Simplifying parenting

During my 9 years of motherhood there have been some instances where I have questioned my parenting decisions and asked myself if certain outcomes could have been different if I had tried another approach. At times I have self-doubt, guilt and parental anxiety caused by reading about today’s most pressing issues harming our children.

In my quest to finding guidance for raising an emotionally, physically and mentally healthy child, I had read parenting books & articles, listen to TED talks and podcasts, talked with other parents, made notes and tried the suggestions. But none of the advice or the results from using the insights had me get to an “A-ha–love, love, love this!” moment.

In the past year, I came across two parenting books which resonated immensely with me. These books help me deal with my parental misgivings and help me bring my focus back on loving my child unconditionally. These two gems are ‘The Self Driven Child’ by William Stixrud, Ph.D., and Ned Johnson and ‘Kids are Worth’ it by Barbara Coloroso.  I wish I had chanced upon these books earlier in my parenting journey! Now I always these two books handy to overcome my parenting doubts. These authors approach the problems we face with our kids today, such as stress, depression, lack of focus, addiction to media and other such tribulations with advice based on brain science, case studies, experience and research. Therefore, the advice is scientific & practical, yet the bedrock of their approach is for a caregiver to be empathetic, nuanced and loving. I have used suggestions from these books and have experienced positive results. Here is my list of ideas/phrases/reminders from both the books.

Kids are worth it!
Give your child the gift of inner discipline
Author: Barbara Coloroso

At the age of 17 in 1960, Ms. Coloroso entered a Franciscan convent to become a nun, and began her freshman year at university to become a special education teacher. In the introduction Ms. Coloroso says that her first year special education courses were based on behaviorist model, full of rewards, punishments, stickers, stars, threats and bribes. She felt a certain sense of discomfort as something didn’t feel right in what she was learning and had no idea about the ways to replace it. The following year she entered canonical novitiate, also known as year of silence and reflection. During this time she writes, “I began to challenge what I had learned in my education courses.” “Since there was no decisive winner or loser, when I began my teaching career I tried to reconcile the teaching methods with my philosophical tenets, but that didn’t work either. Believing kids were worth it simply because they were, not because they produced or behaved in a way I wanted them to, didn’t match with rewarding “appropriate behavior” or ignoring or punishing “inappropriate behavior.” Furthermore, she questions the controlling and manipulative ways of parenting and asks many questions, if such an approach can make kids responsible, resilient and resourceful? Or ‘could they develop a sense of inner discipline if all the control came from outside?’ She says her answer is more an approach than techniques—believing kids are worth it and not treating them in a way we would not want to be treated and behaving in a way that leaves our dignity intact. With a husband and 3 kids Ms. Coloroso says she is obviously not a nun nor a perfect parent. But she lays out the approach beautifully and in simple, practical steps.

  • What is my goal in parenting–to influence and empower my children or to control them and make them mind?
  • Kids are worth it!
  • I will not treat a child in a way I myself would not want to be treated.
  • If it works and leaves a child’s and my dignity intact, do it.
  • Creative power is influence, not force.
  • Six critical life messages given every day:
    • I believe in you
    • I trust you
    • I know you can handle life situations
    • You are listened to
    • You are cared for
    • You are very important to me
  • Discipline means:
    • Show children what they have done wrong
    • Give them ownership of the problem
    • Help them find ways of solving the problem
    • Leave their dignity intact.
    • If natural consequences are not life-threatening, morally threatening or unhealthy, it is good to let a child experience them without warning or reminders.
  • Three Alternatives to No
    • Yes, Later
    • Give me a minute
    • Convince me
  • Teach children how to think, not what to think

The Self-Driven Child
The science and sense of giving your children more control over their lives
Author: William Stixrud, PhD and Ned Johnson

This book combines Stixrud’s work with brain science and Johnson’s experience in educational coaching, resulting in an essential practical guide for parents.

The central premise of the book is about the importance of helping a child gain a sense of control and how that develops into self motivation. In one part the authors tell parents that ‘we will try to persuade you of the wisdom of saying “It’s your call” as often as possible. This phrase gives children autonomy and the freedom to make mistakes, learn from the consequences and gain self confidence.

Throughout my read, each chapter resonated with me and at the end of each chapter there is some practical advice. I have experienced positive results in my parenting journey whenever I have followed the advice from this book. The challenging part is to remember the phrases suggested when required. I had recommended this book to a friend and thanks to her, she made a list of important phrases/advice from this book and shared with me, which I am sharing below–this works as a handy reminder when needed.

    It’s your call
    How’d that work for you?
    I’m confident you’ll make the right decision.
    Give space and time to do what they love
    Seek out mentors
    You are the expert on you.
    Whose responsibility is this?
    You want your life to work.
    Make informed decisions.
    Wisdom comes from experience. Experience comes from bad decisions.
    You are capable of making great decisions.
    Cost-benefit analysis
    You need lots of practice running your own life.
    Be a non anxious presence
    Calm is contagious
    Make enjoying your kid a top priority
    Nonjudgmental acceptance. It’s all good!
    Avoid making decisions based on fear
    Visualize yourself accomplishing the goal
    Support autonomy
    Radical downtime
    Self-reflection
    Let the mind wander
    Mindfulness and meditation
    Sleep loss is a negativity bomb
    Make sleep a family value

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