Many of our daily interactions in life are about what we want and what we want someone else to do for us. “I want you to clean up your room” “I want to be the best office manager so i can get a raise and the admiration of my boss”. How we get what we want in the moment is based on how our parents showed us or how we learnt was most affective as a small child and growing up. Depending on our parents ability to parent, that could mean we learnt to be sweet, cute, funny or sad to manipulate the adult into complying. We could also use aggression and resentful words or words we knew brought out the guilt or withdrew our love and the parent would comply. It all depended on our parents and what worked the best. If you had domineering fear based parents then aggression didn’t work until perhaps we grew into the same size or bigger, then we could get our own back.

But the current societal norm is not to be physically aggressive towards your kids anymore, or at least not in public. So aggression is used in private but the kids learn that if you act out in public there was a chance of scoring what they wanted. Even if they were punished for it later. Replacing the aggression is more of the manipulative style of parenting. Utilizing guilt, withdrawal of love and touch and rewarding good behavior by over doing the loving words and hugs and kisses. Much the same way they recommend you train your dog really.

Many parents who grew up with the fear, aggressive parent model are determined not to do that with there kids because they know how much it hurt them physically and mentally. Sometimes they go to the opposite extremes and become the push over parent. Giving children no boundaries is just as damaging for both the parent and the child. The parent is left powerless and scared because they fear the loss of love the most (hence why they can’t be firm) and the child is uncomfortable with limits and simply changes direction into another path of least resistance and never learning how boundaries can be helpful.

However, the biggest parenting damage we can do to our kids above everything else is to fail to spend time with them and teach them how and it’s ok to safely express feelings. Children beginning to learn language need to be give words for their emotions. They need to be taught what it is that they are feeling and if we are too caught up in what we want and feel in the situation we quite often ignore the child’s needs and feelings. Power and manipulation are the major roadblocks to allowing this learning to occur because the total focus is on the needs of the powerful or manipulator. When you are employing either of these methods as a parent you are indicating to the child that what they feel is not important. Continual shutting down children results in bottled up emotions. The extreme cases can mean children simply don’t know how to feel because they can’t name what is happening for them. They have learnt that what is outside of them is more important than what is happening inside of them.

Feeling uncomfortable yet? Perhaps you notice that you’ve employed some of these methods? Where is the unconditional love in that behavior? There is none. Parenting is hard! Asking your children to behave, share, be polite, do well in school or sport and grow up to be an asset to society is tricky when all you have to do it with is based on either manipulation or aggression.

I was listening to Professor Graham Martin from Queensland University (http://www.uq.edu.au/uqresearchers/researcher/martinge.html) on the ABC radio the other day. He’s spent his psychiatric career working with people who self harm be that drinking, eating disorders, cutting themselves, drug abuse and so on and is now heading research in suicide prevention at Queensland University. The one thing that stood out for me, in that interview, was the need to help children express themselves and allow their feelings to come out.  Did you know there’s even a word for people who are not able to feel or process emotions – alexithymi!

There is way to learn how to teach your children about emotions and how to safely express them and I promise you that while you are learning it won’t be easy (because you have to recognise them in yourself first), however, the results are transformational. I have see it over and over again in my own life, counseling, coaching and peaceful parenting training career. The earlier that you can begin parenting using effective honest and feelings based communication the easier it is for your children to start modeling that behavior back to you and to society in general. But even if your children are older, it’s never too late to start having meaningful and healing dialogs about how you can love and work together as a family without shouting, intimidating or manipulating others. By putting it on the table for discussion you begin the opportunity for healing.

To start with you can read about it in books. I recommend the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families by Steven Covey. But I really think you can’t beat learning and experiencing it in a workshop environment where others are also having the same challenges and results and you can ask questions and practice.

The biggest challenge to that is being able to get there, especially if you have little ones, but it is so essential for every parent to learn good parenting skills. So that’s why I am going to do my best to create an online course where you can fully interact and ask questions and learn and experience the results. The course I  run is based on parenting skills, communication skills and and understanding of brain development and attachment theory and combined with a simple technique which allows you to release any emotional triggers.

Email me if you are interested in joining us on this transformational journey.

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