Parenting can be a lot less stressful when we start to see every power struggle or show of defiance as a signal to stop, slow down, breathe, reconnect with self first, and then our child. Rather than focusing only on what your child is doing or not doing, bring your awareness back to the relationship, to the energy between you. We're generally more successful in gaining our child's cooperation when we slow down and connect with more warmth and kindness.
Remember that you can influence your child positively, but mostly only when they feel the connection with you. Frustrating but true!
See the power struggle as your cue to slow down and truly listen to your own feelings and bring in some self-empathy first; "oh wow this is so stressful, I feel so stretched right now" (even 5 seconds can start to change the mood). Then truly listen to your child and practice active listening and generally in one way or another, remind your child (whether they're a toddler, a teen or anywhere in between) that you're really there for them. Show your child that you're really truly caring about what's going on for them, what they feel and what they need.
This isn't an easy turn around when you're caught up in the stress response, when you're fighting the dreaded clock, when there's a huge backlog of YOUR unmet needs. Choosing to re-connect is about as easy as making the choice to make yourself a camomile tea when you're hanging out for, but know you really shouldn't have, that coffee or glass of wine or sugary food. It's not the easiest thing to do, it takes huge commitment and self-discipline. But boy is the result worth it and what great modelling!
Most conflicts and power struggles can be fairly easily dissipated by slowing down, softening, letting go of your agenda, even temporarily, and re-connecting. Or through bringing in some humour! Our children can rarely resist coming back into the harmony of the parent child connection when we move into goofy silly mum/dad mode, or simply show them that we've got that playful glint back in our eye.
Kids respond best when we're calm, confident and present to them, rather than just throwing out the orders. But to achieve the momentous task of putting the relationship before the tasks to be achieved, the clock or the gripping urge to prove our point, to choose to connect rather than control, to be playful rather than demanding; we first need to stop, pause and re-centre ourselves.
You don't have time *not* to slow down. It's easy to think that we don't have time to stop in our tracks to re-connect, but when we don't, it's pretty guaranteed that everything you need your child's cooperation to achieve in the day is going to take ten times as long - at least!
One of the tips I give many clients that they seem to find really helpful is to simply visualize a big red stop sign to help them remember to stop, slow down and consciously breathe out stress. To help them remember, parents will often print one out or draw it and put it up in the room where most of the conflicts happen. Then write down some key words on it that remind you to breathe and lower your stress level, to reset and start again. If you put one of these up on your wall, maybe put a love heart somewhere on the paper to remind you what it's all really about.
Avoiding conflicts and crashes. If we get to the traffic lights and there's a red light, but we ignore it and drive on through we're taking a risk, there could be a crash. We're entering a danger zone. This is the same when we charge forward in our interaction with our child when our stress levels are soaring and we're caught in the grip of trying to control our child whether they like it or not. It's risky, dangerous, there will be repercussions at least on the emotional level.
The parent is at risk of overpowering their child, making their child scared, making them freeze and comply from a place of fear, this is the place where time outs are likely to happen or yelling or punishments of other kinds or sarcasm or guilt tripping or stone walling, we all know how it goes.
When a parent can't pull back, when they charge ahead and operate from that place of intense stress and frustration; the frustration, sadness and fear that the child has embodied will no doubt reflect in their actions through the rest of the day and into the night. Unless or until it's repaired.
Every parent has their moments of charging ahead when they know they should pull back, so please don't be down on yourself when it happens. It does happen. It's a symptom of *your* unmet needs being sky high.
Changing habits is challenging, it doesn't happen overnight, it takes time, it takes a lot of learning through our mistakes, but we're all in it together, all doing the best we can to change the patterns that were handed down to us that didn't serve us.
We all need encouragement. We all need to be recognized for our striving, for our good intentions, our efforts. Children especially need to truly believe that their parent sees their innate goodness and really believes in them. How can a child believe in themselves enough to put in the hard yards of meeting life's challenges unless they know their parent really believes in them. Make sure you're counting your successes and your child's successes, the big ones and especially the little ones. How amazing are you for being on this journey of awareness, self-responsibility, change and growth. How rewarding!