As parents, we make countless short-term decisions based on immediate potential consequences and outcomes. We choose toys that we think will fascinate, and foods that will satisfy. Our decisions and responses are often simple, even reflexive.
Then, there are other types of decisions. We may know the response to obvious needs – a tired child needs sleep – but how best to help with that need, such as how a child should go to sleep, is not as obvious.
I imagine that there are many of you out there who have family and friends that are supportive and encouraging of your positive parenting strategies. It has been my experience, however, that responsive parenting does not have the popular, cultural, or historical support that more authoritarian parenting does.
There are absolutely times when I am talking to my daughters that I feel like a trailblazer for not employing common parenting strategies. Though I believe in my mind and heart that I am responding in the way that is best for them and myself, there are no clear signposts.
Is acknowledgement of my child’s emotions and wants, coupled with stopping those undesirable behaviors, enough? Responding consistently and confidently to my daughter’s intense needs have changed her behavior, but not eliminated them. I keep thinking, should we try something else?
I’ve been tempted. What if we tried punishment? With more harmful behaviors like biting, sometimes my desperate need for a clear resolution to these behaviors leave me wondering.
Somehow, in the end, I always ask myself, what is she learning by my response?
Believing in the Good in All of Us
We need to hold onto that faith tightly as we guide our children through the everyday.
I remind Moon to sit at the table repeatedly at about half of our meals. I believe that with reminders, and in time, she will remember to sit down while she eats. I could buckle her in if this were an issue of safety, but it is not. So, instead of using an external strategy, I have faith in her ability to learn that she should sit through her meal.
When we speak to our children, rather than punish them, we demonstrate our faith in their goodness. We have faith that together we can find a way to satisfy their needs and work collaboratively to develop internal controls for unkind or harmful behaviors. In time and with respect, we will grow into an understanding.