Not too long ago I wrote about having those “tough talks” with your children. In that article, I shared my opinion that as parents, if we don’t put the effort into having serious conversations with our children about those more challenging topics then somebody else will, and we may not like what they tell or teach our child.
Each of us is very well aware that as guardians, we are our children’s life instructors; we are their model, their muse, their inspiration and motivation. Yet more than anything, we are absolutely (whether we like it or not) their standard for what is “right” and “good” in this world. I said it then and I’ll say it now, we cannot pass up the opportunities to be what we are meant to be for our children. We absolutely cannot be lazy in regard to our parenting responsibilities.
Today’s post below is a guest piece from Courtney Lynn Harris, a Child-Centered Coach for Teens and Parents. In Courtney’s role she supports children ages 11-19 in finding their voice, growing confidence, and thriving. Through 1:1 and small group coaching sessions, teens and tweens are able to overcome anxiety, disconnection, and isolation as they discover their truest sense of self and develop a deep sense of empowerment. Courtney supports parents in self-care, growing alongside their children, and in developing balanced sensitivity toward the process their child is creating. Sessions with both teens and parents guide families in developing the trust, communication, and connection that’s crucial for a life of ease.
Parenting is challenging no matter your child’s age. With each age and stage comes its own challenges for both your child and yourself. It is imperative that we, as parents, foster an honest and open connection with our children when they are young and continue to maintain it as they age. The following is Courtney’s take on how we can build encouragement and maintain a positive, deep, and growth-filled connection with our children.
We’re always hearing about the “tough teenage years.” We are basically trained by our culture to fear the years in which our child steps into independence and explores who they are. There are worries about school, homework, and testing. There are concerns about drugs and drinking, too much unstructured free time, and budding romance and sex.
While some of these concerns are rooted in reality, there’s also a need to imagine a fuller range of possibilities for our children who will eventually and inevitably become the teenagers. They deserve the chance to grow from child to teen without us assuming a path of disconnection and without us assuming the worst.
Our thoughts become things.
So, what if, instead of focusing on fears for the future, we allow ourselves to focus on just one, big, powerful end goal: connection.
This work starts as soon as we are awake to it. It’s never too early (or too late for any parents of young adults out there) to put connection with our child on the top of our priority list. Before each action we take or comment we make, we can ask ourselves:
Will this bring my child and I into deeper connection? Or will it push us further apart?
As a Child-Centered Coach and Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator, I use a lens of connection to check in with how my thoughts, words, and behaviors align with supporting children on their path to empowerment. Furthermore, I support parents as they develop this mindset and integrate it into their daily habits.
Consider writing the above questions on a post-it note. Keep it somewhere you’ll see it each day. We have a lot of previously programmed thoughts and behaviors that run on autopilot, so giving ourselves kind, simple reminders of the beliefs we are cultivating is helpful!
I offer parents the opportunity to dig deep into their values and patterns involved in parenting. Then, these questions about connection can become a part of their new default.
One of the foundational, and most grounding, activities in Positive Discipline focuses on “Where Are We and Where Do We Want To Go?” In this truly accessible activity, we draw a two column chart with the label “Challenges” on the left side and “Characteristics and Life Skills” on the right side. (Feel free to print this chart right now and get started reflecting while you read! And check this example out for ideas to get you started.)
Under “Challenges” list off everything your child has done recently or continues to do (perhaps at this very moment) that is stressing you out, worrying you, or causing you to text your best friend “911. Save me!” Lay it all out on the table; from toileting challenges, to technology addiction, to picky eating, it all has a place on this list. This is a glimpse into your “now.”
Ahhhh. Let’s pause here.
Take three breaths that feel comforting to you. Stop. Breathe. Feel.
How does it feel to name all of these challenges? Notice what has come up for you. What sensations are you experiencing in your body? What thoughts are crossing your mind? How is your energy?
If you are feeling low or defeated, take a few moments to affirm yourself. Let yourself settle into whatever came up, while also acknowledging that you are a beautiful, unique human doing the best you can today and every day.
Now, let’s consider the future. What visions do we hold for our children? What kind of teenagers and young adults do we want them to be? List all of the characteristics you want your child to embody. Also list life skills that you want them to achieve; these might be concrete, such as understanding finances, or more abstract, such as strong sense of self. Think big. Imagine your child walking into college or into their first job; what skills do you know and believe they will have?
Wow. Again, Stop. Breathe. Feel.
Scan your body, check in with your mind and spirit. How are you feeling? Once again, name sensations. Do you notice anything different? Does your body feel different than before? Has something shifted in your mind? What about your energy and your spirit?
You might be wondering what these lists have to do with connection?
Each time you engage with your child, whether it’s in a time of peace and play or a time of challenge, like those on your list, you have an opportunity to support growth towards the characteristics and life skills you want your child to develop. You can help build the bridge between behaviors and long-term goals by focusing on connection.
Asking yourself: “Will this bring my child and I into deeper connection? Or will it push us further apart?” allows you to operate from a place of intentional connection.
In the instance of a challenge, for example, we might ask “What were you thinking when you threw your dinner on the floor?” instead of yelling “Why would you make a mess of this house and waste good food?!” Clearly, the first response generates connection, while the second disconnects or separates. The first is a bridge towards self-awareness and critical thinking– just two characteristics that might be on your list of life skills. Each behavior– desired or undesired– can be addressed in a similar way, starting with connection.
While challenges are an inevitable part of life, especially life with children, our reactions have the power to nurture connection, to let our children know that they belong and that they are loved no matter what.
We won’t be able to respond with connection 100% percent of the time, because we are human! Truly. Part of our work, then, as parents and supporters is to be kind and compassionate to OURSELVES as we train our own brains to default to the connection mindset. I invite you to be patient with yourself each day. Don’t strive for perfection, just set the intention to grow each day.
If you’re looking for accountability to integrate this belief system into your life and your family or you’d like more information about this mindset, let’s chat! I work with clients to build daily routines and rituals that inspire empowered, intentional living, and I’d love to support you on your journey.
So, what is the ONE most important question all parents must ask themselves?
It’s not “Do I love my child?” cause goodness you better.
It’s not “Am I doing a good job?” because the mere fact that you are pondering such a question, means that you are.
It’s not “Am I screwing my kids up?” because we all are, on some level.
The question we each need to ask ourselves, daily, even multiple times daily is:
Will this bring my child and I into a deeper connection?
If the answer is yes, then do it. If the answer is no, then don’t.
Who knew good parenting could be so easy?
Did you enjoy this guest post? If so, you can find out more about Courtney Harris Coaching here: https://www.facebook.com/courtneyharrisedconnect/.