Time for Change: 3 Reasons Empowered Parents Focus on Their Behavior
When working with parents, one of the questions I get asked most often is something along the lines of, “how do I get my kid to behave?” The answer I provide typically shocks them, but also has a profound impact on them. Empowered Parents do not get their children to behave by only focusing on the child and their behavior; rather, we have to look at ourselves and what we are doing. This way we can take proactive and positive approaches to help with the situation while also keeping our relationship strong.
In the parenting field, there is a lot of focus on getting our children to behave without much attention given to what the parent does that contributes to the behavior. A lot of times when children misbehave, especially younger ones, it is a message that they have unmet needs and they are seeking some attention in those areas. At this point, we need to take a moment to look past the strange ways our child might be behaving, and look at the way we act in the situation.
Before we get too far into this post, let me make clear, I am not condoning that children get to do whatever they want and we have to deal with it. I’m also not saying that children should not learn accountability for their actions. Rather, I’m saying that as parents we need to create change in our ways of parenting to help influence change in our children. This can be through our behavior, the limits we set in the home, and the way we uphold those limits.
The thing is no one wants to feel like someone else is trying to change who they are. Adult relationships tend to crumble when one partner feels that the other is trying to change them. A similar dynamic can come into play with the parent-child relationship. When our children feel that we are attempting to take away their autonomy, they will resist and we enter into a power struggle.
The fact is we cannot change another person directly; rather, we can influence change in the other by first creating change within ourselves. This is an important concept when it comes to parenting. If we focus only on changing the behavior of our child, what we are most likely to see is more of what we do not want. That does not really sound like a win-win situation, does it?
Empowered Parents regularly monitor their own behavior and its role in the interactions they have with their children. When children misbehave, these parents find proactive and positive ways to address the situation that influence different behaviors from their children. If the child behaves differently, the parent understands that it is the child’s decision and uses the structure they have established to handle the situation. This allows the child to decide whether or not they will make a change.
It can be strange to think that we need to look at changes we need to make to see differences in our children. When we make changes to our behavior, we make changes to the relationship we have with our children, which has a major impact on the way they interact. Here are three powerful reasons that will help further illustrate why Empowered Parents work on their behavior rather than putting the emphasis on their children.
Reason #1: You Can Only Control You
When it comes to what we can and cannot control, the truth is we really only have control over ourselves. We invite power struggles with our children when we start putting all the responsibility for change on them. They begin to feel like we are trying to control them, which is not within the realm of what we can control.
Empowered Parents put the investment in where it will make the most difference. This investment is in their behavior and approach, as this directly influences their children. Work on your emotional regulation, thoughts, structure and the ways you enforce it to prevent power struggles and change the game.
If you only focus on your child’s negative behavior and point it out regularly to them in hopes that they will change, you’ll most likely be discouraged when you see it again and again. Try something different on your part! Compliment your child when their behavior is appropriate, encourage rather than discourage, and help them recognize that you see them as a person rather than just the misbehavior. A lot of times when we focus only on their negative behavior, that is all they expect we will see. Change your approach because the only thing you can control is you!
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Reason #2: The Example Your Provide
If our children see us being overly controlling, guess what they are likely to do? When our children see us lose our cool and throw a tantrum, what are you like to see from them? Our children choose their actions off the behaviors they see from us. This process, known as modeling, has significant ramifications for us as parents.
When we demonstrate the need for continual learning and growth through our behavior, this lesson will get instilled in our children. Instead of thinking they are fine and it is everyone else that needs to change, they begin to recognize where they can make changes in their behavior because they have seen us do the same thing. The fact is relationships do not go well when accountability is replaced by blame.
Whether we are apologizing because we let the moment get to us or we are demonstrating how to grow in self-awareness, we are giving our children a valuable example to model. Since our children are more likely to learn and demonstrate what they have seen from our behavior rather than our words, let your actions be the influence for change. Treat your children in a new way so they learn to respond in kind. Empowered Parents often use modeling as a powerful tool for transformation and relationship building.
Reason #3: The Impacts on Your Perceptions of Your Child
Perception is a powerful thing. It influences the way we see a situation or a person, such as our child. From this perception, we interpret what is going on and then we decide to act. This process happens incredibly fast and often on an unconscious level if we do not do anything about it. The question is: what does this have to do with our child?
When we want our children to change their behavior and that becomes our only focus, we move into dangerous territory. Take a moment to consider the types of thoughts you are having about your child when in this mode. Are they uplifting and positive labels you are attributing to your child? Or are they negative and hurtful?
These types of thoughts give us a glimpse of our perception. Remember, our perception influences our interpretation of the situation. In this case, we are interpreting that everything is on our child and they are the ones that need to change. There is no room to account for developmental norms and areas where we can improve. Since our interpretation does not leave any room for this, our behavior, which comes from our interpretations, shows that. We engage in power struggles as we try to get our way by impressing it on our children.
Perceptions are powerful when it comes to our behavior. If you find yourself giving your child labels such as lazy, rebellious, stubborn, bad, manipulative, or a little punk, and these do not come playfully, it is time to look inward at yourself. Are you only focusing on one part of your child and making it their whole? How have you contributed to this pattern?
We tend to act in the way that we believe people expect us to. We assume these expectations of others based on the way they treat us. Get to know the perceptions you have of your child so you can see if you are causing bigger problems for your child, yourself and the relationship than you need to. Remember, the only thing you can truly change is you, so put in the work and change the game!
As Empowered Parents, we need to recognize that we need to make changes in our approach and behaviors to influence our children. The more we put the responsibility for change on them, the more damaged our relationship becomes and we are likely to see even more of what we do not want to see. Take the proactive and positive approach by assessing areas where you can make changes to help influence a new outcome. Your child and the future relationship you have with them will thank you!