Being Your Childs Partner

There are many different theories on how to bring up kids out there, from extreme control and authoritarianism, to extreme permissivness and neglect.  Most parents fall somewhere along that line.  But if you consider a radically different view point for a moment, there is another way that most people don’t even know exists.  I like to call it being your childs partner.

So lets explore this using the mainstream middle of the road ‘traditional parenting’ model as a first example.

This school of thought says I have to control my kid to get him to do what I want, for conveinience, for safety, for my own ego or for acceptance of those around me.  There will be constant power struggles going on as I keep trying to bring him into line, and he keeps trying to rebel, retaliate or break free, or he may be the type to withdraw and give in, realising he is powerless and breaking his spirit in many ways.  He’s likely to start hiding things from me at some point, and lying to me, as he knows the things he wants to explore  could get him into trouble with me and punished.  This could be quite dangerous if the things he wants to explore aren’t safe in some way.

So shifting the paradigm a little…..

The other school of though says I can have a close and loving relationship with my child, where we talk about all kinds of things, I respect his desires, needs and help him get what he wants.  I offer him information about the world as we go through life and as there is  no underlying manipulation or coersion going on, he trusts me and knows I always give him honest information based on the best of my ability.  Becuase of this he is much freer to listen to what I have to say and make up his own mind about things rather than rebelling, lying or hiding things.  He is more willing to cooperate when I need him to, as I always try to cooperate with him.  When I have important information about safety, he listens as he knows I’m not just trying to frighten him into obeying me.

I don’t set arbitary limits on foods as I want him to learn what his body is telling him about the types of foods he eats,  I want him to discover for himself how certain foods make him feel, we may talk about it together and explore the topic.  I want him to listen to his body’s ‘full’ signals, and hungry signals, so he eats when he’s hungry and stops when he’s had enough.  I want him to see all food for what it is, not make some of it ‘taboo’ or ‘special’ or a ‘treat’.

Because of this, he also doesnt have to withdraw or give up who he truly is.  We find safe ways to explore the things he wants to so his natural learning and inquiry is left intact.

For me, being my childs partner is where its at in parenting terms.  :)  Its not always easy, but our house is a lot happier this way.  Sometimes I don’t do it perfectly, normally when I’m a bit stressed or tired and trying to juggle 10 things at once, but I’m human and it’s also good for my kids to see that!  :)

What are your thoughts on being your childs partner?  Do you have some things you just can’t let go of, like food restriction or bedtimes?  Would love to hear what you think!

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Emma Combes

Emma helps parents overcome the automatic negative reactions that are stopping them from parenting consciously and with love through her coaching practice. She also helps parents live the most awesome life in all areas, so they can know they were the best role model they could be for their children.

  • Anonymous

    I love how you describe how we can be our child’s partner. That’s what we strive for in our family- everyone working together. I have young children, so of course there won’t always be times when they’ll agree with everything that needs to be done, but for the most part, they know we respect and trust them, so it makes our home much more harmonious.

    • http://www.consciousmama.com Emma Combes @ Consciousmama

      Thanks Christina!  Its great you’ve found it working in your home, and yes, that respect and trust is so important, it really lays the foundations for solutions to be found as often as we can! :)

  • Alexandra

    Hi Emma – First, I want to say that I love your work and really find it inspiring. This particular blog really has me thinking about how I parent my 4-year old boy. He is so totally into the tv and computer and wants to watch it all the time; he also loves sugary junk foods and would eat that all the time. I want so hard to relinquish control and let him lead the way in these areas as I do with my 7-year old daughter and in other areas of their lives, but I worry that doing so would be irresponsible! I would love to hear your thoughts…Thanks, Alex.

    • http://www.consciousmama.com Emma Combes @ Consciousmama

      Thankyou Alex!!  First of all, sorry for the late reply, I’ve only just seen your comment!  I completely understand where you’re coming from, I have the odd flashing thoughts myself of parental irresponsibility etc :)    First I would say to maybe question you’re beliefs on it.  You said that your 4yo would eat sweets all the time.  Is that true?  Would he really eat them all the time everyday all year?  :)  You know how, when something is restricted you want more of it?  Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘always want what you can’t have?’  I’ve seen some research studies on the food issues that sold me on this idea, if I can digg the videos out at any time I’ll post them ;)  But really, I believe its about trusting our children to make the best decisions for their bodies.  At first, when you start to say yes more to sweets etc, you’ll probably find he will eat more as he’s trying to get his fix before (he believes) the restrictions come back (same with TV).  But if you trust and continue going, I truly believe that you’ll find he may even eat less ‘junk’ than he does now. 
      Have plenty of healthy foods available so he always has free choice.  And again with TV, make sure they have other fun stuff  available that isn’t TV too, so they have choices.  They may still chose the TV and sweets but that’s ok.  By them chosing you are helping them learn how different foods, different decisions even, make them feel and affect them.  Plus, the other reason of course is it leads to a better relationship between you and your son, more trust, more respect.  I hope that helps.   

  • http://www.autonomouseducation.com Lily

    Hi, just wanted to add to the discussion about TV and parental controls. There are no limits on TV in our house. We also don’t limit computer time, on-line time, food (including sweets, cakes and chocolate) or just about anything else. We do, however, do lots of discussion, negotiation, make suggestions, explain both natural and social consequences and sometimes fall back into knee-jerk coercion or argument!

    Take a look at the blogpost I did on our experiences with TV (which still hold true now) http://www.autonomouseducation.com/2011/01/please-turn-off-tv-mommy.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/jessicadrollette Jessica Jackson Drollette

    Hi Emma.  I’m just beginning to study conscious parenting and have a question.  My daughter has many food allergies which severely restrict what she can eat which makes my 3 year old crazy sometimes.  She is starting to catch on, but sometimes I feel it is a power struggle.  She doesn’t sleep well at night as it is because of night terrors, but I’ve found that if I offer her healthy foods she can eat at dinner that if she chooses not to eat she’s up in the middle of the night crying that she’s hungry, which throws off everyone’s sleep schedules.  I don’t force her to eat during the day, just offer her food every few hours, but I’m not sure what to do without making it a power struggle or resorting to bribery.  Thanks so much for your help!

  • Wdworkman

    I always approached parenting as a partner, though I didn’t really think of it that way at the time.  It just seemed natural – probably because my parents were the same way.  If it’s any encouragement to you during the stressful times, my kids are now happy, responsible teens and young adults.  I remember when my daughter went away to school for the first time (Community College classes when she was 16 yo), she was amazed to find out that there were 18 & 19 yos being grounded, or having to ask their parents before they could join a study group.

    I love my homeschool community, but when the kids were young, that’s where I felt the most pressure to be a more controlling parent.  Has anyone else experienced that?