Monday, February 28, 2011

Choices and Entitlement: Where Do Parents Draw the Line?

A mom asked a terrific question in our Redirecting Children’s Behavior™ Course on Sunday. We were in the midst of a discussion on handling power struggles, talking about two of the redirects for power – offering children choices and allowing them to say “no” respectfully. In addition to side-stepping a power struggle, both of those options have added bonuses. Offering children choices teaches decision-making skills, and allowing children to say “no” respectfully prepares them for saying “no” as a young adult – “no” to drugs, undesired sex, cigarettes, and anything else not in their best interest. Many parents – including me – grew up without that option. I look back on many risky decisions that I made and see the importance of recognizing at an early age that it is OK to say “no.”

As we were discussing all of this, one mom sought clarity. She asked how you know when you are raising a child who is entitled because you’ve allowed him choices and permitted him to say “no”. Will a child who is given choices respect authority?

The key to the answer is respect. As Pam Dunn of Your Infinite Life Training and Coaching Company says, “Entitled really equals disrespectful. If a child is entitled, it isn’t about choices or saying “no”, it is about parents teaching respect.”

To teach respect, here are a few ideas to consider:

• Saying “no” doesn’t mean the conversation ends there. That “no” is actually the beginning of a conversation on what your child would like to contribute. If he doesn’t want to set the table, would he prefer to clean the kitchen after the meal or fold the clothes in the dryer while someone else cleans up? Would he prefer to take out the trash or feed the dog? Making a contribution is how we all feel valuable. The more valuable you feel, the less you will be inclined to power struggle.

• Saying “no” is done respectfully by both parents and children. If your child has a sarcastic or disrespectful tone, respectfully model how you would like him to say “no” to you.

• Endless negotiations are subtle power struggles. Do not endlessly go back and forth. Be clear about your request and about the choices available to your child. If you begin to feel angry or challenged, use one of the tools for redirecting a power struggle.

• The parents of entitled children ultimately feel resentful, and entitled children ultimately feel discouraged. Parents feel resentful because they are doing things they do not wish to do. Remember the part about saying “no”? Children feel discouraged because they do not realize how capable they are. They are looking for others to lean on to do things for them. Look for ways for your child to take on more responsibility. That will build his strength. When we do for our children the things that they can do for themselves, it is like a personal trainer lifting the weights for you.

If you are looking for more on this topic, Karen Deerwester's book The Entitlement-Free Child: Raising Confident and Responsible Kids in a "Me, Mine, Now!" Culture is all about teaching respect.

To hear this as a podcast, click here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Parent's Top Ten List - #3

We’ve been counting down the 2011 Parent’s Top Ten List, which is available here, and today’s post, #3 on the list, is a little different. It is about investing in yourself.

3. Invest in yourself as a parent at least once a month – take a course or workshop, read a book, observe another parent, call a friend, receive some coaching

A parent who recently participated in our Gourmet Lunch ‘n Learn workshops said that one of the things that was most helpful was seeing other perspectives. Sometimes she felt stuck, and simply hearing various alternatives unlocked her from the inertia.

Parents have commented that they felt supported and no longer alone after hearing other parents talk about the challenges they faced at home during the Redirecting Children’s Behavior Course.

For me, reading through Haim Ginott’s Between Parent and Teenager, with the wonderful conversations between parents and teens, reminds me to detach and gives me a more flexible and creative place from which to parent.

With all of the challenges of parenting, it is important that you encourage and nurture yourself. With the isolation you might experience as a parent, it is important that you know you are part of a larger community involved in raising children. With the daily routine of parenting, it is important that you hear new words to use, see new ways to handle conflict and understand why your children do what they do.

It can be as simple as a trip to the library to check out a book (see our recommended reading here) or discussing an issue you are having with your teen over coffee with a trusted friend. It can mean taking a course in your community. Whole Hearted Parenting offers Lunch ‘n Learn Workshops, teleseminars that you can take from home, coaching and courses. Check the International Network for Children and Families for a Redirecting Children's Behavior course in your area.

Invest in yourself. The immediate as well as the long-term dividends are great.

To hear this as a podcast, click here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Parent's Top Ten List - #4 and #5

In counting down the 2011 Parent’s Top Ten List, which is available here, we are discussing numbers 4 and 5 on the list.

4. Check the balance in your emotional bank account with your spouse at least once a week and make deposits
5. Check the balance in your emotional bank account with your child at least once a week and make deposits

We talk a lot about emotional bank accounts in the Redirecting Children’s Behavior course because checking your balance is a sure measure of the trust you have built with others and subsequently your level of influence. In his landmark book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey describes emotional bank accounts as a metaphor for “the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship. It’s the feeling of safeness you have with another human being.”

Just as in a financial bank account, there are deposits and withdrawals in emotional bank accounts. “If I make deposits with you through courtesy, kindness, honesty and keeping my commitments to you, I build up a reserve. Your trust toward me becomes higher, and I can call upon that trust many times if I need to. I can even make mistakes and that trust level, that emotional reserve, will compensate for it.” With our children we add deposits through listening, using a respectful tone, seeking to understand, teaching and guiding, encouraging, speaking our child’s love language and handling conflict calmly. When we have a moment when we happen to be human – we yell or react harshly or punish – our reserves maintain the trust. It isn’t as big a hit to the relationship as it would be if our account was low or overdrawn.

Covey adds, “If I have a habit of showing discourtesy, disrespect, cutting you off, overreacting, ignoring you, becoming arbitrary, betraying your trust, threatening you, or playing little tin god in your life, eventually my Emotional Bank Account is overdrawn. The trust level gets low. Then what flexibility do I have? None. I’m walking on mine fields. I have to be very careful of everything I say. I measure every word. It’s tension city. It’s protecting my backside.” Well none of that sounds like much fun!

Check the balance on your account with your spouse and your children. Add some deposits. Listen. Enjoy giving hugs. Make someone their special breakfast. Win-win negotiate rather than dictate. Go to the park together. Write a love letter to your spouse. Send a post card to your child (even if you haven’t left town!). Put a note in the lunchbox about how special he is to you.

Lovingly tend your emotional bank account and watch the trust grow.

To hear this as a podcast, click here.