Did you read the book or see the film ‘Room’? The child hero, Jack, has been raised in a room, in which he and his mother are captive. For much of the story, Jack believes that this single room is the world – he believes those confines are what life is.
What if there are constructs imprisoning our parenting mindset – keeping us trapped in yelling, nagging, grumbling, over-functioning or other unhelpful parenting habits? We, as a society, have been duped into believing that our role is to make the child comply. I suspect this is the biggest lie that deceives parents.
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We have believed the lie that, if we are responsible parents, we must monitor, police and judge every minute of the child’s life to make sure they don’t do anything ‘wrong’ – that we must teach them how to be good. To a great extent, our education system has been trapped into the same lie. We train our children to measure themselves by other people’s judgement.
- But what if children are born inherently good?
- What if they have an internal compass that guides them to compassionate response?
- What if they are capable learners?
- What if they naturally want to be responsible and cooperative?
I’m not talking about ‘hands-free’ parenting. Every society has limits and codes of conduct to ensure everyone’s welfare.
- But what if we rather saw ourselves as guides to accompany our children on their journey in life?
- What if we broke free from the lie that we have to make our children comply?
- What if we didn’t believe that a parent needs to be a police officer, judge, teacher, maid, cleaner, nanny, cook, nurse, entertainer, moral guide, security officer and god all rolled into one?
I think, as a society, we are exhausted from over-parenting – we are stressed from responsibilities that aren’t healthy for us and aren’t healthy for our children’s optimum development.
When we over-parent our children have to constantly look to us to tell them what to do, what to say, what to think, and what to feel. The challenge is, when our children reach their teens they naturally move away from their parents’ close monitoring and look to their peers for direction. If they have always relied on the parent to tell them what they should and shouldn’t do in every situation – they will take their peers’ instructions.
If they haven’t learnt to follow their own inner compass, they will be in danger of not trusting their own judgement. They might be coerced into other people’s agendas: ‘Have sex with me. Try some of this. Everyone’s doing it.” We need to raise our children to think for themselves and to trust their own intuition. We need to raise competent children – not compliant children.
- Do you want your child to learn to make their own wise choices in life?
- Do you want them to understand the consequences of their behaviours?
- Do you want to support your children on their own unique journey in life?
When we escape from the mindset that we have to raise compliant children we let go of all the angst of having to raise ‘good children’. Rather, we trust them to be who they naturally are – competent, caring and compassionate human beings. We raise them to trust themselves – not to be reliant on you as parent, or anybody else: “Am I being good? Am I doing this right?”
When your focus is on raising competent children, they gain an inner awareness, “I am my own person. I can trust my own judgement.”
If you are looking for practical ideas on how to develop your skill in raising a competent child, see my blog “7 Useful Tips On How to Build Self Esteem In Your Child”
Raising a competent child is a journey. Yes, there will be times when they learn through failure and through mistakes. Life’s like that – that’s how we all learn. We need to be there to support them on their own life journey.
But what does parenting for competency look like in our everyday interactions? Here’s a simple example: Your young child climbs the ladder and stands on the platform at the top.
If you were to exclaim, ‘Good boy’ it becomes about your judgement of his action. If there is a lifelong pattern of this sort of praise, you teach your child to rely on others for approval, rather than notice his own experience.
A more helpful response would be to comment on what you observe.
“You climbed the ladder!”
Or perhaps you notice he is raising his hands, with clenched fists, above his head. He’s proud of his achievement. Mirror his action at a moment like this. Raise your hands above your head with clenched fists, and make warm eye contact with him. You are giving him the message,
“I see you. I see you are happy. You climbed up there!”
Even if you don’t use words, your child ‘feels felt’. You are with them in their moment of achievement. This is supporting your child to be his own person.
If you say, “Good boy!” you are judging from your standpoint, rather than entering into your child’s experience.
When you mirror him in a moment like this, you give him the message, “I see you. I see your pride in what you did.” These everyday interactions are influenced by our mindset.
The key question we need to ask ourselves as parents is,
“Am I raising my children to comply or to be competent?”
We can be trapped in a worldview of thinking our children should do what we think they should do. This is when we fall into nagging, grumbling and yelling, because we are trying to impose our agenda, rather than seeing ourselves as journeying alongside the child and supporting them to develop their natural competence – physically, cognitively, emotionally and socially.
Today you may be reading this and thinking, “It’s time to break free and parent differently. But how?”
Here are a few resources that give practical insights into how to parent to nurture a child’s natural capability. I recommend ‘Roots of Empathy’ by Mary Gordon, ‘Your Competent Child’ by Jesper Juul and my own book, ‘BEHAVE – What To Do When Your Child Won’t’, available on Kindle and in paperback. You might also like to watch my YouTube chat about this same subject.
And here’s good news. Click here to discover my complementary 9 – Step programme to Stop The Yelling (or other unhelpful parenting habit). You’ll get a free fridge poster, with a short explanatory video and a weekly email for 9 weeks. Each week’s email unpacks the next step to a yell-free home.
Do we want to break free from the biggest lie that deceives parents – the lie that’ it is our parenting duty to make our children comply? Imagine what a difference it would make to our relationship with our children when we choose to raise competent children. When we change our mindset, everything changes – just as Jack’s whole world changed once he knew that Room was a lie. Once he realised things could be different, he took action. It wasn’t easy. It took courage but he transformed his experience of life.
Have you any tips, techniques or worries on raising competent children? Please share them in the comments box below.