By Haley Droste, MSW, LCSW
We’ve all heard it at some point: “That child needs to be spanked,” or “My parents did (insert punishment here), and I turned out fine.” Each generation has made significant changes in parenting style for a couple of reasons. One, when you know better, you should do better. Two, the world has changed, not only for adults, but also for children.
We’re navigating a completely different world now than our grandparents or even our parents did. I’ll be the first to say there are some “old school” parenting techniques that should be here to stay. Family dinners are a great example of a tried-and-true way to connect with your loved ones, but even those are drastically different than the ones our parents sat through with their parents. Gone are the days of “children should be seen and not heard,” making way for the dining room table being a place to connect with all family members discussing the highs and lows of the day.
At the core of parenting is a deep desire to raise happy, healthy, well-balanced children. At times, the power struggle between parents and their children can seem overwhelming. There must be a delicate balance between fostering an environment that allows children to feel and express their emotions while also establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries.
The most important things parents can do is model healthy boundaries and take care of their own mental health. Teach your children it’s okay to take a deep breath and have a minute to themselves instead of responding while angry.
A good way to model this is handling your child calmly when they throw a fit. Instead of yelling at them and sending them to their room, explain that they need to go to their room until they’re able to communicate their needs without yelling at you. It isn’t a punishment, there isn’t a time limit involved, and they’re able to take time to decide when they’re back in control of their emotions. You’re also teaching them that speaking to someone in a disrespectful manner is unacceptable behavior.
Parenting in a gentle or respectful manner gets a reputation of not providing adequate boundaries and allowing children to run wild with their words and actions. This could not be further from the truth. When done correctly, this style of parenting sets firm boundaries about what is allowed and what is not.
Raising resilient children starts with respecting their feelings and teaching them how to communicate in a healthy way. Respecting our children’s boundaries teaches them how to respect others. In short, setting clear, respectful boundaries with your kids sets them up for success in the future. It allows them the time and the space to explore their emotions and grow in their relationships. There is nothing weak about choosing growth.
Sometimes it feels unnatural to talk about our feelings or discuss our mistakes when handling situations with our children, but in doing this we can confidently send them into the world as more well-rounded, loving individuals.