Way of Living – Parenting
June 8, 2021
Sue Groner joined us for a Way of Living conversation about the joys and challenges of parenting. She shared her CLEARR method, emphasizing how respectful communication with your child can alter the dynamic in your home, making your child more responsible while you experience less stress. She then offered insight into how COVID changed parenting and left us with some memorable tips for starting over our approach to parenting, so rather than incessantly worrying, we can be free to observe in wonder as our children change and evolve as confident individuals.
Finding Joy In Parenting
The specific displeasure so many parents face while raising their children mainly stems from trying to control them. Parents often have a fixed, premature sense of what we want our children to be able to do, before we even know them as individuals. We need to pause, reflect, and recognize that we cannot engineer our children. Once we accept this fact, we can move through the process of parenting entirely differently, as we are now free to experience moments with our children as ones of profound joy rather than intense frustration.
Sue’s CLEARR method for parenting stands for communication, love, empathy, awareness, rules, and respect. When parents effectively embrace all those aspects when interacting with their children, parenting will become easier and more enjoyable.
Usually, the most challenging piece for parents is treating their children with respect, as often, growing up, we were taught that showing our own parents respect was of utmost importance, but it is equally important that as parents, we respect our kids. This respect needs to be part of your communication, with your language and tone of voice, but also by inquiring about their opinions with genuine curiosity, acknowledging and celebrating their abilities and interests, and empowering them to both overcome challenges and grow their innate talents. Showing respect bolsters children’s self-esteem and helps them grow into assured adults who feel capable.
You always want to come from a place of love when parenting. Journey back to that moment when you first held your child as a baby – you could not even conceive of ever feeling anger towards them. Try and re-enter that space of unconditional love during taxing moments, so you are free to consider how your child feels and what would be best for them.
It is so easy to quickly enter into power struggles. Instead of trying to dictate or manipulate how your child feels, try to use your empathy and awareness to arrive at a place where you want to understand your child and what their experience is in that moment.
Keep in mind, particularly with young children, they have only been on this planet for a few years, and yet, we sometimes have such lofty expectations for them. Try to question what it is you expect them to do and if it’s even necessary. Parents are quick to say, “You need to do this now!” (i.e., homework, tying shoes, etc.). But, ask yourself: does it really need to be done now?
It is important to allow your child the experience of something going wrong; building resilience is invaluable. Your child needs strong coping mechanisms as they grow and face more rigorous emotional, social, and academic challenges.
Sue strongly recommends that you develop some rules for your child, but be sure that they are truly important to you because then, it’ll be easy to explain to your child in a thoughtful, considered way why the rule needs to exist at all. Additionally, as your child grows older, include them in the creation of household rules, so it can feel collaborative. The more you can give them control, the better and easier things will be; you are not ceding ground, but rather empowering them to understand themselves and set their own parameters for being content, self-aware and engaged individuals. Children will appreciate being a part of the rule-making process and these rules are much more likely to actually be respected and followed because their purpose and relevance will be understood.
Ultimately, rules and boundaries exist for the safety and well-being of your child. Take the time to explain this to them! If your child is still resistant to a specific rule, truly listen to their feelings and reasons. Come from a place of wanting to understand their point of view. If they have a suggestion for modifying or eliminating a rule, communicate your willingness to try it out. You can always reconvene after a genuine attempt and say that you feel unsettled by this altered rule. If you talk to them in a respectful, understanding manner, everything will unfold in an easier, more mutually beneficial way for both parent and child.
How COVID Changed Parenting
COVID forced families to fundamentally alter how they spend their time together. Pre-COVID, parents devoted their time doing this aforementioned engineering work – making sure their kids are in every activity so they can be the finest musician, athlete, actor, etc. It’s important to recognize and respect how much kids savor and actually need downtime. Particularly for young children, constantly running around from place to place, activity to activity, is not healthy when done on a regular basis.
COVID forced everyone to pare down their schedules and refocus on spending quality time together during shared activities, like riding bikes, hiking, and playing games together. A lot of families had nightly dinners together for the first time in years.
Your child’s extracurriculars should have a moderate presence in their lives, while the more simple, joyous family moments can and should be the fabric of childhood.
Tips to Remember
These tips are to help you become a happier and more relaxed parent, freeing you from the unnecessary stress and anxiety that can arise once you have kids.
This slight shift has the power to radically alter your attitude when parenting. It means that if you are going to say yes about something (driving to the mall, helping with a project, etc.), change from begrudgingly to enthusiastically agreeing. Yes, you probably have a billion other things to do or would really just appreciate a minute to yourself, but if you know that you are going to say yes, why not approach it with joy? It’s another opportunity to share precious moments with your growing child. You may need to fake it at first, but eventually, it will have a huge impact on your happiness because you will view it with a positive lens from the outset. Additionally, your child will appreciate this change as they’ll feel great that their parent genuinely wants to spend time with them, rather than feeling like another responsibility or even a burden.
- Your Child is Not a Mini-Me
This can be difficult for parents, but it’s essential to accept that there will be many ways in which your child is different from you. Try and view their abilities, temperament, demeanour and interests as something potentially exciting and fascinating. You have the opportunity to learn new things from them because their interests do differ from yours. If your time with them is anchored by sincere curiosity, you can learn alongside your child and experience a lot of vicarious exhilaration alongside them. You possess the privilege of just stepping back and watching as they evolve, observing as they grow and refine their own unique set of skills and passions to navigate their own paths in their own way.
- Things You Worry About Today Will Be Irrelevant Next Year and the Year After
Try to avoid viewing their current behavior as a future problem; you’re projecting the way they currently behave onto them as adults. Your child will inevitably change and evolve and grow.
If your child cannot sit at the table for dinner, don’t force them to. If they need to run around every 5 minutes, set a timer. Find ways you can comfortably bend to their needs. Lean into creating manageable systems that make your life smoother and your child’s life more enjoyable, because the havoc and conflict you’re creating, by enforcing certain rules that are both unnecessary and strenuous for your child to adhere to, is entirely avoidable.
The majority of what you worry about does not matter. Try this exercise: write down what is worrying you or what you wish would be different. Put your list away. Look at it a year later. Let the laughter commence.
- Rather Than Fixing Kids’ Feelings, Validate Their Feelings
Children need emotional connection. They need to know that their parents understand how they are feeling.
Let them know that it is okay to feel however they feel. It is okay to be frustrated, to worry, or to have anxiety. Name those emotions for them so they can understand how common and normal it is to experience these feelings. As an adult, you have a lot of power to model how to move through those uncomfortable, but inevitable feelings, with grace, strength, and care. It is actually important for your child to see you during more challenging moments; you can stop pretending to alway be happy. If you’re starting a new job, tell them that you’re worried about being in a new place, with new people, and a new set of responsibilities. Within a few weeks, they’ll have witnessed how you navigated your own stress and responded to it.
For more details on Sue’s tips for parenting with sanity and joy, click here.
More of Sue’s strategies and advice can be found in her book, Parenting with Sanity and Joy, and on her podcast, The Parenting Mentor Sessions. You can find Sue online at theparentingmentor.com and on Twitter at @ParentMentoring.