Kind AND Firm: A Magical Approach to Parenting
I love to play a game called "good, bad, good". I love to play this game with children. Allowing them to bookend a difficult problem with two things that are good. This game helps develop trust, bonding, and communication skills! The funniest time I played this game, my husband Jason and I were watching my friend Anne's two daughters, C and C.
The four of us were sitting around the table just chatting and talking up a storm- and I suggested playing this game. I wrote down the rules of the game, even going as far to write down the order of which we would be sharing. Jason first, then the younger daughter, older daughter, and lastly myself. As we were going around the table we were sharing and giggling- it was a great time. When it was time for the older daughter to share she asked if she could share something about me with the group.
"Of course, I can be part of your good, bad, good." I said.
"Okay, well Miss MegAnne, this is something that is going to sound a little bad, but it's still a little good" she said.
"Uh...okay C, go ahead" I said.
She went on to say "Well, Miss MegAnne- you're kinda two-faced. But in a good way!"
Everyone at the tabled GASPED and started to giggle.
She went on to explain her comment. C shared that I am really fun to be around. I come up with fabulously fun games to play, things to do, and she loves spending time with me. I was a fun person to her. But...I was also very strict (her words). When I told them it was bedtime, she knew it was really bedtime. When I asked her to do homework, she knew that she was going to be doing her homework. She shared that whenever I asked them to do anything, she knew that it was going to get done. So two-faced. Fun and strict. Or, like I say kind AND firm.
The foundation of Positive Discipline is becoming a kind and firm parent. A parent who is warm and fierce with follow through. This comes from the intentional use of routine, the practice of patience, and the use of flexibility. Blending all of these together can feel overwhelming and unachievable. Learning how to find the balance between being both kind and firm is the magic sauce that I help coach parents to. This balance of both is the happy sauce to creating a solid authoritative style of parenting that both encourages children and holds them accountable for their actions.
Too often, the idea of Positive Discipline is misunderstood to mean permissive and passive parenting that uses a lot of coo’ing and “babying.” Or, it is often passed for the typical authoritarian “because I said so” method. I am here to say that idea cannot be further from the truth. The magic word in Positive Discipline is the word “and.” This is the idea of being kind AND firm.
First, I want to look at the definitions of these words. I want to create a clear picture of how these words are defined, illuminating how to it work all into a balanced form of parenting.
According to Merriam-Webster:
Kind: (adjective): of a sympathetic or helpful nature
Firm (adjective): having a solid or compact structure that resists stress or pressure
And: used to join sentence elements of the same grammatical rank or function
If we are parenting from kindness only, we will encourage no boundaries or respect. Children will be led to feel insecure and have a lack of self-discipline. The feelings of permissive parenting will set in, and you will be eaten alive! You will be scared to say “no,” afraid of the tantrum that will ensue. This may not seem important when your children are two, but if we think long-term to when they are sixteen and experiencing social pressures, this will come into sharp focus why we cannot act out of kindness only.
However, if firmness is the only tool in your parenting belt, feelings of submission or rebellion will start to be nurtured. Authoritarian style parenting is fueled by punishments met with cold feelings. This will lead to rebellion, revenge, or retreat -- none of which are helpful when your children are facing obstacles they are not able to manage on their own. Firmness only fosters a disconnected and cold relationship, which creates disconnect to others in your children’s environment. Also, it’s a scary situation when feelings of validation and connection are coming from poor influences.
When we insert the word “AND,” magic starts to occur. We set boundaries, routines, and limits while holding children accountable to their choice to adhere to or challenge them. Authoritative parenting supports the practice of using everyday challenges as the moment to practice and learn. There is a break of the good/bad cycle. No more punishments and guilt cycle. No more hurt and fear. Instead, your family becomes allowed to learn through mistakes and grow closer together. These are qualities that will be fostered throughout your entire lifetime!
If you are reading now and interested on how to learn more about the kind AND firm method- please think about signing up and joining my 6 week "Keep Your Family Kind: Virtual Positive Discipline Parenting Class" starting the first week of March. All the information and sign up can be found here!