I remember a day a few years ago I said to my daughter
“It’s getting later you should probably start your homework.”
She said okay and took out her books, but she didn’t seem happy about it!
So I asked her what the problem was.
She said that she was about to eat dinner in 5 minutes or so and had planned to do her homework after she ate. I told her that was very reasonable and she could have told me and I would have listened to her.
Encourage Kids to Express Their Opinions
So this morning on the way to school I brought it up again.
I said that I was going to tell her something that most parents would never say to their kids.
“You don’t have to listen to me.
You don’t have to obey me.
You are a free human being.
If you have a different opinion of how something should be then I want you to tell me and I’ll always listen. Together we’ll discuss it and come up with a good solution.”
I told her that if her idea seems reasonable to me I’ll always accept it because she’s an intelligent person and I respect that. If I have a counter suggestion that I feel will be more helpful to her, or help her to avoid some kind of pain, I will share that with her and we can communicate about it.
The Dad Card
I said, “I ask that you recognize that sometimes I’ll have to play the Dad card and ask her for something that she may not want to do, but I’ll only do that when I think it’s really really necessary, for your safety, your well-being or something like that, but most of the time I’ll play the friend card.”
She seemed very pleased and a little surprised.
The fact is, in 18 years I’ve almost never had to play that dad card. We have been able to work everything out with loving communication, collaboration cooperation and reasoning!
I then recounted the experience of the night before and said that it bothered me that she didn’t express herself when her idea was very reasonable and in fact better than my idea. I felt bad that she didn’t feel comfortable expressing herself. I wanted our relationship to have good communication and respect between us.
Acknowledge Our Own Responsibility
I acknowledged that the way I expressed myself didn’t make it sound like a suggestion, but more like a command. I apologized for that and said that I would work harder to talk to her in a more respectful way. Honouring her autonomy, her independence and her ability to self-evaluate. “I do not want to have authority over you because I love you, I trust you and I value our friendship.”
I find it’s so important for me to evaluate every interaction I have with her. I work at being consistent with my principles. When I’m not it’s always helpful for me to acknowledge this to her. That way she sees us as partners in our relationship. She knows I take equal responsibility for how things are between us and I’m not blaming her.
Then this evening I asked her how she felt about our talk.
She got a big smile on her face and said “Good!”
I wanted to give her a chance to express anything she might have missed earlier.
Also to ask any questions or share any thoughts she had during the day.
Learn Every Day
Conscious parenting is a continuous process of growth and refinement.
Observation and intelligent reaction.
Having high ideals and constantly working towards them.
Making mistakes (daily!), forgiving myself for them and learning from them.
I do my best to learn something about my parenting every day.
I review the interactions of the day and look at things I could have done differently.
I think of the changes I’d like to make and then I try to implement them the next day.
It’s not easy to do this, especially after a long day, but it’s worth the effort.
As a positive side-effect I learn about myself at the same time.
As I become a better parent I naturally become a better communicator,
better friend, a better person and generally more self-aware and happy.
This style of parenting really is a win win win situation!