REFLECTIONS ON PARENTING
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HOW TO BE A TRUE PARENTING FRIEND TO YOUR CHILD
Image by Daria Obymaha
By Deborah Owen-Sohocki
Hello again Dear Parents and Caregivers of children—
The theme for this month’s Wild Word issue is friendship. I had to reflect a bit on how this theme applies to parenting.
Initially, I approached friendship with my child as a form of permissiveness. I wanted them to like me, respect me, and also behave in a way that made me look good in the eyes of others and myself.
Looking back, I am embarrassed to write the above, but it was the truth of my actions at the time.
And I was so disappointed when this way of parenting didn’t work and I found myself resorting to punishment, complaints, and mean words.
Maybe none of you have said this, but I have:
How could you…?
I do so much for you and your treat me like this?!
You are so selfish. You only think of yourself!
How dare you speak to me like that!
You’re grounded until you…
I am taking away your privileges [toys, TV, etc.] until you can behave better!
Now I realize that this form of permissive parenting disguised as friendship was focused only on what I wanted—which is not a true friendship.
An authentic friendship exhibits the Triangle of Respect:
Respect for Self
Respect for the Other [in this case my sons]
Respect for the Needs of the Situation
Slowly, after discovering the dance between permissiveness and excessive strictness wasn’t working, I decided to take a step back and look at what I really wanted for my children.
When I wrote down what life skills and characteristics I wanted for my boys [and the students in my classroom], I realized that my way of parenting was not going to help them get there.
The first thing I gave up was my need to look good in the eyes of others and myself. This was very hard.
Second, I stopped trying to mold my children in my own image and began to see them as individuals who saw the world through very different eyes, and had a need to express their own way of being in the world that may not match mine. So many of us, when our children are born, start having expectations of what they will do or be without allowing them to be—or even seeing them for—who they are.
Third: I used to be a master of “Do as I say, not as I do!”. So instead of that, I came up with a list of values and life skills that I wanted to model so that they could learn by what I did rather that what I lectured them to do.
Fourth, I stopped talking so much and began to listen and observe. I learned to shut up! I used to say when they made a mistake [or what I perceived as a mistake]: This is what happened, this is why it happened, and this is what you need to do in the future so it doesn’t happen again. However, a true friend, or a parent who is both teacher and student, doesn’t lecture. Instead, they explore with curiosity questions to draw forth the learning of their beloved child.
For example, if your child experiences something, you, as the parent, can ask:
- So, what happened?
- What do you think caused it to happen? (You can ask why it happened but usually kids clam up when we ask why because we, adults, have used ‘why’ to interrogate them.)
- If you don’t want this outcome in the future, what will you need to do differently next time or if this is a good outcome, what do you need to continue to do more of in the future? This is also important to explore with your children so that they don’t think it’s just luck or magic if something works out for them—we want to help them connect to how they have influence in the outcomes of their life.
And then LISTEN, without judging or interrupting. Once you have done this on a consistent basis, your child will begin to ask for your advice, IF they need it.
I found the above method to be extremely helpful in creating a respectful relationship between myself and my children. I also learned so much about how they saw the world. It expanded me as a person to look at different perspectives and empowered me to give up my illusion of control [that I could fix them, protect them, and manage them]. Instead I discovered that by asking those questions, I was preparing them to learn from their experiences for the rest of their lives.
I will never forget how, after using those questions with my son, Joshua. For four years, I got to witness his internalization of the process. One day, he came home from college and shared with me his disappointment that he had studied for a test, believed he had received an A, but had instead received a B. I was about to go through the three questions when, to my amazement, he did it himself. “Mom, I realized that I got the B because I was overconfident that I knew all the answers. I hurried through the test and did not go back to make sure that I had colored in all my answers, so I missed some that I knew the answers to but did not fill in the circle. Next time I will check my work before I turn it in.”
So, as I bring this column to a close, I invite you Dear Parents to consider how to be a true parenting friend to your child that moves past your ego expectations and supports your child in their own uniqueness.
Until next month, may you be filled with courage as you continue your journey of parenting.
Deborah Owen-Sohocki is a licensed psychotherapist, teacher, author, and energy worker. She is also a certified HeartMath® trainer and coach. She is deeply immersed in Adlerian Psychology and has discovered how it can help free people from their enslavement to the past and empower them to step into the becoming of who they really are. She teaches internationally and nationally, a three level Adlerian training to support others in their continued growth in helping themselves and others. She is also a Master Encouragement Consultant. Deborah loves sharing this training because it encourages others to develop more courage in living and serving others. linkedin.com/in/deborahowensohocki