You have found the right place if you struggle with your child's loud, dramatic, disruptive, over-the-top behavior.
What would it feel like in your home if you knew how to show up in ways that eliminate power struggles and support your child's individuality and help you grow a healthy relationship together?
Take a moment and cultivate that vision. How does this make you feel?
As we process how to co-create your parenting manual, we will gain clarity on your choices that align you to a power struggle or healthy relationship.
I think that you are writing that manual every day and with every interaction. No one is writing the parenting manual alone, or is every manual meant to be the same. The authors are the parents of the past, you, and your family in your home.
The truth bomb is that the manual you are writing is the documentation of your relationship. In this relationship, you play a part, and your child plays a role. You are cultivating and co-created with both elements in harmony and balance, creating a strong and connected relationship.
Take a moment now and think of someone in your life that makes you feel safe, seen, and heard. I want you to think about a person you take your struggles to in the challenging times. What does that trust feel like in your body?
I know for me, trust feels just like a sigh of relief. As I cultivate that feeling I could even start to feel choked up. With this person, I can just be who I am without judgment without fear of punishment or criticism. I can allow my messy bits to show, and this someone treats me with dignity.
Those relationships that came to mind are cultivated, nurtured, and cared for over a lifetime. Together, those relationships are grown in connection and not perfection, much like the plants in my home. It took time to understand each plant's needs and how to take care of them. I had to be aware and look for the signs of the plant’s health. Sometimes I miss the signs or cues that plants give me. My goal is to grow healthy, thriving plants. That means getting soil or watering them at times. It is not about perfection. It is about being open and aware and working on not letting the plant get too dry or too curled.
Once I become aware, I can start to take action to offer the care needed.
“We're so concerned about how these children are going to turn out that we’re unwilling to give them the autonomy that they need to be able to take risks and go out and explore the world”
Allison Gopnik Child Psychologist
How often has the story been sold to us that you must do “these things” to raise a strong, connected, successful child? This belief is where we miss the chance for attunement and navigate those struggles together. In other words - parenting with fear.
How would you answer the question - “I don't want my child to turn out ______?”
Let's just call the fear out. Let's make it safe to look at. Holding onto these fears shapes your decisions and reactions to your child. The fear can block connection rather than tuning into the signs that the child needs care.
Take a look at solving a common problem that families face, a child with a failing grade. We will look at it from two different perspectives that Allison Gopnik defined, the carpenter & the gardener parent in her book "The Gardener and the Carpenter"
The carpenter parent response results in power struggles. The pressure to perform, the high expectation, and little flexibility is the illusion of a safe predetermined path. If you just follow this path, you will be safe, successful, and loved. If you step off of this path, it is unsafe, and you will be punished until you get back on to the course provided.
I know this authoritarian style is how many of us were raised and see across pop culture media.
In Disney’s The Little Mermaid, King Triton comes to mind like a carpenter parent. King Triton responded to his daughters and his kingdom in authoritarian rule. “I am the king” and “you need to listen to me.” His daughter Ariel showed him an entire treasure cove outside of his predetermined path for Ariel. He destroyed it, and I think he would defend his actions. He would say things like, “I'm doing this for you”, “I'm doing this because I love you”, “I'm doing this to get you back on the path, because this is the path that I know, this is the path that will keep you successful, that will keep you safe, and keep me safe.” He misses out on forming their relationship, building a bond with her, and understanding her path is different than his path. All of this takes flexibility in the response. Towards the end of the movie, he has this brilliant moment when he sees that she just wanted him to see and understand her. It took the whole movie to get there. Now, imagine if he had that awareness, if he was tapped into that process sooner, he could join in and co-create a relationship with Ariel rather than struggle against her.
The Gardener Parent results in co-creating respect, and trust. They provide a protective space to explore. Being a gardener is about creating a richly diverse and dynamic ecosystem. A farmer or anyone who gardens or cultivates plants becomes attuned to each plant's individual needs.
A gardening parent has put their own air mask on and sends the message, “I'm here for you, this sucks, this is hard, this is not what either of us wants.” They will be able to ask, listen and co-create trust, respect, and autonomy. They can meet the child exactly where they are and see mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow.
Yoda, from Star Wars, is a gardener. Yoda sits back, watches Luke struggle, and points out Lukes's blind spots without taking control, without shame. Yoda shares his wisdom and allows Luke to make his own decisions. Yoda has his inner trust, faith, and knowing, and he invites Luke to come on the journey with him.
I invite you to consider, what is the relationship that you are co-creating?
Maybe, you've seen traits of both types of parents. Perhaps, this allows you to reflect and ask, “which times do I show up and feel that I'm co-creating, like a gardener? Which times am I showing up and co-creating like a carpenter?”
Above is information for you to explore, what you want to co-create with your child. Are you cultivating trust, warmth, and connection or cultivating more in that fear-based lens?
A final question, where would you like to adjust, where would you like to strengthen, or where would you like to deepen the relationship with yourself and with your children?
This work is deep and sometimes triggering. I am here to guide and support you along your journey. I invite you to join my free Facebook Community, Positive Parenting with MegAnne Ford. There you can share your thoughts and takeaways.
My mission in life is to help parents feel supported and empowered doing this work. My Facebook community, programs, and book club help parents work through awareness, education, and practice phases.
If you think you are ready for the next step and want to dive deeper, I invite you to check out the Positive Parenting Class Pass.
The first class is called Positive Parenting. You'll learn more about what positive parenting is and isn't so that you can start putting down those tools with negative impacts and start replacing them with positive parenting tools.
I look forward to seeing you on the inside :)
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