Written by Kristina Morris, Social Media Coordinator for Values Based Living
Parenthood is probably the most challenging yet fulfilling adventure that a person can take on. We get the opportunity to shape a human and watch them flourish as they get older, all while stressing over whether we’ve done a good enough job, feel guilt from arguments, are doing too little, or doing too much, and inevitably we lose some marbles along the way.
I am a mother of two and am four years into this adventure. I have experienced many ups and downs with my kids, as does every parent, and want to share a significant win that I have faced that hopefully may help other parents.
Through VBL’s private coaching, I was able to uncover a new way of relating with my children which in turn helped to diminish defiant behavior. Before I dive into the goods, I want to disclose that this article is written based on my own perspective and experiences. I am by no means a licensed professional, however, what I uncovered is too good to just keep to myself. So take what you will of what I am about to share with you, and hopefully, something I’ve shared will help you to a more values-based, hassle-free life with your children!
As a parent, it is important to realize and appreciate that our children are individual people that have their own feelings, values, and perspectives. Our priority, if all else fails, is to teach our children to have self-esteem. Their feelings and values are equally as important as our own, even though we are the authoritative figures. I also learned that there is a fine line between developing a child to become a people-pleaser and being self-confident. Let’s deconstruct this a bit further:
The most obvious difference between children and adults is that children do not yet have well-developed vocabulary to associate with feelings. Part of our job as a parent is to help them make sense of what they are experiencing and put it into words. This is done by identifying the emotion, seeking to understand the reason, and providing support. For example, my child always gets upset when we say goodbye to close family and friends. Her reaction is to shut down completely by ignoring the person and hiding. After this happened a couple of times I clued-in that she was not being defiant, she was sad and figured that if goodbyes weren’t said that the person couldn’t leave. So in this instance, we talk about how it is normal to feel sad when we say goodbye and I provide support through affection and letting her know that this is not the last time she will see that person.
Although a child is also not well-versed in defining their values, they have them, and it is again up to the parents to figure out what intrinsically motivates our children. I can promise you that THIS is a game changer, once you are able to figure out both your parental values and your child’s values! By understanding both sides, I have been able to satisfy both of our needs at the same time with very little struggle… the catch is that it requires a little more investment. A great example, as I know many parents face this challenge, is when it is time to leave the house and your child lollygags! In one situation, my daughter was colouring a picture and ignored my first request to get her boots and jacket on. So, I repeated myself and said that it is important that we get there on time (Value: Punctuality), however she told me to give her one more minute because she had to finish her drawing. Instead of getting upset, I asked her why it was important to finish her picture, which turned out to be that she wanted to give it to her friend at school because it would make her happy (Value: Love). With this new piece of information, I gave her two options that would satisfy both of our needs, either she could finish within a certain amount of time or she can finish it at school and give it to her friend afterwards. In the end, she was able to finish her drawing in the time I allotted and happily got dressed all because I acknowledged the significance of this drawing which made her feel important and heard.
Of course, there are times when authority overrules the decisions that have to be made, but if we as parents make a focused effort in allowing our children to be part of the decision-making process by acknowledging their feelings, values, and perspectives, there is an opportunity to live a more values-based, hassle-free life!
You may be asking yourself, where do you begin to identify these values? What worked for me was conducting an experiment with my oldest child, who was 3 at the time, where I observed her behaviour over one month and made several attempts to discuss values that I thought I saw. Some examples of questions I asked included, “Being safe seems very important to you, is that true?”, “You are so silly. Do you love having fun?”, and “I really love spending time with you. What is your favorite part of when we spend time together?”.
Children are easily influenced and manipulated, which can be both extremely advantageous and dangerous! What I found helpful in instilling self-confidence in my child, is to probe her with self-reflection questions when she asks for my feedback of her achievement. A great example is when she shows me a picture that she drew and asks for my affirmation. I will tell her that she did a great job and add “I can tell that you worked really hard on it, didn’t you?” or “What do you think of your drawing? What do you like about it?”. In turn, this acknowledges that her feelings are important and helps her reflect on them, which makes her rely less on what I think.
In conclusion, having a values-based relationship with our children is worth the investment. We all want to feel seen and heard, whether we are adults or children. In my opinion, when someone feels important, they typically reciprocate positive responses and make more of an effort to be cooperative. This is what I have noticed in my children after learning the above from VBL!