How can we make parenting easier and more enjoyable?
There are times for us all when parenting feels challenging and frustrating. Even though we deeply love our children, sometimes it feels hard - we need more support and we just don’t know how to be the parent we want to be or how to help our children. In those moments, getting back to the basics of Aware Parenting is so helpful to reconnect us to ourselves and our children and how we want things to be.
Why do our children behave in challenging ways?
The core of Aware Parenting is loving awareness and compassionate connection – both for our children and for ourselves. So when our children’s behavior is challenging, we can see it as a cue that they need our loving support and as an invitation to slow down, to connect and to listen to them.
This way of parenting allows us to understand why children behave in challenging ways, and supports us to respond with loving compassion to them in ways that strengthen our relationships, that ensure everyone feels loved and that allow deep healing.
Aware Parenting provides a clear understanding for the 3 reasons for difficult behavior in our children:
- What they are thinking or what information do they have.
- What unmet needs they have.
- Strong feelings, often from the past, that are bubbling over.
Or usually a combination of these.
So how do we help our children to be more cooperative and loving?
So with Aware Parenting, we can respond to our children when their behavior is off by connecting with them and trying to explore what is causing them to feel off track.
Their thoughts – we can investigate what are they thinking? Do they need more information? If so, we can give them information and we can explain things more to them. This works best when we wait for them to be feeling back in balance before trying to explain things. If they are in the middle of some big feelings, their brains are not receptive to rationale explanations!
Do they have unmet needs? Perhaps needs for connection, autonomy and choice, fun and play, attention etc.? If so, what are some of the ways we can help to meet those needs? Often, just by checking in or playing with our children, their needs for connection are met and they return to feeling relaxed and cooperative again.
How are they feeling? Perhaps they are angry, scared, confused, sad, frustrated or overwhelmed? If so, we can listen to them with empathy, we can hold them lovingly in our arms while they cry and release their stress. We can listen lovingly while they have a huge tantrum, expressing their frustration, anger or rage. Or, once our children are older, we can listen when they tell us how they are feeling, without judgment or trying to fix things or correct them, but with loving care. Deep emotional healing happens when their feelings are expressed to a loving ear.
Sometimes our children are behaving in ways that are really hard to deal with and at those times we can give loving limits for the behavior and then listen to the feelings underneath. We gently tell our children that we are not willing for them to behave in that way and we remind them that we are there and we love them and we care. These loving limits are not designed to immediately stop the behavior but will help them to access the underlying painful feelings, which will, in turn, allow them to return to feeling relaxed and connected and cooperative.
Another beautifully powerful tool in Aware parenting to support healing is attachment play. This type of play meets their needs for connection and allows feelings to be released through laughter. Anything that encourages our children to laugh, that makes them feel powerful and competent, where we are silly and lighthearted and where they have our undivided attention is so healing, particularly from feelings of fear and disempowerment.
My mantras for coming back to the basics of Aware Parenting are “Connection, connection, connection” and “If in doubt, play!”.