What You'll Learn
- Defining Respectful Parenting
- The Role Respectful Parenting Plays In Discipline
- Navigating Differences In Parenting Opinions
- Importance of Modeling This Respectful Parenting Approach
Our children are looking for and needing a connection with us, and our main job as parents is to foster a secure attachment with our children. Does disciplining our child and "making them unhappy" interfere with our bond? Is there a difference between respectful boundaries and being permissive? How do we handle discipline and still build that relationship positively?
This can be done with respectful parenting where the goal is to see the real need behind the behavior and that the behavior is the communication of their need. RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) trained parenting expert Janet Lansbury is here to help us understand the methods and benefits of respectful parenting.
Defining Respectful Parenting
“Your baby is actually a whole person with their own destiny,” Janet said. “It stops being about how to mold a person, and it’s actually about building a relationship with a person from the very beginning.”
One of the most unexpected pieces of parenthood is the journey inward. I wasn’t expecting to find healing in motherhood, but it has a way of encouraging healing in parts of yourself that you didn’t realize needed support. This has turned out to be one of the hardest but most freeing parts of mothering for me.
“We become aware that maybe we don’t want to do exactly what our parents do or whatever,” Janet explained. “You can give what wasn’t given to you.” It’s an ultimate re-do to be able to give our kids the relationship we feel we may have missed ourselves.
The Role Respectful Parenting Plays In Discipline
Parenting is a leadership role. Some people think if we’re respecting children, then when they tell us no, we need to explain ourselves or make them okay with it. This isn't true. “Respecting them actually means you respect their stage of life and their development, and the fact that they deserve a childhood,” Janet said.
“It felt really mean to me a lot of the time for me to step into this role as the leader,” she said. “I had to realize how unkind it was of me not to.” When children have to make the decisions we should be making, it takes their time and energy away from exploring themselves and enjoying their childhood.
But we can politely ask for them to follow directions or for help with household chores. We can use an appropriate tone of voice when giving directions or asking for help and thank them afterwards.
Even our posture mattes. If your child needs a consequence, reminding them of the rule they broke and the consequence in a neutral voice and posture is more respectful than towering over them and barking the order. “It’s a person that deserves respect but cannot be asked to have more power in the house than we do in terms of boundaries and rules,” Janet said. “It’s kind of about defining our role in this relationship as one of teacher.”
It’s kind of about defining our role in this relationship as one of teacher.
It’s also important to remember there is a lot of scientific evidence showing that when children act out or misbehave, it’s because they’re uncomfortable in some way. This can be anything from just not being sure what the rules actually are and testing us in small ways to all out tantrums.Or because their life is changing in some way they can’t control and it’s upsetting for them.
“Once we start to practice that perspective we realize what children need is help,” Janet explained. What we want them to learn is that when they can’t handle a situation or environment, we’re here to help. We can look for the real need behind the behavior and see the behavior as communication.
When we treat the behavior as a problem to be solved, we fracture our relationship with your child over time. But we’re also missing the need completely. I have a spirited child, and I’ve learned that connection can really disarm him. However, if I react like I’m ready to punish him, he’ll just dig his heels in and hold his ground.
Navigating Differences In Parenting Opinions
It might feel like you’ve done all of the research and work trying to implement respectful parenting, and your partner just doesn’t get it. But everyone learns in their own way, so your partner might not need to read the same book as you or have you explain everything you read.
If you’re practicing respectful parenting and your partner sees you’re getting results, that might be a learning experience on its own. But it’s also good for kids to have multiple perspectives in their lives. If you’re telling them it’s okay to have big feelings and connection is important and your partner uses more of a behavioural approach with consequences to discourage specific actions, your children can benefit from both approaches.
Sharing successes tends to work better than actively coaching your partner in the moment.
Sharing successes tends to work better than actively coaching your partner in the moment. My middle son has big emotions that sometimes look like tantrums.One thing I’ve learned is to get down on his level and curiously suggest things around that might help him feel better or let him know things that help me when I’m upset. This then helps him calm down and try to soothe himself. Since I’m a therapist, it makes sense that I’m more immersed in this than my husband.
It usually works out well, if I wait until I’m alone and tell my husband, “Hey, asking him if he’s hungry and suggesting he eat seems to calm our son down during a tantrum.” My partner can use that information in the future, but if I tried to act as a go-between or coach while my husband was trying to end a tantrum that wouldn’t go over as well.
Importance of Modeling This Respectful Parenting Approach
Sometimes our partner may think we’re under parenting, or that we’re being too permissive. If they come in way too authoritative, it could be they’re afraid the kid is out of control and trying to regain some control of the situation.
“I’ve got calm control of this. When people see that, it’s quite profound for them. They don’t have the same scared feelings in themself that this child is out of control, because they’re not. They see it in a different way. So, that’s why working on our own process so we can model is always going to be the best teacher at all,” Janet explained.
I’ve got calm control of this. When people see that, it’s quite profound for them.
In the same way, we have to change our mindsets about our children’s problematic behaviours, we can shift our mindsets about our partner’s interactions or interference with our parenting style. Your partner wants your kid to be happy and healthy too, so thinking of it in terms of a shared goal rather than “us versus them,” we can better understand their interactions.
Modeling respectful parenting requires staying calm. This can be especially hard to do when your child has belly flopped on the floor, but mindfulness can help if you struggle with this.
If you need more support, check out All The Rage on how to raise kids with less anger and more connection.