditions, children have a sense of self, a way they see the world and an extraordinary insight into their environment.
We do not want to limit this or belittle them or the way they view life. They have to do what you direct at times, and they are allowed to have their own opinions and feelings about it. The reward for parents who can take a step back and encourage their child to stretch their thinking and reasoning abilities, is that the child will feel more comfortable sharing thoughts with them about their life as they grow.
This will give you a window into their world, which will head off many potential difficult times before they turn into problems in the future.
Children want mastery more than anything—they want to take charge of as many of their own activities as possible. Whilst considering a style of parenting we were comfortable with, routines and boundaries that worked for our lifestyle (we are a FIFO – fly in fly out – family) were taken into account.
We found that when our children felt more independent and in charge of their daily responsibilities they were less oppositional. Where we could, we would coach rather than tell, suggest rather than demand. There are times where we had to be in charge, be the boss, yet many times we could allow learning through doing.
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We gave the kids choices, guidance, and offered rewards where practical and safe. A couple of times I was reminded only to offer choices I could live with. Like when I gave my youngest a choice of getting ready for school on time or going in his Pyjamas—he was happy to go in his PJ’s. Or when I said to my eldest at 15 that he had to get himself out of bed and get to school on time, if he slept in, he would suffer the school consequences—he was happy to be late.
I have heard some parents liken choices for a child to a breeding ground for disrespect and rewarding good behaviour to bribery. I have not found this at all. I have seen that encouraging children to make choices and learning from those choices creates positive habits and better decision-making skills down the track.
Rewarding good behaviour is essential for building mutual respect and connection.
I worked in a bank many years ago. My manager was always quick to notice mistakes, errors, and lateness. He rarely seemed to notice when any staff did well or consistently produced expected results. The morale in our branch was quite low and turnover high. Whether we are young or old, it is heart warming to be rewarded—to be recognised. I have always told my children that with great effort comes great reward.
Most children are fighting for respect, to be heard and to feel valued.
A child that doesn’t feel the need to fight to be noticed, or protect their position, is a child that feels understood and valued. This child is the child that is easier to reach when we need to negotiate, direct, and parent. I took the skills of negotiating in a business environment and adapted them for negotiating with my children.
Creating win-win outcomes for my whole family is just as important to me as any business deal. The big difference was the deal was sealed with love, hugs, and smiles—not signatures and handshakes.
How do you show your children they are heard? Share with us below.