Kinder, gentler, non punitive ways to parent are mostly based on concepts of setting limits, being kind but firm, being empathetic and connecting with your child. A friend recently asked me; Can you please explain what exactly it means to be Kind but Firm? How can you show empathy but not get walked all over? How can you keep limits and avoid tantrums? I told her these two scenarios where I had recently successfully used choices and cooperation to keep the peace.
Offering choices with boundaries: Keeping choices within certain boundaries can provide both parents and children with a sense of control over their own actions and helps both reach the same goal.
Earlier this week, we were getting ready to head to the recycling center. This meant all three of my children needed to get shoes and coats on and load up the recycling items into our stroller. My five year old was not very keen on leaving the house but our schedule for the day was such that leaving within the next few minutes was important to me. To avoid a struggle I offered some choices:
Me: We are all getting ready to walk to the recycling center; can you please put on some shoes?
5yr old: I want to stay here playing.
Me: I can see you are having fun with your playmobil dude. (Showing kindness)
5yr: Yes, he is on an adventure.
Me: How about you choose your shoes and put them on (restating request i.e. being firm) and then bring your dude on adventure outside while I load up the recycling? (returning to kindness)
5yr old: can I wear my rain boots and bring my playmobil dude with us to the recycling? And can I also throw the glass bottles in (at the recycling center he meant), I like to hear them crash.
Me: Yes. Yes and Yes, I like to hear them crash too. (connecting, sharing enthusiasm)
Welcoming Cooperation: Involving children with a decision making process is a fantastic way to help them feel part of the solution with less chances of resistance.
While on a playdate recently, a three year old friend was playing with my three year old boy. Both children wanted to ride a little car at the exact same time.
My 3yr old to other 3yr old: This is MINE. Get away from MY toy. Lifting hand for hitting.
Me: Swoops in and gently holds 3yr old hand. Get eye to same eye level and Smiles.
My 3yr old: I want my car. It’s mine. I am mad.
Me: I can see you are mad. (showing understanding) Can you be mad but not hit? (encouraging to remember limits)
My 3yr old: Stomps his feet and asks: That I can do?
Me: Yes. You may stomp your feet. What else can you do when you are mad? (Welcoming ideas)
My 3yr old: Run. I want to run a big circle.
My 3yr old: Comes back from running a circle around the garden.
Me: Can you think of a way to share your toy with your friend? She is very interested in it.
My 3yr old: I know! She can ride when I run and then we switch.
Me: Sounds like you found a solution.
So, have you been able to overcome a challenging moment by welcoming your child's help? How did it work out?
Peace & Be Well.
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