|Unconditional Parenting - Guiding Principles:
1. BE REFLECTIVE: Be introspective and willing to question yourself, strive to improve and better understand yourself.
2. RECONSIDER YOUR REQUESTS: Are your requests unreasonable? Does your child really need to make the bed, eat vegetables, or practice the piano? Will they dislike this later because they are forced to do it now?
3. KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR LONG-TERM GOALS: Evaluate your goals on a regular basis, try to think long-term instead of short.
4. PUT THE RELATIONSHIP FIRST: “Being right isn’t necessarily what matters.” When they trust us, they are more likely to tell us when something is important to them. If you have to do something that will strain the relationship, make sure it is worth it.
5. CHANGE HOW YOU SEE, NOT JUST HOW YOU ACT: Think in terms of problem solving and teaching/learning opportunities instead of infractions needing consequences.
6. R-E-S-P-E-C-T: They may understand more than we do, especially regarding their own feelings and needs. Don’t assume you know better just because you are older and more experienced.
7. BE AUTHENTIC: Be human, it is OK to feel insecure, tired, sad, nervous, etc. Let them see that adults disagree with each other and can respectfully resolve problems or tolerate differences in opinion. Admit to mistakes and apologize. (Don’t tell them age-inappropriate things, though.)
8. TALK LESS, ASK MORE: Elicit ideas, objections, feelings; allow freedom, independence, power, expression of fears, etc. Create a sense of safety, listen without judging. Ask thought provoking questions, not one-answer or rhetorical questions, and be open for unexpected answers.
9. KEEP THEIR AGES IN MIND: Keep your expectations developmentally appropriate (age, special needs, personal limitations).
10. ATTRIBUTE TO CHILDREN THE BEST POSSIBLE MOTIVES CONSISTENT WITH THE FACTS: Our beliefs can create a self-fulfilling prophecy – give the benefit of the doubt, especially for younger children.
11. DON’T STICK YOUR “NOs” IN UNNECESSARILY: Don’t say “No” unless it is necessary for safety. Say yes to wants whenever possible, while still respecting your own wants and making decisions based on the situation. Pick your battles. Be as mindful as possible, not on “autoparent.”
12. DON’T BE RIGID: Wave rules on special occasions, make exceptions, be flexible and spontaneous. In general, be predictable, but don’t overdo it.
13. DON’T BE IN A HURRY: Rushing makes coersion more likely. Alter your environment instead of behavior. Enjoy your time together.
What do you do when your children act in ways that are disturbing or inappropriate, and want to let them know that we disapprove?
- Limit the number of criticisms
- Limit the scope of each criticism – make sure you criticize a certain action instead of implying that there is something wrong with the child
- Limit the intensity of each criticism, be as gentle as possible while making sure that the message gets across. Be aware of body language, facial expressions, and tone/volume of voice
- Look for alternatives to criticism – help see effects of action, how it may hurt others or make their lives difficult
- State what you see, give opportunities to think about how to make things better, restore, repair, replace, clean up, apologize, etc.
When they Have To but Don’t Want To:
1. Use the least intrusive strategy, be as gentle and kind as possible, don’t overwhelm them with your power. Don’t get pulled into a struggle – request and move away (requires self-restraint).
2. Be honest with them.
3. Explain the rationale.
4. Turn it into a game.
5. Set an Example – clean up after yourself, turn off the lights.
6. Give them as much of a choice as possible.
How we feel about our kids isn’t as important as how they experience those feelings and how they regard the way we treat them. (The message received, not the message we thing we’re sending.)
Children shouldn’t have to earn our approval, we should love them for no good reason and it is important for them to believe and percieve this, too. Love should not be based on behavior, achievment or performance.
Our default position ought to be to let our kids make decisions about matters that concern them except when there is a compelling reason for us to override that right. We should be prepared to justify why, in each case, kids shouldn’t be allowed to choose.
Move from doing things TO kids to doing things WITH kids.
Think about long-term goals a LOT, reevaluate regularly.
Reconsider your basic assumptions about parent-child relationships – how we act with children, how we think and feel about them.
Behaviors are just the outward expression of feelings, needs, thoughts, and intentions. Work with the child, not the behavior.
The dominant problem with parenting in our society isn’t permissiveness, but the FEAR of permissiveness.
It may not be possible for kids to feel unconditionally loved ALL of the time, but we should strive for as much of the time as possible.
Give special treats or gifts periodically for NO reason.
Take special delight when a child does something remarkable but not in a way that suggests that your love hinges on such events.
The way kids learn to make good decisions is by making decisions, not following directions.
The question isn’t whether limits and rules are necessary, but who sets them – adults alone or adults and children together.
Kids should be allowed to make decisions about things that are important to us adults.
Kids who are encouraged to become actively involved in decision-making tend to exhibit higher-level moral reasoning.
Help children develop reasons to support their own views, even if we don’t agree with those views.
Children will experience plenty of frustration without us having to impose it on them as a “learning experience.”
Unconditional parents are just as proud of their child even when their child does NOT succeed.
Children need our support when they experience failure MORE than when they feel success.
Speak with words AND actions, especially during a conflict. “No matter what you do, no matter how frustrated I feel, I will never, never, never stop loving you.”
Goal: AVOID battles, not WIN them.
If it becomes necessary to remove the child from a situation, do not remove the child from yourself, also.
There is a difference between sending a child away against their will and giving a child the OPTION to go to their room or some other inviting space when they are angry or upset – they have control over when they go/return, where they go, and what to do; this can be a helpful tool.
Kids will know when we are displeased, we must strive to communicate in different ways that our basic acceptance of them is a given.
There is a danger that by lavishing children with positive reinforcement when they succeed, that they perceive that our love is based on what they have done, not who they are.
When kids brainstorm, they think of ideas we never would have and they are more likely to go along with their own ideas.
Kids who know most things are negotiable are less likely to challenge every decision.
If you are in public, ignore everyone around you – it is not about what people think, it is about what your child needs.
Imagine how the situation looks from the child’s point of view – the child may be afraid of his/her rage and lack of control. Keep him/her safe from harm, THEN worry about other people and LAST property. Provide comfort and reassurance.
Healthy Toddlers show a bit of noncompliance, but gradually cooperate.
Let child know that he/she doesn’t have to argue as well as you do in order to be taken seriously, and you want to help him/her learn how to frame arguments more convincingly. “Respectfully talking back.”
Moral sophistication, cognitive flexibility and the capacity to care about others aren’t luxuries, and are NOT mutually exclusive with basic survival skills and street smarts. We want our kids to have all of these things.
Unconditional love, relationships based on respect and trust, opportunities for kids to participate in making decisions, etc. may be MOST important for kids who are growing up in tough neighborhoods.
Sometimes the best alternative to black and white isn’t gray, but orange.