It is easy to get confused about what a parent is truly responsible for in raising their children and what they aren’t. Going overboard with the responsibility can lead to disabling your child and robbing them of experiences that they need to grow and thrive to be independent.
What if we took the word responsible and turned it into response-able? This gives parents the space to choose what response they are able to give to their child that will empower their child to live a full responsive and empowering life.
Comparing ourselves to other parents or being afraid that we will be judged for how we respond to our children can prevent us from responding in ways that work best for us and our child. One way to do this is to get clear on your role as a parent. What are the issues that fall to your care and which ones are for your child to work through with your support.
This is a great question to ask as you address situations that arise with your child. Here are some other areas where you may be confusing what's your job and what is for your child to work through with your guidance.
To Make Sure Your Child is Happy
This can be tricky. While there are some things parents do that definitely affect a child’s capacity to be happy, like neglect and abuse, teaching kids that happiness is a choice and it is about how they respond to life around them will empower them to be more aware of what they are choosing. They won’t always be happy with the choices you make, and yet, allowing them to know that this is also a choice for them and that you aren’t going to be persuaded so that they can be happy is standing firm in what you think is best for you and them at this time.
If your kids aren’t happy and can’t seem to find ways to create their own happiness, this would be the time for a response to ask some questions about what they are feeling, and what is going on for them that they are feeling unhappy. Is there something else going on here that needs to be addressed?
To Control Your Child
We have all witnessed children who seem to be out of control, especially in public. We feel for the parents and even the child in those situations. Maybe it has even happened to you. I can certainly remember those moments raising my sons. And if you have been in this situation, you know that the more you try to control your child, the more they turn on the outrage and noise, further disturbing others.
This is the time that you need to get you under control so that you can remain calm and not upset. It is a time for you to open your toolbox and explore what your possibilities are for how to respond to your child in a way that will leave you and them feeling honored. It is also important that while their actions may be directed at you, it really isn’t about you; it may be about what they want and can’t have, or what they are being asked to do and don’t want to do, so not taking their behavior personally will be a huge advantage for you.
When your child responds to life in ways that will have direct consequences that can impact their life, be in the question of which response from you will help them benefit the most. These will also vary, depending on the age of your child.
You might ask yourself questions like: What of this is truly in my control? What of this can I allow my child to work through? Is there anything I can say that will assist my child in this?
You might also ask your child: How did that turn out for you? Do you have any other ideas about this? What else might be possible for you at this time?
One of the best ways we can influence our children is by our example. When we use the tools that we would like them to use, we show them that each of us is in control of how we respond to our experiences and our choices.
Teaching Your Child About Being Accountable
When your child says one thing and does another it is your role to let them know what that created. If they said that they would feed the dog and then they don't, letting them know what occurs when the dog doesn't get fed, finding out what led to them not feeding the dog and asking them what they are going to do about it, allows them to own their choice and to make a new choice about it. Be aware of how you bring this awareness to them. Avoid making any judgments, or belittling them for not following through.
Doing for Your Children What They Can Do for Themselves t
This would be their job, not yours. It may require more patience as you know it would be faster if you did it yourself, but keeping in mind that this is how they are going to learn and experience. This helps your child build the confidence to try new things, knowing that you aren't going to do it for them. It also means you have to be okay with things that aren't perfect or aren't to your standards.
This also teaches your child about being independent and able to do things for themselves. They learn that you are not there to always do for them, and that you believe in them to do things on their own.
By continuing to do things for your kids that they can do for themselves you are sending a message that they aren't capable and that they will need to continue to need you. Unless you want your child to be dependent on you later in life when they would normally be on their own, the sooner you allow them to do what they can on their own the better for both of you.
Making Tough Decisions That Are Not Popular
This could be one of your most challenging jobs as a parent. Not only are some of your decisions not going to be favored by your child, but maybe even by other parents or family members. Being willing to parent in ways that honor you and your family requires you making decisions that others won't understand.
It is also valuable to check in with your reasons for making the decisions to be sure that you are doing what is best for you and your child. We can get caught up with restricting our kids to the point that they feel like they never get to have any fun, freedom or choices. When making these decisions, talk them over with your child. Ask them what they know about the decision. They might not agree, but at least you are including them in the process. Be willing to reconsider if you see a different side to it.
Doing Your Best and Not Judging You or Your Child
Each and every day you are doing the best you can with what you know in the moment. Your job as parent is to continue to strive to do your best and to grow through your experience as a parent. It is vital that you don't fall into judging yourself or your child. These judgments do not contribute to making changes. They do send messages that can last a lifetime if they are addressed.
Part of doing your best is to identify those messages that you took on from a very early age and to begin to change them. The alternative if you don't, is that you will pass them onto your child and the pattern of negative thoughts and self-judgment will go on and on. A coach or therapist can be of service if you need assistance in uncovering those messages/patterns that you can't seem to remove.
Staying aware of how you are responding to your child and letting go of the responsibilities that aren't yours will create a deeper connection with your child and allow them to grow up and be confident with who they are and what they would like for their life.
In this replay podcast on Be You Parenting, Mary shares with you more tips about how to respond to your child with kindness and caring that sends empowering messages.